- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

HUNTSVILLE, Mo. (AP) - Construction contractors who haven’t been paid for work on a failed artificial sweetener plant in Moberly will be in court this week to try to enforce liens on almost $2 million in unpaid bills.

The contractors did preliminary work for the Mamtek plant, a project that state and Moberly officials promised in 2010 would bring 600 jobs to the central Missouri town. Construction stopped in 2011 after Mamtek missed its first bond payment and bond funds meant for construction were not available.

The hearing Friday in Huntsville follows a February ruling by Circuit Judge Scott Hayes that Moberly, the Moberly Industrial Development Authority and other groups associated with the city are not liable for the unpaid construction costs, The Columbia Daily Tribune reports (https://bit.ly/1cd8OML ).

“In total legal terms, the hearing is a ‘where do we go from here’ hearing,” said Charles Kramer of RiezmanBerger law firm in St. Louis, an attorney for one of the contractors, Stockman Construction Corp.

Stockman’s co-owner, Denice Burks, said the company is owed $349,490 and has accumulated nearly $100,000 legal fees. The company installed water and sewer lines and an access road that are now being used by an MFA Oil plant that took over the property.

“Fortunately, we have stayed above water,” Burks said. “It has not been easy. There have been times where obviously the cash flow wasn’t there, but we have a good relationship with our banker, so we have some working capital we are able to use until we were able to catch up on that. But that means interest.”

Burks asked the Moberly City Council last week to consider her claim as the city’s moral obligation. City Manager Andy Morris advised the council not to respond to Burks because of pending litigation.

Kramer said the next step will be to appeal after the case concludes in Hayes’ court.

“The main problem, and there is one, is that from day one, Moberly and these development agencies have always viewed themselves as victims, and they have never really acted as if they had any real obligation to the people they dragged in,” Kramer said.

More than a dozen lawsuits involving the collapse of the plant are active and former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole is serving seven years in the Tipton Correctional Center for theft and securities fraud. Part of what Hayes must decide is what claims have priority for the $625,000 paid by MFA Oil for the unfinished Mamtek plant.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com

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