Environmental and geotechnical engineer Golder Associates says it didn’t need an approved change order for extra work on a Wichita, Ka., school project and is suing in state court in Wichita for $265,000. The school district says that it won’t pay.

In a complaint filed with the District Court of Kansas last month, Golder Associates accuses Unified School District 259 of the Wichita Public Schools of breach of contract for refusing to pay for extra work on a project involving groundwater remediation of volatile organic compounds at the district’s Schools Service Center.

The work was being performed under a consent order with the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment.

Golder, which is based in Mississauga, Ont., and has 8,000 employees, claims that the district’s representative refused to pay invoices because new charges were not approved in change orders, which Golder alleges were unnecessary.

According to Golder’s complaint, a change order for the increased costs involving new dimensions for an iron barrier and ground contamination monitoring sites added by the Kansas Department of Health “was not affected by the parties due to the need to maintain deadlines and the evolving nature of” the project.

Golder also claims that in communicating with the district’s contract signatory and director of environmental services, the parties voided the contract requirement for a change order because no one demanded that work be stopped until a change order could be approved.

“The Wichita Public Schools USD259 will file an answer to Golder Associates’ allegations within the next two weeks, denying allegations in the complaint and outlining the factual basis for the district’s refusal to spend taxpayer funds beyond that which was agreed to in the contract between the two parties,” writes Wendy Johnson, director of marketing and communications for Wichita Public Schools, in an emailed statement.

The project at issue involves construction of a permeable reactive barrier composed of a mixture of sand and zero-valent granular iron installed […] to prevent migration of the contaminated groundwater to adjacent property. That work was originally intended to cost $410,000 of the 2010 estimated total cost of the project, $684,400. When the subcontract for the iron barrier was awarded in 2012, its cost rose to $571,386.20.

“All parties understood the initial design was based upon engineer’s estimates, not contractor bids, and its parameters would evolve as the project progressed and as the KDHE weighed in with its requirements,” writes Mark Ayesh, a Wichita-based attorney for Golder.

Work on the project began in April 2012 and ended that June, according to the complaint. Golder claims that evidence attached to its complaint shows that officials submitted a change-order request in May and that the school district rejected the complaint in July because it was “submitted after substantial completion of the project.”

According to Ayesh, “Golder attempted over a period of one year to reach a business solution with USD 259 to avoid expensive and protracted litigation.  USD 259 was polarized and refused to participate in any mediation effort.”