Earlier this month, it was finally decided who would complete the Northern Beltway widening project. This $115 million construction project was originally bid early in 2009 and was awarded to Las Vegas Paving. Las Vegas Paving was previously awarded this project by the Clark County Commission twice, even though they were not the low bidder. Fisher Sand & Gravel, who was the apparent low bidder, was given $5 million to not do the job, after 2 years in court and commission meetings.
Now there are lots of variables involved with this case, bid protests, subcontractor challenges, questionable ethics, union partisan and of course legal battles. What is often overlooked is the impact that this two year delay has had on Las Vegas. First, the freeway has not been widened; causing traffic problems to persist for residents in that area and they still have to wait and put up with the traffic delays associated with the construction. Next, is the economic impact; with one of the worst economies in the country and leading nation in unemployment, we could have definitely used the work and the fiscal impact it would bring with it. Additionally, you have the indirect costs associated with the project being delayed; the cost to the county to defend their decision, the time lost from employees in court and meetings. Finally, you have the cost to the tax payer. All of Clark County’s costs are really paid by the tax payer. The approximate $5 million more for the project and the $2 million settlement are ultimately paid for by the tax payer.
It’s not all about the cost to the tax payer; the underlying theme is that this case was handled, not just in court, but in federal court. Where does a federal court get jurisdiction in a matter pertaining to a county road? In a contract dispute, state courts would have jurisdiction but there is no contract. The Clark County Commissioners were well within the power to award the contract to whomever they deemed in the best interest of the county. This matter never should have seen the inside of the courtroom, let alone a federal courtroom. Bids for public works are very specific and state, more times than not, that the county reserves the right to reject any and all bids for any reason. They also reserve the right to select the bid that is most advantageous to their (county) interests in selecting the most responsive, responsible bidder. This is not a matter for the courts to decide, but the Clark County Commission’s matter to decide, which would have saved the tax payers money over the years. It’s another case of federal intervention into a state issue. Does the state have any sovereignty left?