Contractor to receive $195K from Sabine Pass ISD over unpaid bills

David Yates Sep. 24, 2009, 9:37am

Last week, the Record reported on the trial of ICI Construction vs. Sabine Pass Independent School District, in which the builder claims it hasn't been fully paid for work performed to the school's athletic field.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, jurors tendered a verdict in favor of ICI Construction, awarding the company $195,906.26.

In 2002, the Sabine Pass Independent School District officially opened the doors to one of the area's most modern schools.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported in 2007, ICI Construction filed suit against SPISD in Jefferson County, alleging that the district had not paid the company for several change orders it made to the design of the athletic area.

Jurors found that the district failed to pay ICI $88,135 in retainage for the project and 107,771.25 for additional work performed.

In 1999, the residents of Sabine Pass voted to build a new Pre-K through 12th grade school. The complex, costing more than $10 million to build, has since become an iconic structure for the small town.

The district hired Bay Architects to design the school and further selected the bid of ICI Construction to help build the complex.

During the trial, former ICI project manager Dan Pardue testified that throughout the construction, the district and lead architect Hughes made several "verbal change orders" to the design, costing ICI an extra $300,000 to implement.

He testified that such change orders are common and most of the time the work is carried out before the paperwork can be drawn up.

"That happens a lot in our line of work," Pardue said.

The school district argues ICI has been paid in full and that the company is seeking money beyond what it bid.

On Monday and Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from the school's architect, Brad Hughes, that ICI was reimbursed after the school board approved the change orders.

Judge Milton Shuffield had been presiding over the trial but left the case in the experienced hands of Judge Gary Sanderson on Tuesday. Shuffield had planned a vacation this and next week and was hoping to wrap the trial before he left.

Original lawsuit

Nearly two years after the renovation of the Sabine Pass athletic filed, ICI Construction claimed that it had not received full payment of the $1.8 million the school district owes for the field's restoration.

According to the plaintiff's petition, filed with the Jefferson County District Court on May 8, 2007, the Sabine Pass Independent School District and ICI entered into a $1.7 million contract to renovate the gym back in 2003.

During the construction, district officials would request modifications and additions to the design. ICU would itemize the supplementary costs and tack them on to the original contract as change orders, the suit said.

"The district promised that such changes would be paid for through change orders," the suit said. "ICI complied with the district's verbal instructions and performed the changes they were directed to perform."

The project and all the changes directed by the district were completed by Sept. 23, 2005. In light of all the changes, the amount of the contract had been upped from $1.7 million to $1,867,295, the suit said.

"However, the district has refused to pay ICI for the changes," the suit said. "Such action constitutes a breach of contract."
A copy of the contract attached to the suit did note the original agreement ($1.7 million), plus two change orders.

The three count suit faults SPISD for breaching its contract, quantum meruit and violating the Texas Government Code.

The plaintiff is represented in part by attorney James Old Jr. of the Germer Gertz law firm in Beaumont.

The defense is represented in part by attorney Bruce Partain, an attorney with the Wells, Peyton, Greenberg & Hunt law firm in Beaumont.

Case No. D179-270

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