CEDAR FALLS — A group of laborers in a variety of construction trades is imploring the Board of Regents not to hire Knutson Construction Services for any projects while the University of Iowa presses a lawsuit against the company for what it asserts was faulty work on its Old Capitol dome.
The Des Moines-based Iowa Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust has sent several letters to the board about it, said Iowa City lawyer Bob Downer.
The most recent, sent Oct. 5, urges the board to reject Knutson as a “responsibly bidder” on any future projects until the litigation is resolved.
Knutson did not respond to a request for comment Thursday from The Gazette.
The labor group is pushing the issue as the UI picks a contractor for the nearly $24 million project to build a new facility for its Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and to raze the east wing of Seashore Hall.
Knutson is among five contractors that submit proposals. Knutson appears to be the low bidder, coming in with a $24.2 million proposal, under the university’s $24.3 million estimate and below the other bids of up to $25.6 million.
“It is the position of Iowa LECET that the allegations of this petition are more than sufficient to support a decision that Knutson is not a responsible bidder,” according to the letter.
Downer said he’s not aware that the group has received a response from the board, and regents President Mike Richards said Thursday the board won’t comment about specific litigation.
But he did say the board and universities, while required by law to go with the lowest “responsible” bidder on capital projects, have some flexibility.
“One of the determinations of whether someone is a responsible bidder is whether there is current litigation,” Richards said.
Still, Knutson remains involved in some projects on the university campuses — like the Seamans Center for Engineering annex and some Health Care projects — even as the UI is set to go to trial in October 2018.
In its suit, the UI accuses Knutson of faulty work on the dome that resulted in a leaky roof, rotted wood and deteriorating siding and trim, among other problems.
Knutson was hired on a $1.63 million contract in 2002 to restore the Old Capitol after it was damaged by fire. UI officials said they didn’t find deficiencies until 2011.
“Knutson constructed the project in an unskillful manner and failed to abide by relevant laws, regulations and building codes,” the suit claims.
Knutson officials have denied the claims and fought to gain access to the Old Capitol site to collect evidence.