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Court says arbitration on Senior High roof good to go

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District has won the latest round in a long effort to recover the cost of repairing shoddy work done on the roof drainage system at Willmar Senior High School.

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals said in an opinion filed Tuesday that Kandiyohi County District Court Judge Michael Thompson was in error when he ruled in 2008 that the school district could not go to arbitration on a claim against the roof warranty because a statute of limitations had expired.

A group of contractors had filed suit in 2007 seeking to stop arbitration proceedings on the roof problems. The companies involved in the dispute are Day Masonry, Commercial Roofing Inc., GenFlex Roofing Systems and Lovering-Johnson Construction.

According to the Court of Appeals ruling Tuesday, the arbitration should have been allowed to go forward. The court said the original arbitration agreement between the district and the contractors did not include language that would have limited the district's ability to seek arbitration on a warranty claim.

The district's right to seek arbitration on warranty claims has been upheld in several Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court rulings. The courts have ruled that the district cannot seek arbitration on breach-of-contract claims, though, because the statute of limitations has expired on those.

Amy Mace, the district's attorney, was not available Tuesday afternoon.

Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said Mace had told him that the contractors could still appeal the Court of Appeals ruling by Sept. 30. The Supreme Court would then decide whether to accept the appeal.

A study of the district's facilities in 2004 revealed numerous problems with the roof and wall drainage system at the Senior High, which had opened in fall 1994. An engineering report at the time said that the building had been designed properly, but the construction did not follow the design.

The district spent $900,000 over four summers to make repairs to the roof, finishing in 2008. The work included adding a vapor barrier in the pool area, extending the roof membrane and replacing through-wall flashings around every door and window.

The district first made a warranty claim against GenFlex in August 2005 and sent a demand for arbitration in March 2006 to GenFlex, Lovering-Johnson and Commercial Roofing. Day Masonry was added to the arbitration later.

Day Masonry filed the civil suit in May 2007 and was joined by the other contractors.

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I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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