Contractor behind emergency Sunshine Bridge repair still owes State Police nearly $900K
BATON ROUGE- A contractor who defaulted on a number of state projects is accused of stiffing taxpayers to the tune of nearly $1 million.
The company, Coastal Bridge, invoiced DOTD for a State Police detail. It was responsible for paying State Police but did not.
Coastal Bridge was awarded the emergency repair contract to fix the Sunshine Bridge when a barge ran into it in 2018. Louisiana State Police had to work a 24/7 traffic detail on both sides of the bridge to prevent cars from going across.
Coastal Bridge sent DOTD three invoices totaling $880,860 for the LSP detail. DOTD said it paid Coastal Bridge for the work. Two years later, State Police confirmed to WBRZ those invoices are still outstanding.
We went looking for answers from Coastal Bridge's owner, Kelly Sills. Sills was actually at the front desk when we walked in but totally ignored us and disappeared to the back of the building.
Instead, another woman came to the front and answered questions. She said she was familiar with the company's finances.
"Nationwide took all of our bonds, which took all of our receivables, and basically screwed us," the woman said. "We are just trying to keep our head above water and keep people employed."
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company assumed all obligations under the contract in January 2020. However, these invoices are dated one year before, and DOTD says they were paid in a timely fashion.
We reached out to attorneys for Nationwide, but did not hear back.
"A bunch of s*** happened, and I promise you that Coastal Bridge is not trying to keep money from State Police," the woman said.
Kelly Sills sent WBRZ the following statement after we visited his office.
"As of January 13, 2020 Coastal Bridge assigned all rights under the LA 70 Bridge Project (H.012343) contract to Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, which assumed all obligations under the contract, and as well received all rights to past, present and future contract receivables under the contract. Coastal Bridge Company has no information about the conduct of Nationwide as to amounts owed or owing under the contract, which it has held for over a year."
As a result of Coastal Bridge defaulting on multiple construction projects, they are forbidden from placing bids on any projects for one year after the last project they defaulted on is complete. The Investigative Unit has learned they are banned from bidding this year.