Feb 5, 2014 11:30 AM by Matthew Schwartz
TUCSON - Nearly $19 million tax dollars are being used on the widening of La Canada Drive. It's expanding from two lanes to four, from River Road to Ina.
The two-and-a-half-mile widening job is supposed to be completed by mid-April, but several subcontractors say that won't happen because at least two subcontractors have walked off the job.
They claim they're owed a lot of money by the general contractor, Tucson-based Select Development.
Bill Noland owns a concrete construction company called Dimension 318. He says he was hired by Select Development to build culverts for water draining. Noland says he worked on the job for about ten months.
"They never did once pay us on time the entire job," Noland said.
He quit in May and is suing Select Development. He says the firm owes him over $369,000. Select Development denies the claim and has filed a counter-claim against Dimension 318.
Holt Bjoin owns surveying company YKB Construction. He says he worked on the La Canada job for nine months before walking off because Select owes him $24,000.
"It caused us to have to borrow money that we're having a difficult time paying back now, Bjoin said.
Jim Kuelish is the President and CEO of the Alliance of Construction Trades, which represents 250 subcontractors and suppliers. He wants Pima County Department of Transportation officials to investigate Select Development.
"Hey, it's taxpayer money. If I was a taxpayer out there, and saw what was happening to our local subcontractors on this thing, they should be down there storming the county supervisors, demanding it. I want the county to step in. The county knows the problem," Kuelish said.
Pima County's Director of Transportation Priscilla Cornelio says she first heard about the subcontractors' problems after the News 4 Tucson Investigators contacted the county. She said DOT officials "Read the riot act" to Select's owners, Brian and Brandon Neal. Cornelio says none of the subcontractors complained to her. She told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "It's a concern that you brought to our attention."
We visited Select's office to try to interview co-owner Brian Neal. An employee at the front desk told us he wasn't in. We gave her our business card and told her we're doing a report on this and we'd like to interview Neal to get his side of the story. We later called the Select office as well.
Neal didn't reply to our visit or phone call. But his attorney did. Aaron Finter declined an on camera interview. In an email, Finter cited Select's counter claim, and wrote, "Dimension failed to complete the scope of work set forth in the subcontract agreement."
Bill Noland of Dimension 318 denies this, and says when he walked off the job, he hadn't been paid in over three months. And there's more: In 2003, a contractor called "Rec-West" declared bankruptcy. State records show the licensee for Rec-West: Brian Neal, the current co-owner of Select.
We asked Jim Kuelish of the Alliance of Construction Trades, "If you could speak to the owners of Select Development, what would you tell them?" He replied, "That's a difficult question, because most likely I would hit 'em in the head."
Although several subcontractors say the widening job will be delayed for months, the Director of Transportation says she fully expects it to be completed on time in April. If it's not, she says the county will charge Select for every day it's late.
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