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Sued by Its Architect Over Unpaid Bills, Flagler School Board Says Resolution is Near

| October 5, 2010

bunnell elementary school

A small percentage of the renovated Bunnell Elementary. (© FlaglerLive)

Alachua-based Stressing Associates has a six-year association with Flagler County schools as the district’s architectural designer, with its imprint on half the district’s schools—including Rymfire Elementary, Wadsworth Elementary, Bunnell Middle School and Buddy Taylor Middle School. The 2005 and 2008 contracts between the district and Stressing Associates have been worth millions of dollars.

In Early August, Stressing Associates sued the district for breach of contract over what the firm alleged to be unpaid bills–$286,000 in all.

On Tuesday, it appeared that the two sides were working toward resolving the issue without need for further litigation. “We are very close to reaching an agreement,” School Board attorney Kristy Gavin said Tuesday morning, hours before the board was to meet in executive session to discuss the matter.

Stressing Associates, named for the company’s founder and owner, Paul Stressing, was responsible for the expansion at Bunnell Elementary, the whole of Rymfire Elementary’s design and the renovation and expansion at Buddy Taylor and Wadsworth. When the school district closed the books on the $13.2 million project at Buddy Taylor, it had not paid $127,000 that was due Stressing. “He is due it, obviously,” Gavin said. “He just never invoiced it for whatever reason.”

That amount is not so much in contention as it is hung up over a paperwork issue, as the district sees it. Stressing will get that money.

Bills from two other schools are a bit more complicated. Stressing invoiced the district for $155,000 for work at Rymfire Elementary. The district paid about $80,000 of that, deducting the rest because, the district said, Stressing overbilled the district for work at Bunnell Elementary. Stressing wants that $75,000.

That’s where the dispute is centered. It goes like this: Back when the school district was bidding out the Bunnell Elementary project, it received an initial bid of $31 million from Skanska, the general contractor, a cost that would have made the Bunnell expansion more expensive per square foot than the construction, from scratch, of Rymfire Elementary (handled by general contractor Barton Mallow for $32 million). That proved to be too high for the board, which canceled a proposed contract with Skanska. Six months later, the board approved a $19.6 million contract with Barton Mallow.

Stressing was the architect on the project. That never changed. The firm charges a percentage of the total project cost (its 2005 contract was between 4 and 5 percent, its 2008 contract was between 5.5 and 6 percent). But there’s a dispute about the base amount to which Stressing applied its percentage. The difference is the amount of money in contention.

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9 Responses for “Sued by Its Architect Over Unpaid Bills, Flagler School Board Says Resolution is Near”

  1. Barney Smythe says:

    Maybe the city can award the firm the new contract for the new city hall.

  2. Jim Guines says:

    As a board member, I never had much trust in the school construction or for the people inside and outside the school system who were in charge of it. I let it be known at the time I served. I think a lot of money was wasted And there was very little bidding compitetion. I am not sure the schools were built that well as there was much rushing.!

  3. PCRes says:

    Paper thin walls, sounds carry all over the place, can hear a 6 year-old running on carpeted floors above you.

  4. Jim Guines says:

    It took a law suit to get Stressing and company into the school system and it looks like it will take a law suit to get him out of the system. This sometimes happens when you have NO local contractors involved in the bidding process in what I came to call a “closed shop” operation.

  5. Jim Guines says:

    This is the only outfit I know that was paid a fee to redisign a concretable which the system was talked into buying for MHS and the Bunnell addition school project. This is supposed to be impossible to do, but they did it.

  6. Palm Coast Pioneers says:

    Mr. Guines, sometime will you share the details of the ‘Department of Community Affairs’ ‘Agreement for all the proposed School Sites acreage in Palm Coast known as ‘Blue Lands’.
    Thank you very much.

  7. Jim Guines says:

    That’s one on me. I do not know about that document.

  8. Palm Coast Pioneers says:

    Hello Mr. Guines:
    Thank you for your reply. In RE: Department of Community Affairs ‘Agreement’ was concerning all the massive amounts of acreage set aside for ‘proposed school sites’ for the future use of Palm Coasters, known as ‘blue lands’ acreage.
    Wondering if you have that infomation at the School Board and can interpret it in ‘plain english’ for all of us.
    Thank you very much.

  9. mrknowitall says:

    Dear Palm Coast Pioneers:

    It is my understanding ITT set aside a large number of parcels back in the 70s/80s for future school sites. There is a map of the parcel locations somewhere. From my research it appeared sometime in the 90’s the rights to these parcels were given up by the School District. Basically the District said they didn’t need the parcels. It is my understanding, once ITT was dissolved Palm Coast Holdings acquired all these parcels which were originally set aside for school sites. Sounds like someone got paid off for this deal.

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