News

Palo Alto seeks $9.4M from Mitchell Park Library contractor

City launches legal proceedings against Flintco Pacific after years of delays, errors

Palo Alto is seeking more than $9 million from a contractor that the city deems primarily responsible for the botched reconstruction of the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.

The City Council on Monday authorized in a closed session the filing of a legal claim against Flintco Pacific, the construction firm that the city hired in 2010 to build the Mitchell Park library, the flagship project in a $76 million bond package voters approved in 2008. The city fired Flintco in January after months of acrimony, a stack of change orders that drove up the project's costs and numerous failed inspections. The city had repeatedly accused Flintco of performing sub-standard work and for failing to bring adequate work crews to the site.

Initially slated to open in spring 2012, the library is now set to open on Dec. 6. The construction firm Big D Construction Company took over the project and is now in the final stages of completing the work. The city's legal dispute with Flintco, meanwhile, is expected to drag on for many more months, with each side recently filing a claim against the other. In July, Flintco submitted a claim accusing the city of breaching its contract and of "wrongful conduct." The company claimed that the city's plans for the new library were "filled with errors, omissions, conflicts, ambiguities, lack of coordination and noncompliance with applicable code requirements." Flintco also argued that the city often had failed to respond to the company's change-order requests or simply denied them, denials that Flintco called "wrongful, arbitrary and capricious."

This week, the city fired back by sending Flintco a "notice of contract dispute" that sets the stage for the city's claim. The notice invokes the "liquidated damages" provision in its contract with Flintco, which requires the company to pay $2,500 per each calendar day occurring after the expiration of the contract time. The scheduled date of the project's completion was April 20, 2012, which brought the liquidated-damage amount sought by the city to $2.2 million.

Palo Alto is seeking another $3.3 million for work that the city says did not comply with the project contract. In some cases, Flintco was notified of the non-compliant work but did not address the city's concerns. The non-compliant work was discovered after Flintco was fired, according to the notice signed by Public Works Director Michael Sartor. In addition, the city is seeking $3.1 million for the costs of repeated inspections and of hiring consultants to assist with identifying and correcting the defective work. The claim also includes $726,995 for work that the city deleted from the scope of the project's contract, thereby reducing the contract's sum.

In the formal notice, Sartor wrote that in seeking $9.4 million, the city "believes that its current calculation of its damages is suitable to proceed with discussions in an effort to seek informal resolution."

The letter notes that Flintco was terminated on the grounds that it "failed to pursue and prosecute the work in a timely manner, failed to comply with the city's Notice of Default, failed to provide quality control over the work performed on the Project, and other significant and material breaches of the Project Contract."

"Now that the Project is near final completion, it is time to resolve the City's claims arising from Flintco's failure to perform its work in accordance with the requirements of the Project Contract," the notice states.

Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump said in a statement that the city believes that "Flintco's continued failure to make progress on the project, delays in construction, shoddy work and inadequate staffing made it virtually impossible for them to complete the job."

"We believe Flintco owes the City for the totality of all these delays."

She added that she expects the city and Flintco "to be involved in this legal process for some time."

The notice of contract dispute triggers a 10-day period in which the two sides have a chance to meet. The dispute will then go to non-binding mediation and, ultimately, binding arbitration.

Related content:

Palo Alto fires Mitchell Park Library contractor

How the Mitchell Park Library construction went terribly wrong

Mitchell Park Library contractor fires back at the city

Palo Alto to hire new contractor for Mitchell Park library

Mitchell Park Library set to open in the fall

Mitchell Park Library close to complete, but legal battle looms

Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Former City Employee
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Flintco has a great track record and has built many buildings around the country with very few problems. This was the very first "from the ground up" building that Palo Alto had done in over 30 years. Being a former employee (28 years) of the city and seen the type of subpar work the city has done on remodels of their buildings, this will be interesting to watch on how this plays out.


Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2014 at 4:10 pm

This is why you use local contractors. Sometimes the lowest bid is not always the best, especially in this case.


7 people like this
Posted by Competence
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2014 at 5:19 pm

The Public Works Department is in dire need of new leadership. Sound engineering judgement and management competency at the top level of department leadership are essential for excellence in public works. Politicking with the City Manager and City Council alone just won't cut it.


1 person likes this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2014 at 5:58 pm

I suggest that the City hire a consultant to oversee the litigation efforts of the attorneys hired by the City to pursue Flintco!


1 person likes this
Posted by chayotea
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

When is the main library planned reopening date?
Hope it's not behind schedule like Mitchell Park, and California Ave. development project.


Like this comment
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Does the picture show an unfinished library, or is it intended to be an homage to the stale deconstructionist style?


2 people like this
Posted by Two-Sides-To-Every-Story
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2014 at 9:58 am

Presumably Flintco will have its own suit. So .. we'll have to wait to see what the folks who have suffered at the hands of City mismanageent have to say.


4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Res #.....
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 18, 2014 at 10:20 am

What about the Architectural Firm who was suppose to make sure the drawings were completed for the Structural Engineering Company to complete their drawings, to be approved before any construction started? Why aren't the liabilities of this project equally distributed upon ALL companies involved in creating the NEw BUILDING?

There were obviously too many inexperienced people worked on this project from The City of Palo Alto. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Stop using more of Palo Alto Residence's money to pay Lawyers to go after ONE outside contractor, if the city is going to clean this mess up, they better look at everyone involved. Isn't it time to let go of some of the city building department personnel who are responsible for all the management oversights?


Like this comment
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 18, 2014 at 11:49 am

Dear Ahem -

The date on the picture is 2013. You might go by and see the building now. The exterior is pretty well done - my (limited) understanding is that they are finishing up the inside and tuning the systems.


3 people like this
Posted by Frustrated Library Supporter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:43 pm

In response to Chayotea's question about the former Main Library opening, that too will open behind schedule (closed on 5/3/2013 for an eighteen-month project and now scheduled to reopen in late December 2014 or early January 2015). At least it's not as bad as Mitchell Park. Regarding Mitchell Park, the PA Library has announced a ten-week closing (Sept 26 through Dec 6) so they can move books, staff, etc. into the new facility. It appears that there's been some very poor planning for this on the part of the library staff, despite the fact that they've had a couple of years to prepare for the event. It shouldn't take that long to move a relatively small collection. This is occurring in the middle of the autumn semester in a facility that serves many, many students--really inexcusable!


6 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2014 at 1:05 pm

When they close the temporary Mitchell Park Library, we'll be down to 1 1/4 libraries for months. As a heavy library user, this is infuriating.

Deciding to "work" on 2 libraries and hence close both is really inexcusable. Cutting access to LINK+PLUS for inter-library loans at the same time was equally dumb.

PA "planning" in a nutshell.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm

> This is occurring in the middle of the autumn semester in a facility
> that serves many, many students-

The PAUSD provides Palo Alto students with 17 on-campus libraries--which have about the same number of books as the Palo Alto library, as well as Internet access. These libraries tend to be empty in the afternoons, so if anything is intolerable--it's paying for these facilities and not having them available to Palo Alto's students other than during the short school days.

> Cutting access to LINK+PLUS for inter-library
> loans at the same time was equally dumb

Link+PLUS is available at the downtown Mountain View library--which is only about 4 miles from the Mitchell Park library. Claiming that it's OK to go to Mountain View for dinner, but not OK to go there for Link+ pickup/dropoff is not all that rational.


2 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Joe, it took them a LONG time to reinstate LINK=PLUS at all, maybe 2 years. Then pickups were only at the downtown branch as you say, just like their original plan to have everyone go to the downtown branch to pick up their reserve books.

After all the complaints about no parking at the downtown branch, they finally made the reserve books available for pickup at the local branches.

The same parking problems downtown apply for both LINK+PLUS and reserved books but a customer service orientation would be needed for that huge logical leap.


1 person likes this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Joe, access to the Mountain View and other nearby libraries cost $80. I asked the library director if she would explore getting us guest privileges during the long delay and she said no, since we're paying for "our libraries" even though they're unavailable.

Do we get to sue the city for lack of lack of access to our "resources" or for late fees? Nope. But the city can spent our money suing the contractor for being late.

And what do we the library patrons get?


Like this comment
Posted by User
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

I recently put a hold on a book I want to read. The library has 3 copies according to the catalog. I was #22 on the wait list at the time. By my reckoning, it will be a six month wait give or take. Is that acceptable?


Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Silly-- I do not think you have to,pay for the mountain view library. I am a plao alto resident and have MV library card at no cost. You have to,pay for access to the Santa Clara county library system.
Regarding the library fiasco-- that is the result of listening to the misguided voices that urged us to vote for the bond measure a few years back


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Web Link
Link+ is a free service which allows Mountain View Public Library patrons to borrow items that are not available at the Mountain View Public Library. LINK+ is a cooperative project among many academic and public libraries in California.
----

The $80 fee only applies to the Santa Clara Library Assessment District ibraries. Mountain View is not a member of that consortium.

Shouldn't library users know which of the local libraries are "free" and which are not?


Like this comment
Posted by Main Neighbor
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Main Library appears to be on schedule:

Web Link

They said it would re-open in December 2014 on the groundbreaking press release. That still appears to be accurate. It looks really nice from the Art Center side.

I guess it will be called Rinconada Library when it reopens.


Like this comment
Posted by i love the library
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 18, 2014 at 6:17 pm

LINK+ is available at the downtown Palo Alto library, as well as the Mountain View library. They closed it in Palo Alto for a while, but it's been back for a couple of months. I don't think many people use it, but it's a FANTASTIC resource - you can get pretty much any book within a couple of days because there are so many libraries participating.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2014 at 6:24 pm

> I don't think many people use it, but it's a FANTASTIC resource -

That's true. But given that the Palo Alto library's circulation is about half videos/audios, and a little less than half is fiction (mostly childrens' fiction), then it's pretty clear that most people are not using the libraries are for edification, or education.

There are about 18M unique titles in the Link+ system--most of which come from University/College libraries, which are not known for their high video/fiction collections.

The low Link+ use pretty much says that most people are not using the Palo Alto libraries are for much other than entertainment.


Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Apologies that I was wrong about the Mountain View library being $80. I've used LINK-PLUS for a variety of purposes, including fiction that's currently in storage, travel-related materials, non-fiction, etc.

Also, one thing I've noticed about the HOLD requests: the ebooks are readily available while there's often a lengthy list of people reserving the hard-copy books.


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:14 am

Let's start a pool on when this dispute between Palo Alto and Flintco is resolved. I'm betting a minimum of 2 years, so maybe early January 2017. Just think of all those billable hours for the lawyers.


2 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm

my understanding is that it will take only one week to move the books, but 9 weeks to find enough free moving boxes on Craigslist. I could be wrong.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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