County sues over failed roads, bridges

RIDGEWAY – As Fairfield County plans a major economic development investment by building a water and sewer plant, pending litigation has complicated another multi-million dollar infrastructure project.

Fairfield County says an engineering firm and general contractor are responsible for the failure of several support walls at the Fairfield County Commerce Center in Ridgeway, according to pending lawsuit.

Filed February 10, the suit names Alliance Consulting Engineers, Wiley Easton Construction Company and Mutual Casualty Company as co-defendants.

The suit seeks actual, incidental and consequential damages in an amount to be determined at trial. It also seeks legal fees and interest.

“As a direct and proximate result of design and construction defects at the Project, the County has suffered and will continue to suffer numerous damages,” the suit states.

Those damages, according to the suit, include “water infiltration and resultant property damage to the retaining walls, standing walls, asphalt degradation and separation, erosion, costs to repair the defective conditions and damaged property, and additional maintenance expenses.”

Alliance, Wiley and Mutual Casualty have filed responses denying most of the assertions in the litigation.

Alliance and Wiley have also filed counterclaims against F&ME Consultants, a subcontractor working for both firms, naming the company as a third party defendant.

Wiley has filed two additional counterclaims against subcontractors S&ME, Inc. and Soil Reinforcement Contractors; and a fourth counterclaim against Fairfield County, according to court documents.

No court date has been set. A deadline of September 7 has been set for pre-trial mediation.

Fairfield County says in its lawsuit that it contracted with Wiley for $6.54 million to build a road and perform water and wastewater improvements at the Fairfield County Commerce Center in Ridgeway.

Alliance provided some design and construction administration work related to development and construction of the commerce center. Mutual Casualty provided a performance bond to Wiley for the contract amount, court documents state.

The work involved building mechanically stabilized earth walls, or MSE walls. The walls were built in pairs at three drainage crossings at three culvert locations along a new access road, according to the suit.

Fairfield County says that in January 2019, it learned the walls were exhibiting evidence of severe failure, and that the defendants knew about the failures as early as November 2018.

“The excessive deformation and strength failures will require extensive remediation and stabilization to satisfactorily perform for their intended service lives,” the suit states. “The defective conditions are a result of design and construction errors related to storm water management and site drainage.”

The county also said that the initial contract required substantial completion within 436 days from the Notice to Proceed. However, various change orders pushed the substantial completion date to 836 days.

The commerce center issue crept into budget discussions during a county budget workshop Monday night.

“We need those sites open in the industrial park. Those roads and bridges and stuff that need to be redone, what’s been done to Alliance to make them get off their behinds and go to work?” asked Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas.

Taylor pointed to the ongoing litigation, noting it would likely impact next year’s budget. The county anticipates spending at least $100,000 extra in legal fees, according to draft budget documents.

“That’s one of the things that you’ll see reflected in the budget. We do have considerably more in legal fees this time,” Taylor said. “That’s one of the main reasons we do, we do anticipate having to fully go to court with Alliance.”

In its response, Wiley denies most of Fairfield County’s allegations, including the allegation that Wiley knew about the wall failures weeks before notifying the county.

“Defendant asserts that it has learned of potential wall failure and has been working with contractors, engineers and architects in an effort to try to repair the issues with the wall,” the response states.

Alliance’s and Wiley’s counterclaims assert any deficiencies in the walls is the responsibility of F&ME, citing negligence, breach of contract, warranty breaches and other breaches.

“F&ME undertook and had a duty to Alliance to exercise and use due care in design, construction, inspection, maintenance, management and/or repair of the Project and to avoid injury or damage to Alliance or the work,” Alliance’s counterclaim states.

Wiley’s counterclaim also blames the other subcontractors, too.

“The damages alleged by Plaintiffs, if any, were due solely to the actions of S&ME, Inc., F&ME Consultants, Inc. and Soil Reinforcement Contractors, LLC and were not caused by any act or omission on the part of the Defendant,” the countersuit states.

Neither F&ME nor Soil Reinforcement Contractors had filed a response as of press time, according to the Fairfield County Public Index.

On April 7, S&ME filed an answer that denies most allegations in Wiley’s countersuit.

S&ME says it was retained by Soil Reinforcement Contractors to perform some professional design services for the project, and that Soil Reinforcement Contractors build the walls.

S&ME’s reply also blames Wiley for the wall failures, saying the contractor “contributed to more than fifty percent (50%) to the cause of the damages,” the response states.

“The intervening and superseding acts of third parties over whom S&ME had no authority, responsibility, or control” were also responsible, the response continues.

S&ME has asked that the litigation filed against it be dismissed and seeks court costs and other relief deemed proper.