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Parties ask for delay in multi-million dollar pier lawsuit

WAVELAND — The parties involved in a multi-million dollar lawsuit over the pier in Waveland have asked a judge to temporarily stop proceedings until state officials can review new briefs filed in the case.

The Sea Coast Echo reports officials with Digital Engineering and CDM Smith Inc. want to give the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency time to look at its documents that contend the pier is built to requirements and therefore eligible for FEMA funding.

In April, the City of Waveland sued the contractors for their work on the $3.7 million Garfield Ladner Memorial Pier. Waveland claims the pier is not elevated to required levels, making the city ineligible for reimbursement by FEMA.

During Hurricane Isaac, the pier was heavily damaged. High water and wind cracked sidewalks, stripped hand rails and eroded parts of the foundation.

Mayor David Garcia says the pier structures over the water are uninsurable, and the city is determining what public assistance may be available for repairs. He said the insured pier buildings fared well but received some damage.

The city has filed an insurance claim.

The suit names CDM Smith, Digital Engineering, Malouf Construction, and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company as defendants and seeks return of the associated costs of the project and unspecified other damages.

CDM Smith, headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., contracted with Waveland in 2006 for $330,000 to design and administer reconstruction of the pier, which was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. The work provided for a bait shop and restroom facility to be constructed on the pier. Those buildings were required to comply with the best available elevation data from FEMA, the initial suit says.

At the time, Waveland ordinance required a structure to be at least 17 feet high and FEMA maps showed a base flood elevation of 28 feet for the site of the pier, according to court documents.

FEMA later changed the elevation to 25 feet, and, in 2008, Waveland adopted an ordinance that required the elevation to be one foot over FEMA’s requirement.

CDM filed a letter in August 2008 stating the buildings would require a variance from base flood elevation. The company allegedly implied the variance would still allow for federal reimbursement from FEMA, court documents say. Despite failing to comply with both city ordinance and federal regulation, the project was sent out for bid in January 2009.

A $3.7 million construction contract was awarded to Malouf Construction, of Sidon, Miss., in February and construction began two months later.

In September 2009, Waveland amended the contract with CDM to comply with floodplain requirements. The additional design services cost $92,000.

The suit alleges that the city approved substantial completion of the pier project in April 2010 “based on the misrepresentations of CDM, Digital, and Malouf.” It furthers says the three companies performed work “negligently, grossly negligently, and with reckless disregard for Waveland’s rights.”

Waveland claims no corrective work has been done.


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