Contractors dispute claim of shoddy work at Kemper

Since late March, the projected cost of Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal plant has gone from $2.4 billion to $2.8 billion.

The latest figure is the cap the Mississippi Public Service Commission imposed on the project.

David Newell, president of the Central Mississippi Building and Construction Trades Council, said he isn’t surprised. In an interview last week, Newell said the cost overruns should have been expected, given who the contractors were.

“We made these predictions when (MPC) decided to bring in Yates and KBR. A lot of the projects they work on end up with huge overruns and poor-quality work.”

Yates Construction has its headquarters in Philadelphia, with offices around the state. KBR is based in Houston, Texas, and owns a portion of the technology the Kemper facility will use to turn a fuel mixture that includes lignite coal into electricity.

“I understand why the job has gone the way it has,” said Newell, who operates out of Vicksburg. “A lot of the fabrication didn’t work, as far as piping, setting it, it’s been a bad deal all around. I don’t know if that’s poor planning, poor engineering, but they’ve had some labor unrest from Day One. It’s been terrible.”

Spokespeople from each company disputed Newell’s assertion. Yates spokesperson Kenny Bush called Newell’s claims “ridiculous.”

“We’ve been in business for 50 years because we have a lot of pleased owners out there,” Bush said. “We would not have been as successful as we’ve been if we had a history of doing things like that. We’ve done $30 million worth of work on Kemper. So for anyone to think that we’ve been responsible for the cost overruns is ridiculous.”