Construction Dispute Arises Between Culpepper Construction and Poplarville School District

Published 5:02 pm Monday, November 27, 2023

During the past Pearl River County Board of Supervisors meeting, Vernon and Kelvie Culpepper, owners of Culpepper Construction and long-time residents of Pearl River County, brought a conflict with the Poplarville School District over a completed construction project to the board. The couple, graduates of Poplarville High School, claim they were denied direct access to the school board and have now brought their concerns into the public eye.

Issues during the construction project included delays in obtaining approvals for product details and extended periods for Request for Additional Information (RFI) submissions. The Culpeppers argue that these delays should have been accounted for in the granted time extension for the project.

A significant point of contention centers around handling additional days added to the project due to weather delays and change orders. Kelvie Culpepper highlighted a need for clarification regarding whether these days should be added to the end of the original contract date or the first substantial completion date, leading to disagreements with the school district.

The Culpeppers assert that despite 78 extra days added to the first phase, the school district expected them to complete the second phase on the initially scheduled time.

Further complications arose when the school district claimed the Culpeppers were responsible for damages to the football field turf due to inadequate erosion control. The couple contends they took extra measures to protect the field, including adding hay and cleaning it during heavy rain.

The financial strain resulting from the dispute has left Culpepper Construction unable to pay local vendors and subcontractors, emphasizing the broader impact on the local community. The Culpeppers stress that their commitment goes beyond contractual obligations, with instances of going above and beyond to address issues and provide recommendations.

Appealing to the school board for intervention, the Culpeppers claim to have been blindsided by a $170,000 liquidated damages assessment and emphasize the need for a fair resolution.

Poplarville Superintendent Jonathan Will responded to inquiries, stating that proper channels needed to be followed for the school board meeting request. Regarding delayed payment, he cited a punch list that contractors must complete and have signed off by the architect before payment is released.

However, the Culpeppers argue that the usual process involves payment upon completion, minus the retainage amount, with the punch list coming afterward. They assert that if the liquidated damages, minus the payment they should have received and the retainage amount, were considered, approximately $159,000 could be released to them.

The Culpeppers maintain that they owe no amount in liquidated damages. They must sell personal assets to meet financial obligations to their workers and subcontractors for this project. 

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates