Aqua Pool & Spa owner Richard Townsend last week told KCRA-TV that the company was being forced into bankruptcy because its $3 million loan had been called in by Pacific State Bank, which went out of business Friday.
Tuesday, the Contractors State License Board said investigators have been unable to contact Aqua officers and noted that the company apparently had not filed for bankruptcy protection.
Aqua's telephone rejected calls throughout the weekend, but a new outgoing message apparently posted Monday evening said customers with unfinished pools would be contacted. The Manteca company, which started in Modesto in 1988, "is actively working out a plan for each customer. Please be patient," the message said.
That upsets Ken Wood of Ceres, who worries that hiring other contractors to finish his Ceres pool might breach his contract with a company that may or may not be out of business. Suppliers have threatened several Aqua customers with property liens if the company doesn't pay suppliers, even though homeowners said they paid Aqua.
Never miss a local story.
Wood is among at least 22 customers who have filed consumer complaints against Aqua, the Contractors State License Board said Tuesday, urging others to follow. Townsend told the TV station that 50 or 60 pools were left unfinished and 200 workers let go.
The state agency hopes "to gather a group of licensed contractors to step in and help finish the jobs," a release said Tuesday, similar to a 2006 effort after Sacramento-based Aquarius Pools closed its doors in 2006, leaving about 60 customers with unfinished pools.
The Sacramento Bee reported that other contractors agreed to finish those jobs at a discount, but most customers wound up paying significantly more than initially expected.
Townsend's son, Bryan, and son-in-law Julio Rangel were Aqua officers but took themselves off its license the week before the company went under. They then filed for a new license, but the state has blocked the application until the investigation of Aqua is finished.
"Disassociating from a license after there are consumer complaints doesn't release you from your responsibility for those complaints," said licensing registrar Steve Sands.
"We will not issue a new license until the current investigation is completed."
The agency also warned consumers not to pay in advance for work or materials and noted that diverting money for a construction project to any other purpose is illegal.
Online complaint filing: http://is.gd/eBKtD
Aqua's licensing information: http://is.gd/eBKwH
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.