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Broughton Construction won the $4,662,200 contract to build a new Patuxent River Naval Air Museum and Visitors Center last fall, but the project is now almost four months behind schedule.

St. Mary’s County government sent a stop-work order on Dec. 7, 2012, to Broughton Construction and last week sent another letter that could terminate the contract.

In order to guarantee that the work would be completed, Broughton Construction had to purchase performance bonds as required by the federal, state and local governments, which all contributed money to the 15-year-old museum project. The bonds the company purchased were fraudulent, according to county government officials.

A March 20 letter from the St. Mary’s County Department of Finance to Broughton Construction stated, “Please be advised that your submissions of replacement bonds from Aim Insurance Trust to replace the fraudulently issued [performance and payment] bonds is not acceptable to the County.”

Broughton Construction, with offices in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., was told it had 10 calendar days upon the letter’s receipt to either secure acceptable bonds or secure an irrevocable letter of credit, containing a payout clause if a default cannot be remedied.

The construction contract was awarded to Broughton Construction on Sept. 27, 2012, said George Erichsen, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the museum grounds on Oct. 16.

At that event, Casey Stringer, chief executive officer of Broughton Construction, promised the audience the project would be on time and under budget. Construction was scheduled to take 18 months. An email from The Enterprise to Stringer was not answered by deadline Thursday afternoon.

One county commissioner said this week that Broughton Construction was not the only company to have purchased fraudulent bonds being sold on the market, and other construction projects have been snagged.

Once county government found that Broughton Construction had purchased fraudulent bonds to back the work, the Dec. 7 stop-work order was issued. “It’s four months behind,” Erichsen said. He said work began on the foundation but wasn’t finished at the site of the new museum outside of Patuxent River Naval Air Station’s Gate 1.

There were several other bidders on the project last year. Now some of the St. Mary’s County commissioners wonder what direction to go with the project. “Should Broughton not correct the deficiency — the county would review the original submissions as an option, or could possibly re-bid,” said Randy Burns, procurement manager for the St. Mary’s County finance department.

The failure of Broughton Construction to meet county government’s requirements within 10 calendar days in the receipt of its letter “will result in a declaration of Termination for Default,” the March 20 letter said.

Keith Fairfax has worked on the financial details of the naval air museum project for years and is also a private donor. With all of the delays and revisions of the project over the years, the recent development is just another frustration. “You talk about things being plagued with every damn thing you can think of,” he said. “It certainly is a concern to me. It’s kind of at a dead stop right now.”

The museum association raised $1.5 million in private donations, $1.2 million came from the state, $3.4 million came from the federal government and county government contributed money and executed the procurement process.

jbabcock@somdnews.com