Brookfield Local schools and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission have sued Timmerman Geotechnical Group Inc. of Akron over the heaving issues in the central part of the middle school.
Timmerman Geotechnical is the registered trade name of GPD Group of Akron, according to the Ohio Department of State. Timmerman’s owner, David Timmerman, died in 2019. A 2017 GPD Facebook post said Timmerman Geotechnical had “joined our team.”
A message left with GPD Group Oct. 28 was not returned.
The suit filed Sept. 25 says Timmerman Geotechnical conducted a “preliminary subsurface investigation” of the property on which the school building was built, and undertook remedial work in 2013 when the school first tried to fix the problem.
The plaintiffs said they cannot locate a copy of the first contract they entered with Timmerman for the subsurface investigation, but provided a copy of Timmerman’s report dated Sept. 28, 2007. The report, signed by David Timmerman and Delbert Channels, now GPD’s director of geotechnical services, noted the presence of shale, some of which was weathered and “may ‘soften’ when exposed to water. As such, steps should be taken to protect any exposed shale.”
The report gave recommendations on how to protect the shale, as well as on backfilling, compaction and groundwater control. The report also notes that it is preliminary, based on “the limited number and wide spacing of the test borings,” and that “specific design and construction recommendations cannot be presented at this time.”
A Feb. 13, 2013, report from Timmerman Geotechnical, signed by Channels, notes that swell tests on the shale were performed in 2009 and that the tests “indicated a swell potential of less than 1 percent, which is considered acceptable.”
However, following the polishing of the concrete floor in January 2011, “some heave related problems were noticed, and portions of the floor were ground down with the most severe cut chiseled and re-topped.”
The school opened in the fall of 2011.
Timmerman was brought back in 2013 after the middle school hallway had lifted, walls had cracked, and problems were found with cafeteria columns.
Timmerman opined that the heaving in the hallway was caused by subsurface water rewetting shale that had dried out. The most likely source of water was from pea gravel under a sanitary sewer line connected to the restrooms, which also are in the center of the middle school and have been damaged. Timmerman recommended that the pea gravel be removed to a distance of three feet from the building and replaced with clay that was supposed to prevent water from re-entering the building.
The lawsuit alleges Timmerman breached its contract, its expressed and implied warranties and standard of care.
Among the allegations: Timmerman failed to “properly identify issues that could develop as a result of building on shale material”; “properly remediate the issues that developed due to the presence of shale material”; and “identify at the time of the remedial work that additional issues may or would develop because of the shale expansion.”
The suit seeks only monetary damages.
The school district and OFCC hired a contractor over the summer to dig out the raised sections of the middle school floor and pour new concrete, a temporary measure to eliminate trip hazards, and are working with a consultant to design what they hope will be a permanent fix to the problem.
UPDATE: Timmerman answered the suit Oct. 28 denying the allegations and asking that it be dismissed. It also filed a motion for summary judgement to remove OFCC from the suit, arguing it never had a contract with OFCC.