Steelmatic letter

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 2, 2007

Letter to the editor

Steelmatic responds, asks for dialogue with Sardis officials

In response to your articles [Oct. 25, “Sardis officials continue to mull Steelmatic demands” and Oct. 12, “Sardis aldermen hear Steelmatic’s complaint”] concerning Steelmatic Wire USA (SMW) and its dealings with the City of Sardis:

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1) When the Air Kontrol building was being looked at as a possible site by SMW officials, it was noted that the electrical supply was not adequate for the needs of the company. City officials stated that they would “take care of that.”  This was taken by the company officials to mean that they would provide the necessary upgrades, however they were funded. The existing office was a 10’x10’ shipping office. Would you expect a multi-million dollar company to do business out of one office and be taken seriously? SMW agreed to work out of this small space temporarily, not for the almost 20 months that it took to complete the office facilities.

2) The contract that is in effect between the city and SMW clearly states in Section 13: Improvements, that: “within 90 days thereafter: (1) Floor drains…(2) floor level entry to the building, (3) addition of more overhead lighting (4) four offices, (5) mens’ and ladies’ bathrooms with showers, (6) mens’ and ladies’ changing rooms, and (7) lunchrooms” … would be made “contingent upon the Lessor receiving a Mississippi Rural Impact Grant in the sum of $150,000 through the Mississippi Development Agency.”  This grant was received, and the offices were not completed by the City.  All items listed, save items (4) through (7) were completed with the grant monies.

3) SMW representatives did NOT state that they were current on lease payments. This action was taken by SMW in order to make … the City of Sardis aware of its unhappiness with the office issue, and to defray the cost to SMW of finishing the offices. Nothing had been done at the City even though the Mayor was well aware of management’s unhappiness.

4) Steelmatic takes issue with the quality of the work done by the City of Sardis’ chosen contractor, who performed inferior work.  The city is looking into this issue with the supervising engineer, as stated in your article.

5) Steelmatic is upset with the allocation of the funds, and has written a letter to the Governor of Mississippi explaining its disgust at how Mississippi taxpayers’ money was spent. The City would have you believe that this increase in cost was because of a “particular company official” changing his mind as to the location of the offices. The changes were mandated by the engineer because of fire code and an issue with sprinkler installation, not because of any decision made by SMW. This is a moot point, because such changes were prior to the start of any construction, and would have been minimal, as the only changes required would have been drawing changes. This is not enough to justify a large back charge from the engineer in question. The reasons for the high costs are yet to be determined, but it is SMW’s opinion that costs were overly high simply because the bidding process was for a government contract, an abuse that is not a new issue in any state.

6) Prior to the start of construction on the new office structure, SMW was informed that the City had $75,000 left to finish the office building. This is for a 1,500 square foot office. A similar-sized house can be built for the same price, yet all that the grant funds purchased was an enclosed space. No air conditioning, heating, or any other useful utility was provided. The electrical supply was run to a panel with nothing connected to it.  Three leaky, out-of-square walls, built on an uneven concrete pad were all that the taxpayer money purchased for this sum.

The City of Sardis did inform SMW that the money was not going to be enough prior to completion of the structure.

7) Steelmatic Wire currently has 12 employees, and had planned on 10-11 more with the installation of more machinery. But, without said offices, there were not enough support facilities to cope with more employees, and these jobs were instead created in Buffalo, NY. Steelmatic plans to continue expanding its operation in Sardis now that proper facilities have been installed.

Would anyone expect skilled employees to sit on a lawn chair in the middle of a large scale manufacturing facility to have their break? Or to have 20-plus employees using two wobbly toilets with no shower or changing facilities? It was (and still is) difficult enough to attract skilled labor.

8) Steelmatic would hope that the City of Sardis could continue its debate about business matters with dialogue, instead of making accusations and stating exaggerated claims in the local print media. We look forward to being a stable and growing presence in Sardis, and want to come to a common understanding on this issue. If the City of Sardis cannot deal with this matter in a professional matter, SMW is willing to let legal action resolve the issue.

/s/Andy Schonberger

Plant Manager, Steelmatic Wire USA Inc.