THE ISSUE: Road building firm closes.

OUR OPINION: A blow to employees and the local economy.

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When D.A.B Constructors shut down all its jobs and closed its office last Monday, it left 400 employees, Citrus County government, and the state Department of Transportation with a host of questions and few answers.

The decision to close the 33-year-old company based in Inglis and doing business from Tampa to Daytona Beach was unexpected, surprising county and state officials and its own employees who showed up for work on Monday to find their company closed.

The only public explanation the company offered was in a published letter from company president Deborah Bachsmidt and executive vice president Bill Bachsmidt. In that letter, they blamed their decision to close on what they called a “15-month tug-of-war” with the Florida Department of Transportation over an interchange they were building at I-75 and State Road 56 in Pasco County.

The Bachsmidt statement said the conflict led to a domino effect as their efforts to accelerate that project diverted resources from other projects and “drained the company of millions of dollars such that operations cannot be sustained.” The state said D.A.B. defaulted on the Pasco project after the company missed milestones and abandoned the job.

The company was involved with a number of projects in Citrus County, including the widening of U.S. 19 from Homosassa to Crystal River. That project has suffered major delays and is still not complete. D.A.B. also has the contract to resurface neighborhood roads in Citrus County, which was scheduled for completion in early June but is less than 60% complete.

When the company shut its doors, it apparently came as a surprise to at least some of its employees, who showed up for work on Monday only to find the company closed.

The wife of a 16-year D.A.B. employee wrote to the Chronicle that “employees were given zero notice or made aware at any point they would be unemployed when they arrived for work Monday morning.”

There is also uncertainty about what will happen to uncompleted projects like the U.S. 19 widening between Homosassa and Crystal River. Orange barrels line sections of the roadway, but there is no work underway are no answers to when work will resume or be completed.

All uncompleted projects will be turned over to the bonding company which will have to find other contractors to finish the work.

It is common in major projects for the contractor to provide a performance bond, which is a guarantee to the owner of the project that the project will be completed if the contractor is unable to fulfill its obligation to do the work.

In this case, another contractor will have to be found and engaged to do the work. It is unclear how long this will take and when work will resume, since as with many construction-related disputes, this one could lead to litigation, which could further delay final resolution. 

Citrus County officials have said they will either find another contractor to complete neighborhood road resurfacing or have the county do the work. This work will be paid for by the performance bond that the company provided as part of the contract. But like for the U.S. 19 work, there is uncertainty when this work will resume.

At this point, there are far more questions than there are solid answers. But whatever the answers to these questions, there is no doubt that the closing of a major employer and contractor who has done multiple county projects is a blow to the local economy and it will take time for both employees and the county to fully recover.