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County jail dispute heads to courtTell North Platte what you think

More than a half-million dollars remains at stake in a long-running dispute between Lincoln County and the company that built the new jail and sheriff’s office.

Neither side will give, so the next stop is a trial in federal court, county officials told the Bulletin.

At the core of the dispute is the roof of the $15.5 million building, which had to be entirely replaced because of shoddy workmanship.

Poor workmanship allowed leaks in the first roof, which allowed mold to grow inside the roof cavity, on wall board and wet insulation.

The general contractor, Roche Constructors of Colorado, says Lincoln County owes them the cost of replacing the roof.

The county says it was Roche’s responsibility to oversee proper installation the first roof. And the county also has other concerns with workmanship and delays.

Roche wants to be compensated for weather delays and work that had to be re-done. They blame poor architectural designs for some of the problems.

The roof was replaced as the weather allowed during the spring of 2011, delaying the opening of the new jail for nearly four months.

Meanwhile, overflow prisoners from the old jail went elsewhere, mostly to the Dawson County Jail, for which the county taxpayers paid a daily fee, adding to the county’s costs.

County officials also note problems with concrete finish causing cracks in floors, and crooked floors near showers and in exercise rooms.

There was a leaky exterior wall and concrete curbs that had to be redone. Several final details were not finished inside for several months.

Before construction started, the county commissioners hired construction manager Kirk Nichols to oversee the process and represent the county’s interests. Nichols watched daily progress, took pictures and made notes, documenting problems.

As work progressed and the odds of an ongoing dispute grew, the county hired an attorney. Nichols is now working with the attorney whenever needed, he said.

Both sides agreed to undergo mediation during the summer, but a compromise could not be reached. A judge from Lincoln listened to both sides and found it was unresolvable.

County commissioner Willis Roethemeyer and Nichols both told the Bulletin that the dispute is now “definitely going to trial.”

Nichols doesn’t work at the courthouse often these days, but is still the county’s inspector and answers when the attorney or the commissioners ask for information.

Rothemeyer and Nichols said his work for the county amounts to about four hours a month or so.

Both he and Roethemeyer believe the trial will be held in North Platte in a U.S. district courtroom in the federal building -- the downtown post office.

No trial date has been set yet.

This report was published first in the Feb. 6 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 2/18/2013
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