Insight News

Feb 11th

Contractor denies subpar workmanship at Minnesota African American Museum

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maamRecently Insight News published an article chronicling the tribulations of the Minnesota African American Museum (MAAM) and its dispute with the contractor hired to rehab its main building at 1700 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis.

In the previous article (Nov. 25 – Dec. 1) the construction firm that was hired as the lead contractor was not identified because the firm was not given adequate time to reply to the allegations that it walked off the job with work nowhere near completion. Now Dave Foley, vice president of Minneapolis operations for Knutson Construction, has responded and he does not dispute Knutson and its subcontractors did in fact walk off the project. But he said they walked for good cause.

"Knutson was not paid," said Foley. "We're owed a significant amount."

Foley said the amount owed is near $800,000. The situation is so bad that according to Foley one of the subcontractors has begun the process to get the property foreclosed.

"I honestly can't tell you why they didn't pay us," said Foley, who denied allegations of sub-par workmanship. "You have to ask them why they didn't pay us. We had a contract for far more than $800,000, so the project wasn't over budget. We're just wanting to get paid. Knutson is not a bank. We had subcontractors on the job and they need to get paid."

Roxanne Givens, founder of the Minnesota African American Museum, said Foley, while not lying, is not telling the whole story.

"What they're leaving out is that they have been paid in excess of $700,000 and they haven't proven the $800,000 that's owed," said Givens. "And the $700,000; what did they do with that money?"

Givens said her major issue with the contractors walking off the job is the manner in which they left the property.

"When they walked off, (water) pipes were left uncapped and sheetrock was placed over them so when we turned on the water it flooded and holes were left uncovered allowing rodents to come in," said Givens. "In the (construction) industry that's called leaving a property vulnerable. They're well within their right to walk off a project, but what they can't do is leave a property vulnerable. They didn't take care of business in the manner in which they should have. With the neglect and the vulnerability of the property, it would be very difficult to convince our board that a balance of $800,000 remains."

According to givens, evidence of Knutson's mismanagement of the project can be seen on the outside of the building. The property that is to house the MAAM is on the national registry of historic building and no additions can be made to the property, as stated in guidelines by the U.S. Department of Interior. Givens said Knutson knew this, yet added an electrical box and line and billed MAAM for the work – work that was in violation of the historic registry designation.

Givens said MAAM is in the process of soliciting bids from other contractors to get the building up to code and visitor ready, but there is no timeline for work completion or an anticipated opening of the museum space.

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