The contractor, Harris Construction, is owed 5 percent from the construction portion of the project, about $2 million, and in a letter to some of its subcontractors accused zoo officials of not making the payments.
But zoo corporation Chairman John Valentino said the project is not finished, that “there are some important issues that must be addressed before the project can be closed out.”
The retention payment issues are being negotiated, Valentino said.
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He didn’t discuss the projects or issues that still await completion but said none are “health and safety related.”
Valentino said the zoo corporation won’t part with the money until it knows the work is done and other issues are addressed.
“We have been working on this since the exhibit opened,” Valentino said. “It’s not something we have been idly sitting and looking at. We want all the contract to be paid as soon as possible and we are trying to move forward quickly.”
The zoo’s contract with Harris Construction allows the zoo to withhold up to 5 percent until the project is deemed complete. If the zoo, as property owner, had called the project complete it would be required to release the funding.
“We really want all the subcontractors to be paid quickly; to an extent we can help that to happen, we will,” Valentino said. “We’re in the process of doing reconciliation, completing the project and giving Harris all the money that is due.”
We told them what’s going on so they didn’t think we were playing with their retention.
Mike Spencer, vice president of Harris Construction
The differences are about amounts owed to Harris and that the zoo corporation is trying to safeguard the public’s money, which was acquired through the tenth-of-a-cent Measure Z sales tax paid in Fresno County, Valentino said.
African Adventure is on budget and “we are generally pleased with the outcome of exhibit,” he said.
Mike Spencer, Harris Construction vice president, said the letter written by company President David Parkes was sent to its subcontractors to tell them the company hasn’t yet been paid money owed to them.
“We told them what’s going on, so they didn’t think we were playing with their retention,” Spencer said.
He conceded there are some “outstanding issues” and estimated nearly three dozen subcontractors are missing some part of their project costs.
Spencer said company officials are meeting with zoo leadership to get the issues resolved and suggested it could take another 30 to 45 days to unravel it.
“To the smaller subcontractors, it could make a big difference,” he said.
The Oct. 10 letter took on a more strident tone, suggesting zoo officials weren’t cooperating with Harris Construction and saying zoo officials “used these matters to justify withholding retention.”
Projects of similar size are rarely done without obstacles, but “for these matters to not be resolved a year after the project is completed is inexcusable,” Parkes’ letter said.
Spencer said African Adventure has been open for a year and more than 1 million people have visited the zoo during that time.
“We are pleased and proud of the African Adventure project and proud to have been part of it,” he said.