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Hu Honua names new contractor as liens pile up

Updated: 
February 7, 2014 - 9:52pm

The president of Hu Honua Bioenergy said there’s a new general contractor on its construction site, less than two weeks after the original contractor claimed it’s owed more than $35 million in unpaid bills.

In a written statement issued Thursday, Hu Honua Bioenergy President John Sylvia said Performance Mechanical Inc., which is headquartered in Pittsburg, Calif., is the new general contractor for the 21.5-megawatt biomass power plant under construction. According to the statement, PMI is at the 25-acre site of the former Hilo Coast Processing Co. in Pepeekeo, assessing work performed to date and preparing for more construction.

“We expect that PMI will complete Phase 1 within the next 45 days as they already have a full team on-site. Once this baseline is complete, we can finalize the construction contract for Phase 2,” Sylvia said in the statement. The statement touted PMI’s “extensive boiler and power plant experience with utility-grade facilities, including several installations in Hawaii.”

“Construction is expected to return to full staffing levels by midsummer,” according to the statement. And the power plant “is expected to be ready for commercial operation about one year from when construction resumes, bringing long-term jobs to the Hilo area.”

Sylvia said construction work will require more than 200 skilled workers and the plant will bring more than 60 direct and ancillary long-term jobs when it becomes operational, according to the statement.

Six mechanics and materialmans’ lien applications had been filed in Hilo Circuit Court as of Tuesday, and five of the claims are still active. A lien application filed by the original general contractor, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. of Honolulu, claims Hu Honua owes it $35,166,852.60. A hearing on that application is scheduled for 8 a.m. March 13 before Judge Greg Nakamura.

Hu Honua has previously declined to comment on litigation, but the statement describes the legal battle as “a contractual dispute with the former contractor.”

According to the statement, Hu Honua “is working diligently to resolve related complex matters. Once the dispute resolution process is completed, HHB believes it will be able to finalize its capital financing and resume normal operations with the various parties involved with the project.”

Gary Yokoyama, vice president and general counselor for Hawaiian Dredging, told Stephens Media Hawaii on Jan. 30 that his company was “in the process of demobilizing from the site.”

Two lien applications were filed against Hu Honua Bioenergy Tuesday.

Transglobal Energy Inc. of Georgia seeks $200,558.01 in allegedly unpaid bills, plus interest and attorney’s fees. The filing also names Hawaiian Dredging, Maukaloa Farms, which leases the site to Hu Honua, and Colonial Bank of Alabama, which holds a $17-million mortgage on the property by Maukaloa Farms.

Transglobal’s filing states that Hu Honua contracted with Transglobal for “professional services which were incorporated and/or used in the construction of the ‘Hu Honua Biomass Facility.’”

A hearing on Transglobal’s application is scheduled for 8 a.m. March 5 before Judge Glenn Hara.

And Graybar Electric Co., a New York corporation, is seeking $48,392.64, plus interest and attorney’s fees for electrical materials including copper wire and cable trays, allegedly sold to subcontractor American Electric Co., which has filed its own lien application.

In addition to Hu Honua and American Electric, Graybar’s application also names Hawaiian Dredging, Maukaloa Farms and Colonial Bank.

A hearing on Graybar’s application is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before Hara.

Lien filings previously reported, in addition to Hawaiian Dredging’s Jan. 30 filing, includes American Electric’s filing of Jan. 29, claiming an unpaid bill of $1,303,976.45. And General Supply and Services, dba Gexpro, filed Jan. 16, seeking payment of $53,286.

A lien application filed Dec. 18 by Wesco Distribution Inc. seeking $215,174.74 was withdrawn Jan. 16, according to court records.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.