Contractor sues Fred Meyer over remodeling job

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — An Idaho general contractor dumped by Fred Meyer Inc. for a store renovation project in Fairbanks has sued the retailer, claiming breach of contract.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Datum Construction Management of Boise last week sued Fred Meyer and its parent, Kroger Co., for $5.1 million in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

Datum was originally in charge of renovating the Fred Meyer store on the west side of Fairbanks. After 18 months on the $20 million job, however, Fred Meyer in October dismissed the firm.

The retailer said Datum had violated its contract and missed milestones. Fred Meyer operates 132 stores in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and the company said it was the first time it had dumped a contractor in the middle of a project.

The decision halted renovation for five months, including the holiday shopping season.

A new general contractor in March picked up the project, which includes an expansion of 18,000 square feet. A grand reopening is planned for June 15.

Datum's lawsuit said Fred Meyer managers engaged in "a systematic campaign to interfere with Datum and its subcontractors' ability to discharge their duties."

Anchorage attorney Steven Jones said in the lawsuit that Fred Meyer managers undermined the project with numerous changes to its scope, slow responses to questions posed by the contractor, routine denials of change orders and interference with subcontractors.

The contractor demanded mediation on Oct. 5, according to the lawsuit, and was denied.

Datum asked for compensation for lost past and future earnings, interest and attorney's fees.

Fred Meyer corporate spokeswoman Melinda Merrill declined to comment on the lawsuit.

She said the company was "disappointed with Datum's poor performance."

"It has severely impacted this store that is very important to the company and to the employees of the store," she said. "It has impacted our customers, and it has impacted the community, particularly because it has left subcontractors in the lurch."

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