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Trial date set in McKinstry lawsuit

School District wants jury trial to begin sooner

by TERRY SMITH

A jury trial has been scheduled to start almost a year from now in a lawsuit between the Blaine County School District and its energy contractor McKinstry Essention. However, attorneys for the School District have filed a motion in Blaine County 5th District Court requesting that the trial be held “as soon as possible,” preferably in April.

Judge Robert Elgee has scheduled a telephonic status conference for Oct. 22 to consider arguments.

At the request of McKinstry Essention, Elgee in September scheduled the trial to begin Oct. 15, 2013, with a pretrial conference to be held Sept. 16, 2013. The trial is expected to last between 15 and 20 days.

According to court records, neither party has filed a motion requesting that the trial be held outside Blaine County.

McKinstry, headquartered in Seattle and represented by the Boise firm of Banducci Woodward Schwartzman and the Seattle firm of Ahlers & Cressman, filed the lawsuit in May alleging that the district owes it about $7 million.

The School District, represented by the Boise firm of Greener Burke Shoemaker and by the Irvine, Calif., firm of Kring and Chung, filed a counterclaim against McKinstry alleging damages of at least $18.6 million.

Both parties are accusing each other of breach of contract. In addition, the district is accusing McKinstry of fraud, alleging that its representatives misstated the amount of energy that could be saved from work performed. McKinstry has denied the fraud allegation.

The litigation stems from a contract the parties entered into in 2010 for geothermal resource development, retrofits of heating, ventilating and air condition systems and other improvements at eight district schools and facilities.

The School District claims that it only authorized work worth $18.6 million. McKinstry claims that cost overruns brought the value of the work to $25.8 million and that the extra expenses were authorized by district officials.

The work was funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and from proceeds of a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009.


Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com



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