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Author Topic: Erie, Pennsylvania Cruise Terminal  (Read 1268 times)
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Jeff Thoreson
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« on: September 07, 2005, 07:04:36 am »

Also from today's Erie Times-News:

Fixing port wall could take years

When the Cruise Ship and Ferry Boat Terminal was readying to open in 2002, officials were abuzz with the effect the building would have on Erie's tourism business.

"Erie as a port of call can make a tremendous impact on industry and business," John Oliver, executive director of the Erie Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said in June 2002.

But now, three summers later, cruise-boat passengers still have never used the terminal.

The building is locked up much of the time, used only by the U.S. Border Patrol as headquarters.

And Port Authority officials have stopped talking of cruise ships using the terminal next summer.

And the summer after that?

"I have no idea," said Ray Schreckengost, the executive director of the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority.

The problem is not the $4.7 million building.

The issue is the dock wall, which tore away from its moorings in 2003.

The Port Authority went to court Friday to get it fixed.

Port Authority lawyer Tim Sennett filed a lawsuit against Urban Engineers of Erie Inc. and Chivers Construction Co. --the wall's designer and engineer and its builder respectively --accusing them of breach of contract and negligence.

The complaint says Urban failed to design the pier wall and prepare the plans and specifications in accordance with accepted engineering principles. It said it breached its contract to review, inspect and test the plans and site and project. The lawsuit claims Chivers failed to build the wall in "a workmanlike manner" in accordance with the specifications and plans. It blames both companies for the wall's faulty anchors.

The lawsuit came only after negotiations with Urban Engineers and Chivers Construction fell apart.

"We were hoping the pressure of going to court would prompt them to fix them, but that hasn't happened," Schreckengost said.

In past interviews, Schreckengost had said the wall was just months away from being fixed.

Most recently -- six months ago -- Schreckengost said he expected the wall would be repaired and ready for cruise boats by the end of this summer.

Sennett, Schreckengost and Port Authority Board President Don Inderlied now say the dock wall likely won't be rebuilt until the court case is resolved, meaning the cruise-boat terminal could be empty for years to come.

"We don't have the money to fix it," Inderlied said. "The issue now is a significant funding issue. We absolutely want to move forward, but we have to find the funding."

Originally, Urban Engineers and Chivers had agreed to do the work on the wall for $1.2 million.

Now, costs for materials and labor have risen. Construction costs could top $2.5 million, Schreckengost said.

The complaint asks for damages for both reconstruction of the wall and for compensation for lost business, Sennett said. The complaint does not specify a damage amount. But Sennett has told the board he's hoping for a large settlement.

"What was a project that could be settled for $1.2 million is now a lawsuit that can't be settled for less than $2 million," he said.

Brian Ashbaugh, a Pittsburgh lawyer representing Chivers in the case, said he couldn't discuss the lawsuit.

But, he said, there is a good chance that Chivers will file a countersuit against the Port Authority. He would not elaborate on the grounds for a lawsuit against the Port Authority.

Paul Susko, the lawyer representing Urban Engineers, said he could not comment on the case.

Meanwhile, the building --distinctive because of its high-profile location and distinctive architecture -- sits mostly empty. Schreckengost can see the building from his office window.

"I'm as upset now as I was the day the wall fell down," he said. "I want to see ships there."
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