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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Mold prompts D 49 lawsuit

Falcon School District 49 has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to recoup costs associated with mold in 10 schools in the district. Defendants named in the suit include LKA Partners Inc., J.E. Dunn Inc., Hughes Smith Inc., GE Johnson Construction Co. Inc. and Nunn Construction Co. Inc.The lawsuit alleges professional negligence and construction defects at elementary schools, including Woodmen Hills, Odyssey, Springs Ranch, Ridgeview, Meridian Ranch, Remington and Stetson Hills, as well as Falcon High School and Vista Ridge High School.In July 2007, mold was discovered during maintenance on a wall seam that had begun to separate. Inspections of all district facilities followed. “Our primary concern was to make sure the schools were safe for the kids to attend,” said Mark Shook, D 49 board director.Shook said immediate mold remediation included removal of vinyl wallpaper and the repair of damaged drywall. An industrial hygiene specialist from Quest was called in to inspect the schools, assess the damage and offer recommendations. It was determined that water resulting from heavy rains penetrated the porous outer blocks of the walls and became trapped, creating the ideal environment for mold.The district reviewed several possible solutions to the problem, including using plastic paint to prevent further water infiltration or applying stucco to the affected schools. “Stucco was chosen over other solutions because it requires lower maintenance, looks better and is a more permanent solution to the problem,” Shook said.While no mold was found at Falcon High School and Vista Ridge High School, both showed signs of serious moisture problems.Mold remediation comes at a price. According to district records, $1,170,837 was spent during the 2007-2008 budget year, with another $623,091 scheduled for 2008-2009. The budgeted amount for 2009-2010, when the majority of work will be completed, is $3,250,000 for mold remediation. Under the proposed budget for D 49, expenses will exceed revenues by $3,540,000 and the $3,250,000 to rectify the mold problem is the majority of the excess. District spokeswoman Amanda Mountain said, “Costs for the mold mitigation will come from the general fund, pending the outcome of the litigation.”The lawsuit indicates that LKA Partners was hired to design “high performing, low maintenance schools” and that LKA recommended a “concrete masonry unit wall treated with penetrating water repellant.” However, LKA “did not specify an integral water repellant for the block or mortar; and, therefore, no integral water repellant was incorporated into the block or mortar.”In response, LKA Partners indicated they were notified of the problem in the summer of 2007. “LKA had held out hope that the board would ultimately accept one of LKA’s several invitations to sit down for a face-to-face conversation about the board’s concerns, and how they might be resolved amicably. The board has steadfastly refused to honor that request,” LKA Partners responded.”Due to pending litigation, the district is unable to comment on LKA’s statement at this time.”Allegations against the other plaintiffs include negligence, breach of contract, breach of express warranties and common law indemnity.Tyson Nunn of Nunn Construction Inc. said, “It was Nunn’s understanding that Falcon School District was working with the original architect to correct mistakes made in the design of the building.” Nunn said he was surprised to learn they had been included in a lawsuit and “is hopeful that it will be given the opportunity to review any information Falcon School District has to support its claims against Nunn.”Remediation work is expected to be complete on five of the 10 schools before the semester begins in August. The remaining schools should be complete by October. The district will post newsworthy updates on the status of the lawsuit on the district Web site at

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