JOPLIN — The contractor hired by the Joplin School District to demolish three schools destroyed in last year's tornado has sued the district, claiming it is owed more than $500,000 and has been required to do work not included in its original contract.
Urban Metropolitan Development, based in Atlanta, claims in its lawsuit that it is owed $544,542 for removing about 2.1 million gallons of asbestos-contaminated water from the school. The company claims that work was not in the original contract.
Troy Langley, owner of Urban Metro, also told The Joplin Globe Wednesday that his company was supposed to have salvage rights to scrap left inside the building but most of the scrap was removed before demolition began.
School Superintendent C.J. Huff said the district's contract with the company included the water removal and the district has paid Urban Metro as progress is made at the demolition site.
The contract awarded Urban Metro salvage rights to bricks, metal and anything else of value, but Langley said the scrap was gone when demolition work began. "We were locked out for two months while there was pillaging," he said.
Director of construction Mike Johnson previously told the Globe that as much as $2 million worth of salvageable copper, steel and other metal was left in the high school.
Huff also disputed Langley's claim that the water removal was not in the original contract.
"They indicated that they felt we were responsible for costs associated with removal of that water; their counsel agreed that it was in the contract, and as a direct result, they began fulfilling and pumping per the contract," Huff said. "About two weeks ago, they sent us a change order. Our concern right now is they just complete the job and do the right thing in spite of mistakes they've made."
Work at the high school site has slowed and Huff said he is concerned that Urban Metro won't finish in time for the May 22 groundbreaking. The company originally was given a 60-day time limit, but that has expired, Huff said.
"They've come to realize it was an expensive project," Huff said. "This mistake just happens to have a half-million-dollar price tag, and we don't feel we have any responsibility for paying for their mistake."
The superintendent said the district has been working closely with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency over other issues with Urban Metro, including wage and labor laws.
In January, the Joplin School Board debated whether to revoke Urban Metro's contract but decided to stay with the company. The second lowest bids for the demolition projects were about $400,000 more than Urban Metro's, Huff said.