Company Blamed In School Lawsuit

CAMERON – Despite the recent discovery that the Marshall County Board of Education believes Project and Construction Services Inc. – hired to oversee the construction of Cameron High School – is partially responsible for the issues that plagued the construction of the building, the district continues to use the company as its general contractor.

An expert witness disclosure filed April 1 by the board alleges PCS made numerous mistakes during the project to delay construction and cost the board excessive fees in change orders.

The claim is a new development in the case between the board and Scalise Industries Corp. and Gito Inc., on behalf of Nello Construction of Canonsburg, Pa., and its subcontractor, Cost Co. of Pittsburgh.

Court documents show that prior to the disclosure, the board had not put any blame on PCS for the project errors since Gito first sued the board in Feb. 2013, alleging breach of contract.

The expert witness disclosure was assembled by Robert Beers of Beers Construction Consultants Inc. of Keymar, Md., and states Beers is expected to testify on behalf of the board that PCS failed to provide a baseline project schedule with regular updates to manage prime contractors; did not provide a general trades schedule until three months after the notice to proceed; made little effort to evaluate schedule compliance with the project’s prime contractors, to hold contractors responsible for non-compliance, or to alert the board of problems in a timely manner; failed to investigate the validity of contractor requests for time extensions or delay damages; failed to ensure against defects and deficiencies in the work; and never recommended the board to charge McKinley and Associates, the project architect, for any design errors McKinley admitted to causing.

Even with the recent filing, PCS continues to oversee the renovation of John Marshall High School. The major portions of the project are set to begin this summer and will continue for the next five years.

According to board member Lori Kestner, the board plans to continue to work with PCS on the renovation. Kestner also said the disclosure has brought to light information the board both did and did not know about errors made in the project.

“Do (PCS) have a piece in it? I don’t know if a board member can answer,” Kestner said. “That will come out in the information in the case. There’s information being brought out, because of our role as board members, we weren’t involved in. They’ve at least communicated well with us when things went wrong.”

According to Kestner, she and board members Roger Lewicki, Tom Gilbert and Beth Phillips recently testified under oath in depositions on the case. Kestner said the board hopes the matter will be settled in mediation.

“Time will provide an answer and time will give the guilt or innocence of everyone involved,” said board member John Miller, who joined the board in 2012. “We, as the board, are not experts, but the other people are and those people have to speak to why things weren’t done. The documents will clarify any guilty parties over time.”

Superintendent Michael Hince declined to comment on the litigation.

The board also filed a motion for a protective order which sought to exempt six emails between the board and representatives from PCS from being used as discovery in the case. That motion was denied, with Circuit Judge Thomas C. Evans II -handling the case through West Virginia Business Court – asserting since the correspondence was made before a joint-defense agreement was filed and before the initiation of the lawsuit, it cannot be withheld from the case.

The board also has been attempting to add McKinley and Associates to the suit for several months, claiming design errors by the architect for the school’s HVAC system significantly delayed the project.

The original lawsuit charges that Cost had completed its work in September 2012 despite delays that had reached in excess of $1 million, caused solely by the board’s actions.

In responding to its addition as a third party, Scalise officials estimated the company is owed in excess of $2 million in additional labor and materials. That does not include work on an additional cooling tower, which Scalise was asked to do.

The trial date for the case is set for Nov. 10.