ODOT penalizing private maintenance company for not meeting standards

Thursday, January 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Department of Transportation wants to penalize a Virginia-based road maintenance company for not meeting all the standards set in its contract with the state.

Virginia Maintenance Services is negotiating with the state agency over a $325,128 financial penalty involving its work in December in the Oklahoma City metro area and in Tulsa, a spokesman for the Richmond, Va., company said Wednesday.

Jay Smith said his company is 99 percent on target with meeting the standards in the contract.

``We have issued an invoice to the state and they have notified us that they do not feel payment should be made in full,'' Smith said. ``As the contract allows, we have responded to them and are currently in discussions regarding that issue.''

During the first two months of the contract, the Transportation Department had some concerns because the company was slow getting started, said John Fuller, the department's acting assistant director of operations.

``From my observations, it appears they've done a good job of sweeping various sections of highway,'' Fuller said. ``Some other activities they haven't gotten up to speed. Litter was one. Initially, mowing was one of them. We were concerned they were waiting so long.''

According to Transportation Department Director Gary Ridley, company officials said the cost of picking up litter was more than they expected.

Virginia Maintenance Services has been performing highway maintenance since Sept. 1 in Oklahoma, Cleveland and Canadian counties and in Tulsa.

The five-year, $36.3 million contract allocates $22.4 million for the Oklahoma City metro and $13.9 million for Tulsa.

A provision allows the Transportation Department to withhold some of the payments if the company fails to meet all contractual standards. Virginia Maintenance Services can respond to the state's recommendation when the state plans to pay less than the full amount of the contract.

Performance standards cover maintenance areas including mowing, picking up litter, keeping fences and guard rails repaired and fixing potholes on state highways in the two metro areas.

``We describe the work. We describe the level of service,'' Fuller said.

The contract drew criticism from some legislators when it was approved last June by the Transportation Department. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court because the contract led to the replacement of about 80 state employees who used to maintain roads in the two metropolitan areas.

In September and October the contract required the state to pay the full amount of $415,140 for the company's Oklahoma City area work and $257,871 for its work in the Tulsa area.

But in November, the state withheld $312,673 of the company's $634,330 payment.