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City recovers cost of initial flooring project, ends dispute
Monroe City Hall
File photo

MONROE — While plenty of arguments were proposed during the Monroe Common Council meeting Nov. 5 over the 2019 budget draft, a frequent topic went relatively unnoticed: City Hall’s flooring issue.

The city accepted a settlement agreement with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company for the original cost of the project estimated at just over $152,000 in August 2016. The terms of the settlement allow the city to retain nearly $58,000 in funds meant to still be paid to KPH and for Liberty to grant the city over $94,000 in funds already paid for the project.

It began with proposed renovation of the building, which was meant to last roughly six weeks. When city employees packed up their supplies, moving equipment and other boxes into storage pods in the City Hall parking lot and taking essentials with them to other municipal buildings in early August 2016, they thought maybe they would be gone for two or three months if there was a slight delay. 

KPH Environmental and Construction, a Milwaukee-based company, was hired to remove asbestos-based tile from the building and replace it with carpet squares throughout offices and within council chambers. KPH removed the asbestos, but when workers attempted to apply adhesive to the cement below, they found the carpet sections would not stick in most of the area. 

They worked to fix the issue, but in December, KPH Contractor Dan Scharf proposed a new method for an additional $163,000, which was denied by members of council. During another meeting a week later, Scharf suggested two options: a material called Versa Shield on top of the cement for $43,000 or an adhesive system and reinstallation of flooring with additional guarantees for $56,000.

Again, the proposed options were rejected by the city. 

Council members declared KPH at fault for the issue in February 2017. Jeff Younger of Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, a Madison law firm, was hired by the city to evaluate whether the city had legal bearing to file suit against the company.

A claim filed by the city to Liberty Mutual was originally dismissed in July 2017, which would have meant the KPH insurance coverage would pay for the costs incurred by the city. After months of frustration, and brief consideration of simply having city employees complete the flooring issue during less busy winter months, council members agreed to have Younger negotiate with Liberty directly after more than an hour of closed session deliberation in late December.

On May 1, council members hired Fundamental Designs LLC of Monroe to complete the work for just under $103,000. In mid-September, staff began returning to the building.

At the meeting Nov. 5, Alderman Michael Boyce addressed the crowd. Though the work, which had staff moving back into the building almost exactly two years after first expected, took time, Boyce said anyone would have done the same if it were a dispute over a home remodel and felt confident the city made the right decision because of its financial standing.

City Administrator Phil Rath echoed Boyce later in the week, noting that a settlement expense is more positive than pursuing a lengthy lawsuit in court or attempting mediation.

The settlement means that Liberty will pay the city the amount already paid on the project. As part of the agreement, the city can not pursue any other legal action against KPH unless it is in response to activity initiated by the company. Rath said the insurance company will likely attempt to recover the settlement funds from KPH.