- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27—CHEYENNE — State officials are blaming a Wyoming contractor for delays that will prevent a new $50 million building at the University of Wyoming from opening on time.

The Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility originally was set to be done in May so it would be ready for the upcoming fall semester.

But construction officials told the State Building Commission last week that it likely won’t be finished until October, so students won’t be able to use it until the spring 2016 semester.

Matt Kibbon, with UW’s facilities planning office, placed the blame for the delay on AP Wyoming LLC, a Cheyenne-based firm that is the general contractor for the project.

“They are still erecting steel in this building,” Kibbon said. “They are not taking the steps necessary to get folks there to finish the job.”

The nearly 107,000-square-foot building will house about 32 laboratories. Those include teaching labs for introductory courses such as general chemistry and biology, organic chemistry, elementary physics, math, computational sciences, computer science and other large-enrollment lab courses.

The construction of the building is part of a push by the Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs at UW.

The project was funded through a $50 million appropriation passed in 2011.

Kibbon said the state’s contract with AP Wyoming calls for $1,000 worth of penalties, known as liquidated damages, for every day that the project is late beyond June 5.

But even with a significant delay, this still amounts to just a fraction of the $50 million project.

“I get the sense at this point they just don’t care,” he said.

“The sense of urgency still is not there.”

AP Wyoming has been an in-state contractor since 2009. The firm has worked on several projects in the state, including the recently renovated Cheyenne Aquatic Center.

Doug Johnson, a vice president with the company, disagreed with the assertion that there is no sense of urgency on the project.

He said the project has been “plagued with numerous” delays that were beyond the control of the company. He said this includes design changes, weather delays and subcontractor labor and material issues.

“AP Wyoming has increased our management staff and brought on additional staff to help alleviate the issue,” he said. “We feel positive that without any future unforeseen conditions or roadblocks, the project will be delivered on time for classes in the spring.”

Representatives with the company did not attend last week’s Building Commission meeting.

But top state officials on the panel, including Gov. Matt Mead, reiterated the importance of the project to the state. Some members also questioned why there weren’t stiffer penalties for the delays.

“I would believe a lack of motivation is there because it’s cheaper for the bottom line to extend the project at $1,000 a day than to hire three to four workers and pay them benefits, salary and per diem,” said State Auditor Cynthia Cloud.

Kibbon responded by saying UW is revaluating how it determines liquidated damages for its projects. And he said the $1,000-a-day provision won’t be part of future contracts.

He added that the greater damage to AP Wyoming than the monetary penalties is the hit to its reputation with UW and the state.

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(c)2015 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)

Visit Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) at www.wyomingnews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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