We were fixing to have ourselves a little mold dustup at Minute Maid Park yesterday.
A day away from Thursday's deadline to restore the $250 million ballpark's roof to its original white color, and 2 1/2 weeks away from the Super Bowl, the mold is mostly gone, but the roof still looks like coffee-stained teeth.
Harris County-Houston Sports Authority officials, who viewed the roof from the Chase Tower on Monday, said parts of the roof still weren't clean enough. The roof's manufacturer, which is paying for the cleaning, is supposed to make it white, they said.
"The expectation is that the high roof will be cleaner than it is now. We bought a white roof, and we expect them to clean it with uniformity," said Oliver Luck, the sports authority's chief executive officer.
But the company washing it says the culprit now is dirt, not the fungus problem it agreed to fix.
"Everything out here has dirt on it," said Ken Barlow, owner of Fairfax Station, Va.-based Ken Barlow Cleaning Systems, which in an initial inspection in December noted only the mold that was growing on the 480,000-square-foot roof.
Barlow said recent tests collected since the cleaning started last week revealed a layer of dirt under the mold, including a stubborn red clay that he believes came from the baseball field.
Barlow now says it will take two times more money to scrub or power-wash the dirt, a technique that will require additional equipment and manpower than he was paid for in his contract with GenFlex Roofing Systems, the Maumee, Ohio, company that manufactured the plastic membrane.
The company agreed to pay for the roof's cleaning after the Astros filed a warranty claim, and independent tests showed a potpourri of molds growing atop the 4-year-old stadium.
"What I am going to do now, is I am going to remove all the mold from the smaller roofs, and then I'm done, and if they want to start a (spitting) contest, they can," Barlow said.
In the meantime, some of his workers have begun scrubbing parts of Minute Maid Park to remove dirt with brooms and a special formulation that contains bleach and an ingredient found in mayonnaise.
"They hired me to remove the black mold," he said, insisting that GenFlex pay up.
" I don't care if they get the extra money from Saddam Hussein's bank account," he said.
Tom Kaufman, an engineering services manager with the roof manufacturer who is overseeing the cleaning, said if Barlow did not remove the dirt it would be considered a breach of the contract, which is estimated to be worth about $50,000.
"Yeah, there is dirt up there," he said. But the contract, he said, called for it to be "all one color, with no color variations from panel to panel. The specification is to get the thing clean. From the GenFlex view, this is not acceptable."
A day after the company cleaning the park's roof of mold cried foul over a contract that it said didn't cover dirt, the company and the roof's manufacturer reached an agreement to scrub the remaining stains next week.
Ken Barlow Cleaning Systems said it will be hand-scrubbing the roof with soft-bristle brooms, a job it expects to complete by Monday.
"It's a lot safer than power washing," said Ken Barlow, who estimated the cleaning would cost about twice as much as the $50,000 he was initially paid to remove black mold. As late as Tuesday, Barlow said he would leave town if he did not get more money.
"I'd be in Louisiana right now," if this deal didn't happen, he said.
The agreement marks the end of a nine-inning saga that began when the Houston Astros, who lease the $250 million ballpark, filed a warranty claim last year with GenFlex Roofing Systems, the Ohio-based company that manufactured the stadium's white plastic membrane.
It took nearly six months, a host of independent tests and the hiring of a lawyer before GenFlex agreed to pay for the 480,000-square-foot roof's cleaning. The company contends that it never guaranteed the roof would stay white in the 10-year warranty.
Then, days away from the deadline, which originally was set for today, officials with the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority noticed yellow streaks on the highest roof. GenFlex said it would be restored to its original white color.