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ArlingtonDispute over park-construction payments may head to court

Dispute over park-construction payments may head to court

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It looks like a raging dispute over payment for a now-completed major upgrade to Arlington’s Benjamin Banneker Park will be headed to court.

Arlington County Board members on July 19 rejected a claim from McDonnell Landscape Inc., seeking reimbursement for costs totaling just under $995,000 for work it says was done as part of its contract to upgrade the park but it has not received.

County Manager Mark Schwartz earlier had offered to settle the matter for $272,000, an attorney for the firm said, but that was turned down.

The appeal to the County Board was required under the county government’s dispute-resolution language for contractors. Laurence Schor, an attorney for the firm, said the next likely step was a courtroom.

The final vote to reject the appeal was 5-0 and came after a closed-door session with board members, staff and the county attorney. Schwartz was not called upon by board members to defend his decisions during the public portion of the meeting. Any comments would have become part of the public record and, potentially, usable during any future legal proceeding.

Schor – of the D.C.-based Asmar Schor & McKenna, which specializes in construction law, said the county manager’s “low and unacceptable offers” amounted to the “opposite of good faith and fair dealing.” He laid the extra costs incurred by McDonnell Landscape on the project at the foot of change orders imposed during the two-year construction period by county staff.

“McDonnell has done an admirable job,” Schor told board members. “This is a big park, covering a lot of territory.”

County Board members in September 2019 awarded the firm a contract worth up to $2.6 million for major renovations to the 12.5-acre park in the East Falls Church area.

The contract covered replacement of an athletic field, playground, picnic area and parking lot, plus improvements to walkways, landscaping, signage, trails and stormwater-management. Renovation of the dog park also was part of the project.

The work is now complete, even as the fallout rolls on.

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