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Atlanta engineering firm sues Wichita school district over groundwater project

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013, at 4:40 p.m.

An Atlanta company is suing the Wichita school district, claiming a project to clean up groundwater at the School Service Center went over budget and the district refused to pay the difference.

In the lawsuit, filed last week in Sedgwick County District Court, Golder Associates Inc., a geotechnical engineering firm, is seeking $265,000 plus interest and attorney fees.

The company was under contract with the Wichita school district to monitor and clean up groundwater at the School Service Center, 3850 N. Hydraulic. The project, which started in 2010, included construction of an iron wall at the site.

Golder claims in the lawsuit that the wall was redesigned during the project and other changes were mandated, substantially increasing the cost of materials and raising construction time by 30 percent. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was involved with the project “and had to approve its parameters,” the lawsuit states.

The school district later denied Golder’s invoice for the cost difference, saying the company had not filed an appropriate change order, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, Tim Phares, the school district’s director of environmental services, instructed the company to “keep working to meet the deadline and the additional funds would be figured out later.”

“All parties involved understood that 2010 cost estimate had been substantially exceeded due to the changing parameters and scope of the Project and that a Change Order would ultimately be addressed,” the lawsuit says. “At no time did Tim Phares advise anyone that the work should be halted until the Change Order request is approved by the Board.”

The lawsuit includes several pages of e-mails between Phares, Mark Sandfort, principal and office manager for Golder, and Rick Booth, principal and practice leader for the company.

Wendy Johnson, spokeswoman for the Wichita school district, said in an e-mail Tuesday that “these comments are the plaintiff’s allegations.”

“The district has every intention of filing a response that would assert otherwise, and legal counsel indicated we will be doing that within 30 days,” Johnson said.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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