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County commissioners settle three-year jail construction disputeTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Bulletin file photo
The Lincoln County Jail and Sheriff's Office
Courtesy Photo­Image
Black and yellow mold between the jail's original roof and decking below, pictured in this 2011 photograph.

The Lincoln County Commissioners agreed Monday to settle long-running financial dispute with the general contractor of construction for the jail and sheriff’s office.

The $15.5 million sheriff's office and jail opened in July 2011. The roof of the building was the core of the dispute. The first roof had to be entirely replaced before the buliding was occupied.

The roof leaked, which allowed mold to grow inside the roof cavity, as well as on wall board and wet insulation. The county construction manager Kirk Nichols noticed the leaks immediately when Dobberstein Roofing of Kearney installed it in July 2010. Nichols informed the commissioners in his weekly written report to the county board.  

Also, Nichols documented problems with the concrete finish, which caused cracks in floors. Shower floors sloped away from drains instead of toward them, and had to be replaced. Floors were crooked in exercise rooms.

Builders made assurances that the roof and at least some of the floors would be repaired, but they weren't.

In 2011, the county ordered parts of the roof sheeting to be removed. Inspectors found water, mold and rust below the roof insulation. Some water seeped down to steel decking below the insulation and created surface rust. Some of the foam insulation was oozing water when it was removed, Nichols said.

The entire roof was then replaced in late spring 2011, delaying the opening of the jail for nearly four months. 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.

Instead of paying to replace the roof, the general contractor, Roche Constructors of Colorado, claimed that Lincoln County owed the cost of replacement, which amounted to around $400,000, Lincoln County Commissioner Willis Roethemeyer said.

Not only that, Roche wanted to be compensated for time lost due to weather delays.

But, weather compensation was not in the contract, Roethemeyer said.

Rouch sued Lincoln County for a total of $1.4 million. Lincoln County hired an outside attorney to represent the taxpayers and withheld $273,000 from the amount due Roche when the building was finally finished.

Neither side would give during arbitration, so a trial was scheduled in federal court that was to begin in June. The trail was averted when both sides recently reached an agreement under supervision of an arbitrator, Roethemeyer said.

Under the agreement, no further action will be taken by either side. That means Lincoln County will keep the $273,000 and Roche will drop their claims.

However, the county will pay their attorney $265,000 in legal fees, Roethemeyer said, as well as Twin Rivers Testing (formerly Tetra-Tech) of North Platte, an independent agency that took pictures and made daily reports when the roof was replaced. 

Even though Lincoln County generally came out even financially in the dispute, it was worth it, Roethemeyer said.

“We got a good building; a good jail,” he said. “It is better than paying what was asked the first time. It was a high-stakes dispute, and it took a good attorney to handle it.”

Roethemeyer said he also takes satisfaction in knowing that “We were right all the way through.”

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 5/12/2014
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