Appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson County. No. 92-L-18. Honorable William H. Wilson, Judge, presiding.
Rule 23 Order Redesignated Opinion and Ordered Published Octber 24, 1997.
The Honorable Justice Welch delivered the opinion of the court. Goldenhersh and Rarick, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Welch
The Honorable Justice WELCH delivered the opinion of the court:
In September 1991, Superior Structures Company entered into a contract with the City of Sesser (City) to resurface certain streets within the City in accordance with specifications set forth in the contract. After the completion of the project, a dispute arose between the parties as to the acceptability of the work and the payment of a sum remaining due under the contract. After Superior Structures Company (Superior) submitted a request for payment to the City, the mayor ordered compaction studies, which revealed that certain locations tested did not meet contract specifications. Accordingly, the City never paid Superior the balance owed on the contract. The facts relating to this dispute and other aspects of this case are reported in more detail in a previous appeal of this cause in Superior Structures Co. v. City of Sesser, 277 Ill. App. 3d 653, 214 Ill. Dec. 413, 660 N.E.2d 1362 (1996).
On January 1, 1992, Superior filed suit against the City, seeking the sum of money owed under the contract (count I) and interest pursuant to the Local Government Prompt Payment Act (Act) (count II). 50 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1992). The trial court found in Superior's favor on count I and entered judgment for sums due minus a setoff, and the court found in favor of the City on count II, denying Superior's claim for interest pursuant to the Act. The trial court also awarded Superior prejudgment interest at the rate of 5% per annum, finding that Superior had substantially performed the contract. Both parties appealed to this court.
In our decision in that appeal, this court reversed the award of prejudgment interest, reversed the allowance of a setoff, and reversed the trial court's denial of interest pursuant to the Act. We found that notice of the City's disapproval of Superior's bill was not timely made under the Act and that the interest penalty was therefore applicable, and we remanded with directions to compute interest under the Act using November 6, 1991, as the date on which the City received Superior's bill. Superior Structures Co., 277 Ill. App. 3d 653, 214 Ill. Dec. 413, 660 N.E.2d 1362.
On remand, the parties disputed the method of computing interest under the Act. The parties agreed that interest should begin to run as of January 5, 1992, and that it should be computed on the principal balance of $181,376.87. However, the parties disagreed about when the interest penalty should stop accruing. Superior argued that the interest penalty should stop accruing on the date final payment is made in accordance with section 4 of the Act (50 ILCS 505/4 (West 1992)).
The City argued that such an interpretation of the Act was unreasonable and not in accordance with the intent of the legislature. The City argued that the legislature could not have intended that the interest penalty continue to accrue where there was a bona fide dispute over the acceptability of the products or services rendered which must be resolved by litigation. The City argued that the interest penalty should stop accruing either when the local government files suit against the vendor or contractor or when the local government files its initial pleading in a suit brought against it by the vendor or contractor. In the instant case, the City argues that that date was March 4, 1992.
On November 12, 1996, the circuit court of Williamson County entered its final judgment order, finding that the interest penalty under the Act was $98,938.25, representing 54 months and 17 days of simple interest at 1% of $181,376.87 for the period of January 5, 1992, through July 22, 1996, the date of final payment. The City of Sesser appeals.
The only issue presented in this appeal is the question of when the interest penalty under the Act stops accruing where the local government fails to timely disapprove a bill for services over which there is a dispute which must be resolved by litigation. This issue is one of statutory construction, a question of law which we review de novo. Branson v. Department of Revenue, 168 Ill. 2d 247, 254, 659 N.E.2d 961, 213 Ill. Dec. 615 (1995). The issue is also one of first impression, having never before been presented to an appellate court in this State. Indeed, the only reported case under the Act is our opinion in the prior appeal of this cause. Superior Structures Co. v. City of Sesser, 277 Ill. App. 3d 653, 214 Ill. Dec. 413, 660 N.E.2d 1362 (1996).
In interpreting a statute, a court's role is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. Gabriel Builders, Inc. v. Westchester Condominium Ass'n, 268 Ill. App. 3d 1065, 1068, 206 Ill. Dec. 448, 645 N.E.2d 453 (1994). To determine that intent, a court must first examine the language of the statute; this language is the best indication of the legislature's intent. Gabriel Builders, Inc., 268 Ill. App. 3d at 1068. If this language is clear and unambiguous, a court must enforce it as written and may not resort to other aids for construction. Gabriel Builders, Inc., 268 Ill. App. 3d at 1068.
We turn then to the plain language of the statute itself. Section 3 of the Act (50 ILCS 505/3 (West 1992)) sets forth time limits within which bills must either be approved or disapproved by the local government. It provides in pertinent part as follows:
"When safety or quality assurance testing of goods by the local governmental agency is necessary before the approval or disapproval of a bill and such testing cannot be completed within 30 days after receipt of the goods, approval or disapproval of the bill must be made immediately upon completion of the testing or within 60 days after receipt of the goods, whichever occurs first. Written notice shall ...