Another chapter in the troubled history of the student apartments has unfolded. In a letter to The Signal last week, Curt Heuring, vice president of Facilities Management, Construction and Safety, announced a settlement of $18.5 million in damages between Liberty Mutual and the College.
According to Matthew Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, the money will go toward demolishing the partially completed buildings on Metzger Drive and funding a new apartment complex. These buildings are currently water damaged and have not been worked on since November 2004.
Liberty Mutual paid the settlement in its role as the surety for the original contractors of the buildings, AST/CCM. This means that when the College ultimately terminated AST/CCM, Liberty Mutual became legally responsible for the project.
The original contractors were fired when they did not meet the College’s expectations and specifications regarding the apartments. However, rather than completing the project in their stead, Liberty Mutual offered a settlement to relieve themselves of the responsibility.
The College was prepared to take over the apartment project, but it could not agree with Liberty Mutual on the settlement price.
“It should be illegal to hold up a public institution in court and basically steal taxpayers’ money,” Brian Gross, sophomore finance major, said.
The apartments have been delayed as a viable housing option many times before due to construction and legal problems, and the latest news quells the hopes of current students who wanted to live in the apartment complex once and for all. The apartments were to feature kitchens and living rooms in addition to two double bedrooms.
Heuring’s department is now working on the reconstruction project with Turner Construction Company, which has worked on the campuses of Rutgers and Princeton universities.
“It will be several years before the apartments can be redesigned and rebuilt,” Golden said.
The payment the College finally received is essentially a refund of all the College has spent on the apartments since their inception in July 2003, and it is more than triple the amount Liberty Mutual originally agreed to pay.
Had the College accepted this initial offer, it “would have absorbed an enormous financial loss,” Heuring said in his letter. The legal cost of these negotiations came to over $250,000, a price that pales in comparison to the amount of money secured.
“I suppose I’m happy, only because I know one day students may be able to enjoy them,” Michael Martini, freshman psychology major, said. “It would have been nice to (utilize the apartments) during my stay, however.”