More contractors say they haven't been paid for huge government project

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

TORNILLO, Texas - The $133 million Texas/Mexico border crossing that has suffered significant setbacks has been delayed until next year, Local 2 Investigates has learned. The news comes as another contractor has come forward to say he has not been paid for work on the project.

GSA said the bridge will open to private cars and pedestrians in February. Commercial traffic will use the bridge sometime next year, but an opening date for that traffic has not been set.

Local 2 Investigates exposed the lack of payments on a bridge project that some call a "bridge to nowhere" in April. For months, the U.S. Government's General Services Administration and the project's general contractor, Turner Construction, worked on a bridge project that leads to the Mexico border, but because Mexico hadn't started construction, the bridge stopped midway. Turner says it is not building the actual bridge, but the portion of the project that includes the buildings in the immediate vicinity.

Mexico is currently working on completing its side of the bridge. The bridge was set to open last year and then it was delayed to the end of this year. There is still no set date for the bridge's opening.

"It's a nightmare," said Houston small-business owner Jim Bartley. His company, DA Mid South, was hired to install parts of the security system, among other things. He said it's not just Mexico's government causing delays.

"We bid state-of-the art technology and the government came around after we started the job and wanted technology from 1992." Bartley said.

Bartley said the older technology actually cost more than the newer IP camera system because older, analog systems require more wiring. The government's older system cost taxpayers an extra $300,000, Bartley said.

Contractors claim they aren't getting paid

Bartley was the first subcontractor to come forward saying he was owed money by the government and Turner construction and was not getting paid.

"We are owed $93,696," he said following an internal audit of financial records after he walked off the job and gave Turner time to pay outstanding debts. "We left the job because we weren't getting paid."

Castillo Prestress, of Belen, New Mexico, which is about 30 miles from Albuquerque, laid off seven people after the owner says he had problems with the project. He says at one point the government owed him $100,000 for work he performed. Company owner Rich Castillo said he has since been paid some of the money, but is still owed $40,000.

Artco Painting owner Joe Martinez told Local 2 investigative reporter Jace Larson this week he is owed about $10,000. He said he walked off the project also when he wasn't getting paid. Martinez said he is a one man business operation and was hired to paint the inside and outside of government buildings around the border crossing.

Martinez said he tried emailing Turner Construction, but said he did not get a response.

Turner issued a statement to Local 2 Wednesday night which read in part, "Turner is committed to fulfilling its obligations to promptly pay the contractors for the hard work they perform on the project. All contractors working on this project have been paid every dollar that the General Services Administration has approved for payment."

GSA had blamed Turner for the payment issues and previously told Local 2, "GSA is aware of discussions between Turner Construction Company and some of the subcontractors. We understand that both parties are working towards a timely solution."

Turner and GSA released new statements Wednesday night to Local 2, which can be read here.

Local 2 will continue to talk with both organizations to get updated information on this taxpayer-funded project.

If you have a tip about this story or a story idea for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email him at jlarson@kprc.com. You can call or text him at 713-635-9941. 

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