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City seeks flooring companies again
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MONROE - With new hope to finish the City Hall flooring project, the city has to identify its options before moving forward.

Progress begins with picking a company to complete the work vacated by KPH Environmental and Construction of Milwaukee.

City Administrator Phil Rath said once the bids for work on the floors are submitted by interested contractors, the Monroe Common Council would likely determine how to proceed May 1.

"We will evaluate when we've received the offers and ... hopefully get this thing done," Rath said.

The city publicly requested offers for contracts March 22 with a deadline of April 24. City Clerk Arianna Voegeli said the documents will be publicly opened at 11 a.m. that day in the westside fire station near her office, then brought to city aldermen for discussion.

The bid asks that a project be complete within 30 days of its beginning. Previous work began in August 2016 to remove asbestos tiles from the building that had begun to crack. Zersen Flooring Inc. of Monroe was contracted to provide replacement tiles. But it soon became apparent that new tiles would not adhere to the cement floor. In December 2016, officials were optimistic newly ordered materials would solve the issue.

Instead, workers later found some adhesive had completely dissolved, while other flooring material would adhere too well to the cement. At the end of that month, KPH Contractor Dan Scharf said the situation was one the company had never encountered before.

Negotiations between Scharf and the council failed during a special meeting at the end of 2016, after Scharf returned with three options for the city to pursue. Originally, the project was an estimated $150,000 cost to the city. An earlier request of an additional $163,000 change order was rejected by council members. The final offer for a compromise was that KPH could either apply a material called VersaShield on top of the cement that would allow the tiles to stick to it for $43,000, or use an adhesive system, reinstalling the flooring with additional guarantees for $56,000. On top of either option, the city could have spent roughly $15,000 for a cement core test to try to deduce the issue with the sub-floor of City Hall.

Aldermen rejected the proposals and declared KPH in breach of the original contract. The city asserted that KPH did not clean up the asbestos correctly and instructed KPH to verify through an independent company that it had.

KPH asserted the lack of adhesion was likely a moisture problem. While city employees were housed throughout various departments within the city as their own offices sat vacant, talk and testing continued until July, when Liberty Mutual, the company insuring KPH's funding for the project, denied the city's claim that KPH was at fault.

After declaring KPH at fault, the city of Monroe hired Jeff Younger of Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, a Madison law firm, and talks have continued since. Rath said the city has not been in contact directly with the company since the claim denial, but Younger has been in discussions with Liberty Mutual. Rath said a resolution regarding the ongoing dispute or pending legal action against KPH is "not set in stone."

The flooring project has disrupted a number of operations generally conducted at City Hall, from voting to paying taxes to meetings. During a council meeting Monday in the downtown City Hall Annex, Alderwoman Brooke Bauman asked whether the council would continue to use the building instead of meeting in the westside fire station, as it had for more than a year and a half. Both Mayor Louis Armstrong and Rath confirmed meetings would be held at the annex in the future. After more than one schedule conflict with the fire department, Armstrong said the annex, which is the former EMS building, would be a better temporary location.

Options for the flooring project are varied, Rath said, from the original plans to an alternative epoxy solution, or even the possibility of polishing the concrete or installing floating tile.

Currently there are workers in the building conducting initial work for the energy efficiency capital project to modernize the heating and cooling system, among other updates. Rath said that project is slated to be finished in late July.