Idaho County Airport

Aircraft are tied down at Idaho County Airport.

GRANGEVILLE – Weather delays. Soft spot repair. Technical issues.

There were problems during the major construction at Idaho County Airport three years ago, and they ended up resulting in a breach of contract lawsuit, which had been scheduled for trial this spring, but which was put on hold for mediation last month.

Lewiston-based Riedesel Engineering, Inc., which had managed the project for Idaho County had gone out of business; the damages may end up costing local taxpayers.

As of Monday, May 20, it remained unclear how much, if anything, it may cost the county to make a local construction company whole.

In 2017, Valley Paving & Asphalt, Inc. – registered to Nicholas P. Seubert of Cottonwood – filed a complaint against Idaho County in district court, following a 2016 tort notice in which VPA claimed $750,000 in damages. In its complaint, VPA – which contracted two major county airport construction projects that year – told the court the damages were “in process of being resolved” until the engineer sent letters late in 2016 that VPA says “were themselves changes to the contracts requirements.”

The county filed a counterclaim against VPA and Riedesel in December 2017.

VPA’s tort notice describes damages from costs and delays “during the course of performance of the contracts.” The VPA lawsuit states the county “is continuing to accept the benefit of VPA’s extra work, extra labor cost, extra equipment cost, extra material cost, extra overhead cost, extra delay cost, extra subcontractor cost, extra supplier cost and other extra costs…and justice and equity requires payment of the benefits and value of the work…in an amount to be proven at trial to exceed the $10,000 jurisdiction of the district court, plus pre-judgment interest, plus attorney fees…plus costs.”

The county’s 2017 complaint against Riedesel stated Riedesel “was to act as Idaho County’s representative and assume all duties and responsibilities of project engineer as outlined in the contract.” Business and bankruptcy court records show Riedesel went out of business earlier this year.

The Free Press sought comment through the sides’ attorneys in January 2018; the county declined to comment, and VPA did not reply.

According to court filings, VPA’s attorney, Ron Blewett, of Blewett, Mushlitz, Hally of Lewiston, compiled at least 50,000 pages documenting the construction project in the course of pursuing the lawsuit. But when he subpoenaed documentation from a Riedesel subcontractor, that company had only 96 pages to show for two years of work. The Free Press is not naming the Spokane-based subcontractor at this time because, according to its court filings, the subcontractor had sold the office that worked on the county’s runway to yet another engineering firm.

While it remained unclear Monday how much longer the court fight may continue, the potential for a costly outcome has weighed on unrelated county business decisions, notably when commissioner Mark Frei questioned whether the county could afford to proceed with a $250,000 technology upgrade in light of the possibility of an unfavorable outcome in the case. (The county commission nevertheless approved the upgrade during its regular meeting April 23.)

In July 2017, the Free Press reported the airport runway construction had been substantially completed at a total cost of about $7.3 million, of which Federal Aviation Administration funds paid nearly $6.6 million.

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