- THE MAGAZINE
ROMEO, Mich. -- The litigation and quarreling escalated in the black mold controversy at one of Romeo School District's primary school buildings as Statewide Disaster Restoration Inc., a remediation contracting firm hired to clean up mold and other contaminants at Romeo's Washington Elementary School, has sued.
Statewide is seeking $522,600 plus court costs and attorney fees. The dispute centers on a school cleanup contract, awarded in August and completed in October that grew in scope and in price as it went along. Statewide filed the lawsuit against the district Jan. 25.
Washington Elementary reopened to students in grades 3-5 this week after months of closure to treat the mold problem. Officials and documents indicate Statewide began by quoting an estimate to the school board, but ended with a larger job and higher price tag.
"The entire amount they invoiced to us is in great dispute," said Kenneth Monicatti, vice president of Romeo schools' Board of Education. "We feel we were overbilled. I'm just one board member, but as a board I don't think we plan to just go along with it."
Monicatti said the Statewide cleanup job grew in size, becoming more work and more money than the board ever approved. Attorney Frederick Elias of West Bloomfield, who represents the company in the case, could not be reached for comment.
Workers uncovered toxic mold this summer during a routine job to replace ceiling tiles in the school. The board voted in August to close the school for cleanup purposes, and students were farmed out to other district elementary schools and a part of Romeo High School.
District officials have already squabbled over the costs billed by Kalamazoo-based Wonder Makers Environmental Inc., which conducted environmental testing to find potential contamination and prompted the district to hire Statewide for the cleanup.
District executive finance director Paul Soma has warned Romeo Schools may face a $1.7 million budget deficit next school year, partly because of flat student enrollment and the mold cleanup costs.
Romeo Community Schools is already facing lawsuits from parent Garth Allen of Washington Township about the mold, and contractor Dennis Schutte sued for roughly $50,000, claiming the district never paid him for the tile replacement job, which found the mold.
The case will go to Macomb County Circuit Judge Pat M. Donofrio.