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Published: Friday, 5/16/2003

County will pay firm $175K to settle dispute

A dispute between the architects who drew up plans for Fifth Third Field and those who poured most of the concrete has been diverted from a courtroom.

But the cost to taxpayers caught in the middle is $175,000.

Lucas County commissioners yesterday voted unanimously to pay Rudolph/Libbe that amount, in addition to an already earmarked $554,630 for additional work on its portion of the construction of the baseball stadium in downtown Toledo.

But as work continued, workers complained that some of the measurements in the architectural drawings didn't match those in the renderings used to build the structural steel frames, said Gary Haas, Rudolph/Libbe's manager of contracts administration.

“One wall wouldn't fit with another wall,” he told The Blade. “We had to make sure that our concrete matches up to the steel that's being constructed off site,” Mr. Haas said, adding that dimensions at one point were “off as much as a foot.”

The company began double-checking steps, finding more mistakes, and workers were forced to rip up concrete poured behind home plate. That delay meant overtime and more work to make sure Rudolph/Libbe finished its portion of the project on time, Mr. Haas said.

The company blamed the problems on faulty blueprints provided by HNTB, a Kansas City, Mo.-based firm which, through HNTB Ohio, Inc., was paid nearly $2 million for its work on the $39.2 million stadium. Some of that money was passed to local architects who assisted in the project.

Rudolph/Libbe's only option in trying to recoup the costs from HNTB was through the county, for whom it has done numerous jobs in the past. The Walbridge company originally estimated its cost at about $3 million.

HNTB officials yesterday refused comment on the allegations or settlement.

The dispute put the county in a tough spot, said Jim O'Neal, assistant county administrator.

“It was such a good project we didn't want it to end in nothing but disputes,” he said, adding that Rudolph/Libbe originally asked for $1.4 million in overruns.

HNTB “vehemently denied” the allegations but has agreed to shell out $50,000 to help settle the dispute, Mr. O'Neal said.

Michael Wright, director of operations for HNTB's sports facilities group, would neither confirm nor deny the $50,000 payment.

In another issue, tempers flared once again over how to help the recently unemployed find jobs, a topic that has underscored a sometimes contentious relationship between the new members of the board.

The county's work force and economic development department asked commissioners for an additional $15,000 to help pay for assessment tests for unemployed workers, saying costs that have reached $138,000 had grown as the ranks of the unemployed swelled.

But Commissioner Maggie Thurber questioned whether any of the county's current contracts would cover some of those assessment tests. Further, she was obviously irked that the item appeared to have been a last-minute addition to the agenda.

“I'm really frustrated by this process,” she said, asking that staff be better prepared to answer her questions.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak agreed, saying she, too, was annoyed at what appeared to be a last-minute request, though staff members said the item was not last-minute, but rather lost in the county's e-mail system.

The allocation was approved on the condition that the contractual questions be answered before any more money is sent to the vendor.



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