W.G. Yates Vice President David Walker said the company has been doing preparatory work at the site.
“We’ve already started with some of the erosion control, that kind of stuff, and we’ve started with remedial stuff,” he said.
However, Tony Harris, spokesman for Alabama Department of Transportation, said the company took over the contract after it had already expired and Thursday ALDOT started charging “liquidated damages.”
“It essentially is a penalty, but we don’t call it that,” Harris said. “We knew all along time charges would begin today.”
The fine, $4,000 a day, is charged against the contract amount. ALDOT has already been billed about $24 million of the $29 million contract. So, the latest penalties will be settled as the remaining bills start coming in, Harris said. Because of issues with the previous contractor, the department has already charged more than $300,000 in penalties, Harris said. The contract had expired in July 2011. ALDOT froze the penalties in January, but started them again Thursday after Yates took over.
ALDOT hired Mississippi-based W.G. Yates Construction to take over the project after relieving the original contractor L & T Construction, which it declared in default and disqualified from bidding on future contracts because of delays in the work. But the decision was contested — L & T Construction said the delays were related to design issues, while the department said they were the fault of the contractor.
Harris believes the issue will end up in court.
Walker agreed that substantial work had not started, but the company did have people working at the site. The company had done a complete survey of the property and was working on erosion remediation.
“When you come in after somebody has defaulted, then a lot of stuff may be not in the best condition.” he said.
The company is working to hire subcontractors for the project, putting together a timeline and a cost estimate for completion, Walker said.
This last leg of the project has been a long time coming. The parkway, which will eventually connect Interstate 20 with Alabama 21 and U.S. 431, was first approved by Congress in 1998. Work began in early 2001. But money became an issue and the last leg languished until the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, commonly known as stimulus money, provided the funding in 2009.
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.