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Insurance company to pay for quarter of Dome repair

The city's insurance company will pay a quarter of the cost to repair sinking columns at the Florida Suncoast Dome, leaving the city with about $450,000 in repair bills. Cigna Property and Casualty Cos., which holds a builders risk policy on the Dome, has refused to pay certain costs associated with the sinking columns, according to a letter dated May 29.

The insurance company is refusing to pay for engineering work and a procedure called "jet-grouting" that stabilized the soil near some of the Dome columns, said Mirelle James, assistant city attorney.

City officials may further pursue the matter with its insurance company, and may go after contractors city officials believe may have done faulty work.

The problem at the Dome was first detected in January 1990. Upon investigation, engineers learned that certain columns were settling more than others. The culprit, the city determined, was a pocket of organic material 30 feet below the surface and just outside the southeast section of the Dome.

City officials originally estimated repairs would cost $300,000, half the current estimate. Officials said they underestimated the amount of engineering needed for the project and some costs weren't included in the original estimate.

James said she believes the city is entitled to more than the insurance company is willing to pay. She also said the city may try to recover some of the repair costs from several contractors who worked on the Dome.

The city is withholding partial payment from at least one contractor, James said. Reached at home, James could not say how much was withheld and from whom. She referred the question to Bill Hargett Jr., deputy city manager for public works, who could not be reached for comment.

"I don't think the city is at fault here," James said.

If the city ends up having to pay the $450,000, the money may come from a stadium construction account, said John Habgood, city administrator for internal services.

"There are still dollars that haven't been spent," Habgood said. "I would assume there is money set aside there for that issue. The bottom line is that I'd have to look into it further."

The insurance company is refusing to pay for jet-grouting, a procedure in which workers injected a cement mixture into the earth near four footings outside the Dome's right-center field wall. The insurance company also is refusing to pay engineering costs and bills for soil testing.

The company cited paragraphs in its policy that exclude the cost of making good an error or deficiency in design.

The company has agreed to pay to fix damage from the uneven settling, such as cracks in the walls and buckling of the metal bracing that is part of the roof system. Those repairs, which have not been done yet, are estimated to cost between $100,000 and $200,000, James said.