Same hand gives bonus, delivers slap

The Cincinnati Enquirer

At the same time the government penalized the company cleaning up Fernald $5 million for poor performance it gave a $100,000 bonus for coming up with an accelerated 10-year cleanup plan that is now called unworkable.

J. Phil Hamric, the Energy Department's Ohio field office manager, unilaterally awarded Fluor Daniel Fernald the $100,000 taxpayer-funded bonus in a July 30 letter.

''As recognition for the outstanding work you have done . . . in particular for the efforts made to prepare and provide us with a validated baseline (cleanup schedule), as Fee Determining Official I am rewarding you with an additional $100,000 of fee,'' Mr. Hamric said in the letter.

In the same letter, Mr. Hamric noted ''serious problems'' in the company's performance on a vitrification pilot plant and a thorium overpacking project at Fernald. Those problems included significant delays and cost overruns between Oct. 1, 1995, and March 31, 1996.

Because of those problems, the Energy Department subtracted about $5 million in performance fees Fluor Daniel Fernald was eligible to receive during that six-month period.

Every six months, Fluor Daniel Fernald is able to earn $10.8 million in performance fee (its profits for managing the site) based on a point system tied to the company's success or failures on cleanup projects at the site.

Mr. Hamric and other energy department officials refused to be interviewed for this story.

When Mr. Hamric announced the bonus for the 10-year plan in July, he was aware that on June 5 his bosses in Washington, D.C., had cut the site's budget by $10 million a year, according to Energy Department records. On Monday, The Enquirer reported that officials of the Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies think the 10-year plan cannot be met because of the budget cuts.

Since Fluor Daniel Fernald (formerly FERMCO) was awarded the $2 billion cleanup contract in December 1992, it has been penalized more than $26 million by the Energy Department for various safety, design, construction and off-site waste shipment problems.

The 1,050-acre site is about 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati. Owned by the government, it processed uranium for the nuclear weapons industry during the Cold War. It ceased production in 1989.

Published Oct. 1, 1996.