MS Consultants Files Lawsuit Against Chill-Can Developer

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A prominent architectural and engineering firm says the developer of the stalled Chill-Can campus owes it more than $300,000 for work the company completed on the project.

MS Consultants Inc., based in Columbus and with offices in Youngstown, has filed a complaint in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court alleging that M.J. Joseph Development Corp. is in breach of contract and has yet to pay the company $322,907.54 of a $614,829.21 bill for services rendered, according to court papers.

According to the complaint, M.J. Joseph contracted with MS Consultants to provide design professional services for the project in December 2016.

As of Nov. 24, 2018, M.J. Joseph had paid just $291,921.67 toward the invoice and had not yet paid the outstanding balance of the bill, according to exhibits filed with the court.

MS is asking the court to award it damages in excess of $322,907.54 plus 18% interest per annum from Oct. 5, 2018, the date the final payment was due, the complaint says.  The interest should be applied “not as a penalty, but to make MS Consultants whole,” court papers say.

To secure payment, the company has placed a lien on the property on the city’s East Side, court documents say.

MS said in its complaint that it has copies of the contracts and task orders, but did not include them as exhibits in the lawsuit because of their length. 

The company’s lawsuit comes after Judge Maureen Sweeney in November affirmed an earlier magistrate’s ruling that M.J. Joseph must repay the city of Youngstown $1.5 million based on the terms of a grant agreement the parties signed in 2017.

The city argued that M.J. Joseph must return the money since the company failed to live up to its commitments per the development agreement to build a $20 million campus to produce self-chilling cans and hire 237 employees by August 2021.

That agreement provided a $1.5 million development grant in exchange for these promises, the court found.

The project remains unfinished and the company has reported that it has hired a single employee.  Three empty buildings sit at the site.

“Plaintiff’s failure to complete the project and to hire any significant amount of employees as required under the terms of the amended and restated development agreement, renders the grant funds subject to refund,” Sweeney wrote in her order.

Attorneys for M.J. Joseph argued that the agreements limited any restitution to land, and said the city was not entitled to any monetary compensation.

According to its complaint, the city is also seeking restitution of approximately $700,000 it spent on the acquisition of property, demolition and relocation assistance at the 21-acre site.

The court said a hearing would be set to determine whether the city is entitled to other damages and injunctive relief, the order stated.

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