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Continued: Board faults Molnau on Wakota Bridge

'The state blew it'

"The state of Minnesota blew it," said Dennis Behnke, Lunda's vice president. "We would have kept negotiating, but the state, in its arrogance, took the position it could just break a contract even when these costly delays weren't our fault. Now they're going to have to pay us contract termination costs that could run up to $10 million."

With termination costs, possible lawsuits, and rising costs of raw materials, MnDOT could end up spending more money for the second span than Lunda was asking for.

The board found that Lunda is entitled to compensation from MnDOT for costs incurred as a result of the contract suspension unless the agency details how it acted in the public's interest.

McFarlin said the review board was established to "resolve disputes of a fairly minor nature" and that MnDOT participated only to clarify any information and make sure there were no misstatements of fact.

The board said that its jurisdiction was specified at the outset to include hearing all claims, change orders or other controversies that remain unresolved following good-faith negotiations between MnDOT and Lunda.

The board -- mutually selected by MnDOT and Lunda before construction began -- consisted of a former MnDOT chief construction engineer, a lawyer who is a former Wisconsin state transportation chairman and a former Wisconsin state transportation civil engineer.

Atkins said that he has found MnDOT's negotiation efforts to be "inept." He said Molnau didn't make a counter-offer to Lunda before ending the talks by "just saying 'no.' "

Because MnDOT has called for new bids in January 2008, it is likely that the job will not be done until at least 2011, Atkins said. Original plans had called for the bridge to be completed by next month.

"I think it's fair to say it's going to be wildly over budget when it's all said and done," Atkins said.

pmac@startribune.com • 612-673-1745 tonyk@startribune.com • 612-673-4213

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