Oxford recreation complex delays total $2 million
by Eddie Burkhalter
Feb 03, 2013 | 8784 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Taylor Corp. will have received at least $2 million in taxpayer funds by the time the last payments required under the contract for Oxford’s new sports complex are made. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Taylor Corp. will have received at least $2 million in taxpayer funds by the time the last payments required under the contract for Oxford’s new sports complex are made. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
OXFORD — Sometime in the next few months, an Oxford company will receive the final in a series of payments totaling just more than $2 million under a contract to build the city a new recreation complex.

By the time that payment is made to Taylor Corporation, the recreation complex will not exist.

What progress the company has made building the complex will, by the time of the payment, be undone. The site will have been returned roughly to the state it was in when the company won the contract in 2009.

And at that time, Oxford will still be millions of dollars and many months away from having a recreation complex — if the city decides to continue with the project.

Human remains found at the site, believed by some archaeologists to be the former location of a Indian village or town, led to the stoppage of work on the complex in 2010. Clauses in the contract required the city to pay Taylor Corp. for the time it couldn’t work, a standard feature of such contracts, officials said.

The Oxford City Council voted in January to terminate the city’s contract with Taylor Corp. An Anniston Star examination of the company’s invoices to the city and the city’s payments to the company show that Taylor Corp. will have received at least $2 million in taxpayer funds by the time the last payments required under the contract are made.

When the city’s 2006 purchase of the land and engineering fees are factored in, Oxford will have spent $7.9 million on the project, for a facility its longtime mayor never wanted in the first place.

From the very beginning, back in 2004 when the City Council first began talking about building a new complex to match Oxford’s growth, Mayor Leon Smith has said he wasn’t pleased with the idea of spending an estimated $13 million on the more than 300-acre project.

“And I’m still not crazy about it,” Smith said in his office Thursday.

City Councilman Mike Henderson, the last remaining member of the council that launched the project, says that it still will be built — after Taylor Corp. workers finish returning the site to its original condition.

“All the other council members are on board for this complex,” Henderson said.

Efforts this past week to reach other members of the City Council and representatives of Taylor Corp. were unsuccessful.

The payments

Designed by the Nashville-based architectural firm Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, the sports complex was to have been built in phases. The first phase included grading the site in preparation for erecting buildings and setting out playing fields.

A contract for that job was won by Taylor Corp. with a bid of $3.6 million and work started in October 2009.

City records show the company was paid $431,440 for its preparatory work and for the beginning stages of the project.

In January of 2010, state officials told The Star that year, University of Alabama archaeologists hired to examine the work site reported finding the remains of Native Americans buried in the earth. City records show a series of payments on the project made to the University of Alabama in October, November and December 2009, totaling $19,287.86.

Work at the site had ground to a halt by February 2010. That’s because federal guidelines required Army Corps of Engineers oversight of the project, which involved protected wetlands. The corps required the city to consult with Indian nations about how to handle the remains before resuming work, a process that took months.

In February 2010, the city began paying Taylor Corp. “shut-down charges.” According to city records, Oxford paid $276,157.17 in shut-down charges in the seven weeks between Feb. 15 and April 6 in 2010, or about $5,523.14 per calendar day.

The stoppage fees lessened in subsequent months, with the city paying a total of $62,210 between April 2010 and July 2010 for shut-down charges and site visits by a subcontractor.

From August 2010 through December 2010, the city paid the company $73,500 — $14,000 per month in shut-down charges and a total of $3,500 in invoices to the subcontractor.

From January 2011 through August 2012, the city paid $472,417 — $14,000 per month in shut-down charges, $175,000 for materials dating to before the project was halted, and $15,802.50 to replace silt fencing that had deteriorated because the project had been idle so long. The remainder went to the subcontractor.

By January of this year, the City Council had decided enough was enough. A lawsuit against the architectural firm connected to the shut-down led the city to terminate the contract with Taylor Corp. Oxford will pay the company $681,000 to exit the contract and to clean up the site as required by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

In all, the payments for work completed, for shut-down fees and other charges, and for the money to end the contract, add up to about $2 million Oxford will have paid for the project — the same amount it is seeking to collect from Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, the architects, in the lawsuit.

Take 2?

Last week, Taylor Corp. workers were busy moving dirt at the site, returning it to its 2009 condition.

At a City Council meeting in January, Henderson announced that the city would continue to pursue the project. Smith offered no comment at the time.

The city has met the requirements of a mitigation plan to ensure the build would not disturb any other Indian artifacts, Henderson said last week.

“That’s been resolved,” Henderson said. “So we’ve got the go-ahead from the Corps of Engineers to start construction.”

The payoff, once the facility is built, will more than make up for all the trouble, Henderson said.

A report Henderson compiled in 2008 with help from Parks and Recreation Department personnel, including director Don Hudson and former Councilman Boice Turner, predicts the complex will generate $5.59 million annually for Oxford through money spent by visitors participating in baseball, softball and other sports tournaments to be held at the complex.

“We have a chance to make Oxford a destination place,” Henderson said. “Bringing people from out of town, spending money in our stores.”

Fred Denney, who manages construction projects for the city of Oxford, said new plans for the complex are being drafted now by the engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood. They will look very similar to the old plans, he said.

The new design is expected to be complete around April.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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