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By Tim Leeds 

County courthouse steps re-open, a bit

 


County courthouse steps re-open, a bit

Tim Leeds

The main entrance to the Hill County Courthouse is once again open, with the steps uncovered and open — at least the center route.

The steps had been closed, requiring people to enter the building through the east and west entrances, for several months while the latest work was done to re-pour concrete on an upgrade that started nearly 10 years ago.

The contractor, Dick Anderson Construction out of Great Falls, had put a tent over the steps and used heaters to keep the new concrete drying over the last several months.

"It really cured out nice, " Mike Wendland, chair of the Hill County Commission, said Monday.

The final work on the steps will wait until spring, when a new veneer matching the outside of the building will be put over the sides of the steps and the last handrails installed. Until then, the outer parts of the steps are blocked off.

The cost of the work is still tied to legal negotiations with a contractor that had done previous work on the project, Phillips Construction.

***Final cost depends on legal proceedings

Gary Zadick, the Great Falls attorney representing Hill County on litigation over the project, said this morning the final cost to the county will be up to the court.

The county has sued twice over work done on the steps in the past decade.

Zadick said the negotiations are on hold until the final cost of finishing the steps is known. Once that is complete, the county will ask the first contractor, Phillips Construction of Great Falls, to make up any amount over what the county still has budgeted for the project.

Phillips Construction says it has done nothing wrong and contests that any money is due from the company, Zadick added.

"What it will end up costing the county will depend on arbitration or litigation, " he said.

***Complaints, court proceedings slow the process

After the first work was completed in 2004 at a cost of $340,100, the county government ended up suing the architects and engineers, saying the project did not meet code, with the lawsuit saying problems included the slope of the steps being too low to properly drain and that railings did not meet legal requirements.

The architect and engineering firms countersued the contractor, Phillips Construction, and subcontractors.

In 2007, an out-of-court settlement was reached, with no admission of blame by any party, and the county receiving $410,000.

In the meantime, the work to rebuild the steps was started. At the recommendation of Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson, Phillips was brought back in as a continuation of the project, rather than sending out for new bids.

At the same time, Phillips started work on a remodel of the bottom floor of the courthouse, which included replacing the original floor, which had repeatedly buckled and required work over the previous decades. Phillips Construction was the only company to bid on that project, the county reported. Work to rebuild the east entrance of the courthouse was included on that project.

But once initial new work was completed on the steps, the county government said it had found new problems.

The county pulled Phillips from both projects, saying the new walls for the steps had been set at a slant, the barristers erected to hold lamps at the bottom of the steps were not square, and now the steps had too great a slope.

The county paid for the work Phillips had done on the basement and east end, but the work on the steps has been in contention since then.

The main entrance to the Hill County Courthouse is once again open, with the steps uncovered and open — at least the center route.

The steps had been closed, requiring people to enter the building through the east and west entrances, for several months while the latest work was done to re-pour concrete on an upgrade that started nearly 10 years ago.

The contractor, Dick Anderson Construction out of Great Falls, had put a tent over the steps and used heaters to keep the new concrete drying over the last several months.

"It really cured out nice, " Mike Wendland, chair of the Hill County Commission, said Monday.

The final work on the steps will wait until spring, when a new veneer matching the outside of the building will be put over the sides of the steps and the last handrails installed. Until then, the outer parts of the steps are blocked off.

The cost of the work is still tied to legal negotiations with a contractor that had done previous work on the project, Phillips Construction.

Final cost depends on legal proceedings

Gary Zadick, the Great Falls attorney representing Hill County on litigation over the project, said this morning the final cost to the county will be up to the court.

The county has sued twice over work done on the steps in the past decade.

Zadick said the negotiations are on hold until the final cost of finishing the steps is known. Once that is complete, the county will ask the first contractor, Phillips Construction of Great Falls, to make up any amount over what the county still has budgeted for the project.

Phillips Construction says it has done nothing wrong and contests that any money is due from the company, Zadick added.

"What it will end up costing the county will depend on arbitration or litigation, " he said.

Complaints, court proceedings slow the process

After the first work was completed in 2004 at a cost of $340,100, the county government ended up suing the architects and engineers, saying the project did not meet code, with the lawsuit saying problems included the slope of the steps being too low to properly drain and that railings did not meet legal requirements.

The architect and engineering firms countersued the contractor, Phillips Construction, and subcontractors.

In 2007, an out-of-court settlement was reached, with no admission of blame by any party, and the county receiving $410,000.

In the meantime, the work to rebuild the steps was started. At the recommendation of Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson, Phillips was brought back in as a continuation of the project, rather than sending out for new bids.

At the same time, Phillips started work on a remodel of the bottom floor of the courthouse, which included replacing the original floor, which had repeatedly buckled and required work over the previous decades. Phillips Construction was the only company to bid on that project, the county reported. Work to rebuild the east entrance of the courthouse was included on that project.

But once initial new work was completed on the steps, the county government said it had found new problems.

The county pulled Phillips from both projects, saying the new walls for the steps had been set at a slant, the barristers erected to hold lamps at the bottom of the steps were not square, and now the steps had too great a slope.

The county paid for the work Phillips had done on the basement and east end, but the work on the steps has been in contention since then.

 

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