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State likely to sue over Cochran

Road work still months away

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POSTED: March 6, 2007 1:20 p.m.
After four years and $3 million paid to the Douglas Asphalt Co., the seemingly endless Frank Cochran Drive extension project will undergo even more complications.  
David Spear, the Department of Transportation media relations manager, recently said the DOT, along with Attorney General Thurbert Baker, will sue Douglas Asphalt for breach of contract.
According to an earlier Courier report, the initial completion date for the project was Nov. 26, 2005, and that date was pushed back to the fall of 2006 because the DOT gave Douglas another extension.
When the 2005 date was exceeded by about a year, the DOT placed Douglas Asphalt in default, which means it has steadily incurred heavy liquidation damage fees for not doing the work, Spear said.
“When a company is placed in default, we (as many others in the state) determine if there has been a breach of contract, which in this situation we believe there has been,” Spear added.
When a contractor bids a project the paperwork requires a surety bond, and in this case, the bond is with Arch Insurance, said Spear.
Arch is now responsible for getting an assessment of what needs to be completed on Cochran Drive, and it has to find a contractor willing to finish it. However, this is not an easy task, Spear said.
Usually, Arch would be able to compel Douglas to finish the job, but Douglas’s license has been suspended due to it being 15 percent behind on two or more state projects, Spear said.
He said that it will take Arch a minimum of six weeks to find another contractor because every other state contractor has other projects.  
Spear also said other contractors don’t like picking up unfinished jobs, especially in this case because the profit margin is low due to their only being $1.3 million remaining in the Cochran Drive budget.   
Also in the last 18 months, the cost of construction material has skyrocketed and the price of liquid asphalt has doubled, which puts more pressure on the other contractors, Spear added.  
“The Department has pursued every contractual and legal avenue to deal with Douglas Asphalt Company’s unsatisfactory performance on this project,” explained DOT communications specialist Sherry Beal. “Unfortunately, the contractual and legal steps that have to be taken to remedy this situation take time.”
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards described this situation as a long and tedious project that goes back more than a decade.  
“We came up with the idea of the extension project about 15 years ago and the state picked up the idea about five years after that,” Edwards said. “They put it on their State Traffic Improvement Plan and it has been in their corner ever since.  It’s a project that we fully support, but we are ready to see it get done.”
Three phone calls to Douglas Asphalt seeking comment were not returned.
 

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