The settlement negotiations over who’s at fault in the partial collapse of the blacksmith shop in October will resume Friday, March 22, in Janesville.

A previously scheduled mediation session in February was postponed at the last minute because of a personal issue, Redevelopment Authority chair Roger Springman told the RDA at its March 13 meeting.

A fall windstorm knocked out a portion of the century-old building on the riverfront redevelopment site, and the RDA and the demolition contractor, Earth Construction, have been at odds over who should pay for it.

The RDA has been withholding the last $150,000 payment on the $750,000 contract. In November, RDA member Carl Chenoweth explained the RDA contends Earth Construction “failed to maintain the building we told him to maintain.

“We think the issue is the contractor didn’t perform the contract properly to address this problem,” Chenoweth said at the time.

Springman said at that meeting the city’s risk manager, human resources director AJ Gillingham agreed “the contractor did not act with due diligence to keep the building standing” after looking through the contract.

The city had asked Earth Construction to demolish the other buildings on the redevelopment site, including the Highway Trailers building that shared a wall with the blacksmith shop.

Structural engineer Kurtis Straus, whom the RDA had asked to prepare a plan to stabilize the building before the collapse, told the RDA he’d spoken with the man who was demolishing the buildings at the site, Jon Onsgard from Earth Construction. According to Straus’ account of that conversation, Onsgard had assumed the shared wall would come down, which informed Straus’ plan to stabilize the building. An adjacent portion of the blacksmith shop collapsed in that October storm.

Straus presented a roughly $200,000 option to stabilize the building when he assumed the wall would come down, because winds would blow the building up “like a balloon.” But upon learning the wall would remain intact, he came back with an approximately $25,000 plan.

The RDA did not act on either recommendation before part of the building collapsed.

Some involved in the project have discussed a potential “chilling effect” the legal maneuvers could have in the developer community at a time when the RDA is gearing up to engage with developers for the riverfront project.

Springman said in January the RDA is “aware of and sensitive to” that criticism.

“Hopefully the community will be satisfied with the outcome, (and) it’s a win-win as much as it can be without either side giving up too much,” he said.

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