13 INVESTIGATES: Postponed precinct progress - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Postponed precinct progress

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BIRMINGHAM, AL - Birmingham's current West Police Precinct is definitely showing 47 years of wear and tear.

So when one West Precinct officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, heard the city was building a brand new facility near Five Points West, he and other officers felt their patience had finally paid off.

“A sense of excitement.  Finally a new building.  Something that is actually being built for the police department from the ground up,” the officer said.

City Council approved funding for the new precinct in late 2011.

A groundbreaking was held on January 25, 2012, eight days before the City broke ground on the Birmingham Barons new downtown ballpark, Regions Field.

“They said it would take roughly a year to get the precinct built.  I told them, I guarantee you, the Barons will play baseball at Regions Field before we move into the precinct,” the officer recalled.

The officer was right.

The Barons opened Regions Field just in time its April 2013 season opener.

Meanwhile, six miles away, the new West Precinct was stuck in constant construction delays.

In fact, the City fired contractor Christopher Woods in August, citing his inability to meet construction deadlines.

When we interviewed Woods last year, he blamed the delays on the City.

“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 argued in October 2013.

Two months later, Woods sued the City, claiming it owed him $477,390 on the West Precinct project.

The City has since filed a counter-lawsuit, arguing woods owes it $344,319 because he breached his contract by, among other things, “ceasing to perform and abandoning work on the project in violation of contractual provisions."

In the meantime, officers like the frustrated one we interviewed, continue to endure less than ideal working conditions at an aging police precinct.

In fact, he claims the heat at the Precinct went out during some of January's coldest weather.

“We got an old garbage can outside and we put wood in it and we burned wood to keep warm.  That's what homeless people do.  But we are police officers in a uniform and that's what we did,” the officer pointed out.

When we contacted City Hall last fall, Andre Bittas, who oversees construction projects like the West Precinct for the City, told us they would start negotiating with Woods’ bonding company to find a new contractor in "the very near future."

So where does the project stand seven months later?

When we stopped by two weeks ago the construction site looked like identical to its fall 2013 condition.

So we reached out to City Hall again.

On June 4th, the City sent us a statement claiming that they are, “Working out the final details of an agreement with the bonding company to complete construction of the work."

The Mayor and the Police Chief did visit West Precinct officers last month to update them.

However, several weeks later, the construction site still looks abandoned.

When asked if he expects to see the new precinct completed, the officer responded, “Realistically?  Not before I retire.  No I don't.”

The lawsuits between Christopher Woods and the City of Birmingham are still pending.

We asked the City for a ballpark completion timeframe for the project, but did not receive an answer.

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