WASILLA — Tew's Inc., a Mat-Su contractor with a long history of compliance issues, has lost a lucrative contract to fix and plow roads around Big Lake — the company's last borough road contract.
Tew's is based in Big Lake and operates a fleet of distinctive pink equipment. The company, which also founded the Valley Mover bus service, once held numerous contracts to fix roads and plow snow in the 16 road-service areas in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Property owners in each area pay extra on top of general taxes for the service.
But Tew's was down to one road-service area — the sprawling one in the company's home community of Big Lake — after what officials characterized as compliance issues on others.
The borough terminated the Big Lake contract last week, according to a letter to the company from Borough Manager John Moosey.
Tew's is the only road contractor with a history of termination and the only one to be terminated since 2012, officials say.
"It doesn't happen very often," said Russ Krafft, the borough's longtime purchasing officer.
Tew's earned $600,000 a year for the five-year contract signed in July 2014. The termination was effective at midnight Thursday. The company will get paid up to that time, officials say.
Another contractor, Western Construction and Equipment, will monitor the Big Lake road area on a temporary basis, Krafft said. The borough expects to have a new long-term contract in place by December.
Moosey's letter states that Tew's was notified of "deficient work" on at least 28 occasions since the company was awarded the contract. The borough then issued 22 letters of non-compliance after finding the company hadn't fixed the problems.
Most recently, the borough notified Tew's of problems on Burma Road, including failing to monitor work, not using "qualified and competent personnel," and improperly filling ditches.
Husband and wife Roberta and Clayton "Mokie" Tew own the company. Roberta Tew did not respond to a message seeking comment left on her voicemail Thursday.
The company has hired a familiar name as a consultant: Bill Allen, former Mat-Su Assembly member, Palmer city manager, USDA rural development director, Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor and well-connected bank executive with a home on Horseshoe Lake in Big Lake.
Allen, in a letter to the borough last month on behalf of Tew's, denied several of the borough's claims against the company and described what "I consider to be 'blatant harassment' on the part of the Mat Su Borough and the staff of the Mat Su Borough, Department of Public Works in administering the Tew's contract."
Allen contends that Burma Road is substandard, like many borough roads, and harder to maintain. There were no ditches on the road, he said. The borough says that's because Tew's filled them in over the years.
Tew's has long contended it's being held to a higher standard than other contractors. But other contractors say Tew's for years was allowed to win bids and then perform at a lower level.
"We've got guys working really hard doing a really good job and we've got somebody else taking a huge chunk of money every month and doing nothing," Big Lake developer Butch Moore, who has property in five road-service areas, said at a September Mat-Su Assembly meeting. "And arguing about it."
Tew's had 85 negative actions from the borough from 2001 to 2015, with three terminations, including one for failing to respond to icy roads, according to records compiled by the borough's public works department.
The other five companies with road-service contracts have a total of 11 among them, though they didn't all have contracts throughout that time period.
The decision to award the Big Lake road contract in 2014 represented a "last chance" for the company to prove itself and didn't get universal support at borough offices, Krafft said.
The contract termination this month came because the borough realized the company's actions weren't going to change, he said: "… the pattern of behavior had just gotten to the point where residents of the borough were paying for services that they weren't getting."