Summit County still plans to pursue claim over completion of services building
The Summit County Services Building in Kamas was finally opened to the public last week, but the county is still planning on pursuing a damages claim against the contractor of the building once the Senior Center portion of the building is complete.
The nearly $6 million facility houses the Kamas Branch of the Summit County Library, as well as offices for the Department of Motor Vehicles, Health Department and Valley Behavioral Health. Other amenities include a space for public meetings and a computer classroom. Those spaces were opened on April 2.
A new South Summit Senior Center within the building is still under construction, however. It is expected to be complete before the end of April, according to Summit County Manager Tom Fisher. Additionally, all of the screws for the outside siding need to be replaced.
“There are a couple of things we are still working on that need to get finished up,” he said.
The building was originally expected to open in October, but completion was pushed back several times. Plans were then announced to hold a soft opening in January, but construction delays prevented it from happening.
Last month, the county announced it intended to seek a damages claim against Spindler Construction, the contractor hired to build the library, for the delayed opening. Penalties have been amounting at $500 a day since Feb. 15 when an addendum was added to the contract describing how the damages claim will be processed, Fisher said.
“We found out it all goes back to the siding,” Fisher said. “It was not something the contractor was as familiar with and got trained on. There was also perhaps some haste to get it finished at the end which may have caused some of the quality to suffer. That will get fixed before it is done.”
Fisher met with the county’s legal team last week to discuss how and when to proceed with a damages claim. He said the claim will solely be based on the timeline for construction and the penalties will continue to incur until the hearth in the senior center and the outdoor siding are complete.
“We plan on making that claim as soon as we see those things are done,” he said. “The other part of the contract is a retainage amount, meaning we will hold back a certain amount of dollars in the contract until everything is done. We will also hold back the amount of damages we are claiming and then we will begin the process of negotiating.”
The delays have affected the services that will be housed in the new building. The Kamas Branch of the Summit County Library and county health services were opened in temporary spaces while the building was under construction. Both were closed in December in anticipation of the new building opening in January.
Seniors are still utilizing the current South Summit Senior Center space at 34 E. 400 S. in Kamas in the interim.
“The way I look at it as the county manager, we have a responsibility with the public’s dollars and that’s what our damages claim is going to cover,” Fisher said.
Mike Spindler, vice president of Spindler Construction, has blamed the setbacks on issues with the sub-contractor for the siding, as well as changes architectural changes. Spindler was not available for comment. The negotiations with the county will likely include representatives of Spindler Construction and Method Studio, the architect.
“Any issues that the contractor has he has to take up with the architect,” Fisher said. “My guess is if we make a damages claim the contractor and architect will also be making some claims against each other based on what we are claiming. That is where the discussion will start and where that ends up, I can’t predict at this point.”
Fisher explained that the action could result in litigation as a last resort. He said the county is prepared to move in that direction. However, provisions within the contract stipulate the county will make all attempts to negotiate, mediate and dispute.
Fisher was unsure whether the claim will end up in formal mediation and who from the county attorney’s office will be involved.
“We are always prepared to defend our county and the public interest,” he said. “But, you are always making a judgment based on how good you think your claim is, the dollar amounts involved and the staff time and energy expended in litigation as opposed to what you might recover.”
County officials were given a formal tour of the building last week and expressed an overall satisfaction with its completion. Fisher emphasized the claim is based on the timeline, not the quality of the building.
“We think it is pretty good and I think we are very pleased with the project,” he said. “The public has had a very positive reaction. We love the way the library is operating. We like the Health Department space a lot and are very pleased with the open meeting room and the senior center. I think the seniors will be pleased with it as well once they get moved in.”
A former Summit County victim advocate who was facing a felony count of misusing public money pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge in a deal with prosecutors.