Paving company to challenge ruling in Beltway project

A road-widening job on the Las Vegas Beltway and the 200 jobs it would create will be stalled for months as the case grinds its way through the federal courts.

Las Vegas Paving gave formal notice Friday that it would challenge a federal judge who ordered Clark County to award Fisher Sand and Gravel a contract to improve the northern Beltway.

Las Vegas Paving will file an appeal in about 60 days with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Jim Barker, the company’s attorney.

The main question is whether U.S. District Judge Robert Jones overreached by imposing a bid award rather than letting county commissioners handle it, Barker said.

“Did the judge have the authority to do what he did in light of the evidence presented to him?” he said.

Barker estimates it will be at least a year before the appeal is heard. Until then, the county can’t hire a contractor to improve the Beltway section in the midst of the dispute, Barker said.

Fisher and Las Vegas Paving were vying to do improvements on the Beltway between Decatur Boulevard and Tenaya Way.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he’d prefer not waiting to generate much-needed jobs.

He suggests taking the $120 million earmarked for this project and spending it on a different roadway in a different part of the valley.

“I would like to explore with our legal counsel doing a completely unrelated project and creating jobs and getting some work done while this thing works its way through the legal process,” Sisolak said.

The pending appeal is the latest round in a legal battle that has dragged on for almost a year. The tussling has gotten increasingly combative, with commissioners being accused of bias and acting corruptly.

Last year, commissioners awarded Las Vegas Paving the Beltway contract, even though Fisher bid $4.6 million less.

Fisher’s attorney Stan Parry had accused commissioners of having a pro-union bias because Las Vegas Paving is a union shop and Fisher is not. Parry couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Parry had also argued that Fisher was denied due process the second time commissioners rejected the contractor. He said Sisolak blindsided Fisher by citing violations the company had incurred — for pollution, job safety lapses and tax fraud — without giving executives a chance to respond.

Jones in September ordered the bid to be reconsidered, and that Commissioners Sisolak and Tom Collins would not participate. He also ruled that Fisher must be allowed to screen all questions beforehand.

Commissioners decided to scrap the project and take new bids on a modified version that improved the same stretch of Beltway and added an interchange. The judge viewed this maneuver as defying his order. He accused the commission of being biased toward unions and acting corruptly. On Jan. 5, he ordered the county to award Fisher the contract.

Barker said accusations of union bias don’t hold up because the county has awarded 65 percent of publics works projects in the past two years to non-union contractors.

“That’s just not true,” Barker said.

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