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Hearing to air village pay flap

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State construction managers hope an October hearing in front of a panel of experts will help resolve the complaints of many contractors and subcontractors who say they were not fully paid for their work on the Olympic Athletes Village at Fort Douglas.

The Division of Facilities Construction Management will hold a meeting sometime next month in which the companies involved in the $29 million project to renovate historic buildings can argue their cases. An independent committee of construction professionals is being formed to review the complaints.

Nelson Trucking of Murray sued the state in July for $3.2 million and several other companies told the Deseret News today that they also are considering lawsuits.

Robert Woodhead, deputy director of the division, said the October hearing is aimed at resolving the complaints outside the courtroom.

"That is the hope," he said. "We certainly want to see it resolved, but we'll just have to take that step first and see where we go."

Representatives of some of the companies said today they are guardedly optimistic about the hearing but frustrated that the state has further delayed any resolution.

Julie Call, project coordinator for Klein Tile of Centerville, said her company has been trying for nearly two years to get the state to pay $230,000 for work her company performed.

"It makes it very difficult" to stay in business, she said. "We've had to go into our line of credit because we've paid that $230,000 out in labor and materials."

Benji Nelson, vice president of Nelson Trucking, said the accelerated design-build approach to construction that was used so effectively by the state in rebuilding I-15 failed miserably in this instance.

He said errors and lack of communication throughout the project led to unforeseen changes and escalated costs, which the state has been unwilling to pay for.

"When we were in negotiations with them before, they said yes, we agree with you, we owe you some additional money," Nelson said. "But everything they said they were going to do they haven't done a thing about it, other than just procrastinate."

In its 3rd District Court lawsuit, Nelson claims it installed 7,875 feet of storm sewer, although the original contract called for only 5,022 feet. It says the state's plans and specifications were "erroneous and inadequate."

The 11-acre, six-building Fort Douglas complex will be home to 4,000 athletes, coaches and media members during the 2002 Winter Games. More than 2,000 University of Utah students are living there now.

E-MAIL: zman@desnews.com