Jury decides city must pay Aquatic Center contractor | NevadaAppeal.com

Jury decides city must pay Aquatic Center contractor

Jill Lufrano
Belinda Grant/Nevada AppealChildren enjoy the indoor pool at the Carson City Aquatic Center on Monday afternoon.
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Carson City has been ordered by a jury to pay a contractor $335,000 for work completed at the city’s Aquatic Center four years ago.

American General, in turn, will refund the city $53,000 for construction deficits mostly related to the therapy pool, the jury decided before midnight Friday. The decision ended a three-week trial and settled the ongoing dispute for the longtime Carson City contractor.

“We feel vindicated by the jury’s decision,” attorney Michael Hoy said. “It was a long trial and difficult to prepare. But it was also a cloud hanging over AGD and (the owner’s) head for four years. It created a real hardship.”

The city’s deputy district attorney could not be reached for comment Monday.

The contractor will seek four years’ interest on the payment and legal fees. By state law, he city may be liable to pay for the contractor’s attorney’s fees because it rejected a lower pre-trial offer. American General’s offered to settle for $228,500 in October after an attempted court mediation.

The city hired American General in 1998 to build the $3.74 million aquatic center. The job was fraught with design delays, project changes and difficulties. The city terminated its contract in July 2000 and withheld $328,000 in payments.

American General sued the city for payment plus $7,500 in extra work, and the city counter-sued for $95,000 after hiring Metcalf Builders to make repairs. In all, the city paid Metcalf Builders $400,000 and several other expenses related to the project.

American General’s president and owner John Sieben said the company was hindered several times from doing the job. Project designs were not finished when the contract was signed, and the contractor was unnecessarily forced to negotiate design problems, he said.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Forsberg told the jury last week the case was about workmanship, not design. At contract termination, the city claimed several deficiencies, including that the therapy pool leaked water and was dug too shallowly, floor vents were unsafe, and the pool slide was constructed improperly.

The city asked the contractor to pay for extra time taken to complete the job. The project ran five months behind, but the city said it was only responsible for 147 days’ delay.

Sieben’s business suffered financial setbacks from the Aquatic Center dispute, Hoy said.

“It’s been extremely hard,” Sieben said. “There’s a perception out there that it was terminated because we failed to finish the contract. This proves we finished the job. It was complete.”

American General has completed more than $240 million in building throughout Nevada and Northern California since 1984, Sieben said. His three sons graduated from Carson High School, where he built two phases of the facility. One son is serving in the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq.

The company has built several large-scale public buildings, including the Carson City and Reno Department of Motor Vehicles buildings, elementary schools in Douglas County and Battle Mountain, state detention centers and the Nevada Highway Patrol headquarters in Reno.

Contact Jill Lufrano at jlufrano@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.