Lawsuit: Airport authority's incompetence led to closing of Mountaineer Grading Co.

PARKERSBURG – A defunct Clendenin contractor alleges bungling by the agency that oversees the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport played a large role in driving it into bankruptcy, and as a result nearly 200 people into the unemployment line. Mountaineer Grading Company on Nov. 26 filed a three-count breach of contract lawsuit against the Wood County Airport Authority. In its suit filed in Wood Circuit Court, Mountaineer Grading alleges work it performed to improve runways at the airport near Williamstown led to its demise. According to the suit, WCAA on July 7, 2005, and June 6, 2006, solicited bids for phase III and IV for its runway safety project. Though the details of the project are not specified, Mountaineer was awarded the contracts. Plans for phase III included a “borrow” area that included a sediment pond to prevent runoff and erosion from excavation. However, the design was defective in that it encroached with a neighboring gun range, the suit says. Though the pond was redesigned and relocated, Mountaineer maintains they now had “to move far greater quantities of material in a more difficult and less efficient manner.” The redesign and relocation put the project back 90 days, thus increasing costs, it says. Also, Mountaineer alleges the snafu regarding the sediment pond required it to “perform far greater quantities of erosion control work” than previously planned. This led to the state Department of Environmental Protection fining it $295,000. In the suit, Mountaineer estimates it incurred an additional $1,025,000 in costs, and overhead expenses as a result of the sediment pond. It alleges WCAA failed to pay it for the additional expenses, including the DEP fine. According to the suit, WCAA and Mountaineer signed a contract for phase IV on Aug. 10, 2006. The terms included Mountaineer beginning work on Sept. 5 and concluding by Aug. 31, 2007, it says. Much like phase III, Mountaineer alleges a series of “changes and disruptions… resulted in an unforeseeable and unreasonable delay in contract completion.” That included a defective design of the sub-grade of the runway extensions that resulted in improper drainage and a redesign of Tower Position 9, the suit says. The delays, Mountaineer says, caused an 823-day delay in project completion. The delays resulted in a loss of an additional $1.7 million. The amount is not inclusive of another $174,000 Mountaineer alleges WCAA owes them for unpaid work. In the suit, Mountaineer alleges the losses it incurred from the MOVRA projects had a devastating effect. By August 2010, it was unable to meet payroll as well as “financial obligations with respect to a half-dozen other bonded public construction projects.” It maintains liability it incurred from defaulting on those other projects topped $10 million. Also, it had to lay off 170 employees and lose its fleet of vehicles to a foreclosure auction, it says. In the suit, Mountaineer maintains the delays in the projects that led to the additional costs and expenses were entirely foreseeable. As such, it seeks $3 million in compensatory and $10 million in consequential damages. It is represented by Johnson W. Gabhart with the Charleston law firm of Johnstone and Gabhart. The case is assigned to Judge Robert A. Waters. As of presstime, WCAA had yet to file an answer or any responsive pleading. Wood Circuit Court case number 12-C-536

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