Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 16, 2013

Grand Traverse road board settles contract dispute

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The Grand Traverse County Road Commission agreed to pay $275,000 to Rieth-Riley Construction Company as part of a legal settlement stemming from a 2009 project to link Hammond and Keystone roads.

The settlement will end litigation and contract disputes dating to the multi-million dollar Hammond-Keystone connector project, if it's approved by all involved parties.

"It's good to have this behind us," road commission Chairman Carl Brown said. "Had it went through the legal system, probably the outcome would have been the same except for the costs of attorney fees."

The Michigan Department of Transportation originally agreed to pay the project's tab up to $9 million. But a series of issues -- including the accidental death of construction worker and design flaws with two bridges over railroad tracks -- plagued the effort almost from day one, and pushed the final price tag close to $10 million.

Rieth-Riley, the Hammond-Keystone project's general contractor, sued the road commission and three consulting firms in December 2011. They contended the project cost $1 million more than expected in part because of flawed plans provided by the commission.

The tentative settlement would end that suit and send about $480,000 to Rieth-Riley, including the $275,000 from the road commission. Engineering firms Parsons Transportation Group and Gourdie-Fraser respectively would contribute $115,000 and $55,000 to the total. Plymouth-based Soil and Material Engineers will chip in $35,000.

Road Commissioner Bill Mouser, the board's newest member, asked several questions about the settlement amount before it was approved in a 3-0 vote during a special road commission meeting on Friday.

"Are we as the Grand Traverse County Road Commission picking up the tab to cover repairs and remediation for other people's errors?" Mouser said.

Road commission Manager Jim Cook said that wasn't the case.

The $275,000 covers overrun costs related to grading and other dirt work from the road commission's original contract with Rieth-Riley.

"What we felt responsible for was that $275,000 in extra work," Cook said. "That's why we're paying that amount and other firms are paying in, too."

Road Commissioners Marc McKellar and Dave Taylor did not attend the meeting.