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After a nine-month delay, Los Alamos residents will have access to their new golf course community building in mid-September. The New Mexico Regulations and Licensing Department performed its final inspection and issued a certificate of occupancy on Thursday.
The project contractor, Gerald Martin Ltd., was originally scheduled to complete the $5,390,000 project by the end of December 2013. The county granted an extension into January after September’s thousand year storm caused delays.
But the company continued to drag its feet on finishing the project. Among other things, the building the pro shop currently resides in was supposed to be demolished and additional parking lot installed on that site. The county also has a long “punch list” — items in need of correction — as well as several items not constructed according to plans and specs that must be redone.
“All of this, of course, was supposed to be completed long ago, and with no disruption to the golf operations. Needless to say, that didn’t come to fruition,” Project Manager Anthony Strain said, noting that it became increasingly difficult to get the company to move forward.
On July 3, the county took steps to terminate the contract based on non-performance and performance quality issues.
“One thing I want to emphasize is that the county had bent over backwards and tried every known…I didn’t have any tools left in my project manager’s tool box to try to solve this problem and get this contractor to perform,” Strain said.
“But I think it suffices to say that we were willing to wait in excess of six months of delays to try to allow this contractor to complete their work, and it just became unmanageable. And the citizens were having their building held hostage.”
Terminating the contract did not put an immediate stop to Gerald Martin’s delays. The company resisted the county’s efforts to get the building permit out of its hands and into county control, although that has finally been achieved.
A message left at the Gerald Martin office in Albuquerque went unreturned.
According to County Attorney Rebecca Ehler, the county has filed a complaint with the bonding company asking for completion of the project. Ehler’s office is currently in the process of gathering the large amounts of documentation the bonding company has requested. Neither Ehler nor Community and Economic Development Director Anne Laurent were able to give an estimate of the cost of finishing the project.
County employees and on-call contractors have completed enough of the unfinished work to obtain the certificate of occupancy and enable golf operations.
“We have to work in the best interest of our community, and it’s not fair for the community not to have access to that building and to use it, especially since it’s sitting there and it looks so nice and everyone is saying, why can’t we use it?” Laurent said.
The certificate of occupancy allows the county to pick up where the contractor left off and move forward.
Golf staff can begin moving their operations into the new building. Strain expects that aspect to be operational by mid-September.
The certificate also allows the county to apply for a building permit for a “tenant improvement project” for the restaurant. The project involves putting finishing touches and making modest modifications to the kitchen/restaurant area, to meet operational needs of the Pajarito Golf Group LLC. The corporation — a new venture by the owners of the Pajarito Brewpub & Grill —won the bid to provide restaurant operations in June.
Strain anticipates a November opening for the restaurant, as well as a grand opening for the entire facility.
According to Laurent, it could take up to a year before the legal issues are resolved and final work on the project is completed.
“There are quite a few things we need to do to call the project complete, and I would anticipate that those are going to happen slowly, at least over the next year,” Laurent said. “But our main goal is to get the golf staff over there and then get the restaurant going.”
One piece of good news is that the county has only paid Gerald Martin for completed work.
“Fortunately for the county, they allowed me to do my job very diligently,” Strain said. “So while the contractor has been paid for every item of work they did perform, we did keep money that is in the contract for work that is not completed. And that will allow the project to move forward .”
Strain said he is very relieved to see the community building opening.
“I’m very, very encouraged now,” Strain said. “It’s been a very hard, trying process and a long time coming, but it’s a very positive step in a very positive direction for the county.”