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Santa Clarita CA
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Today in
S.C.V. History
July 19
1924 - Sherman Block, L.A. County's 29th Sheriff (1982-1998), born in Chicago [story]

steveleeMy dad was a floor layer before he became a general contractor. Millions of tourists have walked and continue to walk on my dad’s work.

Many visitors who visit Yosemite make sure to stop off at the Ahwahnee Hotel. The floors are my dad’s work. That was long before he became a general contractor.

Once he became a general contractor, he bid on projects across the continental United States. Most of the time he got bonuses for jobs that were well done and completed before due dates – but there were a few times he had to eat unforeseen problems. He never, ever went back and asked for more money. That would be a violation of his morals and a violation of the bidding process.

The builders of the overpass at Highway 126 and Commerce Center Drive have asked for another $600,000 to finish the project (here’s the story). When the lowest qualifying bid is submitted to the county, the county accepts the bid – and that should be it. The project has to be completed within those parameters. If unseen complications arise, then it should be on the contractor. Unseen complications are always part of the bidding process.

If contractors know there will always be a bailout, then why not bid low on all projects?

All contractors should have to play by the same rules. If this project were being done for a private company, there would be no asking for more money; the contractor would have to suck up the expense and deal with any unforeseen problems.

But this is not for a private company. It is for the county, and the taxpayers will get the bill.

The taxpayers will foot the bill for a project that came directly out of the “One Valley, One Vision” plan. One Valley One Vision is the same plan that oversaw and is still overseeing the collapse of a protected ridge at the Commerce Center. The same plan that is allowing Newhall Land and Farm to destroy natural habitat in a riverbed so they can build 21,000 homes in a flood plain. This is the same plan that allows a massive landfill to ignore its contracts with a neighboring town in order to become one of the largest in North America. The same plan that allowed large building projects all over the valley that were poorly designed so that water would not be allowed, or would be severely limited to seep back into the ground. One Valley One Vision is the same plan that has eroded the natural beauty of this valley so that money can blindly expand without sustainable measures in place.

Maybe before we blindly pay for blunders and unforeseen disasters, we should revisit the One Valley One Vision plan. Make it sustainable growth without destroying the beauty that makes us the Santa Clarita Valley.

Imagine the disaster and the death toll if Interstate 5 had a massive wreck traveling southbound, before the 126. Combine that with a huge fire starting near Castaic, and the residents would have no way out. They will be sitting there in their cars in gridlock, begging for help as they watch the encroaching fire.

Yet they, too, keep building, and at the Castaic Area Town Council meetings, they have brought up the dangers of having one way out.

What happens when the 21,000 homes are established in the Santa Clara River bed, and they have the storm of the century? People will die.

The taxpayers will have footed the bill for all of these blunders, and those who made the profits will sit and watch, free from cares. The taxpayers will not only have paid for the deaths of others, but the destruction of our natural beauty, as well.

Something is wrong with such a system.


Steve Lee is a Val Verde resident.


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  1. Butch Hampton says:

    Bidding is based on the discrete requirements and representations in the Bid Documents, General Conditions, Specification and Drawings for the work and are commonly known in the industry as Contract Documents. The Drawings and Specifications are prepared by Design Professionals that are regulated and licensed by the State and usually hired by the project owner. In simple terms, if there are errors or omissions in these documents which are prepared by others that result in additional cost or time to the Contractor, then the Contractor is entitled to cost and/or time adjustment. Many of the rights and remedies of the respective parties are embraced in the Public Contract Code and confirmed legal cases. However, there can be other concurrent or contributing factors that make discrete determination difficult and often require some other form of resolution.

    Contrary to Mr. Lees thoughts, unforeseen conditions are seldom the contractors’ responsibility.

    I have no stake in this matter but am merely sharing nearly 50 years of practical experience in the Construction Industry.

  2. B Sharp says:

    Butch Hampton is correct. All participating General Contractors bid on the exact same documents and unforeseen conditions are just that – something no entity could have anticipated. However, on many occasions the General Contractors, or requesting party, absorb the costs they are requesting as a good faith act in building relationships. The reason you don’t hear about requests for additional time/money on private projects is precisely because it has nothing to do with tax dollars.

  3. Jim Shorts says:

    Steve, your dad may have been a GC but you obviously know nothing about general contracting and the bidding process. Morals have nothing to do with bidding. If this were the case then let me pose this question to you: if you are a contractor hired by the county to, let’s say, dig a trench for a utility line. During this process you come across major buried obsticals e.g., other utilities lines that no one even knew existed, ancient Indian burial remains, etc. worst case scenario it creates major cost overruns in terms of labor, equipment and materials. You’re telling me that you would let your company go bankrupt and many employees losing their jobs because you would do the ‘moral’ thing? Your argument isn’t even weak it’s downright silly. Have you ever heard of contingencies? Those aren’t for ice cream and cake at the end of the job, they are for just these types of unknowns. Put another way, let’s say you can’t finish the job because you took the moral route and went bankrupt. What do you think will happen? The county would hire another contractor and pay them to finish the job. So they are going to pay one way or the other. Make sense?

  4. jimvs says:

    I concur with Mr. Hampton’s statement regarding construction contracts – as far as it goes. One issue is contract language, the domain of lawyers who usually specialize in contract law. Not all of that contract language is standardized.

    Much of the value in a low-bid contract lies in the details of the Contract Documents noted above.

    Not many large projects (especially public projects) go from contract award to completion and acceptance without significant change, in my experience. Ignoring “acts of God”, a lot of that has to do with which side has the best hired guns aka estimators, engineers, PMs, etc.

    I believe there are many large and successful construction companies producing quality projects for owners as agreed upon. There are some that seem to succeed based on other skills.

    A friend of mine with construction and CM experience across the US once told me, “Why do you think they call them Contractors? If they made their money by just building things, they’d call them Builders.”

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