FAIRMONT - Last year at this time, Fairmont Elementary School's preschool through second grade addition was just being completed in time for school to start.
Late summer rains came, filling a detention pond newly built near the school's parking lot. The pond became a favorite for ducks and other birds.
Soon, students arrived at the school, walking orderly along beautiful new Terrazzo floors.
But trouble was afoot.
The detention pond is supposed to be a place for plants, collecting water for only a specified number of hours after a rainstorm. It is not meant to be a long-term holding area.
And a close look at the Terrazzo floors reveals a crack.
In addition, when the few really cold days of winter arrived, it became clear the heating system at the school was having trouble keeping the temperature warm enough.
Faced with these glitches, the district contacted those responsible. Solutions were suggested - even attempted - but nothing ended up being corrected.
As the weeks turned into months, it became apparent the district would need to take a tougher stance.
Construction law sets a statute of limitations on defect litigation at two years from the discovery of a problem. The district found the problems right away, so now it has just one year left before the statute of limitations runs out and it is stuck with a product it didn't order.
On Wednesday, the board operations committee authorized attorney Einer Hanson of Strobel and Hanson of Red Wing to alert some of those involved with the construction that they can provide a written agreement stating they won't use the statute of limitations against the district, or they will be sued.
"This has been building every week for over a year," said Superintendent Joe Brown. "We do not have the product we were promised."
It is unlikely the problems at the elementary school will be able to be addressed before next summer, as the fixes involved would likely be impossible while school is in session.
Director of buildings and grounds Dave Ternberg said the problem with the heating system is not a matter of having no heat; rather the system has trouble maintaining a warm temperature during extremely cold weather.
As for the holding pond, the district will have to install a fence around it until it can be fixed, in order to keep children from playing in it.
Hanson said starting a lawsuit against the companies involved does not automatically mean a long, drawn-out trial. But it is a way to preserve the ability to sue if issues are not addressed.