in Houston, Texas
Construction firm with ‘financial difficulties’ at San Antonio schools has other Texas projects
Wednesday, Jul 25, 2012, 05:21PM CST
By Curt Olson
construction

A large construction company called into question in San Antonio for “financial difficulties” with two schools projects has five other projects in Texas, including two with the Houston school system.

Summit Builders won the bid for Houston ISD’s Furr High School and Jackson Middle School, Lytle Middle School, about 30 minutes south of San Antonio, the La Porte Fire Station, and the Missouri City Golf Clubhouse/Pro Shop.

Stacie Walker, Missouri City public information manager, said the clubhouse/pro shop is expected to open in the fall.

“They are performing duties per the contract we have with them,” Walker said.

La Porte Assistant City Manager Traci Leach said everything is on schedule, and construction of the fire station has begun. A completion of early 2013 is projected for the $4.5 million project.

Texas Watchdog received no comments back from officials at Houston or Lytle ISDs.

The company has regional offices in Houston and San Antonio, and its other active projects are listed under the “In Progress” link on the company website. The others are in California or Arizona.

Summit Builders’ work on two elementary schools for North East Independent School District in San Antonio has been delayed extensively. The issue climaxed Tuesday when Safeco, the bonding company for Summit Builders, took over financial control of the construction of Vineyard Ranch and Las Lomas elementary schools. Both schools were budgeted for $27 million from a 2007 bond issue, as the San Antonio Express-News reported.

The newspaper first reported the bonding company intervening on the project.  

NEISD Superintendent Brian Gottardy released a letter to the community Tuesday:

“Due to Summit Builders experiencing financial difficulties, a meeting was held between Summit and its bonding company, Safeco. Safeco has informed North East ISD that Summit will no longer be in control of the project financially. Instead, Safeco is stepping in and taking over the process of ensuring that payments are made to the subcontractors. NEISD will now pay the bonding company directly instead of issuing payment to Summit Builders.”

The newspaper also reported Summit Builders submitted a bid for the two schools at $54 million, nearly $3 million less than Skanska USA, the next lowest builder.

The first red flag came in May when Summit Builders approached NEISD leaders and told them the July 16 completion date would be pushed back.

When Summit Builders gave Las Lomas a new deadline of Oct. 25 and Vineyard Ranch Nov. 1, Summit Builders’ chief executive blamed subcontractors.

The Express-News reported the following at that time from Jeffrey Stone, president and CEO of Summit Builders:

“We've had numerous subcontractors that have walked off the project. I can only speculate that some of them underbid the project and decided to walk away.”

Stone did not respond to a request for comment from Texas Watchdog.

NEISD will penalize Summit Builders up to $2,500 per school each day for the missed deadlines, the Express-News reported.

NEISD spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor told Texas Watchdog the issue is not about the quality of work.

“We are very concerned, disappointed and frustrated with the delays. Our issue is clearly the timeline (to finish school construction). We need it to get done as soon as possible,” Chancellor said, noting the last delay on a NEISD construction project was 15 years ago.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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Photo of construction by flickr user edgeplot, used via a Creative Commons license.

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