published Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Chattanooga: City seeks damages for persisting waterfront problems


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Audio: Chattanooga City Council Meeting -- March 17, 200

Chattanooga will file a lawsuit to try and recover $1.5 million in damages for repair work to the Passage water attraction downtown, city officials said Tuesday.

“I think we had no other recourse but to hold them responsible,” said City Councilman Jack Benson.

Interim City Attorney Mike McMahan announced at the City Council’s business meeting Tuesday night that he was asking permission to file the lawsuit in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.

The council voted 7-0 to approve filing the lawsuit. Chairwoman Linda Bennett recused herself from voting because she sits on the board of the RiverCity Co., one of the defendants in the suit. She said she could not comment because she was new to that board. Councilwoman Carol Berz was absent.

PDF: Sequoyah statement

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BY THE NUMBERS

* $120 million: Total amount of public-private money spent on the 21st Century Waterfront

* $2 million: How much repairs to the Passage ultimately could cost

* $1.5 million: Amount the city is asking for in damages

Mr. McMahan said the city is suing RiverCity Co., along with San Francisco-based architectural firm Hargreaves Associates and Continental Construction Co., based in Memphis. All helped create the $120 million 21st Century Waterfront attraction.

Officials with all three companies could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. Paul K. Brock Jr., who was head of RiverCity Co. during the time of the waterfront construction, also declined comment.

“We were told it was necessary because there was a statute of limitations,” Councilwoman Sally Robinson said. “It was a defensive move.”

She said the council has been told by its attorney that one possible outcome could be mediation without a lengthy, expensive trial. But she said she has yet to hear any defense by RiverCity Co. and its partners.

“It’s a very convoluted issue,” she said.

The Passage was closed last year because of cracks in the structure that led to water seepage. Just weeks ago, workers discovered more problems, officials said. The water attraction is set to open in July.

Mr. McMahan said if the city recovers the money asked for it could go a long way to correcting the situation. The city has hired TWH Architects for $1.5 million to make repairs, records show.

In other business, the City Council will vote next week on a resolution urging the Hamilton County school board to build a centralized technical vocational school in Hamilton County.

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