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Ohio painting firm gets brush-off from Lake County

Part dome atop Lake County courthouse downtown Gary has been painted. The county shut down project Wednesday sending workers home

Part of the dome atop the Lake County courthouse in downtown Gary has been painted. The county shut down the project Wednesday, sending workers home because of safety violations. | Carole Carlson~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 19, 2014 6:38AM



GARY — The abrupt shutdown of the painting restoration project Wednesday on the Lake County courthouse, next to the Genesis Center, is costing an Ohio-based contractor $22,000, its owner said Thursday.

“My men got cheated out of their money. I don’t like it,” said R.J. Cunkle, who owns Traditions in Columbus.

Lake County attorney John Dull said Traditions got the boot for safety violations, including the lack of a state permit to use a lift for the painting and because the company’s insurance had lapsed. Dull said one of the workers was seen dangling from a rope on the dome, which Dull said was a safety violation.

Dull said a letter is being sent to Traditions’ attorney concerning the violations the county considers a breach of its contract. Dull said Traditions also submitted a change order that he said amounted to double billing.

A new painting contractor has been hired to finish the job on the half-painted dome next week.

Cunkle said the job would likely have been completed by Saturday. He said he received a $66,000 contract, signed by three Lake County commissioners, to paint the gold dome atop the courthouse and silver trim. He said he’s received $44,000, so far.

The project is part of a $3 million courthouse restoration program, spearheaded by Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-1st.

Cunkle said the commissioners’ administrative assistant, Tramel Raggs, inspected the site earlier this week and praised the work, telling Cunkle he had additional work for them.

On Thursday, Cunkle said Raggs did an about face, returning with an official from a local painters union. Traditions workers were ordered off the site because of the safety violations. Raggs couldn’t be reached for comment.

Cunkle suspects he was dumped by the county because he’s a nonunion contractor. Cunkle said he told Raggs when he signed the contract that his was not a union shop and did not pay prevailing wage.

“I pay $20 to $25 an hour and when the job is over and it’s successful, we give them a bonus. We are a family operation,” Cunkle said. “Nothing was mentioned about prevailing wages. The union wage is $40, we paid $20. They told us to get all our equipment and get out.”

Dull said the contractor should have been a union one because the county has an agreement to use union labor.

Cunkle said his company specializes in courthouse work and completed work on 141 courthouses, including 41 in Indiana, and five state capitol buildings.



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