'Not my fault' - Laois builder explains why he backed out of council house project

Lynda Kiernan speaks to a local builder upset at Laois County Council over a stalled housing project

'Not my fault' - Laois builder explains why he backed out of council house project

A Laois contractor who pulled out of building six council homes just before the start date has defended his decision after it was described as “slightly disappointing” by the CEO of Laois County Council.

The builder who does not want to be named, says he was upset to read the comment. It was made by Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland at the July meeting, and reported in the Leinster Express.

“It upset me. He had every shred of information on why it didn’t happen. But people seeing it on the paper think a whole lot different. I just want to clarify why. It wasn’t my fault ,” he said.

The development is of six houses of one or two bedrooms on Shannon Street in Mountrath, and including demolition of a house on the site. It is planned since 2016, and was reduced from eight houses to avoid a flood plain on the end of the site.

The builder tendered his best price in November 2018. Another bidder was chosen but this fell through. Then the council offered the job to the builder in question.

“They received every shred of paper they requested. I got a bond and insurance and the staff all in place,” he said.

However, the cost of materials had risen in the intervening eight months. It meant an extra 5% or 6% onto the price. He declined to disclose this price publically.

“Suppliers only give 60 day quotes. Normally the time from tendering to signing a contract is four or five weeks. If I had gone ahead now I wouldn't be one penny better off. My profit was wiped out,” he said.

He asked the council for a price variation of increased costs to be added to the tender document but this was refused.

“The two alternative options from Laois Council County was (1) to withdraw our tender or (2) to accept the original tender submitted in November. Unfortunately with regret, we had no alternative but to withdraw the tender,” he said.

He wants people to know that he was not at fault.

“People in Mountrath knew I had the job and it’s hard for me to go into town now. I put in my tender to win and build this. I was looking forward to the job, it would be nice to do a job in Mountrath as I get near retirement. They would have been the highest standard, better than any private house. Now it will end up costing them more because the next tenderer will be dearer than me and they may want a higher price for materials too,” he said.

“In that eight months of a delay, I would have been past the roof stage by now,” the builder added.

He described his long career.

“I won my first contract at 19 for Laois County Council building eight houses in Errill. I’m 41 years in the business, keeping going through three recessions, I’ve done numerous developments for Laois County Council,” he said.

“This was the one and only reason why I withdrew my tender... not to incur losses, as this has happened to so many other contractors in the past,” he said.

The council now must contact the next tenderer to offer the contract, then assess them and send off another Stage 4 application to the government.

Also commenting at the July meeting, the Housing Officer Michael Rainey had said he was “greatly disappointed”.

“It was very late in the process, we had had him fully assessed but they felt they couldn't enter the contract for the fourth stage of approval. We now have to repeat stage 4, it is very disappointing for the engineers too. There is not a huge difference in the tender price,” Mr Rainey said.

Cllr James Kelly was the only one to comment on it at the meeting.

“I hope that what it says in the report will be different than what's happening. I hope a construction company moves in,” he said.