DRAPER — The Utah Department of Transportation has paid almost a half-million dollars to a contractor who has done a total of one day of work on the proposed 11400 South interchange.
Construction on the interchange has been delayed since July 9, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order prohibiting work at least until after a hearing next week. Following that stay, UDOT agreed to pay Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction as much as $20,400 per day of missed work for up to four weeks.
The money was paid to Wadsworth to help ensure the company would continue as the contractor for the job, UDOT spokeswoman Amanda Covington said. Without the payments, UDOT feared it would lose Wadsworth, which would mean a new bid process and design for the project.
"We have found the right contractor for the job," she said. "Keeping (Wadsworth) online . . . will save us money when we prevail (in the lawsuit) because they will be ready."
The payments of $20,400 were made daily between July 10 and July 24. After that, UDOT paid $10,200 until Aug. 10, when the payments ceased.
Even after the payments, Covington said that Wadsworth could choose to not build the interchange and still keep the money.
Although the money may seem like a lot to pay a company to not work, Covington said the alternatives were much more expensive and most of the money was to simply cover the costs of the equipment that Wadsworth has brought to the site.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against UDOT say the payments are not to cover costs, but a ploy to make UDOT look like the victims in the dispute. Nicole Davis, one of the residents who contend that UDOT did not follow proper procedures when it approved the interchange, said UDOT simply wants to blame them when things go sour.
"They're trying to place the blame on us," Davis said. "They want to say, 'It was the bad people who sued. It's not us. It's the bad managers they have running the business.' "
A contract for the payments was signed after the plaintiffs lost their first round in U.S. District Court July 3, even before they had decided whether to file an appeal, Davis said. Because UDOT and Wadsworth knew the likelihood of a continuation of the lawsuit, the contract should have not required payments.
"They're paying those people a full day's wages for not doing anything," she said. "If you sign a contract under this high-risk scenario, you understand those risks."