City, contractor reach tentative agreement over contract dispute

2014-08-09T01:00:00Z City, contractor reach tentative agreement over contract disputeBy TOM DIXON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
August 09, 2014 1:00 am  • 

CASPER — The city of Casper and Hedquist Construction have come to a tentative agreement that should result in completion of a west-side street construction project by year’s end, according to both sides.

The $1.9 million project was awarded in May 2013 and was originally scheduled to be finished last October. It is the last of four contracts that were under contention because the city claimed that Hedquist Construction had missed critical completion dates.

Civil Engineering Professionals Inc., of Casper, was brought in to negotiate an agreement between both sides. New completion dates were set for three of those projects, and Hedquist Construction agreed to pay $97,000 in penalties. The city originally sought $500,000 in damages.

“CEPI was pivotal in getting this done. They really worked hard to try and bring these two parties together, listen to their differences and understand their differences,” said Mike Lansing, attorney for Craig Hedquist, owner of Hedquist Construction.

Under the proposed agreement for the final contract, CEPI would oversee the rest of the street construction in west Casper. Hedquist Construction would pay $42,000 for CEPI’s work.

Both parties are expected to sign the agreement by the end of the week.

“We didn’t modify our stand appreciably. We gave more time to get the work done, but I think the … defining of the scope of work so (Hedquist Construction) knew exactly what the expectations were, I think that helped,” said City Manager John Patterson. “It was good. The last thing I want to do is call a bond on a local company. Despite our differences on other matters, (Hedquist) buys his parts here, he buys his gas here, he puts a lot of money back in payroll in this community.”

In mid-July, the city informed Hedquist Construction it was terminating the contract and calling in the bond, which is purchased by a contractor to ensure a project is finished in a timely, complete manner.

“After we got that notice, we talked to the bonding company, and they weren’t sure what they were going to do,” Lansing said.

Over the course of two more tours of the remaining street work last week, the two sides said CEPI tailored a compromise. The remaining work is now scheduled to be finished by Dec. 31.

The contract disputes come amid a federal lawsuit filed by Hedquist against Patterson and the city claiming that the city manager plotted against Hedquist during his 2013 council bid and sought to kick him off the council following an alleged confrontation in which he questioned the manager’s competence.

Patterson has repeatedly denied both accusations.

Following an Aug. 28 argument between Hedquist and City Engineer Andrew Beamer, two separate, city-launched investigations found that the councilman had threatened Beamer and violated state and local conflict-of-interest laws.

The city requested Hedquist’s resignation in May.

Hedquist has denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign.

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