Connell, county dispute about funds continues |

Connell, county dispute about funds continues

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from its original published version. Routt County spent $1.18 million on the legal dispute with Connell Resources in 2010.

John Bauer, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Denver Airports District Office, confirmed this month that his agency is reviewing files related to the expansion of Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The review is being undertaken in response to a complaint from construction contractor Ben Connell, of Connell Resources in Fort Collins. Connell lost a jury verdict in December 2010 in a lawsuit that was filed in 2009. Connell is appealing that verdict to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Connell alleged in the original suit that Routt County withheld funds the contractor said it was due because the county insisted they continue working past normal “winter shutdown” time in late autumn 2005.

Now, Connell is asking the FAA to scrutinize the way the county and its engineering firm, Carter & Burgess, worked together on the project funded largely with federal grants.

However, County Attorney John Merrill said Monday the issues Connell is raising with the FAA are the same issues dealt with in the lawsuit.

“The things he asserts now were asserted in the trial and they lost,” Merrill said.

The work included the creation of new reinforced parking areas for large commercial jets at the airport in Hayden.

Connell’s contract was for $9.4 million, according to the lawsuit. Connell’s attorneys did not request specific damages, but alleged in their complaint that the county cost their clients more than $1 million by reneging on contract terms and withholding funds.

In a written statement dated Sept. 7, Ben Connell said his firm had filed the complaint with the FAA asserting the engineering firm engaged by the county in the terminal expansion had failed to follow FAA procedures. Connell asked the FAA to conduct an independent review of materials testing carried out during construction.

Bauer told the Steamboat Today he could not elaborate on Connell’s complaints but said they involved the use of federal grant funds as they related to three specific and highly technical aspects of the project. He added that since August, the review of Connell’s case has been passed on to the FAA’s Northwest and Mountain Region offices south of Seattle in Renton, Wash.

“I know they are working on it because they’ve requested materials from us,” Bauer said.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said his office has complied with document requests from the FAA.

Merrill said the working relationship among the county, its engineering firm and the FAA precluded things Connell alleges from happening.

“We work in very close consultation with the FAA,” he said. “It just doesn’t happen.”

County Commissioner Doug Monger consulted the county’s 2010 budget to confirm the county had spent $1.18 million on the legal dispute in 2010, an amount that does not include expenses incurred in previous years.

Merrill said that most of the county’s overall expenses were incurred last year.

In a written statement, Ben Connell wrote: “Routt County paid Connell $796,000 shortly before the trial began, which represented a large portion of the amounts claimed by Connell.” He went on to state the county should have paid the balance he believes his company was owed rather than spending taxpayer funds in the legal battle.

Merrill pointed out that the county had sought $260,000 in trial expenses from Connell (an amount that did not include fees for the outside legal firm that tried the case) and the other side stipulated to $230,000 of that amount.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.