Case against Sabine Pass school over construction payments goes to trial

By David Yates | Sep 16, 2009

Sabine Pass School

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

However, seven years later, one of the complex's builders claims it still hasn't been paid in full for extra work performed to school's athletic field after its opening.

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.

On Thursday, Sept. 16, the trial of ICI Construction vs. SPISD began in Judge Milton Shuffield's 136th District Court.

ICI is asking jurors to award the company for the $123,000 in extra work it claims to have preformed.

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 Brad 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.

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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