Unfinished splash pad

The unfinished worksite of the splash pad at Smoot Park in North Wilkesboro, as seen on Tuesday.

The Town of North Wilkesboro has broken ties with North Wilkesboro-based Mastin Aquatic Recreation LLC, contractor for the stalled Smoot Park splash pad project, over breach of contract after its owner, James “Buster” Mastin, failed to meet his commitment to have the project completed by the fall of 2019, according to a press release issued by the town Monday.

The move was made at the direction of North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson and the town’s board of commissioners. The town has sent a demand letter to Mastin Aquatics directing the company to turn over all equipment intended for the project that’s in its possession, the release stated.

The town will complete the project with a third-party contractor and seek restitution from Mastin upon completion. If Mastin does not pay, the town will seek legal relief from the courts, according to the release.

“We had grounds to take this action since late 2019, but we held off hoping that Mastin would eventually complete the project. We knew if we sued at that time the company would have walked away and we would have had to start over,” said Johnson in the release. “It was a risky decision, but we didn’t want to throw good money after bad.”

Johnson continued: “Now, more than a year later and with very little progress made, we’re left with no choice. Mastin’s recalcitrance makes me believe the company will not finish the project or, if it does, it’ll be of such poor quality that it’ll become a millstone around our neck.

“We have to take this action, even if it means losing the progress we’ve made so far, to hold Mastin accountable.”

Town staff have engaged other contractors to assess whether the partially constructed splash pad can be physically completed and, if so, at what cost. Staff plan to present this information to the commissioners at their March 25 work session.

Mastin started work on the splash pad in the fall of 2017, with completion scheduled by Dec. 1, 2017, under his contract with the town.

The town paid Mastin $120,930 for his work on the project through June 7, 2018. In July 2019, its estimated cost was $130,000 due to upgrades required by the county health department. The original estimate was $85,794.

Mastin said some of the delays in the project were partly due to changes the town made in specifications and equipment after a $29,503 grant from Lowe’s Companies was received for the project in February 2018.

In the summer of 2019, the town board voted to have the town attorney consult with District Attorney Tom Horner regarding potential legal action against Mastin. No such action was taken.

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