13 INVESTIGATES: Fields of dreams delay - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Fields of dreams delay

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BIRMINGHAM, AL - Arron Jackson is the president of the Mason City Neighborhood in west Birmingham.

After the new Railroad Park, downtown entertainment district and Regions Field opened, he was happy to hear the City was spending money to revitalize Cooper Green Park in his neighborhood's own backyard.

“I think if you look around Birmingham there's been a lot of investing in some other areas so to see some money actually being spent in our neighborhood is pretty exciting,” Jackson said.

The nearly $4 million project, which will bring a brand new five field baseball complex, began construction back in 2011.

Then something happened and the project's progress and Jackson's sense of excitement ran out of steam.

“To not see trucks and to not see and to not see people are pretty confusing.  And I was pretty much expecting for this project to be finished like last summer so we can enjoy it.  But for whatever reason, things were stalled for a while,” Jackson pointed out.

In fact last summer, the president of the Powderly Neighborhood, Veronica Johnson, became so impatient she took her concerns to the Mayor and City Council.

“After this park began our contractors have never ever proceeded as expected. And to this day, we have a desolate hole at Cooper Green,” Johnson argued.

It turns out the original contractor, Buco Building Constructors, went out of business in 2012.

In fact its owner, Russell Gordon, filed bankruptcy just two months ago, citing he had more than $2 million dollars in debt.

So the City began negotiations with Buco's bonding company to find a new contractor.

“The plan is for us to have a contract signed in 45 days to start back on the project and finish it and we hope to finish that in the 90 days after that”, said the City’s Planning, Engineering and Permits Director Andre Bittas.

That was on July 9, 2013, which would have put project completion at the end of last year.

While there has been some progress since last summer, the parking lots are still unpaved and the outfields are filled with mountains of weeds.

Birmingham City Councilor Jay Roberson represents neighborhoods near Cooper Green Park.

“We know there's weather delays, we know those factors can come into play, but if you say it will be done by the end of the year, and here we are now seven months later, that's not good timelines at all.

And we need to do a better part of managing that,” Roberson stated.

Roberson claims Mayor William Bell has assigned somebody new to oversee the city's capital projects.

Meanwhile, the City is using $2 million left from the original contract to finish the park renovations.

City Council has already awarded about half of that, $968,318, to contractor A.G. Gaston to complete the job, which the Mayor's Office hopes will happen by the end of summer.

“It looks as if there's still a lot of work to be done.  And that's pretty surprising.  But if there's a commitment from the city and from our officials or our mayor to get it done, then I am going to rest on that.  I am going to continue to watch things and continue to hold them accountable,” Jackson concluded.

Back in March, we reported that some of the Regions Field contractors were still awaiting final payment.

We haven't forgotten that story.

I checked with the Chairman of the Board overseeing the construction.

Two months into the Baron's second season in the ballpark, that final payment has not been authorized.

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