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Pinellas County files suit against companies who built Public Safety Complex

The Pinellas County Public Safety Complex opened in 2014. It is a Category 5-rated facility that houses the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Emergency Operations Center, the 911 dispatch center and Emergency Medical Services. The county filed a lawsuit this month against the contractors who built the complex. ourtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
The Pinellas County Public Safety Complex opened in 2014. It is a Category 5-rated facility that houses the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Emergency Operations Center, the 911 dispatch center and Emergency Medical Services. The county filed a lawsuit this month against the contractors who built the complex. ourtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
Published Jul. 3, 2018

CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Public Safety Complex was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, but officials now say the $81 million fortress has water leaks and cracked walls.

The county filed a lawsuit this month against Harvard Jolly, the St. Petersburg-based design firm and three other contractors who helped build the four-year-old complex, Lendlease Construction, PTAC Consulting Engineers and engineer William Lovell, Jr.

In August, the county notified Harvard Jolly about water leaks on the exterior wall of the main building, according to the lawsuit.

The leaks and cracks led to damaged interior fixtures and prevented the electronic-locking devices from working on doors. The water leaked through exterior doors and windows and caused premature deterioration of the exterior doors and frames, the lawsuit stated.

The county accused Harvard Jolly of negligently designing the building and failing to supervise the construction. Harvard Jolly blamed the problems on other contractors, according to a court filing.

The firm said it will continue to work alongside Pinellas County to help understand and resolve the concerns. Seeking a satisfactory outcome for the county is the highest priority, president Ward Friszolowski wrote in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

"We are confident that as the facts unfold in this case, it will be clear that there were no problems with Harvard Jolly's design of the building," the statement said. "Quite simply, the issues with the building were not related to our work. Our design documents were fully code compliant and designed in accordance with all professional and industry standards.

The campus, conceived years ago following the 2004 hurricane season, opened in 2014. It houses the Sheriff's Office, the Emergency Operations Center, Emergency Medical Services and the 911 dispatch center.

The command center's first real test came during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Officials said it sheltered 200 public employees who coordinated storm efforts under one roof over 10 days. Top leaders praised the center because it allowed officials to coordinate plans under one roof.

The county is seeking at least $15,000 in damages.

Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.