Commissioners question builder over delays in MHMR project
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Newly elected Frio County Precinct 2 Commissioner Mario Martinez has questioned the Sandoval Contracting company over a further delay that has hampered a building improvement project to a mental health services facility since December 2021.
During his first official meeting on Monday, January 9, Martinez returned from executive session with a list of questions for Angel Sandoval, owner of Sandoval Contracting.
According to records, construction for the $1.4 million project began in January 2022 and, since the demolition, the project has been plagued with delays.
In 2021, commissioners agreed to purchase the former adult daycare center on Business IH-35 in Pearsall and remodel the building to house MHMR.
“We actually had some inspections on the building last week,” Sandoval said. “We are working on the foundation for the new addition. We have plumbers there today working on wall roughing for plumbing and we are working on getting all inspections passed on the existing building so we can start drywall.”
Martinez quizzed Sandoval on a projected completion date.
“As of now, we are actually close to mid-April, around April 10th,” the contractor said.
“On October 25 you extended the completion date to January 6,” the commissioner said. “You said the building should be completed by January 6; why the sudden change to April? What are the major delays since October?”
“We have been working on getting the foundation done,” Sandoval said. “We have had some discrepancies with measurements. I know I had mentioned shooting for February 6. Since then, we have had other delays come along.”
According to the contractor, the company is in the process of installing air conditioning in the existing building.
“That has nothing to do with the foundation; that has to do with the existing building,” Martinez said. “How does that affect the foundation?”
The contractor outlined sporadic progress made towards building improvements and the addition, citing delays due to improper measurements and requirements by the county and Architect Steve Patmon.
Sandoval said that in November crews had to remove rebar that was not installed following the specifications of shop drawings. After passing a second inspection in late November, the company poured footings for the concrete slab on December 2.
“Mr. Sandoval, I am going to stop you,” the commissioner said. “On November 9, you said you passed a compaction test and you would be pouring foundation in two weeks.”
The contractor said the compaction inspection was for the footings, and foundation construction is a two-part process. He added that during excavation for plumbing, the sub-contractor discovered an old septic tank.
Within three days, Frio County Engineer Roxana Garcia had the tank removed.
Martinez reiterated his frustration with the delays in the project and questioned Sandoval on his April projection.
“What have you done to show us progress?” Martinez said. “It is frustrating to see something the community is looking forward to and nothing is happening. What can you do to reassure us it will be done by April? You can still work on the rest of the building. There has been little to no change inside since October.”
Frio County Judge Rochelle Camacho asked that the company submit daily progress reports on work completed.
Garcia said the county has seen little progress in the building improvement project over the past six months.
“Crews from Sandoval have not been performing,” the county engineer said. “Now we do see sub-contractors there.”
The engineer cited delays in issues with foundation, fittings that did not pass inspection and now a concrete re-pouring among causes of the slow-down.
“The materials need to install are on site,” Garcia said. “My opinion, there are not enough crews that show up. Even at the project meetings that we have every other week, initially we were not receiving shop drawings and items were being installed that were not approved. Our attempts to ask for an updated schedule or get more crews involved have gone unanswered.”
Patmon supported Garcia’s allegations of slow progress and said he has encouraged Sandoval to develop a plan that would bring in more work crews from different trades to complete work more efficiently.
“There has been slow progress,” the architect hired by the county said. “Reality is that the other parts of work can be completed. There should be a ton of guys running around it and to date we have not seen it.”
Patmon does not believe the project will be completed by April and indicated a lack of knowledge with procedures may be the cause.
“It has been a thorn in Mr. Sandoval’s side. There are a lot of procedures that I think they are not used to,” Patmon said. “What I mean by that, procedures that require them to submit something for approval before they go install.”
According to the architect, Sandoval’s crews had to rip out footings because they did not submit shop drawings for rebar. Although drawings were on site, someone tied rebar incorrectly.
“The specifications called for documentation,” Patmon said. “They had no documents, so the structural engineer could not commit so they had to tear it out. From their standpoint, they have to invest in it.”
Patmon said the national requirements were provided at bid and have been discussed throughout the project.
Of the $1.4 million for the project, commissioners approved using $400,000 from funding received through the American Rescue Plan. The total pay-out is $663,000 with roughly $890,000 in debt remaining.
“The court has been working diligently with the contractor to get this project completed,” Pct. #3 Comm. Raul Carrizales said. “It is truly unfortunate delays have set the completion date back so far. We understand the need Frio County residents have for this facility. It will be a great asset to the county once it’s up and running.”