A Florida construction company, responsible for dozens of local road projects over the past three decades,announced this week it will close its doors, leaving tens of millions of dollars in ongoing work unfinished.
In a statement, Levy County-based D.A.B. Constructors, Inc. said it will leave those projects to their bonding companies now.
D.A.B.’s “death blow,” according to the statement, came from the Florida Department of Transportation’s handling of the State Road 56 diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 in Pasco County.
The Florida Department of Transportation defaulted D.A.B. Constructors on that project several weeks ago after the company abandoned it. The project had already fallen months behind schedule.
“Despite the existence of significant errors in the project design provided by FDOT and the recommendation of an independent Disputes Review Board that upheld D.A.B.’s contentions regarding the existence of the design errors and the resulting impact to the project schedule and costs to complete, FDOT has declared D.A.B. in default,” wrote Debora and William Bachschmidt, president and vice president of D.A.B. Constructors in their statement.
Florida DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said she couldn’t say much about the D.A.B. situation.
“The Florida Department of Transportation is aware of reports that D.A.B. has closed their doors and withdrew themselves from FDOT projects. At this time, the department has not received formal notification of this action from D.A.B. and, until such time, FDOT will continue to monitor their ongoing contracts and expects them to meet their obligations,” Carson wrote in an email.
The Pasco interchange delays prompted several discussions by Pasco county commissioners, worried about continued congestion in the busy construction zone. That $33.6 million project was originally supposed to be done by now, according to DOT records. But the project failed to meet that deadline or the hopes of commissioners, who didn’t want another busy winter season to pass with the work unfinished.
Before the default, D.A.B. had collected $24.4 million from the state for work completed.
“We suffered a classic domino-effect, as our acceleration efforts had diverted resources from other ongoing projects and drained the company of millions of dollars such that operations cannot be sustained,” the Bachschmidts wrote.
The statement said the issues in Pasco led to problems handling three other large projects in Citrus County, stretching along nearly 18 miles of busy U.S. 19. Two were for widening U.S. 19 from four to six lanes. The first ran through Homosassa, a $32 million contract which was originally scheduled to be done in late 2018, according to the Florida DOT projects web site. The second went north from Homosassa to Crystal River, a $52 million project which began in late 2018 and was scheduled to be done this December.
D.A.B. was also the contractor for a resurfacing and multi-use trail project on U.S. 19 from the Hernando County line to where the widening projects began south of Homosassa, a project with a $20 million price tag for which only $5.3 million has been paid out to D.A.B to date. The contractor was also involved in a local road resurfacing project not yet completed in Citrus County.
The Bachschmidts wrote that the company could no longer afford to self-finance projects and noted that it was one of the rare woman-owned companies in the business and was also able to meet state standards while winning bids over the years. .
Sixteen-year heavy equipment operator for D.A.B. J. Collier learned about the closure when he arrived at the Homosassa work site Monday morning and was told that his job had ended and he would receive no severance pay.
“D.A.B. Constructors Inc. states that they feel that their employees are like family and are so grateful for the hard work that their employees did, yet D.A.B Constructors without warning let their employees come into work thinking they were coming in just like every other work day just to inform them that they no longer have jobs,” Collier’s wife S. Saunders told the Tampa Bay Times.
Citrus County officials spoke with D.A.B. officials as recently as last week about their local road project and had expected that work to continue, according to county engineering director Brian Kauffman. The only other correspondence the county has received, other than pay requests, was a letter about changes at D.A.B.
In recent years, the Bachschmidts had turned over business operations to their son, Foster Bachschmidt. State corporate records indicate a change in corporate leadership July 19, just after the DOT declared D.A.B. in default on the Pasco project: Foster Bachschmidt was dropped from his job as vice president of operations and assistant secretary.
The letter sent to Citrus County last week confirmed that change, stating that ”effective immediately, Foster has no authority to speak on behalf of, or enter into agreements on behalf of, D.A.B. Constructors,” William Bachschmidt wrote. “We wish the very best for Foster.”