Santa Cruz County settles Pleasure Point contract dispute for $800,000

By JASON HOPPIN — Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 07/12/2011 10:27:30 PM PDT

PLEASURE POINT – The county has agreed to pay an extra $800,000 to an Antioch-based contractor who won a $7.3 million contract to armor Santa Cruz’s East Cliff bluffs against erosion, settling a million-dollar dispute over the cost of the work.

Drill Tech Drilling & Shoring Inc. claimed it was owed nearly $1.3 million for added materials and labor needed to complete the project. The county objected to the amount, eventually agreeing to pay $800,000 to settle the dispute.

“It took a lot more concrete than they thought it was going to take,” said Supervisor John Leopold, who added he trusts county staff’s assessment that the settlement represents a fair price.

Drill Tech officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Controversial and long in the making, the project was completed earlier this year. Using tons of concrete and long “nails” drilled into the cliff walls, the project stabilized the cliffs between 32nd and 41st avenues, maintained access for surfers and the public and was a stepping stone for an upcoming makeover of East Cliff Drive in Pleasure Point.

But the project has not been easy. The work has been challenging, with contractors working within low-tide windows that limited the amount of work they can do. Initial efforts to place a barrier between workers and the sea largely failed.

The dispute stems from added work that didn’t become apparent until the project got under way. Rip-rap that had protected the bluffs prevented a direct look at what would be needed to armor the base of the cliffs. Once those boulders were removed, more work than expected was needed, according to a county report.

Eventually, the county estimated Drill Tech built an additional 4,700 square feet of wall along the base of the cliffs near 41st Avenue.

Last year, the board approved additional payments for technical consultants totaling nearly $300,000, and has spent several thousand more to fix an unanticipated problem with railings on stairways leading down from the bluff.

That pushes the total added costs of the project past $1 million, though county officials pointed out the project still came in under budget.

Total construction costs were originally estimated at $8.7 million, but Drill Tech’s original bid was less than $7.3 million.

The added funds will be paid by the county’s redevelopment agency, which oversaw the original project.