The Elk Grove city staff this month released a statement that defended their lawsuit against contractors and designers involved in concrete work for the city’s $42 million aquatics center project.

Less than two months after the May 25 opening of the aquatics center, the city filed a complaint in Sacramento Superior Court against the contractors and subcontractors of that facility.

This complaint also demanded a jury trial related to alleged design deficiencies. The city claims that improper installation led to cracks in concrete at the center and its accompanying pedestrian-friendly public space known as The Commons.

The defendants in the complaint are the California-based firms, Arntz Builders, Willdan Engineering, SWA Sausalito and Big B Construction.

As part of the project, Arntz and the city established a subcontract with Big B for cast-in-place concrete.                                                                  

About eight months prior to the opening of the aquatics center, Arntz was informed that the city had rejected areas of exterior concrete, which had excessive cracking and spalling.

In the complaint, the city claims that the damage was caused by the defendants’ failure to properly design the exterior concrete, and install it in a “sound and workmanlike fashion.”

It is stated in the complaint that the concrete design’s failure resulted from SWA’s negligence, and that the improper installation of the concrete was a “breach of Big B’s contractual obligations” to the city.

During the public comment period of the Elk Grove City Council’s Sept. 11 regular meeting, Brian Erickson, co-owner of Big B Construction, stated that the lawsuit could force his company out of business.

The city staff said in its Oct. 10 statement that media coverage and interest by local residents have “created a story without the benefit of important facts surrounding the lawsuit.”

The city also expressed a desire for the facility not to cost taxpayers money due to “other’s mistakes.”

“Like any property owner paying for major improvements, once we noticed significant defects in the new concrete in the outdoor Commons area of the project, the city immediately informed the contractors of its dissatisfaction with the work and required them to remove and replace extensive areas of failed concrete,” the statement read. “Problems included extensive cracking and spalling, where areas of concrete were coming out in large chunks.

“Despite this failure, Arntz Construction is asking to be paid for both the original concrete placement and the removal and replacement of the failed concrete.”

After the construction and design companies refused to cover “their share” of the concrete expenses, the statement said, the city decided to file a lawsuit to force an “appropriate resolution.”

“We are currently working through that process,” the statement read. “While we are sympathetic that this dispute is impacting Big B financially, we are equally committed to protecting taxpayer dollars and ensuring the delivery of a quality project that will last for years to come.”

Brian’s wife, Dori, who co-owns Big B Construction, last week claimed that the city failed to provide her company with essential information.

“When you request the information from them that would prove their statements, they say, ‘No, sorry,’” she told the Citizen. “So, they’re just spouting out stuff to make themselves look good, and they won’t show where they get that idea that it was construction defect and design defect.

“They’ve never been able to say where it was a construction defect. We poured that concrete per plans and specs every step of the way, and it was signed off by sometimes not one, but two (inspectors) that everything was good.”

Dori added that Big B paid for new concrete to replace the damaged concrete, under the impression that it would be reimbursed.

“We paid for it and now they refuse to pay us back,” she said. “They refuse to pay for any of this (concrete) work, then they turned around and sued us. For what? You’re not out any money. We paid it. We should be suing you.”

Dori noted that she believes that her company was named in the lawsuit, so that the city would not have to share information with the company or the public.

Dori confirmed the lawsuit’s financial impact on Big B.

“Because we’ve been named in this lawsuit, we’ve got our bonding yanked,” she said. “We can’t bond anything now. We got our line of credit yanked. You try to stay in business doing $10 million a year without a line of credit. We are really, really downsizing.

“We’re having to close our Elk Grove office, we cut way back on (employees), and we’re not taking on any new work, because we don’t know if we’re going to be able to fund it. And no bank will touch us, because we’re in a lawsuit.”

Dori responded skeptically to the city’s statement about its desire to protect taxpayers’ money.

“I just don’t know how they could say they are protecting taxpayer money when every day they drag their feet, their bill gets higher, and it’s taxpayer money,” she said.

Dori added that Big B and the other defendants named in the lawsuit will meet with the city in December.

“(In) December there’s supposed to be a meeting, and they’re calling it a ‘mediation,’ although typically in a mediation, you settle for half,” she said. “But we’re not going to do that. Their legal document requested jury trial.”

Dori added that Big B seeks to engage in a legal process that could ultimately award the company the entire amount of money it put into the project.

“Can we stay in business for that long?” she said. “We don’t know.”

City spokesperson Kristyn Nelson told the Citizen last week that the city currently has no further comments on the lawsuit beyond the statement released on Oct. 10 and the court complaint.