Missed Deadline

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Fines mounting up for Superior Asphalt’s airport contract

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines could be on tap for a major paving contractor, who has fallen months behind on a project to overlay a runway at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.

Superior Asphalt was hired in 2017 to mill and overlay the airport’s west runway. Work was expected to wrap up in July 2018, but now won’t be completed until at least February, according to airport officials.

“The project is taking longer than expected,” said Carl Newman, chief executive officer of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA). “We’ve placed them in liquidated damages and at the end of the contract, we anticipate collecting.”

Newman was referring to the late fees stipulated in Superior’s contract.

Under provisions, Superior will be charged $2,500 a day for each day the project is not completed beyond the contract’s end date.

Newman wouldn’t say how much JMAA would ultimately assess, adding that rain days would likely have to be factored in.

Assuming the end date was July 31, through December 6, Superior would have amassed at most $392,000 in late fees. That amount does not include rain days, which would not be counted.

If the project is completed by February 1, late fees, not counting rain days or holidays, would come to $532,500.

Superior is a subsidiary of Yates Construction. An employee at Superior’s Byram office referred questions to Yates’ corporate office in Philadelphia. The company had not returned the Sun’s call at press time.

Newman had reached out to Superior to discuss the delay but was not given a “good explanation” for the lack of progress.

“We have pressed them pretty hard to get it complete,” he said.

Superior was awarded the roughly $17 million contract last year. The firm was chosen through the blind bid process, and had the lowest and best bid, Newman said.

Work is being paid for with a $17.2 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a $200,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, both of which were awarded in September 2016.

A portion of those funds also went to repave portions of one of the airport taxiways, as well as resurfacing projects at JMAA’s Hawkins Field, according to a JMAA press release.

The project includes a complete mill and overlay of the 8,500-foot-long west runway, as well as some improvements to shoulders, runway lighting and drainage.

One runway at the airport remains open.

Twenty-seven flights a day originate out of Jackson-Evers, according to Public Relations and Customer Service Manager Yolanda Moore. That does not include layovers or flights coming into the airport.

Even with the west runway closed, airport business goes on as usual.

“From an operational standpoint, it isn’t a big issue,” Newman said. “It’s busy, but it’s not so busy that we have had to postpone flights. People are still able to get in and out of Jackson-Evers when they want to.”