Hilo High gym builder sues DOE

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The general contractor for the new gymnasium at Hilo High School is suing the state Department of Education, saying they haven’t been reimbursed for cost overruns due to numerous project delays and change orders.

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The general contractor for the new gymnasium at Hilo High School is suing the state Department of Education, saying they haven’t been reimbursed for cost overruns due to numerous project delays and change orders.

The civil lawsuit was filed Nov. 28 in Hilo Circuit Court by Honolulu attorneys Anna Oshiro and Loren Seehase on behalf of F&H Construction, a Maui firm. It also names numerous “Doe” defendants.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract by the DOE and seeks reimbursement of expenses to the contractor by the state arising from unforeseen delays, as well as attorneys’ fees and other costs.

Oshiro said she’s hoping the suit will be quickly settled.

“Nobody, neither the contractors nor the state, are interested in spending anybody’s time fighting in court,” Oshiro said last week. “We filed this as a protective measure, and hopefully, with this filing, we’ll be able to continue negotiations and get this thing done.”

The dollar amount sought is not specified in the lawsuit, and Oshiro said she didn’t have the exact amount available.

“It would be fair to say in the six figures,” Oshiro said. “These are just some remaining unresolved change orders. A lot of (the change orders) have been in the discussion phase. And it has been going on for too long, so we have to try to move this ball along. I think some of them are in the process of being moved along, and I hope the whole of it will be negotiated and completed, now that we’ve taken this further step.”

The 1,350-seat gym officially opened in April 2015. The $11.2 million project, which languished for years on the drawing board and then took more than three years to build, was originally scheduled for dedication in September 2014, but a last-minute scheduling contract with a subcontractor regarding paving of the gym’s driveway fronting Waianuenue Avenue caused a final delay of almost eight months.

The filing claims 118 change-order proposals were submitted to the DOE during the project and that “DOE failed to pay numerous (change orders) to F&H.”

According to the suit, unresolved change orders “include the cost of installing additional waterproofing that was required because of flaws in the project design and products mandated for use on the project.”

F&H also is seeking reimbursement for “increased wage rates which were incurred as a result of delays the DOE already acknowledged were not the fault of F&H” as well as additional overhead because of delays and an extension of builder’s risk insurance premiums the contractor was required to carry as the project was delayed.

Oshiro said her client isn’t seeking punitive damages.

“We really are just looking for the resolution of some outstanding change orders and to be made whole in respect to what we believe are contractual obligations. That’s pretty much it,” she said. “And we’re hoping we’ll be able to finalize and get through the remainder of negotiations on things. They were almost worked out. We want to work out the ones that haven’t been worked out.”

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DOE spokeswoman Lindsay Chambers said in an email the department hasn’t been served with the lawsuit and couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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