GE Johnson Construction has filed suit against the city for nonpayment of the full amount due to construct the Pikes Peak Summit House amid complicated circumstances, including 14,000-ft elevation, severe weather conditions and the COVID pandemic, among other factors.
First reported by KRDO TV, the lawsuit was filed March 8 seeking compensation for the project, which cost $60 million.
Delays of construction stemmed, in large part, the lawsuit says, from the city’s failure to secure a memorandum of understanding (MOU) from the U.S. Forest Service. The peak is situated within the Pikes Peak National Forest.
“GEJ [GE Johnson], in response to the [MOU] Delay, worked in good faith with COS and reasonably attempted to mitigate the impacts of the delay by, among other things, working weekends and overtime and into the winter of 2018/2019,” the lawsuit says. “GEJ ultimately was unable to overcome COS’s [MOU] Delay without incurring significant additional costs and requiring additional time to achieve Substantial Completion of the Project.”
Due to harsh weather conditions, the project was subject to a limited work season from May 31 through September, the lawsuit says.
Time delays stemmed from:
• Soils conditions discovered by GE Johnson that differed from a Geotechnical Report prepared by the city’s soils engineer, including fissured granite, permafrost and ground water. Initially predicted to take 20 days, the blasting work spanned 79 days.
• Due to the MOU delay, the contractor wasn’t able to finish other “critical path work” before the 2018/19 winter shut down.
• GE Johnson encountered “severe undulation” from six inches to several feet throughout the subsurface solid rock, which required additional excavation work.
• Though GE Johnson worked during the winter months of 2019/20, it was unable to compensate for the lost time. “In May 2020, GEJ encountered frozen ground and ice and snow buildup within the main level slab on grade … subgrades, which was yet another delay that impacted the progress of GEJ’s work,” according to the suit. “COS’ design team determined that, due to the risks associated with having any ice and snow in those areas, GEJ had to perform a significant thaw effort, which included the removal and replacement of backfill and thawing of backfill until acceptable unfrozen backfill and moisture levels had been achieved as reviewed and approved…. This work began at the end of May 2020, and GEJ did not receive full and final approval until July 13, 2020, further impacting GEJ’s ability to complete it SOG [slab on grade] work and complete the backfill around the building. This condition also impacted the critical path and caused GEJ to incur additional costs.”
• In March 2020, GE Johnson notified the city the pandemic could impact availability and productivity of project staff and tradespeople and unavailability and delays in the manufacture, supply, and delivery of materials.
It’s worth noting the firm filing the lawsuit on GE Johnson’s behalf is Hogan Lovells, a firm that represented the city on numerous occasions during the term of Mayor Steve Bach from 2011 to 2015, earning millions of dollars in fees.
The city has yet to file an answer to the lawsuit.