During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Oxford City Council gave Mayor Leon Smith permission to sign a contract for new construction plans with Birmingham engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood – plans that will take months to complete. The city cannot use the original plans due to a pending lawsuit against the Tennessee firm that created them, Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon.
“The city has a lawsuit against them now,” said Fred Denney, city project manager. “We can’t use the old plans with Barge, Waggoner’s name on them.”
Denney said Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood will be paid 6.7 percent of the construction costs of the multi-million-dollar recreation complex. Denney said the plans will take several months to complete and that no start date for construction has been set.
Oxford filed an approximately $2 million lawsuit against Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon last year, alleging the firm failed to properly advise, supervise and manage the project, resulting in the discovery of ancient human remains at the construction site in February 2010. When the remains were discovered, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted the project until a mitigation plan was in place that included, among other things, an archaeological survey of the site and a plan to handle the remains. The plan was put in place and the survey completed earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the city has been forced to pay more than $800,000 in contract delay fees to the construction company on the project.
Also during the meeting, the council agreed to transfer $116,980 to the city’s Commercial Development Authority. The CDA needed the money to pay to fix pollution violations on property it controls behind the Oxford Exchange shopping center. The environmental problems were fixed during the summer, Denney said.
“If we didn’t get it fixed, we’d get fined,” Denney said.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management requested the CDA fix the runoff problem after one of its inspectors investigated the site and filed his report March 19. The site is set aside for commercial development. However, there are no current plans to develop the site.
According to the ADEM inspection report, sediment was observed running off the site and into Choccolocco Creek. Also, nearby stream banks did not appear to have proper protection and disturbed slopes and stockpiled soil were not adequately stabilized.
Cities create CDAs to offer incentives to lure large commercial projects and Oxford has used its CDA over the years for several developments, including the Oxford Exchange and the Walmart Supercenter.
The council Tuesday also authorized the mayor to spend up to $65,000 for road construction and traffic lights at Media Avenue, near the intersection of U.S. 78 East and Leon Smith Parkway. The work is expected to improve traffic safety at the site.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.