The butler did it: subcontractors pass the buck in downtown library lawsuit

The Texas subcontractor blamed in recent court filings for the structural failure that has stalled the under-construction downtown library for nearly 10 months now is denying culpability and pointing the finger at a Mississippi engineering firm.

In court documents filed January 29, Houston-based Structural Consultants Associates, Inc.—which was blamed in early January for the structural failure by the library’s architect and project manager, WHLC— says Meridien-based Carter Miller Associates Ltd. prepared shop drawings for structural steel connections used in the project “that contained errors. … As a result … there was a failure of certain structural steel connections at the project.”

SCA also suggests construction on the project could have resumed months ago but that WHLC is intentionally stalling. SCA says as far back as April 30 it notified WHLC it would be safe for general contractor Buquet and Leblanc to resume “light duty construction activities” but that no remediation work began. In mid-May, SCA issued another letter to WHLC, giving Buquet and Leblanc the go-ahead to resume full construction activities.

“However, to date, Buquet and Leblanc has failed to resume construction activities,” court documents read.

Attorneys for all parties involved have declined to comment, citing a nondisclosure agreement. Attorneys with the private law firm now representing the city-parish could not be reached for comment this morning. Carter Miller declined to comment.

While subcontractors pass the buck in court documents, talks are ongoing behind the scenes about who will front the more than $1.2 million it will take to make repairs and resume construction. In mid-January, attorney Jay Cullens, whose firm took over the city-parish’s case from the parish attorney’s office, said attorneys for WHLC and Buquet and Leblanc were meeting with the city to determine “the best path forward.”

This morning, Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel said he hopes to have a resolution later this week but that nothing has been finalized yet.

Contractors first broke ground on the $19 million library in December 2016. If all had gone according to schedule, the project should have been and completed and opened last fall.  


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