City, contractor deliver closing arguments in pool dispute |

City, contractor deliver closing arguments in pool dispute

Jill Lufrano

A jury will continue deliberations today in a civil case involving Carson City and American General Development, the contractor hired to build the city’s aquatic center in 1998.

In the case, the contractor is asking the city pay the remaining balance of $328,000, plus $7,450 for extra work.

The city says it should keep the money, plus be compensated an additional $95,600 after paying another contractor to complete the late and problem-plagued project.

The aquatic facility cost $3.74 million and was finished eight months late by American General. But safety concerns with the pool slide, therapy pool and floor ducts kept it closed. Metcalf Builders was hired to complete the project.

Contractor John Sieben of American General was asked to leave the job at the end of this month.

The city contends the therapy pool was built too shallowly and leaked, and the pool slide was constructed with some edges higher than others and installed incorrectly.

Floor registers around the pool were left jetting out and had to be duct-taped to protect swimmers’ feet from sharp edges. The contractor said he built the floor equipment to design standards, but there were problems with the floor’s surface. Many other deficiencies were found, city officials said.

During closing arguments Friday in the three-week trial, American General counsel Michael Hoy told the jury the project was hindered by design problems and ongoing changes.

“This case was poisoned from the start – from the very beginning,” Hoy said. “AGD was treated fundamentally differently than everybody else on this project.”

Project drawings weren’t complete when the contractor started, forcing Sieben to do extra work, Hoy said. Other problems with power line undergrounding, flooring and site conditions continually provided roadblocks for the contractor, he said.

Admittedly, the job had workmanship issues, but the therapy pool didn’t need to be torn up and redone, Hoy said. The city and contractor also disagree about whether the pool leaked or lost water due to evaporation.

The contractor’s attorney contended that Metcalf Builders was given a blank check by the city to make repairs, and the contractor should not be charged for working past the deadline because the city contributed to the delay.

As per the contract, the deadline for completion was Feb. 9, 2000, after the city granted an extra 147 days. The city is asking for $83,500 in damages for the more-than-five months’ overrun. Metcalf’s bill was $400,000, and the city incurred other expenses for inspections and labor.

City Deputy District Attorney Mark Forsberg said Sieben signed a contract for the job, agreeing to the conditions. He said Sieben knew the contract was signed in the winter, and should have factored in the extra time for weather. He should have known about power lines and job challenges when he submitted a bid $400,000 lower than any other contractor, Forsberg said.

“This was a case about workmanship, not a case about design,” Forsberg told the jury. “Hold AGD and Sieben to the promises they agreed to. He hasn’t done that yet. Make Carson City whole. We got what we wanted; it just cost us a whole lot more money.”

The jury began deliberations Friday night and is expected to resume deliberations today.

Contact Jill Lufrano at or 881-1217.