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Questions of liability delay wind turbine poles

In response to questions about whether its architect or construction contractor should be financially responsible, at its February 18 regular meeting, the Rim of the World Unified School District tabled the approval to allocate Measure W funds to purchase new poles for the windmills at Rim of the World High School.

According to documents obtained by The Alpenhorn News, the Rim of the World Unified School District (ROWUSD) was asked to approve the expenditure of $17,795 to Maico Industries, Inc. The expenditure was for poles “that DSA (Department of State Architects) will approve” after the district received a letter on July 9, 2014, stating the project was “closed without Certification Due to Exceptions.”

At the February 18 meeting, local contractor Dennis Bennett voiced, “It’s my opinion the contractor is responsible,” and went on to say that contractors carry insurance for mistakes they make and the district should “pursue his liability insurance.”

ROWUSD Chairwoman Cindy Gardner recalled the board asking for a legal analysis of the liability for the project, looking at its architect PJHM, its contractor Tilden-Coil and considering whether the district shares liability. “It came back as like this nebulous, no sorry we didn’t know that DSA had increased their requirements for additional information about the construction of the poles, but we hire somebody to figure that out.”

ROWUSD Trustee Leslie Bramson questioned what the bottom line was as far as liability. “The liability to the district is that that particular project is not closed with DSA certification,” Director of Administrative Services Chris Jennison voiced, explaining, it could impact the approval of any future construction projects at Rim of the World High School (RHS) and could impact any projects where they are asking for matching state funds.

In response to questions from ROWUSD Board Member Ron Kelly, Jennison clarified, “This is just to purchase the poles and have that manufacturing process start.”

“I thought we were going to get a legal opinion; did we ever get one?” ROWUSD Board Member Richard Lavin asked.

“Currently there is a conflict of interest with our legal firm with the project construction company, so we have to go through the process to go to a different legal firm,” ROWUSD Superintendent Giovanni Annous explained.

Gardner explained, everything was submitted to DSA, everything was approved, then after the fact, when the district went to close the DSA number, then additional requirements regarding the poles were added because they were manufactured in China.

Bramson motioned, “I would like to table this, every process I have been involved with, there is an appeals process, also, I would like to demystify the conflict of interest.”

Gardner called for the vote with Lavin, Kelly, Gardner, and Bramson voting in favor. ROWUSD Board Member Scott Markovich, the main proponent of the wind turbine and solar project at Rim of the World High School to fulfill one of Measure W’s purposes to “install energy efficient improvements,” did not attend the February 18 regular meeting.

In an interview with The Alpenhorn News, Markovich explained, “It was something DSA came up with after the fact, which they have the right to do.” “It’s a matter of safety,” Markovich voiced, adding, even though the energy generated is “insignificant” it offsets electricity use at RHS and benefits students by providing hands on learning correlating with science, math and physics and creating a pathway to jobs in the alternative energy field.

“Going the legal route would just cost the district more money and not accomplish anything,” Markovich opined.