Salem-Keizer is suing construction company for fire damage at Waldo Middle School


The district is demanding $ 81,588 in damages from Woodburn-based construction company Triplett Wellman. Their lawsuit alleges the company failed to secure a school construction site in April 2020, which allowed an arsonist to start a fire.

Fire damage at Waldo Middle School after the April 29, 2020 fire (Courtesy / Crime Stoppers of Oregon)

The Salem-Keizer School District is suing a contractor who claims that failure to secure a construction site at Waldo Middle School allowed an arsonist to set fire to materials in the building and delay work on a school renovation.

The lawsuit, filed December 10 in the Marion County Circuit Court, seeks $ 81,588 in damages from Triplett Wellman, a Woodburn-based construction company, plus legal fees.

Triplet Wellman owner Nick Wellman declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit on Tuesday morning. He said the company had not yet been served or had an opportunity to look into the complaint.

The lawsuit relates to damage from a fire at the school on April 29, 2020, when construction was underway. Shipping records show Salem firefighters attacked the school at 2805 Lansing Ave. at around 4:30 a.m. NE responded

Salem police concluded the fire was arson and sought help from the public in identifying a suspect who was on surveillance footage in a June 2020 announcement with Crime Stoppers of Oregon. The case is still listed as open on the Crime Stoppers site.

According to police, the fire caused property damage of $ 250,000.

The claim does not imply that the contractor was responsible for the fire. However, it is said that the contractor’s failure to properly secure the building materials and site cost the district more than $ 80,000 in fire-damaged construction equipment, downtime for roofers, repairs to the building and the Cost of hiring around-the-clock security.

“We know the fire was started by someone who accessed the construction site and our lawsuit is against Triplett Wellman for failing to secure the construction site as promised in the contract,” said Paul Dakopolos, district attorney. in an email to Salem Reporter.

Triplett Wellman was the general contractor for a $ 12.1 million school expansion that began in August 2019 and was completed about a year later. The expansion included a new wing with four additional classrooms, four science labs and a multi-purpose gym, according to the district’s website.

The lawsuit alleges that the county was pursuing a claim with Triplett Wellman’s insurance provider, but it was denied.

It is the second lawsuit the district has filed in connection with the over $ 700 million school building package that has been running since 2018. In the fall of 2018, the district filed a lawsuit to take land that was then owned by St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Keizer. The lawsuit was settled in February 2019 when the church agreed to sell it.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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