D.A.B. work stoppage secondary

Motorists enter and exit Crystal River along U.S. 19 Tuesday morning, July 27. Work on the highway expansion has come to a halt after D.A.B. Constructors, Inc. stopped working on the project Monday.

Michaelle Prater’s husband, who has worked for D.A.B. Constructors for almost 16 years, reported to work Monday only to find  he was out of a job.

The Inglis-based company went out of business Monday and let go 400 employees, including those who had been working on the U.S. 19 widening through Homosassa and Crystal River.

“The employees were given zero notice or made aware at any point that they would be unemployed when they arrived for work Monday morning,” Prater said in an email to the Citrus County Chronicle.

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D.A.B. Constructors closed its doors in Inglis over a dispute with the state, according to the company.

“This is not only a blow to our family but a blow to every one of the families who are now wondering how they are going to pay the bills and put food onto their families tables,” Prater wrote. 

Josh Wooten, president/CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, said he is meeting with CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion to explore employment options for the 400 workers.

“We’ve been through things like this but never to this magnitude,” Wooten said.

Wooten said some local companies are chatting with the D.A.B. employees on social media and advising them of possible job openings.

The chamber, he said, is reaching out to the Florida Department of Transportation to find out what its plan is going forward. The chamber is there to help as is the new Citrus One-Stop Recovery and Economic (CORE) Business Center in downtown Inverness, he said.

“We’re still trying to get details of the depth of this closing,” Wooten said. “Will other companies absorb them? Are they eligible for any benefits or will they get a severance package?”

All ongoing projects will be placed with D.A.B.’s bonding companies to bring in other firms to complete the work.

Wooten said the scope of these layoffs is equal to or surpasses the 600 people laid off when Duke Energy closed its nuclear plant in 2013.

“From a human standpoint, this is as bad or worse because these are working people who don’t have any other resources,” he said.

 Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, said he’s working with Wooten at the chamber to see about providing resources to those suddenly unemployed.

 But it will take time, he said, to get people to the right place.

 “Our biggest issue is we need to figure out where these people live,” Skinner said. 

 If they don’t live in one of the three counties covered by the agency, Skinner said he would hook them up with his counterparts in, for example, Pasco County.

 If necessary, he said CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion will bring in extra personnel from other offices to help the 400 workers.

 The widening project on the 2.1-mile stretch from West Green Acres Street to South Jump Court began in November 2016 and was supposed to wrap up in the spring of 2019. That date was extended to late 2020 and again to summer 2021.

U.S. 19 widening from Jump Court in Homosassa to Fort Island Trail in Crystal River was scheduled to wrap up in February 2022. 

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.