County to spend $1 million more on lawsuits at The Ranch

Larimer County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to allocate an additional $1 million from the general fund to support two lawsuits over metal buildings at The Ranch, the county fairgrounds complex in Loveland.

The county has already spent $1.7 million pursuing the suits. One is a construction defect claim against several companies involved in design and construction of the pre-engineered buildings.

The other suit is against the county’s insurance company, Travelers, which paid $7 million in 2010 to replace the First National Bank Exhibition Hall after its roof caved in under heavy snow in 2006. However, the insurer denied the county’s claim that four similar buildings were also structurally defective and should be replaced. Replacing the other metal buildings could cost about $20 million.

The suit against Travelers is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 9, but is currently in settlement talks. County Attorney George Hass briefed the commissioners on the status of those talks in an executive session at Tuesday’s meeting.

Should either of the suits be settled out of court, the county would not need to spend the entire $1 million, according to Public Works Director Marc Engemon. However, the allocation is enough to cover litigation costs through 2012.

Of the money already spent by the county, $500,000 paid for a load test on the collapsed roof that Commissioner Steve Johnson said proved that the metal buildings did not meet construction specifications and “county taxpayers did not get what they paid for.” He said the suits should go forward to protect the county’s investment in The Ranch.

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