Encinitas Community Park subcontracer says it’s owed money


F.J. Willert Contracting Company, a subcontractor during Encinitas Community Park construction, filed a lawsuit earlier this year saying it is owed $529,856 by park contractor USS Cal Builders.

When reached this week, city officials said the dispute is between the two companies and didn’t hold up park construction.

USS Cal Builders has, in turn, sued F.J. Willert for allegedly failing to complete grading work at the 44-acre community park, which debuted to the public in January after being under construction for more than two years.

F.J. Willert entered into a $1,058,500 contract with USS Cal Builders in September 2012 to perform grading and excavation services for a softball field, parking lots and more at the park.

The subcontractor later agreed to take on additional work in the form of “change orders,” bringing the contract total to $1,877,759, states the subcontractor’s complaint. It goes on to say that USS Cal Builders only paid $1,347,903.

Stephanie Kellar, the city’s project engineer for the community park, said the matter didn’t play a role in the delay of the community park’s opening.

The community park, at 425 Santa Fe Drive, was originally slated to debut spring 2014. But the city waited for USS Cal Builders to finish construction and for the grass to mature so it could withstand heavy foot traffic, pushing back the opening to last January.

It’s estimated the city will pay USS Cal Builders roughly $17 million for community park construction, and F.J. Willert is seeking the $529,856 from this pot of money.

Last July, F.J. Willert served the city with a stop payment notice so that funds would be set aside for money allegedly owed.

In theory, USS Cal Builders could request additional money from the city to pay F.J. Willert, but that’s not on the table right now, according to Kellar.

USS Cal Builders alleges in its cross-complaint that F.J. Willert failed to: complete grading work along the park’s north entrance, place soil at park soccer fields and perform timely work in some instances, which held up some installations and landscaping. The contractor is seeking $70,000 in damages.

A counter-complaint from the subcontractor states that “any failure to perform these obligations” is due to USS Cal Builders’ “breach of its own duties.”

Adam Meyers, an attorney representing USS Cal Builders, said the parties hope to resolve the matter “without getting into prolonged litigation.”

“USS Cal and F.J. Willert still have an ongoing business relationship,” Meyers said. “Just because of this particular issue … it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not going to work with each other anymore.”

Meyers also stated $529,856 might seem like a lot of money, though excavation contractors typically deal in large sums since the work is a substantial part of construction.

“In the scheme of things, it’s something that should be resolvable at some point,” Meyers said.

Attorneys representing F.J. Willert did not respond to a request for comment.

Neal Meyers, an attorney representing the city, said the city is named in the complaint, because it controls the park construction funds. The dispute is between the contractor and subcontractor, he stated.