Highway contractor D.A.B. Constructors is winding down operations and walking away from six ongoing projects after the Florida Dept. of Transportation defaulted it from a $33-million interchange project and allegedly failed to reimburse the Inglis, Fla.-based contractor more than $10 million in costs on a separate $31.8-million contract.

In a statement published July 26, company president Debora Bachschmidt and Bill Bachschmidt, executive vice president, said they are “putting the completion of ongoing projects in the hands of our bonding companies.” The 33-year-old firm has described itself as Florida’s only remaining woman-owned prime highway contractor.

The six ongoing projects—all awarded to D.A.B. as prime contractor—collectively represent more than $200 million in contracts. All of the projects are located in FDOT’s District 7, which includes Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

On July 28, D.A.B. sent letters to FDOT for each of the six projects, stating that the firm is “financially unable to perform or complete the performance of the work as prime contractor,” and authorizing contract bond surety, Western Surety Co., to “take over and complete” the work.

“Deathblow” Default
From D.A.B.’s account, the contractor’s troubles began with its $33-million contract to convert an existing I-75/SR 56 interchange located in Wesley Chapel, near Tampa, into a diverging-diamond interchange. Contacted by ENR, FDOT representatives declined to comment about the project, citing “active litigation.”

After what the Bachschmidts described as a 15-month “tug-of-war” with FDOT over issues on the project—including alleged FDOT design errors, delays and added costs—FDOT declared D.A.B. to be in default.

Said the Bachschmidts in their July 26 press statement: “FDOT’s actions leading up to alleged default were a deathblow to D.A.B., as we had been forced to accelerate (e.g., added equipment, workers, materials, and hours of operation) the SR 56 work — without payment by FDOT — to meet non-contract ‘milestone’ dates imposed by FDOT.

“Each time a milestone was met, FDOT moved the goalposts,” said the Bachschmidts, speeding D.A.B.’s downward spiral as it was forced to divert resources from other projects.

The problems “drained the company of millions of dollars such that operations cannot be sustained.” And the Bachschmidts and D.A.B. could not afford to await the outcome of a court battle that might take years, they added.

At roughly the same time, on another FDOT project in Citrus County, to improve US-19, D.A.B. experienced more than $10 million in unexpected costs. Despite “past assurances” from FDOT, the firm claimed as of July 26 that the agency has yet to reimburse the company for those costs.

Neither D.A.B. Constructors nor FDOT responded to ENR seeking further information about the projects.

In announcing its decision to shutter its operations, the Bachschmidts boasted that D.A.B. was able to “fill a niche in the public-sector construction space by delivering projects at substantially lower costs” than some competitors.

Ananth Prasad, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association—and former FDOT Secretary—said he was “disappointed” that D.A.B. Constructors had decided to shut down.

In reference to the six projects that D.A.B. walked away from, FDOT said it will be “working closely with the surety companies to make sure the projects are completed.”