Official: Contractor dispute may delay projects

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By David Giuliani

A dispute between two asphalt companies may delay road projects in San Miguel County, an official warned Thursday.

County officials reported at the monthly County Commission meeting that Sangre de Cristo Gravel Products has sued Sierra Transit and that the two will face off in District Court next month. The apparent issue is the ownership of a local asphalt operation.

Earlier this year, Francisco Melendez of Sangre de Cristo presented himself as the new owner of Sierra Transit, a longtime asphalt company in Las Vegas, at a County Commission meeting, and county officials sent Sangre de Cristo a letter updating the firm on what projects Sierra Transit had with the county.

County Attorney Jesus Lopez said District Court has issued a temporary restraining order against Sierra Transit owner Bob Gerhardt, barring him from the daily operations of the gravel plant until District Judge Abigail Aragon presides over a hearing Nov. 19-20.

The issue came up when the County Commission was considering whether to award a contract to Sangre de Cristo for improvements to the parking lots on the courthouses north side and the county managers office. Officials said the northside parking lot is in such bad condition, it is a liability.

The first time the county went out to bid, no one responded. The second time, just one firm responded. The third time, the county went for the best obtainable price, a less exhaustive process for instances when the first two rounds are unsuccessful, officials said.

Sangre de Cristo beat JJ & Son Excavation, and County Manager Les Montoya recommended the commission approve Sangre de Cristo as long as it shows within 45 days that it has the proper permits to conduct such work. Officials said Sangre de Cristo has had trouble with licensing because of its dispute with Sierra Transit.

County Manager Les Montoya expressed frustration that there were so few contractors who could handle road projects in the area. He said other firms submit bids, but it always seems as if Sangre de Cristo and Sierra Transit are the lowest.

This is putting a lot of projects on hold. Its not getting any easier doing this. Youd think this would be easy because its a parking lot, he said.

The county has been planning to set up its own road materials plant so as to save on the costs of road projects; it has already hired a consultant to plan the project.

Harold Garcia, the countys road supervisor, said projects that could be affected by the contractor dispute are El Llano and Tecolote roads.