Judge rules for Manor VFD in dispute

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Citing the lack of a written agreement, a district judge extinguished a contractor's claim that the Manor Volunteer Fire Department owed him nearly $5,000 for storing and installing kitchen equipment in the new fire station.

Harrison City District Judge Helen Kistler ruled in favor of the department last week in a dispute involving David J. Lauffer, the owner of Manor-based J.E. Fugh Mechanical Services Inc.

Lauffer and longtime firefighters Mike Radakovich and Albert Markijohn agreed on a key point in the dispute that landed in small-claims court: There wasn't a contract for the work.

But Lauffer rejected the department's assertion that he donated the work to the fire department.

At one point in the April 24 hearing, Kistler asked Lauffer why he didn't “feel the need” to tell the department what the charges would be when he agreed to perform the work.

“I don't care if it's family,” Kistler said. “If it's business, it's business, and it should be in writing.”

Stemming from a quarrel dating back to 2011, Lauffer filed a civil suit in March seeking payment for twice removing and installing kitchen equipment that was outside the scope of the contract for the new station built that year.

Lauffer, whose firm was a subcontractor for the station project, said his claim for $4,841 included a discounted rate for his employees' labor on the kitchen work and the value of storing and insuring the equipment in his warehouse for several months.

The claim included an interest charge, which the department's attorney, Kim Houser, said state law barred because there wasn't a pact outlining any potential late fees.

Lauffer said he agreed to help the firefighters, who requested his immediate help, but was disappointed when they didn't respond to his invoices.

Both Radakovich and Markijohn said they spoke with Lauffer in 2011 after his company completed the work and mailed an invoice. Radakovich, who was the company's president then, said he asked Lauffer if he should submit the invoice to the department for its consideration.

“He said, ‘No, don't worry about it,'” Radakovich testified.

The firefighters contend that Lauffer sought payment after there were some issues with the general contractor on the project.

Houser said Lauffer didn't have any evidence that the department owes him anything.

Lauffer contends the department didn't solicit his help as a donation. If it was a donation, he said, he never has been thanked for it.

“I've done projects larger than this without a contract,” Lauffer said. “I guess, shame on me. I trusted them.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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