Thursday, March 9, 2006
The scent of chlorine that permeates the air at the Patullo Swim Center in Seaside has a new companion. It’s the scent of litigation.
Ever since the center reopened in 2004 after 18 months of downtime, during which a massive renovation was completed, the pool has been plagued by costly malfunctions that signal either shoddy work, bad planning, or both.
The worst of these failures struck in 2005. The center’s two pools were leaking an inordinate amount of water, causing its monthly water and natural gas bills to spike.
Seaside officials suspected that a big leak at the swim center—which had cost more than $2 million to remodel—was to blame. They were right.
“We ended up having a leak in the drainage system for both of the pools,” says Bjorn Lundegard, the City’s superintendent of public works.
It turned out that drainage pipes, which lead out from under slabs of cement located between the large pool and the control room, weren’t properly sealed and were leaking thousands of gallons of water into the ground. Seaside officials told the contractor responsible for remodeling the pool about the leaks, and gave him the option of making the repairs.
That contractor is Dene Bustichi, a Scotts Valley city councilman who owns Bustichi Construction.
“On the advice of their attorney, [Bustichi Construction] did not want to make the repair,” Lundegard says.
The city of Seaside then hired a lawyer and, subsequently, fixed the problem itself. The pool was shuttered for a few weeks until the leaks were sealed.
Meanwhile, more pool problems were sighted. First, workers discovered additional water leaks in the gutter system and through a conduit for a pool light. “Bustichi Construction had failed to properly seal the gutter system, thereby allowing water to permeate through the concrete gutter,” read a report prepared by Lundegard and delivered to the City Council earlier this year.
And that wasn’t the end of it. Floor tiles started to break loose in the men’s and women’s locker rooms. Piping in the mechanical room wasn’t up to code. And the furnace for the smaller pool was installed in a way that doesn’t allow space for maintenance work.
All in all, Seaside has spent nearly $52,000 in repairs and labor costs to fix the swim center. Although the $2 million remodel didn’t cost Seaside taxpayers a dime—it was paid for with state and federal grants—the City has used redevelopment money to patch up the swim center. Officials are hoping that they will eventually recoup these costs from Bustichi.
In February, the Seaside City Council authored an inspection of the entire swim center to determine any other potential shortcomings. The report is due back in a few weeks.
Bustichi says he thinks a judge will end up determining liability.
“It’s not entirely clear who’s at fault,” says Bustichi, whose company is based in Scotts Valley. “Right now, we’re in dispute over what [repairs] are our responsibility and what items are the responsibility of the City.
“The City will undoubtedly seek their cost for doing the repair work, and we will either dispute [the costs] or agree.”
Bustichi says he offered to do the repair work, but there were strings attached. If it comes to light that his company wasn’t responsible for the swim center malfunctions, Bustichi wants Seaside to reimburse him.
“That’s something the City declined to allow,” he says.
AVERAGE AGE, IN YEARS, OF THE POPULATION OF THE MONTEREY PENINSULA, OVER FIVE YEARS OLDER THAN THE AVERAGE AGE FOR THAT OF MONTEREY COUNTY AS A WHOLE. —Source: Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau.