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Tacoma: Subcontractor sues Mortenson, city over Cheney Stadium project

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Oct. 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
October 10, 2011 4:12 pm

A key subcontractor on the Cheney Stadium renovation project has sued the City of Tacoma and its general contractor, the M.A. Mortenson Company, amid claims it’s still owed more than $400,000 for work on the ballpark.

Roscoe Steel and Culvert Co. of Billings Mont. — which provided steel framing, decking and joists for the $30 million stadium project — claims Mortenson failed to cover “unpaid base contract amounts and change orders” for work and materials provided during ballpark renovations.

Tacoma City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli said Monday the city’s inclusion in the lawsuit is simply procedural because the city holds the funds that are set aside in case of such a payment dispute.

Mortenson Vice President and General Manager Jim Yowan, who described the lawsuit Monday as “purely an internal issue” between his company, Roscoe and other subcontractors, blamed Roscoe for the problems that led to the legal dispute.

“Roscoe delivered some steel to the project late, and that affected the other contractors from starting their work,” Yowan said. “The amount of damages to other subcontractors is in excess of the $400,000 that Roscoe is now claiming they should’ve been paid.”

In its suit filed in Pierce County Superior Court on Aug. 31, Roscoe alleges breach of contract and negligence by Mortenson to the subcontract signed by both companies in August 2010.

Roscoe was “directed to perform out-of-scope” and “accelerate hindered work,” which created “a cardinal change” in the steel company’s subcontract with Mortenson, the lawsuit contends.

The lawsuit adds that Mortenson also provided “faulty plans, late plans, arbitrary changes to the design, late review of shop drawings and interfered with Roscoe’s preparation and performance of the agreement.”

In all, Roscoe claims it provided materials and work amounting to more than $1.1 million, but is still owed $413,558 on unpaid invoices due last January.

As the named holder of the project’s retainage funds, the city will continue to hold the disputed funds or deposit them into an account pending a court order that directs it to make any payments, Pauli said.

Aside from the city, the lawsuit also names a bond company and an insurance firm as defendants and contemplates naming up to 20 other subcontractors.
Yowan called Roscoe’s lawsuit “a mistake” that should not have been filed.

“They’re supposed to go through an alternative dispute resolution prior to any litigation,” Yowan said. “That’s standard language in our subcontracts. We’re going to charge forward with that and hopefully this will only be a negotiation.”

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of controversies that have emerged since the ballpark’s design-build project to renovate the city’s 51-year-old minor league baseball stadium kicked off in January 2010.

Other issues have included allegations of bias in the project’s bid process and questions about unapproved change-orders that resulted in more than $800,000 in overruns to the city’s original $26.5 million contract with Mortenson.

Despite such issues, project officials have insisted ballpark renovations were finished on time and on budget. The stadium was ready for the Tacoma Rainiers’ 2011 home opener, with total project costs falling within an overall $30 million project budget largely covered by city bond sales.

The state auditor’s office is now conducting a separate project audit expected to be completed by year’s end.

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