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Snarled contract

Judith Harlan

Mike Pack, president of Frehner Construction Company, Inc., the firm rebuilding the Spaghetti Bowl, faced the public last week via broadcast and print media and announced that his construction crews will continue to wreak highway havoc until at least the end of 2005.

No one is happy about the construction delays on the intersection of Highway 395 and Interstate 80.No one loves the traffic congestion and periodically blocked exit and onramps.

But how bad is it for the construction company that’s just announced another five months of backed up traffic and frayed nerves? “The fact that we’re standing here at a press conference is not good,” said Pack.

Frehner, a Las Vegas-based firm owned by Aggregate Industries plc, picked up the $53 million Spaghetti Bowl rejuvenation contract in 2002 and began work in August of that year.

It came in $2 million under the next closest competitor and targeted a March 2005 completion.

It was given a five-month extension.

Frehner, which does about $200 million in revenue a year, constructs chiefly public works projects, building roads throughout the state.

But it also does some private jobs.”And the perception of being late does not help business,” says Pack.

He was hoping to bring the public over to his side of the table, placing blame for construction delays on unusually long weather delays, plus stoppages for special events such as Hot August Nights, along with a quarter- mile concrete re-do last spring.

On the other side of the table, Jeff Fontaine, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, was clear.

The project is behind and delays are due to what Fontaine calls “lack of productivity.” Who’s at fault for the delays is under contention, and where the fault eventually resides will determine how much money Frehner Construction gives up on the job.

The company stands to lose up to $15,000 per day in liquidated damages.

It was given 670 days to complete the project and is now about 510 days into it.

Once those days are up, the penalty damages can kick in.

To speed up the project, Frehner has stepped up its construction schedule and is now working six-day weeks,with 10-12 hour days and double shifts.

Even at that rate, the company needs more than its remaining 160 working days to finish the job.

That 160 days takes the job to about late August assuming good weather and Frehner estimates it needs about four months more than that.

The bill, which will be between $10,000 and $15,000 per day can begin to arrive on Frehner’s doorstep in August, says Scott Magruder,NDOT public information officer.

“And there’s no question that they will be assessed the fees,” he adds.

The Spaghetti Bowl can still be a good business deal for Frehner, says Pack.

But time is money.And time translates into project costs, including overtime.

But whether or not Frehner makes a dime on this project depends mainly on the penalties.

And imposition of the penalties depends partly upon who’s responsible for the concrete debacle last year.

“We’ll be OK if we’re correct on that,” says Pack.