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Contractors accuse state of poor management

SALT LAKE CITY -- Several contractors who helped build the
$120 million student housing project that will be used as the
Athletes Village during the 2002 Winter Games say they have been
ruined by design flaws and poor management by the state.

More than 200 workers have lost their jobs as a result, they
said.

Benji Nelson of Nelson Trucking, a Murray company that installed
the storm drains, sewer and water lines, said, "We had over 120
employees. Now we're down to less than 30."

"After working on that project, we've had to refinance our
equipment, our homes, everything, just to try and stay in
business," he said.

The complex was built under the direction of the state Division
of Facilities Construction & Management on property once owned by
the Army.

Construction was speeded up so the university students could
occupy the buildings at least a year before the games, giving
developers time to find and correct any faults in the buildings
prior to the athletes' arrival.

The state floated more than $90 million in bonds that will be
repaid with student rental fees.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee agreed to contribute about
$30 million and helped design the facilities to ensure bedroom
sizes, bathrooms and other features met Olympic host-city
requirements.

Contractors contend the project was poorly designed and plagued
with problems, The Salt Lake Tribune said in a copyright story.

"The whole thing was a farce," said Jim Millerberg of Winward
Electric, an electrical contracting company that cut its work force
from 160 to four after working on the project. "It was the biggest
mess I've ever seen."

A former Winward manager said when crews finally got access to
wire a building they discovered the lower level was built with
steel beams and girders and there was no way to get electrical
lines to the upper floors.

More delays resulted while they waited for the state's design
firm to figure out a solution. The electricians finally threaded
lines through a conduit tacked to the building on the outside and
rerouted other lines through closets.

The bid called for 5,022 feet of storm sewer but the project
really needed 7,857 feet, Nelson said. The project documents showed
2,619 feet of sanitary sewer but more than 3,119 feet were
necessary. The company installed 10,002 feet of water lines
although the original drawings showed only 4,679 feet would be
needed.

"We're still owed $3.2 million for our work on the Athletes'
Village but we cannot get paid," Nelson said. "Our credit with
suppliers has been ruined and now the only way to get the materials
we need to continue working is to pay cash for everything."

Nelson filed suit in 3rd District Court last week seeking the
$3.2 million it contends it is still owed.

The director of the state's Division of Facilities Construction
& Management, Richard Byfield, acknowledged there were problems.

"It was an extremely complex, arduous project and just getting
everyone on the same page was a problem," he said. "And
unfortunately, when you're talking about jobs of this size, it can
often take time to resolve the conflicts."

SLOC says the disputes are not its concern.

"As far as we're concerned, the housing is all done and if
there are any disputes we are not involved," said Richard Tyler,
SLOC's village director.