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Fired UW dorm contractor seeks $1.7 million in damages


Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A well-known University of Wisconsin-Madison residence hall is long gone, but a multimillion dollar dispute over its demolition, which culminated when a falling concrete block crushed a car, lives on.

Dore & Associates of Bay City, Mich., is asking the state for $1.7 million in damages for losses stemming from its work tearing down Ogg Hall, a campus fixture that had housed generations of students. The state caused expensive delays in its work and then unfairly fired Dore from the job, the company claims.

According to the Department of Administration, it fired Dore & Associates in March 2008 after a series of contract violations and safety problems and that it doesn’t owe the company a dime.

The State Claims Board on Wednesday is expected to consider denying the company damages. If it does, Dore & Associates would likely file a lawsuit seeking them, chief executive officer Arthur Dore said.

The state hired the firm to demolish Ogg’s two towers but the project faced a series of problems.

First, some construction materials caught fire at the top of one of the towers in December 2007 while five of the company’s workers were inside. The workers were not able to get down the stairs, so they climbed down scaffolding set up outside the building to safety.

The scaffolding, it turns out, is one of the key parts of the dispute between the two sides.

The administration claims Dore did not comply with safety requirements that called for enough scaffolding to prevent the fall of debris onto passing students and property below. DOA warned the company in February 2008 it would cancel the contract unless the safety problems were fixed.

The final straw came on March 18, 2008, when a large block of concrete fell from one of the towers and crushed a worker’s parked vehicle below. The state terminated Dore’s contract the next day.

“The department believed that the claimant’s continuation on the project presented an unacceptable safety risk to UW students, employees and property,” according to a summary prepared for the Claims Board.

Dore, meanwhile, claims DOA’s scaffolding demands were unreasonable and caused delays. The company says it lost money erecting a scaffolding system to DOA’s liking and that covered areas not specified in the contract. The delays, the company said, caused employees to work on both towers at the same time and during inclement wintry weather.

Dore also claims the state canceled the contract without the notice required. It was unfair to be fired after the concrete block fell, the company claims, since that was not one of the issues raised in the state’s warning letter the previous month.

In all, the company said it incurred $755,000 in additional expenses on the project and lost $1 million in unpaid work and other income.

The company’s firing left part of the dormitory standing for months after the demolition was supposed to be done and forced the state to find other firms to finish the work.

Ogg Hall was closed in 2007 after a 42-year run as one of UW-Madison’s best-known dormitories. A new version of Ogg has opened across the street with larger rooms, shared bathrooms and air conditioning.

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