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Patrick school renovations spark lawsuit by firm

Sunday, July 10, 2011

By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer

A construction firm that worked on a project to renovate all seven of Patrick County's schools has filed a lawsuit against the project developer alleging that it breached its contract and owes the construction firm more than $2.3 million.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Danville, also names the Patrick County School Board. The suit does not allege wrongdoing on the board's part, but it says that if the project developer, Ameresco Inc., does not pay the construction firm, T.U. Parks Construction Co., the money it says it is owed, the school board should be obligated to pay for the work from which it has benefited.

According to the complaint, the school board contracted with Ameresco, a firm in Framingham, Mass., in August 2008 and named it the developer and/or design builder for the school renovation project. About a year later, in September 2009, Ameresco contracted with T.U. Parks Construction of Chattanooga, Tenn., naming it the contractor for the project, the complaint says.

Under the terms of the contract, Ameresco agreed to pay Parks $17,476,146 "subject to additions and deductions as provided in the contract documents," the complaint says.

Parks, which filed the suit, alleges in the complaint that it suffered damages when the construction project was delayed, first because Ameresco did not file notices to proceed on several schools by the commencement date and later due to unusually severe winter weather.

The complaint also says Ameresco authorized Parks to do work "in addition to and outside the original scope of the contract."�

Parks submitted change orders for the additional work and the delays, it says, but it alleges that Ameresco has refused to pay those change orders.

The complaint lists 28 change orders for items such as paint at Patrick County High School, elevator at Woolwine Elementary and brick restoration at Stuart Elementary, among others.

Parks alleges that it suffered damages of $1,397,223 in unpaid change orders.

The construction firm also alleges that Ameresco has not paid it retainage of $914,421.65.

Parks says it referred its claims to RRMM Architects, a neutral party named in the contract. RRMM did not render a decision within 30 days, the complaint alleges. RRMM subsequently "rendered a partial decision on some claims, but not all of them," it says.

The complaint does not elaborate on that decision.

It says Parks has attempted to schedule mediation of the disputed claims but alleges that Ameresco "has refused to mediate in accordance with the contract dispute resolution provisions."�

The complaint alleges that by refusing mediation, as well as refusing to pay the change orders and not releasing the retainage allegedly owed, Ameresco has breached its contract with Parks. That has resulted in total damages of $2,311,644.65 plus interest, the complaint says.

It seeks an order compelling mediation as required by the contract and asks that if the mediation is unsuccessful, a judgment be entered in Parks' favor. It also seeks compensatory damages, interests, costs and attorneys fees of an unspecified amount.

"In the alternative," the lawsuit seeks an award against the school board. It notes that Parks had no contract with the board and says it is not making allegations of wrongdoing against the board. However, it asserts that the board has benefited from the work Parks did and should have to "pay the value of this benefit."�

The complaint says Parks has suffered damages of an amount to be determined at trial but "in excess of $2 million."�

It seeks a jury trial.

School officials have estimated the total cost of the school system renovation project, which was dedicated in May, at $25 million.


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