Construction Company Alleges Gretna District Failed to Pay for New Elementary School | national news
An Omaha construction company is working to settle an ongoing legal battle with Gretna Public Schools stemming from allegations that the district owes money on one of its elementary schools.
In March, a Douglas County district judge ordered Gretna and Lueder Construction Co. to mediate after months of back and forth over construction of Falling Waters Elementary School, which began in December 2018. , according to court records.
The legal battle surrounds the delayed opening of the $14 million school at 5909 S. 200th Ave. in Omaha. Both parties agreed that the school would be substantially complete by July 24, 2020, meaning it could be used by the school. The contract also required that final completion be reached no later than September 22, 2020.
The district instead had to delay opening Falling Waters to students by more than 10 days at the start of the 2020-21 school year because construction was not nearly complete. According to court records, students and staff could only use parts of the building for weeks as construction stretched past the substantial completion date.
Lueder filed a lawsuit in November 2021 when he allegedly did not receive full payment for the work when completed, said Gregory Scaglione, the construction company’s lawyer. Gretna filed counterclaims denying Lueder’s allegations and seeking damages for the delayed completion of construction.
Scaglione said the disagreement was about the school board.
“We have no problem with the school and we support them, but the board has been unreasonable in its dealings with us,” Scaglione said.
Gretna superintendent Rich Beran and school board president David Gulizia declined to comment due to ongoing litigation.
The Omaha-based construction company, which specializes in building schools, had to delay construction of Falling Waters due to several obstacles that were beyond its control, Scaglione said.
Scaglione said there were days when the weather made the job site wet and employees weren’t allowed to work. COVID-19 also caused quarantines among the crew, he said, and materials were hard to come by due to supply chain disruptions.
Lueder also cited alleged delays caused by the project’s architect, Omaha-based DLR. Lueder filed a separate lawsuit against DLR alleging the company refused to certify completion dates and failed to manage the design process. DLR denies these claims.
Lueder says the delays should have resulted in a deadline extension of 44 business days, pushing the substantial completion date to the end of September.
In court documents, the company said it submitted a timely request for an extension of the project. The school district denied that claim in a separate court filing.
Lueder was billed $1,000 per day for each day the project continued past the date of substantial completion and an additional $500 per day for each day past the final completion date.
The school district said in its counterclaim that the project’s architect, who certifies completion dates, did not certify the project’s date of substantial completion until November 9, 2020, meaning Lueder was responsible. of the delay as no extension was granted.
In a court filing, the district argued that Lueder breached the contract and owed the district at least $120,000 for the delay.
Scaglione said the construction company should never have accrued this damage because the delays were beyond its control.
When construction was complete, Scaglione said the district still owed Lueder nearly $1 million. And due to the pending delay charges, the company tried to reach a compromise with Gretna.
“Lueder tried for about a year to reach an arrangement or compromise that would pay for the construction of the school, so that Lueder could pay its subcontractors and suppliers,” Scaglione said in an email.
He said when that failed, the company then submitted a written claim to the board on July 2, 2021, but the board declined to respond or take action on the claim.
Scaglione said the construction company took legal action in November to recover the money.
After the complaint was filed, he said the school board had submitted partial payment for the work. In a court filing, the district denied that claim.
The construction company asked the school district to agree to settle the rest of the disputes. Scaglione said the school board refused and Lueder went to the district court to order them to mediate. The school district filed its own motion to dismiss the case.
Last month, a judge denied Gretna’s petition and ordered the school district and Lueder to mediate. Scaglione said mediation will likely take place in June.
“Lueder hopes to find an amicable solution to the differences during mediation,” Scaglione said.