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Govt Interference Fouls Contractor's Best Effort To Play By The Rules

Monday, August 04, 2008 03:24 pm

Govt Interference Fouls Contractor's Best Effort To Play By The Rules

A court instructed the federal government to cough up over $1 million to compensate a contractor who encountered post-contractual changes that led to substantial delay.

Metric Construction Co., Inc. (Metric) sought equitable adjustments and damages for work it completed on two construction contracts with the U.S. Department of the Navy.

Both contracts, performed on San Nicolas Island, California, required Metric to ship materials and equipment -- including cement, asphalt and gravel -- via oceangoing barge. Because weather could impede barge landings at the two approved, and exposed, beaches, the contracts made a provision for no-cost time extensions.

Initially, Metric was able to make successful landings, using the bigger and wider of the two beaches, Daytona Beach. But in January 1999, the government notified Metric that it could no longer land directly on that beach and must instead use a recently installed pontoon to land its barge.

The Navy had installed the pontoon to facilitate easier landings for its own barge, smaller and with a shallower draft than Metric's. The ramp on Metric's barge turned out to be incompatible with the new pontoon, according to the Navy's public works superintendent who warned the contractor it would be liable for any damage its barge caused in landing on the pontoon. Thus, that same month, Metric notified the government in writing that it was ceasing all operations until "a suitable landing site is provided"and indicated that it considered the pontoon installation a compensable change of conditions. The government did not respond.

Metric made numerous aborted delivery attempts, using the pontoon, in February and March. In May, the Navy responded to Metric's request that it remove the pontoon by orally authorizing the contractor to resume beach landings.

However, the Navy barred Metric from building sand ramps to off-load materials, which it had initially permitted. In the absence of vehicle ramps, Metric used l [...]

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