|(a) After the agency's General Counsel has determined that the petition for contested case status contains all essential requirements under §1.24, (relating to Mandatory Contents of a Petition for Contested Case Status), and has referred the case to the agency's officer, designated in the contract to be in charge of the negotiations, he or she shall review the contractor's claim(s) and the Board's counterclaim(s), if any, and, with appropriate assistance from the agency's ADR coordinator, shall initiate negotiations with the contractor to attempt to resolve the claim(s) and counterclaim(s). (b) Subject to subsection (c) of this section, the parties shall begin negotiations within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days following the later of: (1) the date of termination of the contract; (2) the completion date, or substantial completion date in the case of construction projects, in the original contract; or (3) the date the unit of state government receives the contractor's petition for contested case status. (c) The agency may delay negotiations until after the 180th day after the date of the event giving rise to the claim of breach of contract by: (1) delivering written notice to the contractor that the commencement of negotiations will be delayed; and (2) delivering written notice to the contractor when the Board is ready to begin negotiations. (d) The parties may conduct negotiations according to an agreed schedule as long as they begin negotiations no later than the deadlines set forth in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, whichever is applicable. (e) Subject to subsection (f) of this section, the parties shall complete the negotiations that are required by this section as a prerequisite to a contractor's request for contested case hearing no later than 270 days after the agency receives the contractor's notice of claim. (f) On or before the 270th day after the agency receives the contractor's petition for contested case status, the parties may agree in writing to extend the time for negotiations. The agreement shall be signed by a representative of each party, who has authority to bind the party, and shall provide for the extension of the statutory negotiation period until a date certain. The parties may enter into a series of written extension agreements that comply with the requirements of this section. (g) The contractor may request a contested case hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings ("SOAH") pursuant to §1.48, (relating to Request for Contested Case Hearing), of this subchapter, after the 270th day after the agency receives the contractor's petition for contested case status, or after the expiration of any extension agreed to under subsection (f) of this section. (h) The parties may agree to mediate the dispute at any time before the 270th day after the agency receives the contractor's petition for contested case status, or before the expiration of any extension agreed to by the parties pursuant to subsection (f) of this section. The mediation shall be governed by §1.46(c), (relating to Conduct of Negotiations). (i) Nothing in this subsection is intended to prevent the parties from agreeing to commence negotiations earlier than the deadlines established in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, or from continuing or resuming negotiations, or requesting mediation after the contractor requests a contested case hearing before SOAH.