Commissioners settle with contractor in feud over Las Vegas Beltway widening

A two-year legal battle between rival contractors over a road-widening project on the northern Las Vegas Beltway drew to a close Tuesday as Clark County commissioners agreed to settle with the company they snubbed.

Fisher Sand and Gravel will receive a $5 million settlement, resolving a feud that wound up in court last year.

Las Vegas Paving was awarded the contract. The company will begin work in October to widen the Beltway between Decatur Boulevard and Tenaya Way, a $117 million project expected to create 200 construction jobs over 2½ years.

Las Vegas Paving will cover most of Fisher's $5 million settlement, and the county will pitch in the rest, using interest that accrued on $140 million set aside for the project.

"We're looking forward to getting moving on this," said Jim Barker, Las Vegas Paving's attorney. Barker has said the settlement prevents him from disclosing what each party will pay Fisher.

The company will use strictly local labor to expand the freeway, adding lanes, bridges, undergirding and other infrastructure, Barker said.

The legal tussling began in 2009 when commissioners awarded the contract twice to Las Vegas Paving, even though Fisher bid $4.6 million less.

Fisher accused commissioners of pro-union bias because Las Vegas Paving is a union shop and Fisher is not.

The commissioners, who are all Democrats, denied favoring union labor. They argued that Fisher was an irresponsible bidder that racked up violations for pollution, job safety and tax fraud.

A federal judge, however, was sympathetic to Fisher.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones said the commission appeared biased toward unions and acted corruptly in choosing Las Vegas Paving. Jones told commissioners to reconsider the bids.

Instead, commissioners voted to scrap the contested Beltway project and to start bidding anew on a similar project.

That maneuver angered Jones, who ordered the county to award Fisher the contract. The county appealed the judge's order. The case landed in 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year.

Commissioner Susan Brager said she is glad the dispute got resolved so workers who have been idled during the construction slowdown can be put to work.

"It's going to be revitalizing," Brager said. "People going to work and feeling good about themselves."

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@review or 702-455-4519.