JEFFERSON — Around this time last year, orange construction cones appeared in downtown Jefferson and work crews could be seen working to update traffic signals in the area.
The crews were working under contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation to replace outdated equipment at three intersections along Ga. 11 in Jefferson and three more intersections along Ga. 98 in Commerce.
Work continued steadily, until one day in February when the crews left and never came back.
“They were replacing all of the (traffic signal) equipment with new equipment. They were changing out the overhead cables to mast arms, with pretty supports — similar to what was put in downtown Gainesville,” said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for GDOT District 1.
“They were also replacing the computer equipment — or traffic signal cabinets — that runs the signals and upgrading the (crosswalks).
They got about 55 percent of the project complete, but they haven’t worked at any intersection since February.”
The $754,507 contract was awarded to Atlas Traffic Management Systems, a company in Marietta, Pope says.
“They left each intersection at a different stage of completion, but none of them were completely done,” said Pope.
“In some places the signal cabinets were installed, but they weren’t wired to the signals themselves. And in some places, the new masts were installed, but they hadn’t gotten far enough along to remove the overhead cables.”
After attempts to reach the company were unsuccessful, GDOT crews had to go out and finish some of the work to ensure that the
signals were operating safely.
“It is extremely rare for a contractor to be on the job one day and never come back. The Atlanta (GDOT) office is working on the legal avenues for resolution,” Pope said. “That includes seeking default status on the contract, cashing in the bonds and hiring a new company to complete the work.”
GDOT requires its contractors to secure bonds — which are like insurance policies — on projects. The purpose of the bonds is to ensure that the projects are completed to GDOT specifications.
GDOT pays its contractors after receiving an invoice for completed work. Since the department hasn’t received an invoice since Atlas stopped showing up for work, the company hasn’t been receiving payments. Additionally, there was a clause written into the contract where the company would be charged $225 per day for each day that workers were not on site. So far, that amounts to around $74.000.
There may be a good reason why GDOT has been unsuccessful in getting the issue resolved, or the project completed thus far.
According to documents from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, the company — which has its main headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — filed for bankruptcy in October. Attempts by The Times to reach Atlas were unsuccessful.
According to Industrial Auctioneers Association, Atlas’ assets are set to be liquidated on Feb. 11 through auction by Miedema Auctioneering and Appraisals Inc.