Apr 29, 2014 12:31 PM by Matthew Schwartz
Tucson - If you've driven there over the past two years, you've seen the construction. La Cañada Drive is being widened from two lanes to four, from River Rd. to Ina.
The job is costing taxpayers nearly $19 million. As the News 4 Tucson Investigators reported in early February, the job was supposed to be done by mid-April. This is what Pima County Director of Transportation Priscilla Cornelio told us seven weeks ago:
The News 4 Tucson Investigators:
"How confident are you that this job will be completed in April?
Cornelio "I'm a hundred percent positive."
That was then, this is now.
Cornelio told us earlier this month, "I'm a hundred percent, you know, confident it will not be done...in April. It will be done, what we're hoping and expecting, is some time, more likely, sometime in June."
Cornelio attributes the two-month delay to workers having to relocate a water well. Whatever the reason, the contractor, Select Development, has come under fire from sub-contractors who say Select owes them money.
"We went and we did an audit of Select," Cornelio said, "to make sure that they were doing payments. And they caught up and were doing it. And so, again, we did an investigation, and, you know, thank you for bringing it to our attention, and we did do something about it."
But the County's audit apparently didn't result in every sub-contractor being paid.
Bill Noland worked on the job for about 10 months, until quitting last May. He owns a concrete construction company called Dimension 318.
Noland told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "They still owe me $369,000."
Noland is one of at least two subs who walked-off the job over alleged non-payment, and is suing Select.
He says, "I think the County should monitor them every month to see if all the sub-contractors have been paid, too."
The News 4 Tucson Investigators visited Select's Tucson office in January to try to interview co-owner Brian Neal. We told the front receptionist, "We're doing a story about complaints we received from some sub-contractors. So we want to get his side of the story."
Neal didn't reply to our visit or phone calls in January and to calls this past week. Select is counter-suing Dimension 318, claiming Noland's company failed to finish its job.
But the News 4 Tucson Investigators have also learned that in 2003, a contractor called "Rec-West" declared bankruptcy. State records show the licensee for Rec-West was Brian Neal, the current co-owner of Select Development.
Jim Kuelish is the President and CEO of the Alliance of Construction Trades, which represents 250 sub-contractors and suppliers.
Kuelish told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "Taxpayers should be totally upset. The County should really break their contract with select. They should sue select, and the County should file against Select's bond.
DOT Director Cornelio says, "Right now our hands are kind of tied in terms of what we can do or cannot do, we're limited. But maybe this is an opportunity that we need to start looking at and changing our procedures."
We asked Cornelio, "Are you happy with Select Development?" She said, " Well, it costs us a lot of problems and issues."
State law requires the County to award jobs to the lowest bidder, which Select was. But the statute also says the contractor has to be responsible. One transportation department official told us that going forward, Select's performance on this job will be considered.
Cornelio says Select could be fined $2500 per work day if it doesn't make the new June deadline. We will stay on top of the job's progress, and report updates on News 4 Tucson.
If you have a story you'd like us to check out, email us at email@example.com, or call our tip line, (520) 955-4444.
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