A New Jersey-based contractor claimed it is owed more than $1.59 million for a Luzerne County Courthouse restoration project that wrapped up in 2013 due to costly delays out of the company’s control.
Luzerne County officials filed their own claim, arguing the company — D.A. Nolt — should be on the hook for at least $691,400 in water damages to interior murals and plaster because it did not properly cover the courthouse domes during its work to prevent rain from getting in the building.
County Council members are scheduled Tuesday night to discuss a proposed $375,000 settlement of D.A. Nolt’s arbitration claim, but county’s action against the company will continue to advance in county court, according to the council work session agenda.
D.A. Nolt was paid $5.175 million to complete a series of exterior repairs to the historic structure’s exterior staircases and almost every surface from the building’s roofline to the top of the main dome.
Aimed largely at stopping damaging leaks, the project involved work on the stained glass windows, cleaning and repointing of stone and decorative finishes and scraping and rubbing to remove layers of deteriorating waterproof coating from terra cotta tiles on the main dome and four smaller ones to prime them for a fresh finish.
According to D.A. Nolt’s court filings:
D.A. Nolt started the project in September 2010 and planned to substantially complete the work in October 2011.
Shortly after commencing work, the company began to experience significant delays out of its control, including:
• A discovery that the north stairs had no foundation, leading to a “slow response time” for the county to design a solution to construct a new support wall.
• Unexpected weather conditions, including colder-than-normal temperatures, snow, rain, Susquehanna River flooding, a tropical storm and earthquake.
• The county’s initial failure to select a mortar color, slowing the masonry portion of the project.
• The roof coating manufacturer’s difficulties testing and identifying the appropriate primer.
D.A. Nolt obtained a change order from the county, extending the project completion to June 2012, but “the delays only continued,” in part because the county added 17 additional repair items that were not part of the original contract.
The county approval process for many additional items took more than six months, delaying the ordering of materials. Events at the courthouse also prevented the company from working nine days during October 2011 and June 2012.
The roof coating manufacturer also tried to impose additional requirements not required by the contract, and the county added to the months of delay on this matter by ignoring D.A. Nolt’s repeated requests to “provide direction as to how to proceed.”
When another change order extending the project completion date was approved in June 2012, D.A. Nolt sent the county notice it would pursue a claim for additional costs associated with project delays. The company maintains it was engaged in the project for 426 days longer than anticipated due to the county’s actions, leading to additional costs for equipment, scaffolding rental and manpower in addition to the loss of other work opportunities.
The company’s claim went before the American Arbitration Association.
The county council voted in September 2013 to initiate litigation against D.A. Nolt, seeking compensation for water damage to the courthouse interior in September 2011. The water damage occurred while the tiles were stripped of old coating.
According to the county’s September 2015 court filing:
D.A. Nolt acknowledged its obligation to manage ongoing water infiltration and take responsibility for damages in October 2011.
An outside expert that had examined the interior murals and plaster in 2006 reassessed the building as part of an agreement between the county and D.A. Nolt. The expert concluded $691,415 in additional damages were caused by the 2011 leaks.
The county argues D.A. Nolt failed to use appropriate temporary protection and measures to keep rain and water out of the courthouse.