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Attorney defends Blagg Road delays, praises DA

<p>Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - A motorist approaches the intersection of Blagg Road and Basin Avenue.</p>

Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - A motorist approaches the intersection of Blagg Road and Basin Avenue.

Attorney Tom Beko defended the lengthy delays in reopening Blagg Road as important to gathering evidence, but said in accepting the offer there could be some risks not knowing what’s going to happen with other sections of the road.

Nye County commissioners Tuesday accepted a $4.5 million settlement offer from the various parties named in the case. Blagg Road was closed after heavy rain caused sections to collapse in December 2010 after utility lines had been extended to the new Nevada Southern Detention Center on East Mesquite Avenue. Beko said the agreement settles claims against all defendants involved in the Corrections Corporation of America off-site project. It merges a Nye County and Clark County case, he said.

“We didn’t even have a trial date in our Nye County case. You would’ve been looking at a couple more years if this case hadn’t been settled,” Beko said.

Attorney Brent Ryman said the actual payments for the faulty work amount to $6.25 million, a portion goes to Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada, which had a few sinkholes collapse.

The general liability carrier for UICN is paying $1.19 million into the pot; Spirit Underground, the company which installed the sewer lines, paid out $2.17 million; a bond company retained by UICN paid $550,000; Ninyo and Moore testing company $695,000; CCA $750,000; WLB, the company that put together the plan, paid out $250,000; Atkins North America $100,000; Nigro Construction Inc. $450,000 and Wulfenstein Paving $65,000.

Beko said his firm, Erickson, Thorpe and Swainston Ltd., incurred from $300,000 to $380,000 in costs pursuing the case. The county paid out about $3.8 million in out-of-pocket expenses in reconstructing Blagg Road, meaning there is still some money available for any future contingencies, he said. Commissioners already penciled in $300,000 left over from the settlement into their 2014-15 fiscal year budget.

Consultants hired to examine the failures, Pezonnella and Associates, recommended approval of the deal, Beko said.

“The risk of potential future failures in their opinion makes this settlement appropriate and proper as well. We make the recommendation the proposed settlement be approved,” he said.

Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen said he was critical of the amount of time Blagg Road was closed. Merchants in particular complained after sections of the road were closed between Basin Avenue and Mesquite Avenue from December 2010 until April 2012. The county opened up a temporary detour along Lola Lane.

“Once the failure occurred the county was duty-bound to make sure all parties involved in future litigation had a full opportunity to inspect all work in the reconditioning of the trench line, had the opportunity to develop whatever evidence they wanted,” Beko said.

Beko applauded Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi for making sure anyone with an interest in the litigation had the opportunity to collect their own evidence. If they didn’t, those parties could have asked for a ruling from the court, he said.

“Had he not done that, we wouldn’t have been in the position we are today,” Beko said, adding Kunzi took a lot of heat for that decision.

Beko went beyond reporting on the settlement to compliment the DA.

“For more than a quarter of a century, more than 25 years, I’ve been representing Nye County. I worked with a lot of your representatives, I can say working with Mr Kunzi is the best, he prepares what we need,” Beko said. “Being from Reno, I have to rely heavily on the people who are local to get us information, Brian Kunzi has been outstanding.”