Justice center design woes lead city to sue developer

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — The city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority has filed a lawsuit to recover damages and repair costs from the builder of the city’s justice center.

Completed in 2003, the facility at the southeast corner of Beech Daly and Michigan Avenue has been plagued by structure and design problems nearly from its outset.

The suit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court earlier this month, alleges breach of contract and negligence for a host of issues: utility costs that have exceeded projections, frequent leaks in the aluminum roof and interior condensation problems. Even the mechanical equipment has experienced an unusually high number of premature failures.

While the idea of a 7-year-old building with so many deficiencies might raise eyebrows with some, the center’s problems are old hat to those who work there on a daily basis.

“It tends to leak a lot in the stairwells,” said Police Chief Lee Gavin. “And if you look up in the ceiling panels, you can really see where (water) is coming in. And the heating – I know we’ve had a lot of problems with that.”

The city’s TIFA, which financed the project, filed the suit against developer Project Control Systems, a company that now is bankrupt, according to state business records. The Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth Website says that Project Control Systems was dissolved automatically in July 2009.

Also named in the suit is Liberty Mutual Insurance, which issued the payment and performance bonds for the project. Company officials did not return a telephone call seeking comment for this article before press time.

This is not the first time Project Control Systems has been involved in a breach-of-contract suit related to municipal projects in Michigan, according to federal court filings.

In 2006, the bondholder on a number of Project Control Systems projects sued the company and its principal, Assem Sheikh, for failing to fulfill contract terms on renovations at Bishop International Airport and public works buildings in Oakland and Macomb counties.

The last listed address for Project Control Systems was in Livonia, and no listed telephone number could be located readily. Sheikh also could not be reached for comment.