Monday, April 21, 2014

School repairs shouldn’t cost taxpayers thanks to lawsuit payout

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 4/19/2013

Taxpayers should not be out the cost of repairing floors and leaky roofs at Garfield and Lincoln elementary schools.

The $2.5 million settlement the district is set to receive from a general contractor should cover the tab, Susan Ward, Ottawa school board president, said.

Taxpayers should not be out the cost of repairing floors and leaky roofs at Garfield and Lincoln elementary schools.

The $2.5 million settlement the district is set to receive from a general contractor should cover the tab, Susan Ward, Ottawa school board president, said.

Manning Construction Co., Olathe, and some of its subcontractors have agreed to pay the Ottawa school district $2.5 million to resolve a lawsuit over cracked epoxy floors and leaky roofs at the two Ottawa elementary schools.

“Based on estimates we received last year, the $2.5 million should cover the repairs,” Ward said. “The cost, of course, could have changed since we received the bids, but I’m hopeful they will still come in under the $2.5 million.”

The school board voted 7-0 Monday to approve the settlement negotiated between attorneys and representatives of Manning Construction, the general contractor for the work, and the school district’s negotiating team of Ward, school board member Dennis George and the district’s attorney, Michael Norris.

The Ottawa school district filed a civil suit April 13, 2011, against Manning, seeking damages. Manning was the general contractor in charge of the construction of Lincoln, as well as a major renovation project at Garfield, which began in 2005.

The school district had asked for $4.7 million, but Manning’s opening offer was for less than $1 million, Ward said of the mediation process.

If an agreement could not be worked out between the two parties, the civil suit was scheduled to go to trial starting June 3, before District Judge Eric Godderz in Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa.

“We were so far apart when we started, but I’m glad we were able to reach a settlement,” Ward said.

While the settlement was not for the $4.7 million the district was asking for, it was better than the prospect of going through a trial, George said.

The negotiating teams wrapped up the settlement following several hours of mediation talks that spanned most of the day Monday, Ward said.

School board member Brandon Jones, who also serves as county attorney in Osage and Anderson counties, agreed with George’s assessment and compared going to trial in this type of dispute to a “roll of the dice.”

“You never know how these trials are going to go, and even if we would have won the trial, [Manning’s attorneys] could have tied it up in the appeals process for years,” Jones said. “I think this was the right decision.”

The school district’s original petition for damages, filed by its Overland Park-based attorney Norris nearly two years ago to the day, detailed five counts of alleged contract violations against Manning Construction. The five counts were breach of contract, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of workman-like performance, negligence and negligent misrepresentation, according to the court document.

Manning Construction, formerly known as MPW Construction Inc., entered into a contract with the school district in January 2005 to build Lincoln Elementary at 1102 N. Milner Road, Ottawa, and to complete a renovation project at Garfield Elementary, 1213 S. College St., Ottawa. Both projects were substantially complete in early 2007, according to court documents.

The original petition indicates district officials noticed cracks in epoxy floors and “widespread construction deficiencies in the roofs of both schools,” according to the document. The school district notified Manning Construction in writing of the alleged deficiencies within one year of the project’s completion, according to the court document, but “Manning failed to correct the defects and deficiencies.”

The settlement also included subcontractors Cannon Building Systems Inc., Lenexa, and Uhlman’s Midwest Erectors Inc., Liberty, Mo., Ward said.

Manning and the subcontractors — or their insurance companies — have 30 days to pay the settlement, under the terms of the agreement, Ward said. The settlement resolves any claims the school district has against Manning and its subcontractors, she said.

“It’s been a long process, and I’m glad it has been resolved,” Ward said. “When you have something built, you expect it to be right.”

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