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Contractors seek payment for Iowa football project

Ryan j. Foley, Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- More than a year after its completion, several companies that helped build the University of Iowa's new indoor football practice facility say they are still owed money for their work.

Four subcontractors have filed claims in state court in recent weeks alleging the project's general manager, the Samuels Group Inc. of Wausau, Wis., owes them a total of more than $1.5 million, records show.

In a separate federal lawsuit, the Samuels Group argues that it should not have to pay some of the companies because they delivered and installed metal panels that did not initially meet specifications, causing delays and extra costs. And in October, Samuels filed a claim asking the university for an additional $105,000.

State and federal judges are expected to sort out the claims in the coming months. The litigation follows a project that has been hailed by the football team, which was competing in the Outback Bowl on Wednesday, for improving their practice environment.

The facility, completed in August 2012, replaced a 25-year-old campus landmark nicknamed "the Bubble" for its inflatable white cover. It features a metal roof and panels that allow daylight inside and a full-length football field with artificial turf.

The building and the renovation of a nearby outdoor practice area were the first phase in a $55 million project to upgrade the team's practice, training, meeting and office space.

The Samuels Group won a competitive bidding process to land a $12.4 million contract to manage the project. Samuels in turn hired subcontractors, some of whom also hired additional subcontractors. In all, 10 companies worked on the project, which started in 2011.

In the federal lawsuit filed in August 2012, the Samuels Group claims that some problems started after it hired Guilford Building Systems of North Carolina to provide and install metal wall panels. Guilford hired Florida-based Kingspan Insulated Panels to manufacture them.

The lawsuit says the first batch of panels did not meet the project's specifications, which caused the university to issue a stop-work order and insist that they be removed. The setback prompted the university to later order Samuels to accelerate installation of the panels, which caused the company to "incur additional cost to add labor and equipment to the project," the lawsuit says.

Samuels should not have to pay Guilford and Kingspan since they did not meet their contract, the lawsuit alleges. Lawyers for Guilford and Kingspan have asked a federal judge to put that lawsuit on hold to allow their claims in state court to be decided first.

The state case started in October, when subcontractor Townsend Crane Service LLC of Wellman, Iowa, claimed that it was owed $68,000 for its work. Guilford, Kingspan and Mark Fondell Excavating of Dubuque have since filed claims in the case alleging they are owed $535,000, $286,000 and $703,000, respectively.

They're seeking to be paid out of some $600,000 the university retained to pay claims at the end of the project, a standard practice in the construction industry, and from insurance bonds taken out by Samuels to guarantee the project's completion.

Jeffrey Stone, an attorney for the Samuels Group, said the company had not been served with the state claims and could not respond to them. But he said the allegations in the federal lawsuit make clear why the company has not paid Guilford, Kingspan or Townsend, which worked under Guilford.