City sues three companies over police station water leaks

  • The city of Northampton is suing over what it claims are design defects in the new police station that are expected to cost $740,000 to fix. GAZETTE File photo

  • A ramp at the Northampton Police Station is under construction April 4, 2018. —Sarah Crosby

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — The city has filed a lawsuit against the companies responsible for building the Northampton Police Station on Center Street, alleging that design and construction defects led to water leaks and cost taxpayers nearly $740,000 to repair.

The city filed a lawsuit in Hampshire Superior Court May 18 against general contractor Barr & Barr Inc. of Springfield and the architectural firm Caolo & Bieniek Associates Inc. of Chicopee, which designed the building. The lawsuit, filed by Springfield attorney Mark E. Draper on behalf of the city, also names Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. as a defendant.

“In addition to construction defects, the project contains design defects,” the city alleges in the lawsuit.

The city alleges that under a contract entered into in August 2008, Barr & Barr failed to complete all its work as the construction manager at risk. The city also alleges that Caolo & Bieniek certified all the work done by Barr & Barr and did not flag any of Barr & Barr’s work for failure to conform to the plans and specifications.

“The design defects were caused by B&B’s failure to properly perform its design services for the Project,” the lawsuit states. “The design defects were caused by CBA’s failure to properly perform its design services for the project.”

The city is seeking a trial by jury on its breach-of-contract allegations, unspecified damages and costs.

Curtis A. Edgin, president of Caolo & Bieniek Associates Inc., declined to comment when reached Tuesday afternoon, saying he had not yet seen the complaint. A call to Barr & Barr went unreturned Tuesday.

Liberty Mutual issued the bond for Barr & Barr. The city alleges a breach of contract against Liberty Mutual as well as Barr & Barr and Caolo & Bieniek, claiming that the design and construction defects caused significant damages. Barr & Barr and Caolo & Bieniek are also being sued for intentional misrepresentation and negligent representation.

According to the lawsuit, issues with “persistent leaks and water infiltrations” began shortly after the city occupied the building. The leaks occurred throughout the department’s parking deck and garage and entered into the attached police station. Areas where water leaked inside the station included a locker room and a basement storage area, as well as a sally port with a rolling garage door below the parking deck.

“This lawsuit is part of the City of Northampton’s ongoing efforts to ensure that our taxpayers receive the police station facility that they paid for,” Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz wrote in an email to the Gazette Tuesday.

The 31,500-square-foot, energy-efficient facility was funded in large part with a $10 million, 20-year debt-exclusion override approved by voters on Nov. 2, 2010. The city bonded a total of $16.5 million for the project, which included design and construction. The station opened in July 2012 after a year of construction. The parking garage portion was completed in January 2013.

Work began to correct the water infiltration issues in mid-March 2018. The repair project is still underway and on schedule, Narkewicz said in an email.

In November 2017, the City Council ordered that $702,007 be moved from various accounts to pay to correct design and construction defects at the police station. The remaining money for the $738,350 project is being paid from funds remaining in the police station facility construction account, Narkewicz told the Gazette in April.

More than $631,000 from the city’s free cash was appropriated for the project, as well as $64,774 remaining in the city’s LED Street Light Conversion Capital Project budget. In addition, more than $4,500 was from a premium on bonds issued in June 2017, and $1,251 was taken from remaining funds in the Fire Rescue Department Security Access System Capital Project.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.