Behind the gleaming glass façade of LaSalle’s new civic centre lies a tangled mess of construction liens and lawsuits still making its way through the courts three and a half years after the building opened to the public.
Battling in the civil courts are Piroli Construction, the general contractor on the $13.8-million project, and the Town of LaSalle, as well as several subcontractors who claim they were never paid for work they completed.
Tuesday, a Superior Court judge ordered that seven separate lawsuits be dealt with together when and if they ever go to trial. They include Piroli’s $319,000 claim against the town, the town’s counterclaim of $75,000 against Piroli for breach of contract and six construction liens totalling $613,604 naming both Piroli and the town.
According to court documents filed Tuesday, both Piroli and the municipality agree all the cases are intertwined and should be heard together.
Piroli Construction was awarded the contract to build the civic centre complex on Malden Road in October 2012. Piroli submitted the lowest of 10 bids received by the town for the project.
The new town hall complex opened for business on Aug. 18, 2014, eight months late. The building wasn’t finished and contractors were on site continuing to work even after the town took occupancy of the building. Piroli blamed fierce winter weather and scheduling problems with sub-trades for the project running behind schedule.
Due to the delay, a clause in the construction contact kicked in making Piroli responsible for paying lease costs of $15,000 to $20,000 a month for temporary offices the town set up at Windsor Crossing outlet mall.
Sub-contractors began registering liens against the project in 2014, filing claims against Piroli and the town in Superior Court.
With the number of claims against the general contractor mounting, Piroli filed a lawsuit against the town in March 2016.
Piroli claims the town withheld payment despite the general contractor fulfilling its obligations under the contract. “The plaintiff denies that its work was completed in a deficient manner,” Piroli says in its statement of claim filed with the court.
In its statement of defence, the town says Piroli is not entitled to any more money because it never finished work or corrected problems. Those deficiencies are outlined in the town’s lawsuit as “water feature deficiencies” and “interior and exterior deficiencies.”
The town claims it did not hold back enough money to cover the cost of completing the project. “The defendant claims that the funds being held back from the Plaintiff under this contract are insufficient to cover the costs of remedying all of the outstanding deficiencies.”
None of the claims contained in either side’s documents have been tested yet in court. A trial date has yet to be set.
In an interview Tuesday, Piroli’s lawyer declined to comment. Myron Shulgan said it would be inappropriate to talk about the case while it is before the courts.
LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya Tuesday referred questions to chief administrative officer Kevin Miller who did not return phone calls.
This week’s motion to have all the cases tried together is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle.
Last month, Piroli lost a case before the Ontario Court of Appeal involving Berkley Insurance Company over construction bonds for the LaSalle civic centre.
Berkley agreed to post bonds to cover nearly $973,000 in construction liens claims by eight subcontractors. Piroli was supposed to direct the Town of LaSalle to pay Piroli’s lawyers $486,000 — $191,000 of which was to be forwarded to Berkley. The balance was to be held in trust should Berkley be called upon to make payment of the construction lien bonds.
Piroli got the money from the town, but instead used it to pay subcontractors. Last year in Superior Court, Berkley won an injunction ordering Piroli to honour the original agreement. The order gives Berkley priority over unsecured creditors in the case of bankruptcy.
Piroli was also ordered to pay $12,000 for Berkley’s legal bills.
Piroli appealed the decision. The Ontario Court of Appeal last month dismissed his case. The general contractor must pay Berkley’s legal fees of $7,500 for the appeal.