Port hoping for agreeable resolution in contractor dispute

Questions remain on who will pay for changes to runway project

Posted 11/21/20

Officials with the Port of Port Townsend said they are happy with the results of their contractor’s work to bring the Jefferson County International Airport back in line with Federal Aviation …

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Port hoping for agreeable resolution in contractor dispute

Questions remain on who will pay for changes to runway project

Posted

Officials with the Port of Port Townsend said they are happy with the results of their contractor’s work to bring the Jefferson County International Airport back in line with Federal Aviation Administration requirements after the recent emergency shutdown of a runway for repairs.

A question, however, still remains for who is on the hook to cover the additional construction costs.

Survey work done at the runway following construction by Scarsella Brothers, Inc. revealed imperfections in the surface of the strip which required corrective action.

Scarsella Brothers has since asserted that it did not deviate from the runway design plans it was given and are not responsible for the additional costs — which the firm estimated at more than $475,000. 

Documents compiled by Duval Engineering on behalf of Scarsella Brothers were sent to the Port in October, and claim that the Port’s runway design was “flawed and may not be constructable.”    

The document also alleged that the Port’s engineer for the project, Reid Middleton, had deviated from recommended design plans by opting for a 3-inch asphalt overlay instead of a 4-inch one.

“What is clear is that [Reid Middleton] deviated from the 2018 pavement design performed for the project and developed its plans around a [hot mix asphalt] layer that is 25 percent less than designed,” the document said. “The reduction by 1 inch in [hot mix asphalt] thickness would have the effect of substantially reducing the structural capacity of the runway to support aircraft and ground support vehicles on the runway surface.”

The document from Duval concludes that omissions in the geotechnical report, deviations from asphalt pavement design, and underdrain design flaws all were outside the responsibility of Scarsella Brothers.  

Eron Berg, executive director for the Port of Port Townsend, said in an email to The Leader that discord still persists as to the cause of the runway’s problems. 

But Berg was also careful to note that all parties were working to resolve the matter amicably. 

He also added that the Port was very pleased with the end result of Scarsella’s efforts.  

“It’s important to recognize they are not our adversaries; they have a different viewpoint, we’re still talking,” Berg said. “There is not currently agreement as to ‘why’ the project initially failed to meet FAA specifications and therefore who is responsible for the costs associated with the fix.”

Berg explained that the runway “design was modified during construction as a result of site conditions that could not have reasonably been known at design, with FAA approval and funding.” 

The runway, he added, has since been completed in line with FAA requirements.

Berg noted both parties are in the process of reviewing contract materials to determine who is responsible for the cost of the most recent repairs, with the hopes of finding an agreeable resolution.  

“These contracts and specifications are designed specifically in anticipation of situations just like this and there’s process to figure out responsible parties,” Berg said. 

“It’s not like we’re engaged in a fight or a battle,” he said.

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