Nearly three years ago, as the new Hart Senate Office Building was being finished, Victor J. Frenkil, the flamboyant Baltimore construction executive, claimed that the government owed his firm more than $13.5 million for mistakes allegedly made by the office of the Architect of the Capitol that delayed completion of the building.
Frenkil said recently that he settled the claim last year "for nickel and dime stuff," which Architect of the Capitol George M. White said amounted to $1.3 million, or about 10 percent of what Frenkil sought.
"We offered him $750,000 to $800,000 three or four years before he settled," White said. "He would have been better off taking the money then and putting it in the bank."
Frenkil's firm, Baltimore Contractors Inc., built the Hart Building's superstructure, but ran into difficulties because the George Hyman Construction Co., the firm that installed the building's foundation, misaligned some of the anchor bolts.
The extent of the mistakes was disputed. Hyman officials said less than 5 percent of the 500 anchor bolts were misplaced, but Frenkil asserted that 90 percent were misplaced, which he said had caused his firm a 237-day delay in finishing the project.
Asked if he was satisfied with the settlement, Frenkil said, "I had no other choice."
He added: "I'd never do another job with the Architect of the Capitol."
Despite paying the claim to Frenkil, White said there was money left over when the Hart building was completed.
The structure was 10 years in planning and construction, and initially was to have cost$47.9 million. As the cost estimates escalated and finally reached $137.7 million, some senators described the building as a latter-day Taj Mahal and said that some of its features "would make a Persian prince green with envy."
As a result, the senators' planned gymnasium was eliminated, as were a private penthouse dining room overlooking the Capitol, some offices, a major meeting room for large-scale congressional hearings and an original sculpture designed by the late Alexander Calder.
White said that, with the cutbacks and through economies, about $15 million was left when the project was completed. He said that Frenkil's claim was paid out of that amount.
In addition, White said, while the gymnasium has not been built and apparently will not be, the dining room, in a sense, has been completed with the Senate's blessing. White said that it has been "finished enough to make it presentable."
He said that the space has been turned into sort of a special events room where dinners, luncheons and meetings can be held, such as a recent Senate wives' lunch with First Lady Nancy Reagan. White said that food has to be brought in, because the facility does not have a kitchen.
The offices, hearing room and the Calder sculpture also have been or will be added to the building, White said.
Calder, often deemed the greatest American sculptor of his generation, died Nov. 11, 1976, literally within hours of discussing final details for his mammoth stabile and mobile called, "Mountains and Clouds," with White.
Nicholas F. Brady, a wealthy New Jersey Republican who served an eight-month unexpired Senate term in 1982, took it upon himself to raise the $650,000 necessary to construct and install the Calder.
White said that the sculpture, to be built in the Hart Building's huge atrium this summer, will have Calder's "mountains" anchored on the floor, while the "clouds" float overhead.