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Local company sues for $3M

A Dickinson firm is waiting for a trial date after it filed a $3 million lawsuit in November for problems on a Fort Stevenson State Park construction project it was terminated from.

Martin Construction, Inc., was awarded a contract by the Omaha District of the U.S. Corps of Engineers for the construction of a marina, concession building and parking lot in Fort Stevenson State Park, located on Lake Sakakawea in Garrison, according to a Martin Construction press release sent Thursday.

The $7 million project began in the fall of 2007 and was slated to be completed by fall 2008. The company's contract was terminated in January of 2009, said Kurt Martin, president of Martin Construction.

Construction workers were forced to work in wet conditions due to a failed cofferdam -- or temporary dam -- and rising water, he said.

"The bad thing with this project is the cofferdam was the key and that's what failed," Martin said. "It was just a domino effect throughout the whole project."

Eugene Pawlick, spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the agency would not comment on the matter.

A complaint filed with the Court of Federal Claims by Martin states: "Delays were experienced in the performance of critical work activities that were beyond control of, and without the fault or negligence of Martin and its subcontractors."

Among other problems, Martin experienced unsafe conditions, additional costs and delays because of defective designs and specifications, according to its press release.

The Corps states the project was behind schedule and any subsequent projected dates were "inexcusable," according to the complaint.

Martin has submitted 10 certified claims to the Corps seeking reimbursement in costs in excess of $3 million, which were incurred while trying to complete the project, he said.

The project has been about 10 years in the making and was intended in part to boost revenue and visitors, said Dick Messerly, Fort Stevenson State Park manager.

The project was completed by about August, Messerly estimates.

Martin said he feels he was wrongly terminated.

"The Corps gave us a termination for default," Martin said. "We feel that was a determination for convenience, the government needed to go to a different direction and a different plan. It couldn't be done as it was originally bid anymore.

"That put a default on our record and we didn't do anything wrong."

Martin said the company has worked with the Corps in the past, adding it has never been terminated for default. Martin said the company is "anxiously" awaiting a trial date.

The issue has hurt his 30-year business, he added.