Bypass builder sues subcontractor

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By AMY LINDBLOM

A million-dollar lawsuit is pending in Tuolumne County Superior Court between a primary contractor for the East Sonora Bypass Project and a subcontractor.

Goodfellow Brothers, the earthworks contractor for the $70 million first phase of the highway extension, is suing Western Blasting Technologies, alleging the Marysville explosives company breached its contract, overcharged for materials and services and didn't do a good job.

The suit was filed about two months after Western Blasting Technologies filed a lien against Goodfellow, saying it is owed $905,364.07. Until the dispute is settled in court, the almost $1 million is held by Caltrans in an interest-earning account.

According to court records, Western Blasting Technologies President Randy Messer said that his company performed the work it was contracted to do but it has been shorted payment.

Western says it lost almost $1 million when the bypass project was suspended in 2001, and when Goodfellow hired other subcontractors to do blasting work Western was scheduled to perform.

Work was suspended Sept. 5, 2001, after archaeologists discovered ancient Me-Wuk artifacts buried in ground set to be excavated for the highway. The artifacts had to be mapped, cataloged and removed.

Messer's attorney, David J. Murray of Chico, said that when work was stopped, Goodfellow asked about 50 subcontractors to submit bills outlining "delay-damages" each sustained.

Western submitted a bill for about $55,000 for unused explosives and for employees and equipment left idle in Sonora.

Murray said in his court filings that Goodfellow submitted all those bills to Caltrans and was reimbursed.

"But Goodfellow never paid the money back to Western, and may not have paid it back to several other subcontractors," Murray said.

When bypass construction resumed Oct. 16, 2001, Western was back on the job for almost a year. But after Oct. 15, 2002, Murray said, Goodfellow used other subcontractors including its own employees to complete the blasting work.

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The Union Democrat
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