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National Guard soldiers returning to Willmar on Saturday after 10-month deployment

Settlement accepted on roof repairs at Willmar's senior high

WILLMAR -- After more than five years of legal action, the Willmar School District has settled for $327,500 in a dispute with contractors over shoddy work during construction of Willmar Senior High School.

The Willmar School Board voted Monday to accept the settlement with four contractors who worked on the construction of the school, which opened in 1994.

"This will put some money in the bank," Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said. The money from the settlement will go into the district's capital outlay budget when it is received. It will replace some of the money spent to make repairs at the school.

A 2004 analysis of the district's buildings uncovered problems with the roof and wall drainage system at the school.

Engineers said the building had been designed properly but had not been built according to the design.

The district spent about $900,000 over four summers to repair the building. The original estimate for the repairs was about $1.8 million. The district was able to cut that cost by finding less expensive ways to do some of the work. Some bids came in lower than anticipated, too.

Kjergaard said the legal costs over five years totaled about $200,000.

The board first voted to seek arbitration on the repair costs in February 2006, after making a warranty claim in 2005.

Board member Nathan Streed, who joined the board in January, praised previous board members for making the initial decision when they could have let the situation go.

The board held a 15-minute closed meeting Monday to discuss the settlement before voting unanimously to accept it during the regular board meeting.

The issue was never taken up at a formal arbitration hearing.

About a year after the district made its demand for arbitration, one of the contractors filed a civil suit to stop the process, and the others joined that action.

The civil suit made several trips to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court refused to hear another appeal in November 2010, it cleared the way for arbitration.

Kjergaard said there was a mediation session, followed by negotiations that led to the settlement offer.

The work at the school included installing a vapor barrier in the pool area, extending the roof membrane and replacing the through-wall flashings around every door and window.

Linda Vanderwerf

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

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