Jul 8, 2014 1:00 AM by Matthew Schwartz
TUCSON - The widening of La Canada Drive from two lanes to four, between River Rd. and Ina, is costing taxpayers nearly $19 million. It's about two and a half miles long, but the job has taken more than two years.
Pima County Department of Transportation officials told the News 4 Tucson Investigators in January that the project would be completed in April. Later, they said June. Then the DOT gave the general contractor, Select Development, a July 1 deadline.
That came and went. Since July 2, the County has hit Select with liquidated damages, holding back $2500 due Select every working day. The new estimated completion date is late summer.
Jim Kuliesh is the President and CEO of the Alliance of Construction Trades, representing 250 sub-contractors and suppliers. He says at least ten subs have walked off the job because Select was months late in paying them. Kuliesh says the County's action against Select is late.
"They should have been helping the sub-contractors, our local businesses, months ago. They've known about the problems for months and months. It's (this project) is a real nightmare, it really is."
The Deputy Director of the County's DOT, Ana Olivares, says Select has been slow in responding to questions from the County regarding sub-contractors' complaints about payments. She says the County is investigating whether all subs have been paid.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators said to Olivares, "You do know though, and you can't deny, that a lot of sub-contractors on this job are angry." She replied, "I don't deny that, and they need to pursue the bonding company, they have a contract with Select. And they need to follow through on what their expectations were when they signed that contract with them."
Some sub-contractors are worried that Select may file for bankruptcy to avoid paying them. As the News 4 Tucson Investigators first reported months ago, a contractor named "Rec-West" declared bankruptcy in 2003. State records show the licensee for Rec-West was Brian Neal, the current co-owner of Select. Neal did not return calls requesting an interview.
Olivares said of a potential bankruptcy filing, "They could file, but Select
has a bonding payment, bonding company, that is guaranteeing their work."
And there's more: Kuliesh is outraged that the County last fall awarded Select another job, the Magee road project, for almost $10-million. State law requires the County to award jobs to the lowest, responsible bidder.
"The key word is ‘responsible'", Kuliesh says.
Some people who have to drive in the construction zone are not happy with the county or the contractor.
One driver, Alberta Bidegain, told us, "This is so frustrating. We have even gone, when we can, out of our way to avoid the intersection of La Canada and River."
Another driver, Nate McMullen, said, "It's (the delays) been going on for months. It's ridiculous."
Again, the County now says the estimated completion date is late summer. We'll stay on top of this, and continue to report the latest developments regarding Select Development.
Remember, if you have any story you'd like us to investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org., or call our tip line, 520-955-4444.
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