The Allen County Public Library Board voted Thursday to sue two local contractors that officials believe were responsible for a 2006 diesel fuel leak at the downtown library.
Library attorney Pete Mallers said the lawsuit will be filed next week in Allen Superior Court against Shambaugh and Son and Hamilton Hunter Builders.
The suit will seek reimbursement for expenses the library incurred to clean up more then 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel that leaked into the ground below the parking garage – work expected to exceed $500,000.
Mallers asked the board to authorize the legal action. Ongoing meetings and negotiations to resolve the matter outside of court have failed, he said.
We have to move forward, Mallers said. Its been the boards position as stewards of public assets to take legal action if all else failed.
Board member Alan McMahan proposed authorizing the lawsuit, and the board unanimously agreed without further discussion.
Library officials have maintained the library did not cause the leak and therefore shouldnt be ultimately liable for paying for the cleanup.
The fuel leaked from an underground pipe linking a storage tank to a generator. Contractors working in the generator room first discovered the leak in October 2006, several months before the grand reopening of the downtown library.
Both Shambaugh and Hamilton Hunter were primary contractors on the $65 million project to expand and renovate the library. Shambaugh was hired to perform mechanical, electrical and plumbing work, Mallers said, and Hamilton Hunter was hired for concrete work.
Bill Meyer, corporate vice president of Shambaugh and Son, said its unfortunate the library decided to take legal action against the company, especially because he believes Shambaugh did nothing wrong.
We have been working hard trying to get the parties that we thought were part of this to come together and reach a resolution. Its not in anybodys best interest to engage in this type of expensive litigation, Meyer said.
Shambaugh installed the underground pipe according to construction drawings. Another contractor on site pierced the line and caused the leak to occur, Meyer said.
We didnt cause the leak, he said.
A representative with Hamilton Hunter declined to comment Thursday.
The library is waiting for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to sign off that the cleanup is complete.
After IDEM issues its final approval, the library can seal half a dozen holes in the parking garage and generator area and pay outstanding bills, properties manager Jim Gumbel said.
Gumbel said the library will pay an additional $15,000 to $20,000 in bills.
To date, the library has incurred about $490,000 in expenses to pay for consultants and to clean up the leak, Mallers said.
The firms could either write the library a check or agree to let the library keep the remaining money the firms are due.
The library continues to hold onto about $500,000 owed to the two companies, Mallers said.
The library hired a forensic engineer to help determine who or what caused the leak. Several contractors that helped build the downtown library were involved in the inquiry.