Crumbling concrete at Justice Center not included in suit against architect

March 31, 2010

Concrete surrounding several light poles and sidewalks around the new Winnebago County Justice Center is already eroding. Photo by Jim Hagerty

By Jim Hagerty

Staff Writer

Repairs to crumbling concrete outside the Winnebago County Justice Center will be paid for out of county funds and not included in a lawsuit filed against the building’s architect.

Winnebago County Purchasing Director Sally Claassen said concrete surrounding several light poles and sidewalks has eroded because of seasonal temperature changes.

“It’s a nuisance,” Claassen said. “And it’s something we will be replacing. We are going to be using a different substance, and are accepting bids now that we have come out of winter.”

Although the cost to repair the light poles will not be included in the county’s lawsuit against Wisconsin-based architect Durrant Architects and Engineers, Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) said officials will be investigating the problems to determine whether the problem can be attributed to another source.

“It’s either a design flaw or just because of the winters we’ve had,” Christiansen said. “There’s been a lot of expansion and contracting there. Something caused water to break the seals, allowing water leak down into the bottoms of the poles.”

At press time, neither Claassen nor Christiansen was supplied with estimates to repair the several damaged light poles.

According to the lawsuit filed against Durrant, problems with the Justice Center’s design were responsible for dozens of issues including misfiring heating and cooling systems, ventilation problems and poor wall and ceiling seams.

County officials estimate it will cost approximately $100,000 to make necessary repairs. Taxpayers, the suit claims, should not be responsible for the bill.

Records show Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato’s office is attempting to resolve the situation by examining which problem can be considered a cost overrun and which can safely be attributed to architectural deviancy.

Bruscato’s office has hired two Chicago attorneys who specialize in commercial construction lawsuits to assist the county if the case goes to trial.

From the March 31-April 6, 2010 issue

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