By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Hill County on Monday filed a lawsuit against the two firms that designed the new courthouse steps.
Last month, county officials placed barricades to keep people from using the side aisles of the staircase. Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson said concerns about the placement of handrails was the reason for the barricades.
The lawsuit was filed in state District Court in Havre against Milk River Engineering of Havre and Springer Group Inc. of Bozeman.
A spokesman for Milk River Engineering declined to comment today.
Lowell Springer, owner of Springer Group, said, "We have done projects for 35 years in and around Montana with counties and cities and school districts and have never, ever been sued before, so we don't know exactly how to respond."
Springer said the county brought in an outside consultant before the project was complete, a decision he criticized.
"The circumstances of hiring an outside consultant in the middle of it, in our opinion, made it impossible to finish the contract," he said.
Peterson declined to comment on the case.
The lawsuit itemized the county's complaint about the work done:
A steel pan installed for drainage was not protected from corrosion and has already begun to rust, the complaint said.
The complaint said the balusters on the front entrance steps are improperly spaced, not in compliance with building codes or standard construction practice. The materials are too water-absorbant, it said, which the county says will lead to further problems.
In an interview two weeks ago, Peterson said the balusters have cracks.
The middle landing of the front steps does not slope adequately to allow water to drain, the complaint said, causing safety and structural concerns during the winter and spring periods of freeze and thaw.
Handrails on the side aisles of the steps cannot be gripped, the suit said.
The suit also says the ramp at the handicap-accessible east entrance was too shallow to drain properly. Modifications to fix that problem made the entrance out of compliance with building codes, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint said the two companies breached the terms of the agreement with the county, committing mistakes that will result in reconstruction and repair. Hill County is asking for repayment of costs as well as whatever damages the law allows, the complaint said.