13 INVESTIGATES: Regions Field unpaid contracts - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Regions Field unpaid contracts

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BIRMINGHAM, AL - When city leaders cut the ribbon at Regions Field on April 10th, 2013, it was the culmination of years of hard work.

After ground-breaking ceremony was held on February 2, 2012, crews worked at a feverish pace over the next 14 months to finish the stadium by opening day of the 2013 season.

Now we've learned dozens of those companies which worked so hard to complete the ballpark on time have been waiting nearly a year for final payment.

We were told the outstanding balance totals more than $6 million.

To find some answers, we headed down to City Hall.

City Council President Johnathan Austin said the Council has had no say in the ballpark project since they approved its funding in August 2011.

“As the council member who represents the district that the stadium is in as well as the President of this Council, I have not had discussions with anyone about the amount of money.  You telling me about it now is the first time that I've heard a figure even put out there,” Austin said.

Austin recommended I talk with the PACE Board,  a five member board the City appointed to oversee the baseball park project and its funding.

So we interviewed Board Chairman Bob Jones.

“I do understand that there are some subcontractors out there who have not been paid by the design builder,” Jones admitted.

Here's how the Regions Field funding chain of command works.

The City authorized the PACE Board to pay the general contractor, who in turn pays their 70-plus subcontractors and vendors.

Right now, the PACE Board refuses to pay the general contractor a $6 million retainage fee, which is the final ten percent of the overall contract.

The reason the general contractor has not received that final payment, which would trickle down to the subcontractors, is because nearly a year after the ballpark opened to the public, its construction is still not complete.

Jones claims the general contractor has not finished the job.

He said until a 'punch list' of items is complete that final $6 million check is on hold.

“What we're waiting for now is for the design builder is to give us a list of those things that still need to be completed and once that is done, we will release the retainage,” Jones pointed out.

The main general contractor for the Regions Field construction is Robins and Morton.

They denied our request for an on camera interview but did answer some our questions by email.

Of the 75 total subcontractors they hired, they admitted 54 were still awaiting final payment.

In a statement, the company stated that it, “has been in extended discussions with the City of Birmingham to resolve differences regarding payment due for the construction of regions field.  Those conversations are ongoing."

When asked whose fault it was that those subcontractors have not been paid, Bob Jones replied, “I am not sure whose fault it is, but I do know that the responsibility for those payments fall upon the design builder because they guaranteed to the PACE Board that they would build this project for ex-number of dollars, $61-plus million and if there was any overage, then they would be responsible for it.”

Based on a conversation we had with one subcontractor, Robins and Morton is stuck in a cycle of funding frustration.

The anonymous source claims some subcontractors will not complete the ‘punch list' because they are tired of waiting for their final check.

Until the punch list is finished, Robins and Morton will not get the $6 million check it needs to pay off its subcontractors.

“That's pretty accurate and those facts are correct.  But it's a matter of who's going to take responsibility to get those subcontractors paid so they can come in and finish the work,” Jones concluded.

Jones could not provide me a punch list of what's unfinished at the stadium because he said he had not seen one.

When the stadium is complete and everyone is paid, we will let you know.

The Birmingham Barons kick off their season at regions field on March 28th against the Chicago White Sox.
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