City, airport contractor dispute runway deadline

Robin Fornoff

The meter is running — to the tune of $1,500 a day — as far as Clovis city officials are concerned.

But the contractor building a $5.5 million runway extension at Clovis Municipal Airport doesn’t figure it that way.

At issue is the completion date of the project. The city contends it was Sept. 17, and David Montoya Construction of Albuquerque is past due.

If the city prevails, Montoya could be forced to pay a $1,500 a day fine for each day the project continues past Sept. 17 under a liquidated damages provision of the contract.

Montoya contends the required completion date is Oct. 17 and Project Manager Robert Watson in Albuquerque said they are on schedule. The problem, said Watson, is a miscommunication between Montoya and the project engineer, WHPacfic of Albuquerque.

Ultimately, all sides agree, the Federal Aviation Administration will make the final decision since it is paying for 95 percent of the project. The city is on the hook for the remaining 5 percent.

The dispute between the city and Montoya centers around a document known as a notice to proceed (NTP). City Manager Joe Thomas said the city sent Montoya an NTP on Dec. 6. What follows is a series of events Watson described as “more of an administrative issue.”

Watson said he contacted WHPacific’s project engineer for Clovis, Mark Huntzinger, and asked about delaying the NTP until Jan. 10. Watson said he sought the delay because he was concerned about weather conditions and the proximity of the start date — Dec. 6 — to upcoming holidays. It wasn’t a good time to start, he said.

Huntzinger said he did receive an e-mail from Watson. “He mentioned we needed to talk about a suspension or delay,” said Huntzinger. “I advised him that he needed to submit to the city an NTP, notice to proceed change request.”

Whether that happened or not remains at issue. Thomas doesn’t believe it did. He said the request was made by Montoya representatives during a Sept. 19 meeting between the contractor and the city with the explanation of the proximity to the holidays.

“We had concerns about that,” Thomas said.

As far as liquidated damages, Thomas said the city intends to invoke the penalty. “We feel it has been invoked unless they (Montoya) supply reasonable justification.”

Watson said he is also putting together data to justify an unspecified number of weather delay days.

Airport Director Steve Summers said all sides will submit their cases to the FAA in the next few weeks and the agency will make the final determination.