An arbitrator has awarded a Finksburg construction company $290,000 as settlement of a 1989 suit and related mechanical lien against BearCreek Golf Club Inc.
Aim Construction Co. had filed a $750,000 suit against the club and an additional $225,000 lien for work the firmclaimed it had not been paid for.
Westminster attorney David L. Johnson, who represented Aim, said the contract between Bear Creek and the construction firm called for the use of binding arbitration in case of a dispute.
Richard H. Offutt Jr., who represented Bear Creek in the proceedings, expressed dismay at the ruling and said he would explore possible appeals.
Thecase was referred to the American Arbitration Association, which arranged for a nine-day hearing in a room at Western Maryland College earlier this year, Johnson said.
Evidence from both sides was presented just as it would have been in court, Johnson said. The arbitrator's decision will be entered in Carroll Circuit Court as the resolution to the suit and lien.
Johnson said he received notification of the award, which was dated Dec. 3, on Wednesday. He said the AAA has up to 30 days to render a decision, but made this decision in about half that time.
Aim's owner, meanwhile, said he was glad for a resolution of the case, which has dragged on for more than two years.
"I'm just thankful it's over," said Paul E. "Sonny" Hicks, owner of Aim Construction. "I feel that justice has been served."
Hicks had been part of the original group which planned to invest, but he pulledout just before the site north of Westminster was purchased when he and Robert L. Reck, another investor, could not agree on financing.
Still, Hicks agreed to build the course, on Littlestown Pike in Westminster, and said he sketched much of its design.
When the suit was filed, Hicks said that because of poor design and supervision on the part of Bear Creek ownership, some work had to be repeated. The suit further said the Bear Creek owners:
* Improperly planned the entrance road.
* Located the parking lot incorrectly.
* Did not properly match the greens with the fairways.
* Did not design the course so on-site fill would be sufficient for construction.
* Did not properly test the topsoil.
* Did not maintain the fairways andthe irrigation system properly after installation.
The mechanic'slien claimed Bear Creek owed more than $225,000 for construction of a pump and irrigation system, three bridges, rough grading, construction of green and sand traps and paving of the parking lot and entrance road.
Aim filed the original suit in October 1989, several months after the 18-hole course opened.
Bear Creek, meanwhile, filed a countersuit claiming the contractor did not finish work under terms of the contract.
"The award, as it stands, just doesn't make any sense," Offutt said Friday, adding he has requested the AAA conduct a review of the decision to make sure clerical errors did not affect theverdict. "It was quite a shock reading that award."
Johnson said that although the award was well below the $975,000 total sought in the suit and lien, it was enough to cover the actual loss to Aim, plussome damages.
"It cost me more than I got out of it," Hicks said."But it could have been worse, I guess.
"This has been a real hardship. It was causing a lot of stress, and it affected the business."