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Contractor submits $1.3 million claim against NDSU for building cost overruns

The A. Glenn Hill Center at North Dakota State University is the subject of a $1.3 million claim for cost overruns that contractor Roers Construction said it incurred when forced to accelerate construction to finish in time for a dedication ceremony.

BISMARCK – Roers Construction has filed a claim seeking $1.3 million from North Dakota State University for additional costs it incurred in meeting a deadline to finish a large science classroom building in time for a dedication ceremony.

The claim, submitted in letters by the contractor presented to NDSU in June and July, concerns unforeseen costs for A. Glenn Hill Center, a $29.4 million classroom building for STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – instruction.

The claim, obtained by The Forum under an open records request, was discussed in a closed-door session by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education during its meeting Thursday, Nov. 30.

After the closed-door session, board member Nick Hacker made a motion to authorize NDSU to enter into mediation to settle the dispute “within the parameters set in the executive session of this meeting.”

Those parameters were not explained in the open session, and members unanimously approved the motion without public discussion.

In a letter detailing the claim, Lance Ziebarth, president of Roers Construction, said NDSU harmed the company in “multiple ways” for delays caused by the university’s design team and other contractors.

The building project was already several months behind schedule when NDSU unexpectedly notified Roers in the summer of 2015 that the building had to be ready for an opening ceremony with politicians and guests, including corporate donors from South Korea, on Dec. 10, 2015.

Doosan, the Korean corporate parent of Bobcat Company, donated $3 million for the project.

“This directive, as intended by NDSU, caused enormous schedule compression because Roers was forced to work under duress to meet an unplanned ceremony when the project was already months behind schedule while NDSU, NDSU’s Design Team, and NDSU’s separate contractors caused those earlier delays,” Ziebarth wrote.

A breakdown of Roers’ extra costs included $449,837 for unspecified “general conditions”; $322,130 for equipment and labor cost overruns; $219,167 for temporary heat, barriers, enclosures and safety rails; $83,205 in additional project management costs; and $71,229 in overtime costs.

Roers also is seeking a 15-percent profit and overtime on the extra expenses totaling $171,835.

In a letter responding to the claim, an attorney for NDSU said the school is willing to mediate the dispute in the hope of avoiding costly litigation.

“As has been previously communicated, NDSU has nearly exhausted the legislative authorization for this project (there is just over $30,000 remaining) and will be unable to exceed that authorization absent legislative action,” Matthew Hammer, the assistant attorney general for NDSU, wrote on Oct. 3 to Roers’ lawyer.

“NDSU will participate in the mediation in good faith, but feels that it is important to note this so that all parties are aware of NDSU’s limitations in agreeing to settle this matter.”

Zerr Berg Architects, the project’s designer, said Roers’ claim was not submitted until almost three years after the events triggering the dispute. The architectural firm contended the claim “was not submitted within the contractual time periods and those deadlines have not been waived,” architect Brian Berg wrote in the letter.

Berg accused Roers of trying to “re-write the history of the project in support of your narrative that there was some sort of organized conspiracy against your success.” Berg added: “This is demonstrably untrue and we will provide documentation in direct contradiction to those points in this letter.”

In his rebuttal, Berg said there was no “re-design” of the project and reissuance of design drawings for the project were not due to “design errors,” but to show acceptable alternatives. “This was done as a convenience to all parties including Roers Construction,” Berg wrote.

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