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Pioneers Museum files suit against contractor after repairs fail

Chipping away

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Notice the chip on the southwest corner of the museum - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Notice the chip on the southwest corner of the museum

It takes a sharp eye to detect the chipped edges of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum's west façade. Nevertheless, the damage sticks out once you're aware of it, and the city isn't willing to just let it go after paying a contractor $281,799 to renovate the historic building's exterior.

Less than six months after making a final payment to contractor Spectrum General Contractors Inc. of Denver, in January 2015, city officials noticed pieces of stone were falling off. After investigating the problem, the city asked Spectrum to fix it in May 2015. But nothing was done, so the city asked again in December 2016, again to no avail. Now the matter will be decided in the courts.

On May 9, the city filed a lawsuit alleging Spectrum provided defective renovations during work that spanned 2012 to 2015. Spectrum, in turn, blames a subcontractor.

The Pioneers Museum, built in 1903, served as a courthouse for decades. It almost came under the wrecking ball when the new county courthouse was built across Tejon Street to the west in the 1970s. But the building survived and was converted into the only institution that researches, collects and interprets the history of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region.

As the lawsuit states, "The Pioneers Museum is a point of community pride. Its beautiful architecture stands out in downtown Colorado Springs. It houses many artifacts from our community's history and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places."

In 2012, the city competitively bid work on the building's exterior and hired Spectrum in June that year. Part of the work involved masonry rehabilitation and renovation of the west elevation and tower, such as cleaning and patching stone, injecting grout in cracks, stainless steel pin repairs and epoxy repairs.

The lawsuit says Spectrum hired Barnes Masonry LLC of Englewood to do the masonry work, but is legally responsible for any work performed by subcontractors. After the city issued a completion notice to Spectrum on Dec. 19, 2014, "stone and other exterior materials began falling from the façade of the west elevation and tower," the lawsuit says. Spectrum was notified of the problems on May 11, 2015.

Some of the fragments were sent to Edison Coatings, Inc., which had provided patching material to Barnes, the lawsuit says. Edison examined the fragments and found "the presence of an unknown layer of material between the [patching material] and the stone," the lawsuit says.

"Examination revealed that the unknown material caused the stone fragments to delaminate and fall from the façade of the Pioneers Museum when exposed to water," the suit says.

The city won't discuss the contract, nor say how much it might cost for repairs, citing the pending litigation.

"Spectrum just wants to work with the city to determine the cause of the alleged damage," says the firm's attorney Lindsay Jordan of Denver. On June 9, the company filed its answer to the lawsuit, denying that it provided faulty work and citing numerous defenses, including that the city has failed to "reasonably mitigate its damages, if any"; that the claim might be barred or limited by the Construction Defect Action Reform Act; that the damage might have been caused by the city's or another's negligence; that the damage was the result of "unforeseeable circumstances"; and that the city failed to give timely notice of alleged construction deficiencies.

A week later, on June 16, Spectrum filed a complaint against Barnes, alleging that the subcontractor is responsible, "if the allegations contained in the [city's] complaint are true, which Spectrum denies."

"Barnes Masonry," Spectrum's complaint says, "owed Spectrum a duty to use reasonable care, independent of any contractual duties, to conduct its operations and perform its work and services ... to the standard of care applicable to its respective profession and to otherwise act without negligence in the performance of its work."

Spectrum also notes that its subcontract with Barnes states that Barnes will indemnify Spectrum from any liabilities and claims that arise from the failure of Barnes' performance of the work.

Barnes was served with notice of the lawsuit in early July. The company did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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