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District now fine to go to arbitration over senior high repairs

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District's efforts to recover the cost of repairing shoddy work on the Willmar Senior High roof should go to arbitration now.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has refused to hear the latest appeal from Day Masonry, one of the companies that worked on the original roof of the school, which opened in 1994.

Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said Monday that the district's attorney told him that this exhausts the legal appeals, clearing the way for arbitration on the roof costs. The Willmar School Board first voted to seek arbitration in February 2006.

"I'm glad we have reached this point," Kjergaard said.

The Supreme Court's decision lets stand a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling in Au-gust. The Court of Ap-peals had said that Ka-ndiyohi Co-unty 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.

In addition to Day Masonry, the companies involved in the legal action are Commercial Roofing Inc., GenFlex Roofing Systems and Lovering-Johnson Construction.

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.

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 Gen-Flex in August 2005 and sent a demand for arbitration in March 2006 to Gen-Flex, 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.

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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