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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 10, 2009

$2 million lien on Brandle Meadows

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A lien for over $2 million has been filed against Brandle Meadows by its builder. Jeff Thomas is developing the senior housing complex, which is two-thirds complete.

The lien was filed on Aug. 26 by Bette and Cring, LLC, the Latham contractor Thomas used for the construction work on the complex; according to the claim filed with the Albany County Clerk’s Office, Brandle Meadows has not paid Bette and Cring, $2,094,054.02 of the $6,480,000 that was the agreed price and value of the contractor’s work.

Bette and Cring was hired in November 2007, after the original company hired by Thomas, Rapp Construction Management, filed a lien against the developer in the amount of $91,495.26. The contract between Rapp Construction Management and Thomas was terminated in July of 2007.

In December 2007, Thomas told The Enterprise, “We believe we paid them everything, and then some,” in reference to Rapp Construction Management. He said Rapp’s contract was discontinued because he felt the project was not moving fast enough.

According to the current lien claim, Bette and Cring started work on the project in November 2007 and stopped on Aug. 21, 2009.

An attorney from Couch, White, LLC, Joel Howard, who is representing Bette and Cring, said his client was aware of the non-payment suit filed against Thomas by the original contractor, but decided to go ahead with the project anyway. He said that Thomas, the president and founder of WeatherGuard Roofing, had worked for Bette and Cring previously.

In addition to Brandle Meadows, Thomas is responsible for creating the retail center Altamont Corners, at the intersection of routes 146 and 156, and renovating Park House on Main Street.

“He apparently believes he has already overpaid Bette and Cring,” Howard told The Enterprise.

The Enterprise spoke to Peter Bette, and, at his request, submitted a series of questions. A statement from the public relations firm Ed Lewi Associates was received in response.

“Over the past two years, Bette and Cring has expertly managed and overseen the project in good faith through two-thirds of completion,” the statement said.

The complex was zoned for nine buildings, with a total of 72 individual units, in addition to a clubhouse and several gazebos. The project was also approved to have 72 individual detached garage buildings, with 72 parking spaces, a swimming pool, a community garden, and walking trails.

The project had been controversial as Thomas sought municipal water from the nearby village of Altamont, which was strapped for its own water; new wells have since gone online.

According to the statement from Ed Lewi Associates, Bette and Cring finished six buildings and the clubhouse.

The lien notice details the labor that the company performed, including paving, concrete, carpentry, roofing, plumbing, heating, painting, carpeting, and electrical work; the notice also describes the materials furnished by Bette and Cring, including gravel, concrete, lumber, pipes, and wires.

Thomas had sold 20 units so far, according to this week’s statement from Ed Lewi Associates.

Thomas told The Enterprise Tuesday that he has sold over 50 percent of the units. He said condominiums started at a price of $199,900, and the least expensive units available now start at $209,900.

When Thomas proposed his development, in 2005, he told Guilderland’s zoning board that the complex would be for middle-income retirees; one of the requirements would be that at least one member of the household be 55 or older.

The Enterprise reviewed the deeds filed with Albany County, and found a score of recorded deeds, ranging from $201,500 to $304, 500, with most of them falling in the mid $200,000 range.

 “We had a significant dispute with the construction manager. Unfortunately, these things happen,” said Thomas this week when asked about the lien. “Fortunately, everything has been going really great with sales, and everybody living there is happy.”

According to Thomas, the project is ready to begin its third phase, which he said he looks forward to starting in the next few weeks.

Howard, the attorney for Bette and Cring, said the construction company stopped work because Thomas has failed to make any payments since January 2009.

“Bette and Cring has demonstrated significant patience and restraint during this extended period of non-payment and has afforded the owner ample time and opportunity to honor its commitment,” said the statement from Ed Lewi Associates.

According to Howard, it will be almost impossible for Thomas to sell further units while the lien on Brandle Meadows exists, because a bank will not advance money for a mortgage on a property with a lien against it.

The lien can be discharged if the owner deposits cash or bonds the amount, said Howard, who also said he thought Thomas would try to continue to sell units.

If Thomas does not take care of the lien, Howard said he did not know what would happen, but he indicated that the case could be taken to court and treated like a trial, in which case he would represent Bette and Cring.

“This is a very substantial payment dispute,” Howard said. “I don’t think this is going to go away tomorrow.”

Thomas said he could not comment on how the lien would be resolved.

“To protect its financial interests,” concludes the statement from Ed Lewi Associates, “Bette and Cring has been forced to place a lien on the property to preserve its right as creditor and will pursue all legal means available to secure outstanding payments owed on the project.”

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