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SALEM, OR-The 125,000-sf State Emergency Coordination Facility Armed Forces Reserve Center may open this fall after some additional seismic bracing, but a $4 million lawsuit over the $14-million project will likely drag on for years to come.

The Oregon Military Department, which has purview over the project, fired McCarthy Building Cos., the nation’s largest builder, on July 19, going so far as to have police escort the company’s employees and subcontractors off the site without their computers, tools and equipment.

The OMD claims the St. Louis-based company, among other things, did adequately brace some smaller HVAC ducting and plumbing piping as required by the contract and, when asked to do so at no extra charge, declined, thus prompting its firing.

McCarthy, which promptly filed the aforementioned lawsuit, says the work was not part of the original contract. In addition to claiming wrongful termination, the lawsuit claims that OMD “breached the contract” by firing them unnecessarily “and intentionally interfered … throughout the course of the project” and “constantly made the project atmosphere so acrimonious that (McCarthy) could not keep employees on the project.”

OMD is withholding the final $1-million payment of McCarthy’s $14.3-million contract pending the outcome of the lawsuit. At the first hearing on the matter last week, Marion County Circuit Court Judge orders a third party be hired to copy documents that have been locked up at the work site–one for the state and one for the construction company–and then allow the return of tools and equipment as well.

The project, looking nearly complete, sits at the confluence of State Street and Hawthorne Avenue NE. The so-called State Emergency Coordination Facility Armed Forces Reserve Center will be home to the state Office of Emergency Management, the state police and the Oregon National Guard. The state says it hopes to have the building ready to open this October, six months behind schedule.

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