A civil suit seeking $100,000 in damages from the city of Winona will go to trial Wednesday. A jury will consider charges and countercharges: Fountain City contractor Waumandee Creek Sealants (WCS) seeks payment it claims is due from downtown business owner Mark Harris, who in turn seeks damages from WCS and the city. The Winona City Council will meet on Monday in a special session largely closed to the public with the attorney representing the city to discuss the city's role in the case.
Mark Harris owns storefronts at 161 and 163 East Third Street which house Harris Motorcycle Equipment and Red Wing Tattoo. In 2008, he took part in a program that provides low-interest loans for renovations to historic downtown businesses. Through that state-funded program the city of Winona provided loans for renovations to historic downtown buildings, so long as they complied with specifications by the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO).
WCS bid on and was selected for the job, which included brickwork, tuck-pointing, and the replacement of glass and doors. Harris contracted with the city for the loan and WCS for the work.
All did not end well, however. A series of disagreements among Harris, WCS, and the city turned into arguments, according to accounts filed with the Winona County Courthouse. Harris claims that WCS broke its contract with him because the company did not finish the work, performed work poorly, and refused to make repairs. Court documents filed on Harris's behalf also accuse the city of taking control of the project from him.
WCS says that Harris did not pay his bill. The city claims that Harris had a separate, second contract with WCS for work that was not allowed by SHPO.
Harris charges the city with breach of contact and tortious interference because the city allegedly told WCS what work to do and what not to do, without consulting Harris. WCS filed a mechanic's lien against Harris, seeking $13,600 the company claims was owed to them and not paid. Harris charges WCS with fraud for misrepresenting its dealings and claims WCS's charges against him are slanderous. The city is not seeking charges.