Contractor may face lawsuit after roof, floor problems at Bluffton High

February 3, 2010 

A leaking roof and defective tile floors at Bluffton High School might lead to a lawsuit against the contractor who built the school.

The Beaufort County Board of Education voted Tuesday to give district administrators permission to pursue legal action against the contractor, Skanska.

Chris Poe, the district's facilities officer, said the roof leaks in several places, including the auditorium and the principal's and guidance offices.

The vinyl composition tile floor is coming unglued from the concrete foundation in the corridors and has risen three to four inches in spots, Poe said.

"What's happening is when it comes unglued, the floor actually bubbles up," Poe said. "It's ... a strange thing to see."

Poe said the district has been blocking off and replacing sections of the floor as they bubble up to prevent students from tripping. Soon, he said, the floors must be replaced.

"It has been a temporary fix rather than a permanent fix," he said.

Phyllis White, district chief of operational services, said the school has had the problems since it opened in 2004, and fixing them would cost $450,000 to $500,000.

"We've had problems all along," she said, "and it continues to get worse."

White said two independent experts, Stafford Engineering and Concrete Constructives, confirmed last year the problems stem from construction, not poor maintenance.

She said the district has tried for several years to resolve the matter with the contractor, without success. She said the district has not set a time for filing a lawsuit.

"In order to get these problems corrected without us having to absorb the cost, this is our last resort," White said.

Jessica Murray, a communications director for Skanska USA, provided this statement:

"We have been in contact with school officials over the past year and have conducted site visits in an attempt to develop a mitigation plan to address the alleged construction deficiencies. We have not been formally advised of any lawsuit and thus are not in a position of commenting further."

White said the district will repair the roof and floor this summer and ask the contractor for reimbursement.

Poe said he doesn't think the district has hired Skanska for any projects other than Bluffton High School. The company has multiple locations worldwide.

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