SAN ANTONIO - Construction delays have plagued two North East I.S.D. elementary schools. The general contractor, Summit Builders, is accused of not paying workers and causing those delays.
But could those problems have been prevented? News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooters Mireya Villarreal uncovered two audits written by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that were published months before the district even took bids to build those two schools.
Construction has started up again at the Vineyard Ranch Elementary School off Loop 1604 and Huebner. After the initial delays back in May the district and Summit Builders agreed to have everything done by November 1st. But now North East is admitting even that extended deadline may not happen.
"We don't feel there are as many subcontractors that are on the job that should be on the job right now. However, we do monitor it on a daily basis and we are pleased with the progress we are seeing right now,” Aubrey Chancellor, Director of Community Relations for NEISD, told us.
North East says they're pleased with Summit Builders progress. But they're still bringing in another company, Safeco, to audit their work and make sure subcontractors are getting paid.
"When the district hands the payment over to Summit, Summit is expected to then dole out that money to their subcontractors. Obviously, there were instances where that was not happening,” Chancellor explained.
We started reviewing all the documents NEISD had online that referenced Vineyard Ranch and Summit Builders. We found a power point presentation was submitted to board members back in December 2010. On one of the slides there was a quote from a Los Angeles Unified School District employee. He said Summit Builders had “performed excellent in quality" and had "built one of the most trouble free projects in the south region". So News 4 WOAI’s Mireya Villarreal took a closer look at all the work Summit had done with LAUSD. Turns out, the company has handled several projects for that district; but not all of them were success stories.
Villarreal found two audits conducted by the LAUSD on projects where Summit Builders was the general contractor.
The first audit points out 44 change orders submitted during the construction of an early education center. The changes were a result of insufficient surveys, design deficiencies and requests to bring things up to code by Los Angeles City Engineers. While change orders aren’t uncommon with big construction projects, these cost the district more than $1.15 million.
The second audit talks about work done on an employment preparation center. The auditor points out several issues including electrical and mechanical inadequacies, structural problems, and improper equipment installment that could be hazardous during an earthquake. Several times in the original report summit builders was called out for their poor workmanship.
Aubrey Chancellor reviewed those audits for the district and gave her reaction, “With any typical construction project you're going to some hiccups in the road. Those seem to be just hiccups.”
The hiccups referred to in the audits cost the Los Angeles Unified School District time and money. And had those hiccups been presented to the NEISD board two years ago, when they were choosing a contractor for this project, things might have turned out differently.
“Had the district seen the reports that came out of the Los Angeles Unified School District before I brought them to you guys,” Mireya Villarreal asked Chancellor.
“No," she answered.
Statement from Summit Builders
"I would certainly hope that you’ve done your research and talked to all of the owners of over $3 billion worth of projects that we have constructed over the past 26 years in business. With a repeat client rate of over 80%, we pride ourselves in customer service and have the numbers to back it up! The problems that we have experienced in San Antonio, pure and simple, have related to the abandonment of the projects by 11 subcontractor trades. Never have I experienced such a deficient group of subcontractors, all on one project. These were subcontractors who publicly bid the project and represented to Summit and the district that they had the capability to perform. I’m sure, in your investigation, that you have uncovered this fact."
"As far as anything that you may be reporting on the two LAUSD projects that you mentioned, it would also be important for you to note, as I’m sure you know, that we have built numerous projects for LAUSD and are finishing up on yet another school currently for LAUSD."
[Referencing a recent press release from North East ISD. See attached document.]
"The “press release” indicates that Summit has experienced financial problems. This is a direct reflection of the subcontractor abandonment of the project. The cost to replace these subcontractors has exceeded $10 million. Nowhere in this release does it say anything more than we are experiencing financial problems. This, again, is a direct result of the subcontractors. Further, the press release does not accurately reflect what is actually happening. I am in the process of securing a loan from my bonding company in order to complete the projects. I have both corporately and personally guaranteed that loan and Summit will complete the projects."
-Jeff Stone, President and CEO of Summit Builders