Contractor: Gustine school district owes me

GUSTINE -- The contractor who helped build Gustine Middle School, which opened this fall to a host of problems, claims that the school district is refusing to pay him.

Greg Opinski said Wednesday that the district owes him $800,000 and has not paid him since February. Opinski is the owner of Greg Opinski Construction Inc. of Merced.

Opinski said the district's refusal to pay means that several of his subcontractors have been left without paychecks, including electricians, landscapers and other construction firms.

"Everyone is owed money," said Opinski, who maintains he completed all of his work in December. He spoke Wednesday during the public comment period of the school board meeting.

Board President Russ Antracoli said Thursday that the district does not believe that all of Opinski's contractual obligations were fulfilled.

"These are very complicated issues. They are construction issues and contract issues. We're more than wiling to settle it in a way that the contract calls for," Antracoli said.

He said the district doesn't want to discuss the dispute in public, saying that that is an "inappropriate way to do it." Antracoli was referring to a full- page advertisement that ran last week in the Gustine Press-Standard accusing the school board of poor planning for the middle school, paid for by the company's project manager.

The $12 million school was built just outside the city limit at Hunt and Sullivan roads. The campus has been mired by many issues, including an unfinished sewer line and funding shortfall that left it without a gym or two classroom wings that were part of its original design.

Opinski said he wants to settle the issue without suing. Meetings are expected to continue.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.