Pinellas marine company was paid thousands, didn't finish work - WNCN: News, Weather

Pinellas marine company was paid thousands, didn't finish work

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Five Pinellas County consumers say they forked over thousands for new seawalls behind their properties, but have little to show for it. They all say Clearwater-based Pinellas Marine Construction started work but then disappeared, leaving heavy equipment and junk behind.

The Pinellas County Licensing Board and Pinellas County Consumer Protection are both investigating the complaints. Until now, though, this company had a A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and no complaints with any of the local consumer groups. That's why it's so puzzling to these consumers that something has gone so wrong.

Kevin Fisk, owner of Pinellas Marine, hasn't returned repeated phone calls from 8 On Your Side.

Customer John Granger, of St. Petersburg, says he thought he had done his homework and had chosen the right contractor. The company came highly recommended from friends and neighbors. But Granger says he's been waiting on his seawall since May. Sporadic work stopped completely in December. He's paid $21,000 for the seawall and now faces a lien of $5,000. He says other contractors have given him estimates of $31,000 to finish the job.

"He hasn't been answering any phone calls, I've tried to find him at his place of work and at his home," Granger said. "I've tried to send certified letters to him."

Granger's not the only one to call 8 On Your Side about Pinellas Marine. It turns out the company has collected more than $100 grand from at least five customers since may.

Kim Taylor and her neighbor together paid more than $21,000 for a seawall behind their homes.

"First they were saying the holidays, then there was some bad weather," Taylor said. "Now, they're not returning our calls at all."

And even more frustrating, sub-contractors are filing liens against the homes, saying they haven't been paid by Pinellas Marine.

Taylor says she doesn't know what to do.

"He's a very nice man, and you don't want to hurt the small businessman, because they are what put our country where it is today, but they have to be honest with you and let you know what's going on."

In early January, Fisk told 8 On Your Side that he would be out to Taylor's home to finish work the next week. He said then that work had slowed because of permitting issues, the holidays and an illness in the family.

He still hasn't been back to Taylor's job, though, and has left a trailer of trash and scrap wood on the street in front of her house. She says neighbors are complaining and she worries she'll be fined by her homeowner's association.

Doug Templeton, with the office of Pinellas County Consumer Protection, says this is the first time since the company opened in 1979 that he's heard of a complaint. But something clearly went wrong.

"There's a potential violation of consumer protection laws that we would need to refer to the state attorney," Templeton said.

Templeton is currently investigating, and says these consumers did their homework. But he offers tips for anyone hiring a home contractor: Don't pay more than 10 percent down. Get an estimated completion date and payment schedule in writing. Don't pay before each part of the project is done. And ask the contractor to sign an affidavit, promising that sub-contractors were already paid.

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