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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Amberley Village Blames Shoddy Construction For Crumbling City Hall: The Case Of The Missing 'Indiana Limestone'

Problem Pillars
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Problem pillars plague the upscale Cincinnati suburb, which claims it was swindled.  It says the Indiana Limestone columns that are supposed to be supporting the village's 10-year-old municipal building have turned out to be a "cheaper and inferior product" called cast stone.  Amberley is suing its architect, contractor and a masonry company, saying the $3.4 million structure is deteriorating and presents a danger to public safety.  In early 2008, a large piece of stone fell off the facade of the building.  The village hired Hummel Restoration to investigate -- Hummel discovered shoddy workmanship in 16 pillars on the front and rear of the structure.  The pillars alone are worth about $4,200 each.  From the lawsuit:

"Hummel produced a second report . . . detailing serious structural and design problems with the pillars,  The Hummer Report indicates the columns were weathering at a rapid pace and showing signs of premature deterioration.  The Hummel Report also revealed the cast stone was 'dry stacked' without any significant anchoring.  Instead of utilizing an anchoring system called for in the plans and/or specifications provided to Warm Bros., thin gauge mesh ties were used instead, which were structurally insufficient.  Further, the mortar joints at the corners of each column separated and were allowing moisture to enter the interior of the pillars, further accelerating the deterioration.  the improper anchoring resulted from a design flaw as well as an error in installation and compliance with the plans.

"Currently, in addition to the aforementioned problems, some areas of the pillars exhibit accelerated discoloration, pitting and deterioration, due at least in part to a selection of improper and inferior materials, improper anchoring and installation of the stone, and improper mixing of concrete and other materials.  The contract specifications called for Indiana Limestone to be used on the building facade, but defendants used cast stone instead.  Cast stone is a cheaper and inferior product to limestone.  Defendants' use of cast stone was not authorized by the Village or the contract specifications."

Warm Bros., the general contractor, has denied any wrongdoing.  But it has counter sued Wayne Masonry Inc., a subcontractor.  The architect, Cole+Russell, says the case should be dismissed and sent to binding arbitration and mediation.  The architectural firm says a dispute resolution process was included in the contract for construction the Village Hall, and that court action is not allowed over claims of construction defects.  Said Cole+Russell:

"Here, Plaintiff carved out the dispute resolution procedure that it is attempting to ignore, and this action is not properly before this Court.  If Plaintiff wished to pursue a claim against CRA [Cole+Russell Architects Inc.], it has no choice but to initiate the dispute resolution mechanisms set forth in the Agreement by demanding mediation and, if that is not successful, arbitration.  In any case, as this case must be resolved in those arenas, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter and the action should be dismissed."

Amberley says it is willing to try mediation and arbitration, but says Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jody M. Luebbers should not dismiss the case outright while any talks take place.  She should put it on ice, staying action pending the outcome of mediation and arbitration.  Meanwhile, Amberley is continuing to occupy its Village Hall on Ridge Avenue.  Amberley said the premature deterioration of the pillars "presents a danger to the public health, safety and welfare, as demonstrated by the cornice that fell from the building.  Prompt repairs are needed in order to avoid personal injury and property damage."

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