Rail contractor paid $3.3 million for 6 months of work

Published: Jul. 17, 2014 at 8:51 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 18, 2014 at 2:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some startling salary figures were presented to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) Board today. Some contract employees will make six figures for less than six months of work.

Paragon Partners of Southern California is a right of way real estate consulting company. It was already awarded a $3 million contract in March 2012. Now it will get another $3.3 million to work faster.

The company will bring in 12 more contract employees to acquire 159 properties along the rail route by the end of the year. For the five and a half months of work the property manager position will make $165,000 plus $55,000 for incidental expenses.  Up to five relocation agents will split $750,508 which on average will be $150,000 each.  Up to four acquisition agents split $427,754 and averaged out will earn $106,000 each.  The employees will also get money for rent, meals, cars, travel expenses and more which adds up to $515,700.

"The numbers are striking. They're startling not just to myself but to the other board members," said Ivan Lui-Kwan, HART Board Chair, who says it feels like Hart is being taken advantage of.

Hart blames the lawsuits.  When the City was being sued over the project it couldn't do any rail work for 13 months. Now it has to cram 18 months of real estate work into less than six months.

"We never like bringing change orders to the board and we never like having to spend more money than we originally envisioned," said Dan Grabauskas, HART CEO. "Frankly we're going to need multiple people to do multiple activities all simultaneously to get this done."

With so many properties to buy they don't want any more delays because delays costs money.

The December deadline is critical because Hart planned to award more construction contracts by January.

"If the first day they get the contract they say well we're going to start working over here and we say well we don't have that site control yet they're going to say well that's a delay claim," said Grabauskas. "Our job now is to go forward and not repeat some of these mistakes that took place in the past that have cost money and one of the mistakes we may have made in the past is to give a contract to do work before we had control of the site."

"Do we have any other options?" I ask.

"We don't have an option. You're absolutely right we don't have an option," responded Lui-Kwan. "If it all gets done properly it will be worth it, but at the same time we have a duty to make sure every dollar of the project is used properly and discreetly."

Neilia LaValle, Paragon Partners President & CEO, says that is the going rate.  She also says they are charging less than the Federal per diem rate for expenses.

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