County Preparing To Allocate $4.2 Million for Silver Spring Transit Center Lawsuit Costs

Suit targets developers that county believes were negligent in building the structure


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Panoramic photo of the Silver Spring Transit Center via Montgomery County's project website.

Updated - 11:55 a.m. - The Montgomery County Council is scheduled to vote next week on a $4.2 million supplemental appropriation to fund ongoing legal costs associated with the county’s lawsuit over problems with the construction of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center.

County Executive Ike Leggett said in a memo sent to the council in January the lawsuit aims to “recover direct, indirect, and delay costs resulting from required project remediation” at the transit center. The county made repairs to the $140 million bus depot after construction was completed when structural issues were identified by engineering consultants hired by the county. 

The county is aiming to recover about $47 million in cost overruns and about $20 million in damages from the developers of the project, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Foulger Pratt and engineering testing company The Robert B. Balter Co.

Deputy county attorney John Markovs said Wednesday the parties in the case are currently in the discovery process. He said the funds allocated by the county will be used to pay for legal costs through the trial and possibly for any appeals as well.

"We're fighting over everything, there's nothing the parties haven't fought over," Markovs said. "Lots of fighting over costs, expenses, claims and other matters."

The supplemental funds for the legal costs would come from those collected through the county’s recordation tax premium, according to Leggett’s memo. That tax is applied to home sales in the county.

The council raised the tax last year and the revenue from the increase is estimated to total about $200 million over the next six years. At the time, the council said about $125 million of the new revenue would go to school construction projects, while the other $75 million will be used to build affordable housing and other infrastructure projects.

In the complex lawsuit the county alleges the developers failed to adequately identify steel beam shear and torsion issues that may have been causing cement cracks at the center that later had to be fixed. 

However, the development and engineering companies contend the structure was adequately built and remediation was not needed, according to court filings.

Markovs said so far 4.8 million documents have been filed in the case that amount to about 10 million pages. The county attorney office has brought in outside counsel from the Saul Ewing law firm to assist them with the case. He said he's confident the county will win the case.

The County Council held a public hearing Tuesday on the supplemental appropriation during which no one testified and council members did not discuss the proposed expenditure.

In November, county attorney Marc Hansen told The Washington Post the lawsuit was the biggest and costliest that the county has been involved in during his six-year tenure. The county is also hoping to recover its legal costs if it wins the lawsuit.

A status hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the Rockville court and a 30-day jury trial is scheduled to start in May, according to online court records.

Markovs said attorneys plan to discuss trial issues at the status hearing. 

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