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HCC seeks damages from architect, construction company

Haywood Community College’s new Creative Arts Building was supposed to be a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly facility.

Instead, according to allegations made in a complex, far-ranging lawsuit filed by HCC Oct. 28, it’s leaky, creaky and becoming a multi-million dollar boondoggle. 

Voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax in 2008 intended to fund improvements at HCC; in 2010 Raleigh-based architectural firm Innovative Design was named as architect for the project in part because of company president Mike Nicklas’ reputation as a proponent of sustainable design — something the community college’s then-president Rose Johnson also supported. 

Construction began in spring 2011 after concerns over the project’s $8.3 million price tag were allayed. Haywood County Commissioners voted 4-1 to pursue an expensive LEED certification for the building that was supposed to pay for itself in energy savings, with Commissioner Kevin Ensley the lone objector. 

The project wound up being over budget and past deadline, but opened in January 2014. Problems then began appearing almost immediately. 

According to the lawsuit, the building’s flooring is coming apart, water reuse systems don’t work, lights rapidly burn out, electronic sensors fail and the foundation of the building itself is cracked.

HCC’s lawsuit blames Ohio-based general contractor Miles McClellan Construction Company, Carolina Floor System Inc., Minn.-based Maxxon Corporation and its subsidiary Maxxon Southeast Inc., as well as Innovative Designs and its president Mike Nicklas. 

The suit also targets project insurers Travelers and Contractors Bonding and Insurance Company. 

The bulk of the allegations, however, seem to concern Miles McClellan Construction. HCC makes six claims for relief as to Miles in the lawsuit, alleging among other things that the contractor breached its contract with HCC by failing to construct a defect-free building, failed to adequately supervise subcontractors and did not honor expressed warranties but instead devised a “scheme” with two other defendants — Carolina Floor System and Maxxon — to downplay problems so they’d still get paid for the job. 

As of press time, Niklas hadn’t returned calls seeking comment. President of HCC Dr. Barbara Parker referred all questions to HCC attorney Pat Smathers, who was unavailable for comment. 

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