Columbia taxpayers would have saved about $850,000 if City Hall had settled a contract dispute six years ago with a Columbia architectural and engineering firm.
That’s the difference between the $2.4 million a jury and judge awarded Stevens & Wilkinson and the $1.5 million the firm said in March 2009 it would accept in disputed money over the city’s hiring of the firm for a hotel/convention center project.
On Tuesday, Judge Allison Lee decided Stevens & Wilkinson is entitled to some $827,000 in interest dating to the settlement offer. That sum is on top of the $1.6 million a jury awarded the firm in July after a trial. Stevens & Wilkinson wanted $2.9 million in interest.
Altogether, taxpayers face a $2,429,634 bill because of the decade-long fight with the firm the city hired then discarded. Ultimately, the hotel and convention center were built separately in the Vista using other firms.
City Council has decided to appeal the July 30 jury decision, said Teresa Knox, the city’s staff attorney.
Reece Williams, the Columbia lawyer the city hired to defend the lawsuit, said the city did not accept a settlement because, “I seriously believed that we could win the case, and that was my advice to council.”
Lee, citing a legal rule that governs a party who rejects a settlement then loses the case at trial, decided the city owes Stevens & Wilkinson $826,719 in interest at a rate of 8 percent of the $1,602,915 jury award. She backdated the interest to when the firm offered to settle for $1,581,486.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.