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$1.6M Suit Caps 400-Question Project

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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A Maryland contractor that completed a $14 million, award-winning fire station in Charlottesville, VA, has filed a $1.6 million lawsuit against the city, alleging hundreds of points of confusion that bogged down the project.

Costello Construction Inc., of Columbia, says the city was responsible for cost overruns and project delays, according to a review of court documents.

Specifically, the company argues defects in the project specifications; changes in work orders; and the city’s response time following Costello’s nearly 400 requests for information accounted for $1.6 million in overages.

Fontaine Fire Station
Costello Construction

The Fontaine Fire Station in Charlottesville is a 38,000-square-foot, award-winning, three-story concrete and steel facility. The contractor on the project has sued the city for cost increases.

The city has argued for a dismissal on procedural grounds and points to a line in the contract that the work be completed for a fixed, agreed-upon price, according to a local report in The Daily Progress.

Charlottesville officials did not return a request for comment Monday (Feb. 23) regarding the litigation.

A bench trial is set for August, according to court documents.

Fire Station Project

The Fontaine Fire Station in Charlottesville is a 38,000- square-foot, three-story concrete and steel facility designed by LeMay Erickson Willcox Architects of Reston, VA.

Originally scheduled for completion in April 2013, the building opened for use February 2014.

The structure was designed to achieve a LEED Platinum rating, according to the architect’s website, incorporating several green technologies, including a rain water harvesting cistern; solar panels; low SRI roofing and pavement; standing column geothermal wells; and regional materials with recycled content.

Interior of Fontaine Fire station
Costello Construction

The facility was designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, according to the architect.

Exterior finishes included masonry, concrete panels, metal panels and curtain wall construction, Costello Construction notes on its project summary.

The Fontaine Avenue station has received two Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization Design Awards.

The architect did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Nearly 400 Issues

In its complaint, filed in August 2014, Costello argues that the city extended the agreed-upon completion date by more than 200 days and is also responsible for cost increases for the concrete and site work, as well as additional project management.

The company originally bid $9.1 million on the project, according to The Daily Progress.

Once it started construction in fall 2011, however, Costello says it ran into nearly 400 latent ambiguities, errors, and omissions in the contract documents. Thus, the contractor submitted 387 requests for information from the city, the contractor alleged.

The contractor says the information requests impacted the project timeline, as the city was slow to respond, taking 14 days or longer to provide a written response in at least 73 instances.

money
©iStock.com / hynci

“Everyone who set foot on this construction site lost money,” according to Costello President David Costello.

For example, Costello said it took the city 22 days to respond to an information request regarding four fold doors on the project.

Costello said the design of the head of the door opening was not compatible with the specified doors, and the city’s response was also not compatible with the specified doors. The city did not provide an adequate design for the head of the door opening for several weeks, the company alleged.

The project was further delayed by conflicts between specifications and drawings related to the concrete floor finish.

Changes, Additions and Management

The architect was said to have issued 63 supplemental instructions on the project, the complaint noted.

Meanwhile, the city issued 49 construction change directives, 52 construction field orders and three construction field directives "changing, clarifying or otherwise altering the contract documents and Costello’s performance," the contractor alleged.

Costello said it had had to hire two additional project managers who, along with the original project manager, clocked at least 3,800 hours on the fire station.

That’s 3,000 hours over what Costello had original anticipated in its bid, the complaint said.

‘Prolonged Nightmare’

Neither Costello Construction nor its attorney responded to requests for comment. However, company president David Costello told The Daily Progress that the project was a “prolonged nightmare.”

“Everyone who set foot on this construction site lost money,” he said.

The president also noted that the company had sued one other client in its 20-year history.

“When projects are delayed, labor becomes inefficient, and it’s the kiss of death,” he said.

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Business matters; Construction; Lawsuits; Public Buildings

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