Saturday, June 02, 2001

Rejected tile on stadium bill

County targets cost overruns

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ceiling tile and grid valued at $217,000 — paid for by taxpayers but never installed at Paul Brown Stadium — sits collecting dust in a makeshift warehouse in Bond Hill.

        The reason: Manufacturer Hunter Douglas, of Norcross, Ga., said wind could rip the material out of the ceiling and injure someone in the stadium.

[photo] Boxes of ceiling tiles worth $217,000 are stacked up in the former Pauline Warfield Lewis Center in Bond Hill.
(Craig Ruttle photos)
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        That left Hamilton County officials with no choice but to order architect NBBJ to redesign the ceiling for the 200-level concourse and put the old material in mothballs. It is stacked in 645 boxes, eight feet high, inside the Pauline Warfield Lewis Center, a former psychiatric facility.

        “We told (NBBJ) we needed something that would work,” said John Michel, deputy public works director. “We consider it a design error.”

        Ron Turner, a principal with NBBJ, declined comment. So, too, did Tom Ayres, vice president of sales for Hunter Douglas.

        County officials say the problem started when NBBJ used an indoor ceiling tile in its design. The tile has large indentions where wind could grab hold.

        Technically, the 200-level concourse has a roof atop it, but wind can get into the concourse from the stadium's upper levels.

        When Hunter Douglas employees arrived to install the ceiling, they told county officials that it wasn't suitable for that area of the stadium. The company then refused to take the material back.

        Public Works Director Gary VanHart said there was lengthy debate on whether to use the material. The county eventually decided it couldn't take the risk of someone being injured if the ceiling came loose.

[photo] The manufacturer of these ceiling materials said they are unsafe for outdoor use at Paul Brown Stadium.
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        Mr. VanHart said companies typically take back unused material, minus a 10-percent “restocking” charge. Hunter Douglas wasn't willing to do that in this case.

        “It was debated quite a bit,” Mr. VanHart said. “This shouldn't have happened. We would have expected the architect to know about this before the material was specified.”

        Carl Stich, a chief assistant prosecuting attorney for the county, said the $200,000 will be part of the ongoing attempt to recover overruns at the stadium. The stadium currently is $51 million in the red, with several items left to finish before the project is closed out.

        The county is using an Indianapolis law firm, Ice Miller, to try to recover a portion of the overruns. Ice Miller has been in discussions with the construction manager, Turner Barton Malow D.A.G., and NBBJ about the overruns. A lawsuit is possible.

        “The tile is something being reviewed,” Mr. Stich said. “We need to find out exactly why a product not suitable for the intended purpose was specified.

        “It's quite obvious somebody made a mistake here, and we don't think the county should pay for it.”

        County Commissioner Todd Portune said he thinks the blame is obvious.

        “This is an NBBJ screw-up,” Mr. Portune said. “Meanwhile, the material sits and rots.”

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