Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, November 30, 2012
Stage being set for lawsuit resolution

The Capital Bank Amphitheater at Founders Park has been in use since November 2006, hosting a bevy of concerts and community celebrations.

But even though the facility has long since become a staple of Islamorada's cultural life, the village remains embroiled in a lawsuit over the facility that is about to turn seven years old.

The suit, filed by Intercoastal Contracting in January 2010, harkens back to what almost seems like the village's ancient past, when the amphitheater was a source of lingering controversy in Islamorada.

The project, which was originally budgeted for $250,000 in 2001, was ultimately built for just under a $1 million. But not before the village had halted work for 20 months in 2004 and 2005 and brought on the nonprofit Islamorada Community Entertainment to manage the project to completion.

In between, contractor Intercoastal, taking advantage of the long work stoppage, had dropped out of the project amid continuous squabbling with the town over the workability of the amphitheater design drawn by architect Bob Brown.

The final contractor, C E Construction of Tavernier, did eventually use Brown's drawings to complete the amphitheater. But by then Intercoastal had already sued the village, alleging that the town failed to provide complete and working plans for the project.

The company asked that Islamorada be made to pay for expenses, lost time and other damages. Intercoastal also named Brown and engineer Donald Hodgetts in the lawsuit.

The suit has lingered on even as the village has made strides in reducing its legal caseload over the past year. Seventeen lawsuits involving the village were closed during the 2011-12 fiscal year, either by settlement, dismissal or after trial, according to a report by village attorney Nina Boniske. Of the eight cases that remain active, the amphitheater suit is the longest standing.

In a recent interview last week, Boniske said the case has been slowed, in part, by serious health problems that have felled longtime Intercoastal attorney Michael Spring.

But she said another problem is that the village has had to dedicate significant time and effort in bringing Brown's insurance company, Great American, to the table after the company cut a deal on the side with the architect.

Great American paid Brown $150,000 to be released as his insurance carrier, the village contends in court pleadings, leaving the architect without coverage as the case continues.

The village has countersued Great American.

"As the defendants, we don't control the case," Boniske said of its slow pace.

Still, there is optimism that the case could move toward resolution soon.

A new attorney, David Swimmer, has been handling Intercoastal's representation in place of Spring for the past several months. He said that when he took over the case he urged all the parties to step back and give mediation a chance.

A session has since been scheduled for Jan. 15.

"It is going to mediation and there is a fairly decent chance of it being resolved at mediation," Swimmer said.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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