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Sat, Nov. 16

Town hires another law firm in litigation over library leaks
Architects claim not at fault; construction claim not at fault

Dealing with leaks in the Prescott Valley Public Library is an ongoing task every time it receives heavy rains like the downpour experienced July 25, resulting in wet floors shown here at the entrance to the auditorium. (Sue Tone/Tribune)

Dealing with leaks in the Prescott Valley Public Library is an ongoing task every time it receives heavy rains like the downpour experienced July 25, resulting in wet floors shown here at the entrance to the auditorium. (Sue Tone/Tribune)

In every major rainstorm since 2010, staff produces buckets to catch water leaking from the roof inside the Prescott Valley Public Library building.

The town noted several design and construction problems soon after it was completed in December 2009. They include not only leaks, but also degraded exterior cement panels, ventilation and cooling system failures, and carpet delamination because of moisture migration through the concrete slab.

Council members heard from Ivan Legler, town attorney, at a July 11 council meeting where he provided an update on litigation efforts and a request to the Town Council to ratify current contracts with consulting firms in order to make payments in excess of $30,000.

The town has attempted to negotiate a resolution with the architect and contractor, but those failed. Given the multi-million-dollar cost of repair, the town has since begun litigation proceedings against the architectural firm Richard + Bauer, et al, the contractor, Barton Malow, and surety companies in Yavapai County Superior Court in January 2017.

The town has contracted with an outside law firm, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, a general forensic engineering firm Gervasio & Assoc., and a forensic materials firm, Trinity/ERD.

Legler stated in the packet material for the July 11 meeting, that “continued finger-pointing between the architect and contractor about whether the cause was poor design, construction or both required the town to conduct additional investigation before mediation could be attempted.”

So the town contracted with three firms for construction estimates for repairs (Porter Construction from Seattle; an HVAC contractor, Bel-Aire Mechanical; and an HVAC engineering consultant, Johnston Engineering Company).

In the meantime, the town tried to mitigate damages. It hired Rainbow International Restoration to locate and resolve areas where mold had developed in the auditorium walls. It replaced the most significantly cracked and warped cement panels with some of the same inadequate — but newer — panels.

The town contracted with GCON Inc. to replace the roof, which was completed in July 2017. Finally, in April 2018, the town used emergency expenditures to replace two HVAC units that had prematurely failed.

By the time the June 2018 mediation process occurred, the town hoped for settlement and reimbursement of costs to-date. Unfortunately, the mediation was not successful, Legler said.

The contractor had filed a third-party complaint against many of its subcontractors in July 2017 and a cross-complaint against the architect. After the mediation failed, the contractor added 26 additional subcontractors to its third-party complaint. In March, the surety companies sought removal from the case; that motion is still pending.

In the midst of all this, Legler notes that the town has noted increased evidence of moisture in the concrete slab and has contracted directly with flooring and concrete consultants to determine the extent of the problem. This resulted in contracting with Orbach Huff Suarez & Henderson in April.

Staff also contracted with the forensic architectural firm, Diehl Group Architects, in March. Town Council members unanimously approved at the July 11 meeting Legler’s request to ratify the agreements so billings beyond $30,000 can be processed.

“Complex cases like these typically do not have any real chance of settlement until all parties are motivated to avoid the time, expense and other risks involved with a looming trial,” Legler stated in his memo to council.

A representative of Diehl visited the library in July to prepare disclosure information as an expert witness.

“We have a pretty good stable of experts,” Legler said, adding that the other law firm is specifically knowledgeable about the issue of construction cases. “We believe by bringing them on, we will be able to hurry this litigation further.”

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