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Re: CalTrans Screw Up

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We are starting to get some discussion on this issue and a common thread
that I am hearing is don't make assumptions unless you know the FACTS.  I
wonder if anyone subscribing to this list knows the FACTS.  If so how about
sharing them with us.  That would make this a more enlightened discussion.


At 04:25 PM 11/20/97 -0700, you wrote:
>Bill Allen wrote:
>> The issue I have the problem with is not of technical nature but of the
>> managerial decision making by CalTrans.
>> Either the welds are O.K. or not O.K. If they are O.K., then the contractors
>> should be paid. If the welds are not O.K., they should be fixed. If the
>> contractors did not do the welding according to the specifications as shown
>> on their bid docs, they should correct the welds at their own expense. If
>> Caltrans discovered that there were flaws in the specifications, then
>> CalTrans should issue a change order to direct the contractors to repair the
>> welds.
>Hmm.  In ideal world, your solution would be great, and in fact we'd all
like to
>see things come out that way.  Unfortunately, though, the real world rarely
>offers situations that "clean."  Many factors may come into play here.  I
do not
>know anything about the facts in this case and have no connection with
>but working in state gummint would allow me to make some guesses about factors
>that *might* play a part in the Caltrans decision.  The first possibility that
>leaps to mind is that the cost of correcting the welds might be way out of
>proportion to the cost of the original work, like, for instance, that all
of the
>bars that were exposed for welding are now embedded in concrete.  The welds
>might be inadequate, but might provide some of the strength they were supposed
>to.  In that case, attempting to force the contractors into compliance would
>inevitably wind up in court, where the argument would quickly devolve into one
>of those "did not, did too" arguments.  If the case involved a number of
>contractors, they could all band together, so they would have economic
>way beyond the capabilities of the legal staff of the DOT, who likely have way
>more work than they can handle already.  The case could drag on for years.
>Over the years I've seen a number of similar cases go to court.  The DOT loses
>way more than its share of even the most egregious cases of contractor error,
>because the juries see the DOT as the big, bad guy, picking on the poor
>contractor who's only trying to make a living.  The juries don't tend to
>understand that the contractor is picking *their* pockets, they just see a case
>of "us" (which includes the contractor) versus "them" (the evil, wicked, mean
>and nasty, omnipotent government, which as we all know, is run only by
>incompetents bent on ruining the lives of "us").  Add to this potent mix the
>political pressures brought to bear on DOTs by the legislative, judicial, and
>executive branches of government, as well as the business community, and the
>ubiquitous willingness to leap immediately into criticism of government workers
>your comments provide an example of, and it's a wonder government works at all.
>Another factor might be that the public continues to demand "less" government,
>which translates into a weakened ability to take on such a battle, due to
>reduced staffing and budgets.  If this factor applies to the case, your remarks
>would represent another of those interesting cases where the public insists on
>less government and lower taxes, yet expects the same level of service to
>continue.  Ain't gonna happen, folks.  Something's gotta give.
>In summary, I would add to the previous comment that unless you know the FACTS
>of the particular case in question, perhaps you should give CALTRANS a break.
>Try assuming that CALTRANS' management is competent and that they are trying
>their best to do the best job they can for the taxpayers within the
framework of
>constraints under which they must attempt to function.  Such an attitude would
>make a refreshing change for those of us who work in government.