Whitehorn has bond issues, work still slated on time
The Attorney General’s Office, Department of Public Works, Procurement Office and Whitehorn Construction are working together to resolve bond issues that surfaced recently, says Assistant Attorney General Vincent Vaiausia Kruse, in responding to Samoa News queries on allegations that the certificate of bond posted by Whitehorn Construction is alleged to be invalid.
In the meantime, the work on the Airport Road Project, which is why the bonds are required, is slated to complete on time — Dec. 13, 2013.
The award letter, issued last August, by the Department of Public Works, which gave the Airport Road Project to Whitehorn stated, “Execution of the contract by ASG is subject to Whitehorn Construction obtaining performance and materials and labor payment bonds which are acceptable to ASG… The American Samoa Government anticipates good service and the timely completion of this project from Whitehorn Construction Inc.”
Samoa News has been unable to ascertain if one or both bonds — performance, and materials and labor — are in question.
Whitehorn Construction is owned by Loran Whitehorn and his wife, Crystal Godinet Ve’ave’a of Leone, and contracted for the Airport Road Project.
Crystal Ve’ave’a in response to Samoa News queries, stated that they were defrauded by the broker who they worked with and posted their bond with. “I will provide documents indicating that Whitehorn posted our bond legitimately and I have documents to prove that.”
(Samoa News chose not to delay its report on the bond issues, and upon obtaining copies of documents from Ve’ave’a will report on them in a later edition.)
Kruse in responding to questions, noted that the issue concerning the bonds Whitehorn had to post has come to the attention of ASG — that there are some questions with the bonds on this contract and the matter has been referred to their office, which is looking into this issue.
“We are working together with DPW, Procurement and Whitehorn to see if the issue can be resolved,” said the Assistant AG.
Samoa News understands the bond which Whitehorn paid to Chubb Insurance, the parent company of a group of insurance brokers and agents, is believed to be invalid.
An official with Chubb contacted the local DPW and AG’s office informing them that the agent or broker which Whitehorn Construction Company posted their bond with, in the amount of $399,000, does not work for Chubb, says a reliable source.
The source further stated that this official from Chubb also noted they have referred this matter to Federal Authorities because it’s a scam in the United States where people indicate they represent the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies when seeking monies from companies such as Whitehorn Construction.
According to the Chubb website, the insurance group has approximately 10,100 employees throughout North America, Europe, South America, and the Pacific Rim, and serves property and casualty customers from some 120 offices in 27 countries around the globe. It also works with 8,500 independent agents and brokers worldwide.
Samoa News understands the AG’s office was able to confirm the bond is alleged to be invalid and has sent Whitehorn Construction a notice to come up with another $399,000 bond to settle this matter.
AIRPORT ROAD PROJECT UPDATE
According to the Department of Public Works, the Airport Project is slated to be completed by Whitehorn within deadline — Dec. 13, 2013.
Whitehorn is currently constructing the sidewalk, curb, and gutter section near the Election Office intersection (at the entrance gate of the former scrap metal yard). In addition, Whitehorn is also procuring materials and preparing for other phases of the project to minimize any delays.
This is according to lead engineer Reuben Siatu'u, P.E., a civil engineer from the Department of Public Works' (DPW) Civil Highway Division.
Numerous workers and heavy equipment have been a common site in the area facing McDonald’s and the Election Office, and Siatu'u explained that the ongoing expansion work is because of the median and lane widening which will allow for emergency vehicles to pass when deemed necessary.
When asked for an update of the project, specifically the relocation of utility poles and lines, Siatu'u said everything is going well, as DPW and Whitehorn are coordinating and working together with the respective utility service providers.
At the current rate of progress, what is the expected completion date for the project? Siatu'u responded that "with the proper adjustments, the project can be completed by the project deadline of December 13, 2013."
As for DPW's role in the project, Siatu'u said, "We represent the government (owner), managing and assuring that the project/contract is completed as per the plans and specifications in a timely manner."
He added that when the project first started, Quality Control (QC) meetings with Whitehorn representatives were part of the weekly agenda but currently, the meetings have become a bi-weekly occurrence. "This is in addition to site visits and/or meetings held on an 'as needed' basis to resolve any issues."
Samoa News asked as to what may contribute to delays in the work being completed on time? Siatu'u replied, "The weather is a constant concern that may affect the project progress. Unforeseen site conditions that conflict with the construction works will occur; but we will work closely with the contractor to resolve any issues and continue with the project."
As it stands:
The project begins approximately 200 linear feet from Route 001 (Main Road) and Route 014 ( Airport Road) Intersection, and extends 7800 linear feet (1.5 miles) to the entrance of the Tafuna International Airport, including the road section looping back to the intersection at the DPS Tafuna West Sub-Station.
The new road construction will consist of a two-lane road with sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides with street lighting. The road section from Fagaima Road (Route 019) to the intersection at the Election Office (Route 106) will have an eight-foot wide median separating the opposing traffic lanes and have four roundabouts similar to the existing traffic circle at the Procurement Road - but larger in size.
The four (4) roundabouts will be located at:
1. Fagaima Intersection,
2. ASPA-Industrial Road intersection,
3. Procurement Road Intersection, and
4. Intersection at the Election Office
Inclusive of the new road construction are:
2. Bus Pullouts/Bus Shelters,
5. ADA Ramps,
6. Resurfacing of the Loop Road for the Airport, and
7. Traffic signs and Pavement markings
The Airport Road Project has been a highly debated topic in the local Legislature, with lawmakers criticizing the progress, or lack thereof, for some time. The multi-million-dollar airport road project was awarded to Whitehorn Construction, a company based out of Lake Elsinore, California. The company has a local office and won the contract after bidding $4 million less than McConnell Dowell. Government engineers estimated that the work was going to cost $11.84 million.
McConnell Dowell bid $11.03 million, while Whitehorn’s bid came in at $7.99 million. The Federal Highway Administration concurred with the award in October 2012, and Samoa News understands a formal request to review the award was made by McConnell Dowell due to the vast difference in bids.
The Notice to Proceed (NTP) date was November 20, 2012 but the actual start date was pushed to January 18, 2013 because the Land Use Permit (LUP) had expired and had to be renewed.
Because of the delay caused by the LUP renewal, the project deadline has been changed from Oct. 15, 2013 to Dec. 13, 2013.
Blue Chen contributed to this story.