Loose Screws

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He changed his mind because, he says, the issue is not how tight the bolts were originally placed, but whether they can now move.

"The nuts have not moved one bit; it's fine. There is no concern," he says.

Cook also appears to be satisfied that the nuts are not currently loose. Referring to Welton's and Gossen's reports, Cook said they "indicate no Dywidag nuts are loose."

But Cook added a caveat.

"I understand the Team will check the Dywidags in the future as Martin/Martin may recommend," he stated in a December 4 letter to Holm.

Looking for cracks in paint to check the tightness of nuts does not impress Cary Newton, the steel fabricator at Sky Harbor Airport Terminal 4. "This is the first time I have ever heard of something like this," Newton says.

The entire Dywidag affair at the ballpark, he says, is unusual.

The fact that the nuts could not be tightened as specified with a hydraulic jack is an indication of a basic design flaw, he says. And relying on workers to tighten the nuts with a hammer will likely generate inconsistent results.

The lack of readily accessible inspection reports on the tightening of each bolt would be unacceptable at his current project.

"That is a pretty poor way of doing what they are trying to do," Newton says. "There is no way I could get away with something like that at the airport."

Stadium district officials speculate that the reason Cook's ominous warning letter surfaced has more to do with legal tactics, and attempts by the Diamondbacks to strong-arm their construction partners for money, than serious construction problems.

"They had an engineer write memos saying the building is unsafe. It's all horseshit. It's a proud Chicago tradition. Instead of guns, they are now using lawyers," says a private attorney familiar with the issue.

The $35 million cost-overrun claims filed by contractors was settled for $11 million on May 26 -- just 10 days after Cook's letter surfaced. The Diamondbacks ended up paying $3.6 million of the settlement, while Ellerbe Becket kicked in $600,000 and Martin/Martin $300,000. The bulk of the payments -- $6 million -- was covered by an insurance policy.

Records indicate that the Diamondbacks have tried to persuade Ellerbe Becket to contribute to possible expenses related to the Dywidags.

Diamondbacks president Dozer says the team hoped that Ellerbe Becket might be willing to pay for costs associated with further inspections of the Dywidag bars and nuts -- a cost the architects refused to share with the team.

Dozer says the Cook letter did not provide any leverage in negotiations with Ellerbe Becket, although he admits he wished it did.

"I wish that was a hammer because there was no hammer with Ellerbe Becket," Dozer says. "They were very difficult throughout the negotiations."

Dozer also says the team never placed much credence in Cook's scary assessment of the ballpark for a variety of reasons.

"He's never seen our Dywidags. He was not hired to look at the Dywidags. He's only been in the building once, maybe twice," Dozer says. And when Cook was at the ballpark, Dozer says it was "never to look at the Dywidags."

In fact, Dozer says Cook was never contracted by anyone associated with the team to prepare a report on the Dywidags.

Instead, Cook was under contract with Hill International, a New Jersey design company hired by the Diamondbacks, to help review the legitimacy of cost-overrun claims filed by contractors. Dozer says Hill International was surprised when Cook sent the Diamondbacks his Dywidag report.

"He doesn't even send it to Hill, who he was working for," Dozer says. "He sends it out of the blue to us. Hill's like, 'What did he do this for?'"

Hill International officials declined to comment.

Dozer says the team acted responsibly upon receiving the Cook report by immediately contacting Martin/Martin, which assured the team in writing that everything was fine.

In addition, Dozer says the team also paid for the October 9 visual inspection of some of the Dywidags by Martin/Martin -- an inspection that Dozer says confirmed the Dywidags were tight.

Dozer rejects suggestions that the team's financial troubles played a factor in the team's slow response in testing the bolts. The delays were caused by engineers debating on what was the best way to test the bolts.

"I wanted this thing resolved right away," he says. "If I drag my feet and something happens a week later, I would have to live with something like that the rest of my life. No way."

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty