Trial looks at Charlton town hall construction
Contractor fights firing, town seeks damages
BALLSTON SPA Testimony is expected to continue this week in a state Supreme Court lawsuit against the town of Charlton stemming from the problem-plagued construction of the town hall.
The trial, which began Tuesday, pits the town against Schmidt & Schmidt Construction, the project’s first general contractor, which was fired midway through the project.
The case is being heard by Supreme Court Judge Ann Crowell and a six-person jury.
Schmidt & Schmidt, of West Charlton, sued the town following its September 2007 firing, seeking $1.1 million in damages for wrongful termination. The town countersued, saying the contractor inadequately staffed the project and was responsible for $1.5 million in damages due to delays and extra costs.
Following years of pre-trial proceedings, testimony started last week. The trial could potentially run through the week of Thanksgiving.
Walter Schmidt Jr., an owner of Schmidt & Schmidt, testified for three days last week, and he is expected to remain on the witness stand this morning.
The dispute stems from construction of the new town hall on Charlton Road, on which ground was broken in 2006, with the expectation of completion a year later. The building wasn’t finished until the summer of 2009 and had a final cost of $4 million, about $800,000 over budget.
Schmidt & Schmidt was second lowest bidder on the general construction contract, but was hired after the lowest bidder withdrew.
Schmidt & Schmidt was terminated by the town for lack of progress in September 2007. The town then hired an emergency contractor to enclose the building, and later another contractor hired by Schmidt & Schmidt’s bond insurance company came in and completed the project.
The 9,500-square-foot, two-story Colonial Georgian-style town hall replaced a much smaller town building down the road. Set on a bluff, it is now one of the dominant buildings in the hamlet.
The Schmidt & Schmidt lawsuit originally named the town hall’s architect, J. Paul Vosburgh of Albany, and AKW Consulting of Schenectady, the town’s on-site representative. Vosburgh and the other company were dismissed from the case during earlier court rulings.
Vosburgh is among those expected to testify in the town’s behalf as the trial continues.
In court papers, Schmidt & Schmidt contends bidding documents were “erroneous and misleading,” issues pointed out to the town and Vosburgh by the company weren’t resolved, and the company’s termination was therefore “wrongful and in breach of contract.”
Schmidt & Schmidt had been paid $686,000 through the time it was fired. It’s original construction contract was for $2.5 million.
The town has a separate claim pending against the bonding company, but it is on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
The trial attorneys are Laurence Fox of Clifton Park for Schmidt & Schmidt, and Joel Howard of Albany representing the town.