Commissioner tells Tourist Development Council members that county hopes to recoup the expense through a lawsuit
As Sarasota County remains embroiled in a lawsuit over the issue, a contractor has been working to replace defective flooring at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
In response to a News Leader question, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester reported in a Dec. 20 email that the contractor was nearly finished with the second floor of the facility and had completed approximately one-third of the first floor.
The Baltimore Orioles are set to begin spring training at the stadium on Feb. 23, facing the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:05 p.m.
During a November review of 2017 fiscal year expenditures out of county Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue, a member of the county’s Tourist Development Council noted one line item, which said, “Stadium Repair & Improvement.”
“Is that something new? Did this come up before?” Mayor Terry Gans of Longboat Key asked.
County Commissioner Charles Hines, who chairs the council, explained that the flooring in the stadium was defective. He and his colleagues felt the county needed to go ahead and replace it, he added, even though the county has continued to seek a resolution of the issue with the construction manager that handled stadium renovations for the Orioles.
“We don’t want you to think that … we’re not seeking to get [the money] back,” he told the council members.
Doreen Buonpastore, a fiscal consultant with the county’s Office of Financial Management, said the contract the County Commission awarded on Sept. 13 for the flooring work totaled $1,079,243.
That contract went to PremUS of Orlando Inc., according to a Sept. 12 staff memo provided to the commission. The memo explained that the company would remove and replace “approximately 39,687 square feet of exterior floor topping materials at Ed Smith Stadium.”
The county’s Procurement Department had approved what is called a “single-source request” on Aug. 10, the memo added. The form explaining that process said, “With a deadline for completing a major portion of the work before Spring Training in 2018, there is not time to allow multiple vendors to provide test patches and prove their products, systems and methods are successful. … Delaying the installation to after Spring Training 2018 would require the additional cost of temporary and unsightly repairs to make the surfaces that are failing safe,” the form added.
PremUS “has performed the work on the existing stadium to test various removal/replacement methods for the failed flooring,” the form also noted. The most recent test patch “proved successful through the most extreme weather in August,” the form said.
The money for the work was to come out of a TDT fund set aside for capital projects and events, the memo noted.
The board approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Orioles on July 22, 2009 for a 30-year lease of Ed Smith Stadium, which is located at the intersection of 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue in Sarasota, the Sept. 12 memo pointed out.
In January 2013, the memo continued, a Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) flooring system was installed by Gilbane Building Co., which does business as Mills Gilbane. That firm served as the construction manager (CM) for the final phase of the stadium renovation project, the memo added. “Within four months after installation,” the memo said, “the flooring system [failed] (bubbling and cracking issues) in some areas of the elevated concourse.”
After more defective sections were found, the memo added, Mills/Gilbane undertook repairs of the affected areas prior to Spring Training of 2014. “Within a couple of months … new failures presented on both the ground and elevated concourses, along with some repeated failures in the areas [already addressed],” the memo noted.
Mills/Gilbane made more repairs just prior to Spring Training 2015, the memo pointed out, and then discussions “with all involved entities took place in an effort to work towards a resolution of the recurring failures.” Nonetheless, the memo said, more flooring system defects were found before Spring Training began in 2016.
With mediation having proved unsuccessful, the memo continued, the County Commission approved the filing of a lawsuit against Mills/Gilbane in October 2016.
In an answer to the county complaint, Gilbane blamed design work and “third parties” for the defects.
A geotechnical firm the county hired in January 2010, Ardaman & Associates of Sarasota, produced a report on the subsurface soil on the stadium grounds, which Gilbane has referenced in court documents. That report cited “evidence of buried trash, remnants of [the] former landfill at the site,” according to an answer the firm provided to the county complaint.
Gilbane also pointed out that it hired a subcontractor to perform warranty work to repair and replace the MMA floor covering in the concourse areas prior to the Orioles’ 2015 Spring Training season, “and that certain problems with the MMA floor covering appeared after this warranty work was completed.”
Dealing with the flooring
“Staff initiated repairs of the flooring system in December 2016, including the removal of the MMA system in some targeted areas and installation of a replacement system that is similar in appearance to the existing flooring,” the Sept. 12 memo explained. “This system was evaluated for performance through August 2017 with desired results,” the memo added.
Then the Office of the County Attorney contracted with a nationally known consulting firm “to review the flooring issues,” the memo said. That consultant, CLT, “provided an analysis of the floor conditions,” the memo continued, “as well as a recommended course of action for the repairs, which has been incorporated into the proposed PremUS of Orlando, Inc. contract.”
In md-March, Thomas Dart of the Sarasota firm Adams and Reese, acting on behalf of Gilbane Building Co., filed a Notice of Service of Proposal for Settlement in the case in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. However, a News Leader check of the court files confirmed Hines’ comments to the Tourist Development Council: The case remains unresolved.
The most recent court documents indicate the county and Gilbane have been working under the guidelines of Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes, which is known as the Florida Construction Defect Statute. It requires owners of property to send a notice of claim to developers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and/or design professionals, identifying any alleged construction and/or design defects in “reasonable detail before bringing suit against a company over construction defects,” according to an explanation of the statute by the legal firm Widerman Malek, which has offices in Melbourne and Celebration.
On March 17, the county served Gilbane with a revised Chapter 558 Notice of Claim, the Circuit Court records show.
On March 24, Judge Lon Arend issued an order that granted a stay in the case, which the county had sought. Arend wrote in his order that the “parties are to proceed with the requirements of Chapter 588, Florida Statutes, and to notify the Court upon completion of the process.”