Chattanooga's lawsuit against River City Co. and two contract firms over expensive repairs to the Passage was tossed out of court this week even as expenses continue to shoot up.
Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Bolton dismissed the 2009 lawsuit Tuesday, saying it was filed after the three-year statute of limitations expired.
"The plaintiff failed to timely file within the appropriate statutory time period, and accordingly this court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case," Judge Bolton wrote.
City Attorney Mike McMahan said Wednesday he will ask Chattanooga and the Community Downtown Redevelopment Corp. to appeal the case.
But River City Executive Director Kim White said she hopes the city won't appeal. If the city and Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp., which is in charge of the riverfront project, let the appeal stand, she said, River City and the partners, Hargreaves Associates Inc. and Continental Construction Co., would consider dropping their countersuit.
"The last thing we want to do is tie this up in litigation and lawsuits," she said. "I hope they would reconsider."
Also this week, the city said that a study of concrete problems at the water's edge on the waterfront would cost $610,000, double the estimate given four months ago. The study has been bid out to consultant HDR Inc., and the City Council will vote on a resolution authorizing the study Tuesday night.
The $120 million waterfront project opened in 2005. Electrical and safety problems in the Passage and erosion and concrete cracking on the waterfront around Ross's Landing began showing up in 2007, city officials have said.
The city sued River City Co., Hargreaves and Continental in 2009 to recover the costs of fixing the areas. The three private companies filed a countersuit.
But Bolton said in her ruling the city should have considered the problems started in 2005 when it first noticed tiles falling off the walls of the Passage.
DOUBLE THE COSTS
City officials estimated a comprehensive study of the waterfront edge would cost around $300,000 and fixing it would cost about $1 million.
Public Works Administrator Steve Leach said Tuesday the initial cost rose because the proposed study was expanded.
"We lengthened the area," he said. "We broadened out where we were looking at."
Parks and Recreation Director Larry Zehnder said the city added an examination of electrical and pumping systems in the riverfront park.
"If we were going to get to the bottom of the problems, that was one thing that was missed," Zehnder said.
The cost of fixing the waterfront is approaching $2.3 million, city officials said: $1.5 million for the Passage; 200,000 for other studies and now $610,000 for the concrete survey.
That doesn't count the cost of actually fixing the concrete edge.
McMahan said tax dollars would have to pay for the fixes, if Bolton's ruling is not overturned.
"If her opinion stays, that's correct," he said. "But an appeal is certainly in the offing."