Judge orders sheriff’s sale for Franklin Avenue tower after unpaid construction bills

A judge has ordered a sheriff’s sale for the tower under construction at the corner of Franklin and Erie streets in Kent after a dispute between the owner and a crane rental firm that claims over $90,000 in unpaid bills.

On Dec. 21, Portage County Common Pleas Court Judge Becky Doherty ruled against Hasawis LLC and its sole manager, Badreeyeh Alhasawi, granting General Crane Rental $89,976 plus daily accruing interest for that company’s provision of cranes.

She directed the Portage County sheriff to “proceed with the appraisal, advertisement, and sale of the property at 211 Franklin Avenue.”

Badreeyeh Alhasawi, who is also the sole principal of Tulips LLC, bought the property in 2017, and proceeded with plans to erect a six-story residential and commercial complex. Progress has been slow, and parts of the building remain wrapped in plastic sheeting.

Tulips LLC is also the owner of the former Star of the West mill on North Water Street in Kent, which burned in a Dec. 2 fire.

General Crane Rentals, a Macedonia-based company, sued Hasawis LLC, Bedreeyeh Alhasawi, and Tulips LLC in February 2022, alleging that the owner had not paid for use of a 50-ton crane with an operator to set rebar, concrete forms, supports, and other materials needed to construct the building.

The lawsuit states that Hasawis LLC paid its invoices until Sept. 12, 2021. GCR continued to provide crane services until the structure was completed on Dec. 8, 2021, the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 13, 2022, GCR demanded payment and was told that the bill was being processed, according to court documents. The lawsuit further alleges that “no payment was made.”

Manoucher Salehi, who is Badreeyeh Alhasawi’s husband and an authorized representative of Hasawis and Tulips, stated in a Dec. 6, 2022, affidavit that Hasawis doesn’t deny hiring GCR for agreed upon hourly rates but does dispute the services provided.

Hasawis stopped paying in September 2021, and Salehi said a GCR representative told him he would get updated info in January 2022, the affidavit states. He said he told GCR he would pay upon receiving and reviewing that info.

According to Salehi’s affidavit, on or about Jan. 3, 2022, GCR owner Dan Manos (referred to in the affidavit as Don Manos) trespassed onto the defendant’s residential property in Kent. Salehi said Manos threatened them and “indicated he would bring a firearm to their next meeting.”

Salehi’s affidavit further states that he told GCR about Dan Manos’ action, and said he wanted to deal with a different person. In response, “Mr. Manos refused to allow his staff to deal with any members of Tulips LLC or Hasawis LLC,” the affidavit states.

When Salehi countered by informing Manos he was not welcome at Tulips’ offices, “[Manos] made threatening comments about my mother” and initiated a lien on the property, the affidavit states.

Salehi’s affidavit also alleges that the defendants never received the requested accounting from GCR. Court records include a stack of itemized bills, but Salehi’s affidavit dismisses them as “bare, vague, and untrustworthy,” and states that the work was not provided as invoiced.

The affidavit also states that GCR’s records do not reflect employees’ actual arrival and departure times, don’t account for employees’ breaks and lunches, “and are threadbare in other relevant details.”

GCR Attorney John Manos, who declined to say whether he is related to GCR owner Dan Manos, said the threatening incidents never happened and labeled the affidavit “a bunch of lies.”

“He had all kinds of excuses [for not paying his bills] but none of them held up,” attorney Manos said. “Like many of the people that I’ve dealt with from certain areas of the world, they make a deal. When it comes time to pay, they think they can renegotiate the deal. There was no reason he couldn’t pay his crane charges.”

The bottom line, Manos said, is that Hasawis stopped paying because they allegedly had not had a chance to view the invoices, “and my client was dumb enough to trust that they would continue paying, and they didn’t.”

GCR finished the job while Salehi “kept promising payment to keep a crane on the job all the way up to the end, and then didn’t pay. It’s been over a year,” Manos said.

GCR’s court filings state that Salehi has no personal knowledge of what day GCR crane operators were at the job site and, when asked, could not identify who he spoke with at GCR about the invoices he disputed, nor could he say when the calls were made or which invoices were discussed.

GRC also objects to Salehi’s assertion that Hasawis was only required to pay for the time the crane was being actively operated, not for break times, lunch breaks, or time spent idling while waiting for lifts. GCR says the contract clearly stipulates that if a person is on the job, the minimum charge is eight hours. Breaks and idle time don’t enter into it, Manos said.

The rental company also asserts that Hasawis does not dispute that a GCR crane operator was present on the job site every day that GCR invoiced for. GCR further alleges that Salehi does not prove that GCR charged more than the quoted rates for crane services.

Manos said he filed the lien after GCR’s office manager repeatedly asked Salehi to pay his bills.

“Hasawis paid its invoices in a timely manner until September 2021 when his payments started slowing down,” the manager stated in an affidavit. “I made the owner aware that Hasawis’s account balance was steadily increasing but he believed that Mr. Alhasawi [Salehi] was good for the money. General Crane continued to provide crane services until the apartment building structure was completed on Dec. 8, 2021.”

Court records indicate that Hasawis’ original attorney, Thomas Sicuro, withdrew from the case in May 2022. Hasawis then turned to Jason Whitacre, who took over on Aug. 1, less than a month after Doherty issued her original judgment in favor of GCR.

“He [Salehi] owes the money, and the court agreed,” Manos concluded.

Whitacre downplayed the entire procedure as a simple contract dispute and said his client now has two options: pay the bills, which would end the foreclosure procedure, or appeal Doherty’s ruling to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals.

Without presuming what his client might do, Whitacre predicted the matter would be quickly resolved.

“I don’t foresee this thing being foreclosed,” he said.

Progress on the building will continue while the legal process plays out, Whitacre added.

Work on the former Kent mill, which is still being cleaned and secured after the devastating fire, will likewise proceed, Whitacre said.

Salehi told The Portager that Tulips would be making a statement during the week following the fire, but to date no statement has been received.

Whitacre said he does not know of any other contractors who have not been paid in connection with work at the Hasawi building.

However, if work on one or both buildings stalls, the future of Kent’s two tallest downtown buildings could be left in limbo.

Community Development Director Bridget Susel declined to comment. The city is not part of the lawsuit, she said. City Manager Dave Ruller also declined to comment.

Kent Council Member Robin Turner said the city would have no position unless it became clear the buildings weren’t going to be completed. Turner said he hopes the owners of the buildings will find a way to meet their obligations.

“Where are we going to be if these guys are unable to move forward in rehabbing or renovating these buildings downtown?” Turner asked. “That’s going to be a mess. I hope that’s not the case.”

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.