ROCK HILL — The state is accusing a Spartanburg-based roofing company of negligence and breach of contract because of a fire in a Winthrop University academic building in March 2010.
The lawsuit, filed by state Budget and Control Boards insurance division, does not specify how much money the university and the division are seeking.
Chief Otis Driggers of the Rock Hill Fire Department closed the case in late April 2010, saying fire investigators could not pinpoint exactly what caused the blaze at Winthrops Owens Hall.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 5, claims Pickens Roofing and Sheet Metals improperly stored combustible construction materials on the roof of Bancroft Hall which is connected to the roof of Owens Hall prior to the March 6 fire.
Pickens Roofing was hired in August 2009 to repair an area described as the Bancroft Annex roof, a roof section connected to the building destroyed by the blaze. Winthrop paid Pickens Roofing $358,448 for the project.
The company violated building codes and industry standards by storing flammable roofing materials in the workspace, the state office alleges in the lawsuit.
Representatives from Pickens Roofing and Sheet Metals did not return calls Wednesday. The Pickens Roofing employee listed on the Winthrop contract no longer works for the company, another employee told The Herald on Wednesday.
Fire officials said in 2010 that the blaze, which burned for about 24 hours, started on a small section of flat roof outside the building where Owens Hall and Bancroft Annex join.
Driggers said it was not likely anyone had thrown an item onto the roof to ignite the fire and that access to the roof was closed to the general public. No one was injured in the fire.
With an original construction cost of $6.2 million, the three-story Owens Hall opened in 2007 with smart classroom technology, a student lounge area and two conference rooms.
Winthrop canceled all of its classes on the Monday following the Saturday, March 6, 2010, fire. A total of 225 classes moved from Bancroft and Owens Hall to other academic buildings until 2011.
The weekend of the fire, on-campus activities in buildings close to the scene of the fire also were canceled.
The fire damage caused Winthrop to replace virtually the entire building, said Rebecca Masters, university spokeswoman, by e-mail this week.
Other expenses related to rescuing and restoring records, books and some equipment also were a part of financial losses, she said.
The university re-opened the building in January 2011 after about $4.5 million in repairs were complete, a cost covered by Winthrops policy with the state insurance reserve fund, university officials said just after the fire happened.
South Carolinas insurance reserve fund operates like an insurance company; government entities are not obligated but have the option to take out policies on their property through the insurance reserve fund, said Lindsey Kremlick, spokeswoman for the state Budget and Control Board.
Details of Winthrops insurance claim on the Owens Hall fire damage have not been released because the claim is still open, Kremlick said.
Attorney Jay M. Goldstein, who is representing the state insurance reserve fund, could not be reached for comment.
Anna Douglas 803-329-4068