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Attorney: County has no recourse for leaking walls

It's too late to pursue legal action for possible faulty design or careless workmanship that may have led to water damage in the walls of the St. Croix County Government Center.

Instead Finance Committee members agreed last week to follow a gentler course and ask the design and construction companies to help fix the damage. The committee also authorized a two-stage process to begin repair work.

Earlier this fall, contractors preparing to replace the Government Center roof found some of the building's leaks are related to either the design or construction of the walls.

The estimate for wall repairs that should be done ahead of or along with the roof work is about $240,000. No estimates are yet available for work that may be needed on other sides of the building.

Corporation Counsel Greg Timmerman said last Thursday that other attorneys have advised him any legal action for faulty design or workmanship should have been filed within 10 years of the completion of the building.

It doesn't make any difference when the damage was found, the County would have had to file a claim within a decade of moving into the building in 1993, said Timmerman.

He said one lawyer suggested contacting the parties, who are reputable businesses, and asking them if they would contribute to the cost of the repairs.

"We're not talking about suing, because that's over," agreed Supervisor Buck Malick, who suggested writing letters to the architects and builders soon.

In the meantime, the Finance Committee accepted a $16,000 bid from Roof Spec Inc. to prepare design and construction documents for work on the south and east walls of the north wing, the west wall of the east wing, the south canopy wall and the east canopy wall.

The Committee also accepted a $22,000 estimate from RSI to send that project out for bids and administer and observe construction. The cost might be less because RSI may be able to combine roof and wall inspection time.

In related action, the Board hired RSI to examine the rest of the exterior of the building, propose corrections as needed, prioritize recommended repairs and present estimated costs and time frames.

Curt Reed, of RSI, said that portion of work, which will cost $9,800, will involve a visual survey of the building exterior and interviews with county workers to identify possible problems. Exploratory probes will be done as warranted and when the weather permits.

Reed anticipates delivering a final report by May 1. At that point, he said, the county could look at costs and consider doing the work in phases over two, three or four years.

"We're in the very difficult position of not having an alternative," commented Finance Committee Chairman Daryl Standafer.

"It makes the decision easy, but painful," added Malick.