Mesa County eyes long trial over animal shelter
A lengthy trial appears inevitable in the county’s dispute over construction of the $3 million Animal Services facility, built in 2010 on shifting soils in the Whitewater area.
A status conference is scheduled for April 12 before Judge Valerie Robison. Mesa County Attorney Lyle Dechant briefed county commissioners that a two-week jury trial is likely.
“We’re kicking it into a litigation pattern, for sure,” Dechant said. “Everybody’s in, everybody’s answered, everybody on the other side has denied that anything was wrong.”
Mesa County filed suit last year claiming negligence and breach of contract, naming the primary contractor on the project — Denver-based CMC Group Inc. — as well as Grand Junction-based geotechnical contractor Huddleston-Berry Engineering and Testing, and architectural and engineering subcontractor Zeiler-Pennock Inc. of Denver.
The county contends in its complaint that multiple structural failures began appearing within months of the project’s completion. Cracking along floors and walls has worsened over time, according to the county, despite a number of repair and rehab efforts on the building.
Problematic expansive shale, on which the building was constructed, appears to be the culprit of the cracking and shifting.
Dechant said the county has hired a group of experts who will be witnesses — soil experts, design engineers and other civil engineering experts — who are evaluating whether proper standards of design and construction were followed during the project.
“It’s one thing to design something like (the nearby Grand Valley Transportation garage) … as opposed to designing something where you know there’s going to be a lot of water usage,” Dechant told commissioners.
One of the biggest problem areas within the new facility is the kennels, which were designed to slope toward drains, making for easy cleaning by staff. Many are not functional due to excessive cracking and concrete heaving.
“When you walk through, and you see those cracks in the floor and the walls — clearly something went wrong,” said Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who as a new member of the board as of January inherited the problems with the facility.
As Commissioner Steve Acquafresca pointed out, the county and the project firms have tried to mitigate the problems with repairs, but “it just keeps getting worse.”
Mesa County, in fact, has a current project out for bid titled “Kennel Floor Rehabilitation,” which will remove “flooring as needed in order to correct the drainage within the kennel area(s) … so that positive drainage is provided to all floor drains,” according to the bid solicitation. Those bids are due April 9.
Dechant, though, described the most recent repair project as “just a Band-Aid.”
He further said that he and most of the experts in the case are aiming for a trial before Judge Robison to begin sometime early next year.