Mounting price tag for Durham health building

Durham County Department of Public Health
February 26, 2013 2:53:51 PM PST
A building boom in Durham is changing the shape of the skyline. There's a new courthouse, and a new Health and Human Services complex that's been in the works for years.

So many years, in fact, that the I-Team started digging into what was taking so long to finish it. We found out it's projected to be more than a year behind schedule and more than a million dollars over budget.

It was spring 2009 when Durham County leaders broke ground on what's to be a one-stop-shop location for everything from dental cleanings to mental health care.

A year later, and just a few blocks away, they also broke ground on the courthouse which now stands proudly in the Bull City skyline - finished and celebrated as an architectural beauty.

But back on Main Street at the health building, it's still a work in progress with blocked streets and equipment cluttering a parking lot.

Durham County leaders tell the I-Team that the $54 million project is projected to be more than a year behind schedule and is already costing taxpayers more money. The I-Team had an interview with county leaders to talk about the project, but it was cancelled.

We then learned the county is in mediation with the main contractor because more than a million dollars is at stake.

It's $1.6 million in unexpected costs because of the delay, plus another $57,000 for additional tests and inspections.

The county did agree to answer our questions in an email, saying they weren't over budget but that there have been "additional costs" and pointing the finger at the contractor.

"We believe the delays could have been prevented by the general contractor through better scheduling, staffing and supervision. The county can't take charge of the contractor's means and methods of construction," it said.

The county says its only role is to inform the Winston-Salem based contractor, New Atlantic, of any problems.

Exactly how the contractor and its workers have fallen short, the county won't say.

New Atlantic declined to speak on camera, telling us by letter that:

"The New Atlantic Contracting Team is proud of our work to build the Durham County Human Resources Complex. The construction process was longer than a normal project of this size because of the occupancy phasing. The first Phase was completed and occupied in 2011. Then the existing facility was demolished making room for the Phase 2 building. We are now approaching Phase 2 completion. Additional time was needed to incorporate numerous changes into the work, and we will soon mediate our differences with the county. We anticipate an equitable resolution."

There's no word on whether mediation between both sides is going well.

County leaders have publicly promised to get back the more than $1million in additional fees that the project is costing taxpayers.

They've also promised all the doors at the human services complex will open by fall - a year and a half past its original spring 2012 deadline.

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