First hearing held in lawsuit against Bay County Airport Authority

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Panama City-- The long-running multi-million dollar contract dispute between contractor James Finch and the Bay County airport authority is now a legal dispute.

District Judge James Fensom presided over the first hearing in the case Monday morning.

James Finch's Phoenix Construction is suing the airport board and the airport project engineers, PBS&J for breach of contract. He claims the board interfered with his work, failed to pay him as promised, and voided the warranty by allowing other contractors to work on the project without proper permits. He also alleges the airport board and PBS&J of breaching their contract by failing to make timely decisions on building a crosswind runway, identifying fill dirt sources, and buying sod among other issues.

The airport still owes finch as much as 10 million dollars, who's seeking unspecified damages and attorneys fees.

Monday, the airport and the architect filed motions to dismiss the complaint on technical grounds.

"We oppose the motions. They're somewhat typical motions that have been raised. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary. So this is just part of the process all which is the lead to get the case at issue so that we can get a trial date," said Attorney Rob Vezina who is representing Phoenix Construction.

Judge Fensom is expected to make a ruling later this week. But the case won't go to trial until at least next year.

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