The Guilford County Board of Commissioners took a stunning and unprecedented step after a two-hour closed session at the end of the board’s Thursday, March 2 meeting.

The board voted unanimously to terminate a giant construction contract with Samet Corp., which has been acting as the construction manager at risk for the downtown Greensboro project that includes demolishing the old Guilford County jail and constructing a new Sheriff’s Department headquarters and adjoining parking lot.

The commissioners remained silent after the unanimous vote and did not give any reason why they took the action.

Samet staff, who waited with Justin Outling, an attorney with Brooks Pierce, throughout the meeting that lasted until nearly midnight, looked extremely displeased when the commissioners came out of closed session and voted to terminate the contract for the project that Samet has been working on since last year.

Phase 1 of the contract had been virtually complete and this sudden move by the board means that Samet will not handle Phase 2 and Phase 3.

In January, county staff estimated cost of the entire project would be $24 million.

Shortly after the decision, Guilford County government sent out a brief press release.

“The Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to terminate its Construction Manager At Risk contract for the Guilford County Law Enforcement Administration Building pursuant to Section 13.1.3 and 13.2.3 of the contract due to a change in the working relationship. The project is currently nearing the end of Phase 1. The completion of demolition is the next step in the multi-phasal project. Demolition on the interior of the building has already begun. The county intends to work with the contractor to ensure the protection and preservation of the work. Guilford County will conduct a competitive bid process for the remaining phases of the project in the near future.”

The clauses cited in the contract do not shed light on the reason behind the termination.  One gives the county the right to terminate the contract on seven days’ notice if that is to their “convenience.”

The mystery remains as to the disagreement that has brought the issue to this point since county officials remain tight lipped.

Samet Vice President of Marketing and Client Services Suzanne Turner said immediately after the decision that Samet did not have a comment at that time.  However, she said the company would have something to say on Friday, March 3.

For decades, Guilford County and Samet have had an excellent relationship and Samet has handled many major projects for the county.