York City School District is seeking dismissal of three lawsuits filed against it by contractors claiming they are collectively owed millions of dollars for a school renovation project.
Leer Electric, Rado Enterprises and Fab-Rick Industries contend the school district botched its job of overseeing the William Penn Senior High School renovation from 2003-2006, leading each of them to fall behind on their work.
Attorneys representing city schools filed motions asking a judge to dismiss each of those suits in late April.
"These cases never should have been brought to court," said attorney Rees Griffiths, representing the district in the Leer and Rado cases. "None of the contractors performed in a timely fashion. We expect to prevail."
At stake is more than $4 million at a time when the district has zero to spare -- it faces a $19 million deficit next year and has no fund balance reserves to deal with unexpected costs, according to business consultant James Duff.
The $53.4 million renovation project began with demolition of portions of the 1927 building. It also included renovation to the remaining parts of that building and construction of a new wing to house an auditorium, library and media center and science and music suites.
The three companies claim the district had "defective" construction documents, bad scheduling and other delays that made it impossible for them to complete work on time, thus leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional compensation requested because of extra labor and materials. Legal fees and interest are being requested, too.
The numbers: Leer Electric, an electric contractor based in Dillsburg, is seeking about $850,000, according to court documents. Its contract was for $4.7 million.
Rado Enterprises, a heating, ventilation and cooling contractor based in Bloomsburg, is seeking $972,000 because of construction "inefficiencies" caused by the district, according to the documents. It is also seeking $360,00 in withheld pay, plus other fees. The initial contract was for $6.6 million.
York City School Board members said in 2006, when Rado first demanded the withheld pay, that Rado failed to install piping to specifications, among other issues.
And Fab-Rick, an Ephrata-based steel fabrication contractor formerly known as Caravel & Rick Inc., is seeking $1.9 million, according to the documents. The initial contract was about $3 million.
Tim Woolford of Woolford Law in Lancaster is representing Leer and Rado, and he has said he believes the Court of Common Pleas will not grant the motion for dismissal.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they filed their responses to the motion to dismiss on Wednesday. Griffiths, an attorney with CGA Law Firm in York City, said it's absurd for the district to get blamed for the contractors breaching their contracts.
"If you hired a contractor, and he said it would take three months (to finish) and it took six ... would you be happy?" Griffiths said.
"Far from being victimized by project-related delays, Fab-Rick was itself the cause of project-related delays," school district attorneys wrote in the motion to dismiss.
Tom Davies, representing Fab-Rick, said they "dispute that vigorously" and the district's lack of proper scheduling "cascaded" problems from contractor to contractor. Davies is an attorney with Lancaster-based Harmon & Davies law firm.
Woolford said York City "did not follow the phasing plan" for the renovations and did not have a construction schedule for the first six months. And when a schedule was available, it was "incomplete and hopelessly flawed."
Legal fees piling up: The suits are old, dating back to 2005, but the dismissal motion has pushed the cases forward. Both sides blame the other for leaving the lawsuits languishing.
Attorneys for both sides said the district likely has racked up a sizable amount of legal fees during these years, although a specific amount was not immediately available. Woolford estimated defense legal fees are likely approaching $1 million.
Griffiths said the district intends to recover the cost of those legal fees upon winning its case.
-- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431 or asha firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ydblogwork