The construction company involved in a controversial and stalled project to build a navigation center to manage homelessness in Anchorage is suing the city for an alleged breach of contract and failing to deal in good faith.
The lawsuit was filed in Anchorage Superior Court on Wednesday.
Roger Hickel Contracting Inc. says it is owed more than $2.4 million for work it did on the proposed navigation center site near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore roads in East Anchorage. The firm is asking for damages and attorneys fees to be determined at trial.
The civil suit is the latest development in a protracted fight over the shelter, a concept pursued by Mayor Dave Bronson. Bronson initially proposed a sprung tent structure capable of sleeping a thousand people and connecting them on-site to services and housing resources. That vision was gradually whittled down by the Assembly and opponents of the plan who said putting that many people at one low-barrier shelter site would have enormous consequences on the surrounding neighborhoods and went against best practices for transitioning people out of homelessness.
The project went off the rails last fall after it emerged the Bronson administration had quietly authorized Hickel Contracting to move forward with millions of dollars in work that had not been approved by the Assembly and violated public procurement rules. Construction ground to a halt, and the Assembly later took a number of legislative steps to further stop it from moving forward, including passing a measure explicitly barring the mayor from paying a settlement without Assembly approval after the Bronson administration said in February it planned to settle with Hickel for $2.5 million. The mayor said as a result of the Assembly’s legislation, he is “unable to pay the claim” to the firm.
Roger Hickel Contracting says those factors are “unrelated to RHC performance or its cost accounting,” and noted that the Boutet Company, a third party hired by the municipality to audit the contractor’s work and costs, found Hickel’s accounting “complete and accurate, and the costs are reasonable for this type and scale of construction.”
The company says that work involved substantial improvements to the parcel, “including but not limited to clearing the area and preparing it for construction, creating connections for underground utilities, and partially constructing the building foundation.”
Hans Rodvik, a spokesman for Bronson, said the administration is unable to comment on pending litigation.
“Assembly leadership just received the notice, and the Assembly has not yet begun considering this lawsuit in a meaningful way,” Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant said in response to the lawsuit.
The municipality has 20 days to file a response.
The lawsuit was first reported by the website The Alaska Current.
This story has been updated with a response from the Bronson administration.