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.