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School district goes after LSW Architects

Lake Oswego School District filed a claim Tuesday against LSW Architects for $5.5 million due to perceived breaches of contract during construction and improvements at both district high schools.

The amount exceeds the firm's $2 million liability policy.

District officials feel that they have taken the heat for LSW in three claims totally $4.8 million through settlements. A total of $837,500 was settled through dispute resolution before reaching litigation and a lawsuit by Robinson Construction was settled for $1.1 million just this August. The amount is what the district will have to pay Robinson for the cost of steel at Lake Oswego High School.

As early as 2004, the district had intended to pass on its losses to LSW, which officials feel is at fault in some of the delays and cost overruns for the Lake Oswego and Lakeridge projects.

LSW contracted with the district for projects at both high schools, and, according to Superintendent Bill Korach, is the responsible party in the district's current claim with Robinson.

Both projects were funded by the $85 million facility improvement bond in 2000, which also funded miscellaneous projects at the other district schools, and wrapped up in 2005.

Late additions to the Lakeridge project combined with unanticipated facility issues and errors in LSW's architect drawings at both high schools caused cost overruns and forced projects at the elementary schools and junior highs to be curtailed or eliminated.

'The architects did an outstanding job of envisioning and designing the actual changes that we wanted at Lakeridge and Lake Oswego,' said Korach. 'But, once the contractors bid drawings that weren't accurate, the problem was essentially so far along that there wasn't much we could do to correct it.'

The suit against LSW would be the last of the loose strings attached to the high school projects.

In the case of the Lakeridge project, Korach said cost overruns and delays were not only the fault of the architects. Cost overruns were caused by a variety of factors including undiscovered structural issues and late additions to the project.

In earlier claims against the district, the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) contractor, Total Mechanical posted a $370,000 claim in 2005. The district settled for $62,500. LSW's insurance company paid $62,500, as well.

The electrical subcontractor, Rosendin Electric, claimed $1.3 million in damages, and the district settled for $212,500 in the summer of 2006.

'Those amounts that we paid out are part of the damages that we will be pursuing reimbursement for,' said Stuart Ketzler, financial director for the district. 'LSW should be writing a check for everything. There's nothing that anyone can point to and say the district was the party (responsible for) why the drawings were not as complete and accurate as they needed to be. We weren't telling them not to respond to requests from Robinson Construction.'

Officials are using any leftover money from the bond projects to fund any work related to the claim.