files $6.5M lawsuit over school's mold contamination
June 19, 2008
BY DUNSTAN McNICHOL
New Jersey State
officials yesterday announced a lawsuit seeking more than $6.5 million in
damages from the Gilbane Building Co., saying the firm failed to alert the
state to mold contamination at a Neptune school building project.
Gilbane, in turn,
refuted the state's claims and promised to file a countersuit.
Discovery of mold in
the walls of a partially built Neptune Community Middle School last year
forced demolition of portions of the school that had been built. The
problems delayed the project by a year and added $13 million to the cost of
In their lawsuit, filed
in Superior Court in Monmouth County, the state Schools Development
Authority contends Gilbane failed to protect the state's interests and never
informed officials of the mold problem.
responsibility was to be the eyes and ears of the SDA and the taxpayers of
New Jersey on the project," said Scott Weiner, chief executive officer of
the schools authority.
The lawsuit seeks
damages in excess of $6.5 million from Gilbane for the portion of the cost
of repairing the mold problem and recovery of a portion of the fees paid to
Gilbane. The state has already collected $6.5 million from other builders
and architects involved in the project.
Gilbane issued a
statement in response to the filing of the suit.
denies the specious allegations in the School Development Authority's
complaint, and will disclose the true source of the problems at Neptune
Community School in its counter-suit, which will be filed shortly," said Wes
Cotter, Gilbane's director of communications. "It will be clear Gilbane
lived up to its responsibilities and repeatedly offered valuable advice to
the SDA, which they chose to ignore at their detriment."
Gilbane has collected
more than $50 million in fees from the state's school construction program,
including $24 million for serving as a project manager. In February, after
mediation talks over the Neptune project broke down, the authority fired
Gilbane from all 23 jobs it was handling.
The firm continues to
be eligible for other public work in New Jersey, and is handling the $4.6
million expansion of Rutgers University football stadium.
The lawsuit comes as
state legislators are grappling with a plan to authorize at least $2.5
billion in new borrowing for the school construction program, which was
beset by cost overruns and waste during its first years.
Since its launch, the
program has spent all $8.6 billion allocated to it. Without new funds,
Weiner said, the program will begin winding down next year.
Debate over new
borrowing for the construction program is among several contentious issues
threatening to tie up resolution of the state's proposed $32.9 billion state
budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
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