13 INVESTIGATES: Postponed police precinct - WVTM-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Postponed police precinct

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BIRMINGHAM, AL -

The Birmingham Police Department's West Precinct has run its course.

Officers have been operating out the old building in the heart of Ensley since 1967.

Work on a new West Precinct began almost two years ago.

It is still unfinished.

Pallets of ruined concrete, stacks of unused stone and overgrown weeds currently occupy what should be the city's newest crime-fighting hub.

What's the holdup in finishing it?

Let's go back to 2011.

That's when the city requested bids to build a brand new West Precinct near the new CrossPlex at Fair Park.

The company, C W Woods Contracting Services, bid $2,692,000.

That was the lowest bid by $15,165.

When the City Council approved the contract with C W Woods Contracting Services in October of 2011, some Councilors were ready to celebrate.

"If I had a bell, I would ring it.  Because we have been waiting for this Western Precinct," Councilor Steven Hoyt said at the October 2011 meeting.

The project broke ground on January 25, 2012, but has seen its share of construction conflicts.

A few weeks into the project long wooden pylons were uncovered in the ground where the precinct's foundation would go.

When the architect requested more money from the city a year later, Planning and Engineering Director Andre Bittas explained why.

"When we excavated to install the foundation footing we found some old wood piles that we had to remove and that required some additional excavation," Bittas stated at a March 2013 City Council Meeting.

Then in August, five months later, the City canceled its contract with C W Woods Contracting Services. 

The Mayor's Office tells us the company failed to keep up its end of the bargain, by not completing the project on time and other contract requirements.

Nearly a year after its originally scheduled completion date, the construction site still looks abandoned.

While no one from the City would agree to talk with us on camera, they did tell us they are negotiating with the Performance Bond Company used to guarantee the contractor would finish the job.

In an email, Andre Bittas wrote, "It is anticipated that, in the near future, the City and the Performance Bond Company will engage in discussions concerning a mutually acceptable approach to complete the project."

So what does the contractor the city fired have to say about postponed precinct?

Plenty.

We sat down with C W Woods Contracting Services owner Chris Woods to get his side of the story.

When I told him the reason the City gave us for canceling his contract and asked him if he held up his end of the deal, Chris Woods replied, "Oh, we did and we have our documentation to attest to that."

Woods admitted the project was well behind schedule when he claims he was wrongfully terminated.

He argues the design drawings were changed 18 times and the City dragged its feet approving multiple change orders requested by the city itself.

"A later change order had to be submitted that did not reach the City Council agenda until August 26, 2013.  So our documented facts, through our critical path method of scheduling will show how all of these owner requested changed, revisions, delays, etc., pushed our schedule out," Woods stated.

City Councilor Steven Hoyt has not only been an outspoken supporter of the new precinct but of Chris Woods.

At a 2009 City Council Meeting, Hoyt cited Woods as a reason the City was saving money on construction projects.

"Would you say that was because we have a project manager like Mr. Woods?" Hoyt asked Andre Bittas.

"It helps a lot," Bittas responded.

Hoyt believes the City should do more to negotiate with woods on the precinct project.

"I think we should provide an opportunity for him to finish the work but obviously that is not the Mayor's spirit in this matter," Hoyt said.

On top of claiming the city wrongfully fired him, Woods argues the city still owes him money.

In addition to the police precinct, Woods was also the city's project manager under former Mayor Larry Langford when he oversaw more than $200 million in city bond projects.

The city awarded Woods a $750,000 no-bid contract to renovate Rickwood Field and build a Negro League Museum.

He was also the lowest bidder on the new $2.3 million Recreation Center in Fountain Heights.

Woods says he completed 99 percent of the Rec Center project, finished the Rickwood Field renovations and a Negro League Museum design.

He argues when you add up all that work, he is still due nearly $1 million.

When asked if he felt his firing was way for the City to avoid paying what he claimed he was due, Woods said, "I believe that is a part of it.  To avoid it, and I have put that in writing and documented that.

Just feel like a part of this reason was for the city to attempt to avoid its financial obligations to us for just enrichments that they have benefited from our services."

According to the City, Chris Woods' company has benefited too.

The Mayor's Office tells us they have already paid Woods $100,000 for the future Negro League Museum.

He's received another $2.17 million for the Fountain Heights Rec Center and then there's the $1.99 million for the unfinished West Precinct.

That's a total of more than $4.2 million the City claims it has paid Woods' company over the last four years.

Now, the long awaited west precinct sits in limbo, while the man hired to build it negotiates with City Hall.  

"It's not about personalities, it's the documented facts.   This is my livelihood and I'm disappointed in the City which I love that is just trying to destroy my business and trying to destroy me," Woods concluded.

Ultimately, it's the hardworking men and women in blue and the tax payers they protect, which the dispute hurts the most.

Woods claims his bond company told the City that he should be allowed to finish the police precinct project.

He estimated it could be completed in the next 45 days.

We'll keep you posted on that.

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