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County says its leaking roofs need to be replaced

STORY BY STEVEN M. THOMAS, (Week of November 1, 2012)

The roofs on the county’s two administration buildings have leaked since they were completed in 2007 and will almost certainly have to be replaced, according to county staff and a roofing consultant hired by the county.

County Attorney Alan Polackwich says the consultant, Joseph Williams of ARC Associates, appears to be the most qualified expert in the field of roof repair analysis.

After examining the administration building roofs, Williams reported “it is in the best long-term interest of the building[s] to remove all roofing, flashing, and sheet metal down to the wood substrate.”

Once the tile roofing is removed, the underlying membrane and any damaged wooden roof decking would be repaired or replaced before reroofing.

“County Public Works Director, Chris Mora, and County Facilities Director, Lynne Williams, who have been dealing with the roof problems on behalf of the County, both agree with ARC’s assessment that this work is necessary to correct deficiencies,” according to a memorandum Polackwich sent the Board of County Commissioners on Oct. 9.

Still up in the air, so to speak, is who will have to pay the $1.5- to $3-million cost of repairs.

In November 2011, the county filed suit against Turner Construction Company, the general contractor that built the administration buildings, building designer Anthony Donadio and his firm Donadio and Associates Architects, P.A. and other defendants, but put the suit on hold while trying to reach a settlement.

There have been two mediation sessions so far with a third scheduled for Nov. 1.

On Oct. 16, the county commission authorized staff to issue a formal demand to the defendants that they replace the roof as specified by Williams and repair any related damage.

If the defendants do not respond within 30 days of receiving the notice, staff is authorized to issue an RFQ – request for quotes – for design-build work to correct all deficiencies in the roofs.

According to Polackwich’s memo, “Initial funding for the roof replacement will be provided by Optional Sales Tax reserve funds with the understanding that recovery of the full replacement cost will be sought in the pending litigation.”

In other words, the county would pay for the repairs out of its own pocket and then sue to get the money back form Turner Construction and the other defendants.

The exact cost of repairs is uncertain because of the possibility of hidden damage, according to Polackwich. “You don’t know what shape the second layer is in until you take the first layer off. If the second layer is good, then you can reroof, but if it is bad you have to take that off and look at the third layer,” which is the wooden roof sheathing.

After five years of leaks, it is possible there could be structural damage beneath the roof sheathing getting into a fourth or fifth level of repairs.

“It is hard to come up with an accurate estimate of concealed damage,” Polackwich says.

The main problem with the roof seems to be insufficient overlapping of roof tiles and failure to seal exposed fasteners.

The leaky roofs and related lawsuit have potential political ramifications because project architect Donadio is running for the District 3 county commission seat.

The suit alleges he is guilty of breach of contract, violation of building codes and professional negligence.

Donadio has declined to comment about the specifics of the case while it is being litigated but did say that, in general, the contractor on a job like the county administration building project has responsibility for day-to-day quality control and performance while the architect is responsible for periodic inspections and project meetings to ensure adherence to plans and specifications.

Tim Zorc, Donadio’s opponent in the District 3 race, has raised the issue of potential conflict of interest if Donadio is elected.

“Would there not be a direct conflict with Mr. Donadio as a sitting commissioner who may be asked to vote on an issue that involves the lawsuit filed against him?” he wrote in a letter to Vero Beach 32963.

But Polackwich says if elected, Donadio “would not be able to vote on anything having to do with the lawsuit or roof repairs. There would not be a conflict on that issue.”

“I would recuse myself form that, just as I would if there was any other project that came before the commission that I was involved with as an architect,” Donadio says.

Donadio, who listed a net worth of $2,423,384 on the financial disclosure form candidates for public office are required to file, appears to be insulated from any potential liability if the lawsuit is successful.

“I believe it was a requirement of the contract with the county that he have professional liability insurance,” says Polackwich. “I fully expect he is insured.”

“I have been carrying the same liability insurance for 15 years,” says Donadio. “As long as you keep it current, which I have, it covers all the projects in the time period.