By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Rocky Boy Public Schools has sued a Billings architectural firm over its design of the new Early Head Start building on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
The lawsuit, filed this morning in state District Court, seeks unspecified damages from Bauer Group Architects Ltd.
Architect Jim Bauer was in Rocky Boy today, a receptionist at his Billings office said. He could not be reached for comment.
Sandra Murie, superintendent of Rocky Boy Public Schools, was also in a meeting this morning and could not be reached for comment.
The district's attorney, Ron Waterman, said the school district terminated its contract with the architectural firm in April of 2002, but that Bauer had asked to be allowed to visit the building site this morning.
"He and his counsel asked for a chance to do a walk-through. It's just a chance to see what has happened since the last time he visited the site. He asked for the opportunity, and out of courtesy, we allowed him to do that," Waterman said. "It is not a meeting of any substance."
The lawsuit claims that Bauer Group failed to design any handicapped-accessible restrooms in the facility, forcing the school district to pay for remodeling; that electrical circuits in the building were overloaded and had to be rewired; and that the design did not call for any fire extinguishers to be installed in the building.
The design also resulted in the building being "structurally compromised," the lawsuit said. "For example, the roof was designed in such a way that during the facility's first winter, snow piled on the roof fell in an avalanche like fashion around the facility, blocking a number of its exits," the document said.
Design problems delayed the completion of the building, required that parts of the structure be revised, and significantly increased the costs of completing construction, the lawsuit said.
"We think our costs have increased substantially as reflected in the complaint. It's added more than $350,000 in construction costs," Waterman said.
Under the contract with Bauer, the building was supposed to be finished in September 2002, the lawsuit said.
"It opened a little late, but in time to accept students in the fall of '03, so it was approximately a year delay," Waterman said.
Bauer Group was aware of some of the shortcomings in the design of the building, and failed to notify school district officials in a timely fashion as required by its contract, the suit claims. When questioned about the contractor's problems with the ongoing construction, Bauer Group told the school district the "problems were caused by the contractor" and "suggested that the contractor's services be terminated," the lawsuit said.
The contractor stopped construction of the building, and the school district hired another architect to review the design of the building, the lawsuit said.
"The independent architect concluded that the construction problems were almost entirely attributable" to Bauer Group and its design of the building, the lawsuit said.