Contractors could be on the hook for nearly $1.2 million in damages related to delays on a runway improvement project at the city’s international airport.
Work wrapped up in April on a mill and overlay of the west runway at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.
The $17.4 million project was finished nearly two years behind schedule, according to figures provided by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA), the agency that oversees airport operations.
Now, JMAA is in talks with contractors to determine the total amount of liquidated damages owed on the project.
The talks could take months to complete, according to Dorsey Carson, an attorney working on the project on behalf of JMAA.
“My experience in general is that these talks can sometimes take over a year, because you have to go in and evaluate everything on a day-by-day basis,” he said. “It takes going through daily reports and documentation.”
And for the airport runway project, there’s quite a few days to review.
The contract was completed on April 29, 2020, 646 days behind schedule.
Work was done by Superior Asphalt. The firm was hired in October 2016 to do the work, and was given a notice to proceed on April 24, 2017.
Superior had 300 calendar days to complete the project, but was granted two extensions, for an additional 155 days. With those extensions, the project should have been finished by July 23, 2018. It was not known why those extensions were given.
Under the terms of the agreement, Superior would be assessed $2,500 a day for each day after the final finish date that project was not completed.
Right now, JMAA is holding Superior responsible for 479 delay days, while Superior is claiming responsibility for 38, Carson said.
Based on JMAA’s estimates, Superior would be assessed $1,197,500 in damages.
The amount is currently being held out of JMAA’s final payment to the company, and the funds will be held in escrow until the final tally of liquidated damages is determined.
“What’s going on is Superior has submitted a request for equitable adjustment of the liquidated damages, so now we are reviewing that,” Carson explained. “There are a number of different reasons they give (for the delays), all of which we’ll be looking at.”
In general terms, delays can range from change orders on a project to unusually severe weather.
“There is a lot of case law about when a delay is excusable and when it is not,” Carson said. “Extreme weather can be an excusable delay, but only in instances where it is above the average.”
In other words, if it’s supposed to rain five days in a month on average, and it rains 10 days, contractors could get an extension for the five rain days that occurred above the average.
“You’re expected to have so many rain days in a month, so if it rains, you can’t get an extension unless the number of rain days is higher than that month’s average, Carson explained.
In January, JMAA told the Sun that the project had slowed as a result of Superior having to do corrective work, such as rebuilding portions of the runway that had been completed but were not up to contract specifications.
“Superior Asphalt has had to remove and replace runway sections whenever they failed to meet the contract requirements,” said airport spokeswoman L. Sherie Dean said. “While it is certainly important that the project be completed on time, the most important factor for the FAA and JMAA is that the runway be constructed properly and safely.”
The FAA is the Federal Aviation Administration. JMAA is the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, the agency that oversees airport operations.
Work is being paid for with a $17.2 million grant from the FAA and a $200,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, both of which were awarded to the authority in 2016.
The project included milling and overlaying the 8,500-foot west runway, making improvements to shoulders, runway lighting and drainage.