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State transportation director terminates $280K contract after concerns raised about cost


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: A 22-month, $280,000 contract with a private sector individual to work as a liaison between the Department of Transportation and contractors seeking work with the agency has been terminated by Director Susan Martinovich.

Susan Martinovich, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Instead, the department will look to its own staff to help in the goal of assisting contractors who want to bid on NDOT projects through the sometimes complex bureaucratic process, said agency spokesman Scott Magruder.

“At this point we have terminated the agreement and will not be bringing this forward to the board meeting next Monday,” he said. “And in order to help facilitate some of the new contractors through the system, we’re looking at maybe using some of the in-house people in our construction and records and management that maybe could help out on this effort.”

The decision to terminate the contract came after Martinovich met today with Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The contract with William “Buzz” Harris to serve as an ombudsman between the agency and bidders on contracts was approved in September by NDOT staff but was put on hold in November after concerns were raised by Sandoval and other members of the NDOT Board of Directors.

The contract was set for further discussion at the NDOT board meeting on Monday, but instead was terminated by Martinovich.

Harris is a former assistant executive director at the Nevada Associated General Contractors and was awarded the contract after a competitive review process.

Magruder said the word ombudsman was a misnomer. The idea was not to resolve complaints but to assist contractors with the process, he said.

“Again we still feel that when a new contractor calls the department, they don’t just get shuffled around,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to have it all in one place that they could go, as we said, a facilitator, that could really help them through the process. Because there’s a lot of, I hate to use the word red tape, but that’s exactly what it is.”

Magruder said the department wants to make the process as friendly and open as possible. The more contractors bidding on a project, the better the price for the taxpayer, he said.

Sandoval said at the November meeting that the potential contract cost is well in excess of what even he earns as governor.

The $280,000 was the maximum of the contract based on a $100 hourly rate that would have covered Harris’ expenses as well.

Audio clips:

NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder says the contract has been terminated:

120711Magruder1 :07 meeting next Monday.”

Magruder says the agency will try to use in-house staff to assist contractors:

120711Magruder2 :13 on this effort.”

Magruder says NDOT wants to make it easy for contractors to deal with the agency:

120711Magruder3 :19 what it is.”

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