September 5, 2007 in Business

Hunts must pay contractor $947,237

By The Spokesman-Review

A three-person arbitration panel ruled that Hunt Family Properties owes Haskins Construction of Spokane $947,237 for unpaid costs related to the building of Huntwood Industries’ manufacturing plant in Liberty Lake.

Haskins Construction was hired to build the 560,000-square-foot production center for privately held cabinet-maker Huntwood. The project estimate for the work done by Haskins came to $16.4 million. Haskins was hired to provide the building structure and all internal components except for the cabinet-making equipment.

The new building in Liberty Lake allowed Huntwood’s owners, Tim and Resa Hunt, to expand production and operate more efficiently than in their previous location at the Spokane Industrial Park. Huntwood sells its cabinets nationwide.

The Hunts moved into the building in December 2005. Tim Hunt said completion took six months longer than originally planned.

John Black, an attorney representing Haskins, said the Hunts stopped making payments in the fall of 2005.

A clause in the construction contract required the parties to use arbitration to settle disputes. A three-attorney panel was put together, and it spent more than a year reviewing more than 100 disputes covering quality of work and services performed.

Haskins contended it was owed more than $1.4 million in unpaid bills.

The arbitrators ruled that Haskins in fact was owed just $1.24 million in unpaid bills but that the Hunts were also were entitled to $297,000 in cost adjustments, lowering the final bill to $947,237.

Under terms of the arbitration, the Hunts will also have to pay about $600,000 in legal costs involved in the arbitration, said Black.

Both sides are obliged to also pay roughly $100,000 in administrative costs to the American Arbitration Association, the national group that provides trained arbitrators for such disputes.

Tim Hunt said the ruling by the arbitration panel is not final and is subject to modification.

“We’re finally happy that (Haskins) is required to come back in and do the warranty work that they’ve not done for more than a year,” Hunt said, noting that arbitrators found a long list of finish work not completed by the contractor.

The items still requiring work by Haskins included fixing uneven concrete floors and defective colored concrete in some areas, according to the panel’s interim ruling.

Sterling Haskins, president of Haskins Construction, said the project was the only time the company went through arbitration in more than 40 years.

“It was long and expensive. We’ve never had a conflict quite like this before,” he said.

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