Lake County, Rohl head to trial

By Adelle Whitefoot

Lake County and Rohl Networks, LP will head to trial Monday in Lake County over a lawsuit regarding the construction of Lake Connections, the county’s broadband network.

Rohl, of Jupiter, Fla., was the main contractor during the construction of the broadband network, Lake Connections, from 2012 to 2015.The lawsuit also names Compass Consultants, Inc. — the company retained by the county to provide engineering services in the construction of the network — and filed a counterclaim after being named a defendant in Rohl’s breach of contract lawsuit against the county. Compass settled with Lake County earlier this year.

According to the complaint filed by Rohl, Lake County is accused of several failings during the course of the project.Rohl claims the county failed to pay its retainage and what it owed for the work it performed and didn’t obtain contracts, permits and agreements in a timely manner necessary to allow the company to perform its work.

The county allegedly unreasonably interfered with Rohl’s scheduled sequence of construction by requiring Rohl to perform work different from the scope of work described in the contracts.

The complaint also states that the county energized the fiber optic network prior to its completion and then required Rohl to provide maintenance services and repairs to this active network, and that the county failed to make areas of the project available in a timely and adequate manner necessary for proper sequencing and performance.

Rohl claims that it notified the county orally and in writing for the foregoing breaches, as well as the resulting financial impact on Rohl. It alleges that the county refused to grant equitable adjustment to the project schedule and grant extensions of time necessary because of the county’s breaches.

For breach of contract, Rohl is asking for compensatory damages in excess of $50,000, plus attorneys’ fees, costs and disbursements.Rohl is also seeking payment on a mechanic’s lien filed in April 2016.A mechanic’s lien is a charge or claim upon real or personal property as security for a debt created to obtain payment for work performed and materials provided for improvements to the property. In this case, “the construction, alteration or repair of a telephonic, broadband, fiber optic cable line.

“The lawsuit states that Rohl provided labor, skill services, machinery and materials for the project from May 31, 2012, to Jan. 15, 2016, and is therefore owed $2.55 million for the “fair, reasonable and agreed upon value of the labor and materials supplied by Rohl to the project.” Rohl also claims that to prosecute its mechanic’s lien rights, the company has retained legal services and has incurred, and will continue to incur, expenses for attorneys’ fees, costs and disbursements. On top of the $2.55 million, Rohl is requesting compensation for those expenses.

Lake County filed a motion to have this part of the lawsuit and the counterclaim by Compass dismissed. The motion was denied in November 2016 by Judge Michael Cuzzo. However, the judge granted the county’s application to release the property affected by the alleged liens filed by Rohl and Compass on the condition that it be released upon the county’s deposit of two separate bonds with the county court administrator. The bonds total $3.09 million for the alleged lien claimed by Rohl and $802,821 for the alleged lien claimed by Compass.

Finally, Rohl is requesting declaratory judgment that it is not liable for liquidated damages on the project because the company claims the delay on the project was the result of the county’s breaches of contract.

Liquidated damages are an amount of money contracting parties designate as compensation if one party breaches the contract.The trial is expected to last five days.