NEW ORLEANS -- More than seven years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still waiting for many FEMA construction projects to get completed.
But Eyewitness Investigates has discovered one project on the verge of completion that may have to be torn down.
The wood frame for the brand new, FEMA-funded horse stables for the New Orleans Police Department sprang up quickly once construction began about three weeks ago. But last week, the city issued a stop-work order at the City Park construction site on Harrison Avenue.
With the frame more than 80 percent complete, the city halted the job because the untreated No. 2 pine wood does not meet flood requirements. Mold is already visible in some spots of the wood near the foundation.
As the frame sits incomplete, the only part of the project going forward right now is brick work.
The construction of the stables is being funded by the city and FEMA disaster relief money. Last summer, nine companies bid on the job. Commander Corporation, a New Orleans contractor, was awarded the job when it came in with the lowest estimate at $894,200.
The city said it halted the project on Feb. 20.
"Upon investigating this issue,” a city spokesman stated in an email, “the City has determined that a miscommunication occurred between Commander Corporation and its masonry subcontractors that a Stop Work Order has been issued. The City is taking corrective action to ensure that this mistake does not happen again."
But the contractor, Willie Taylor, said treated lumber was never specified by the city. He said that for two weeks, city inspectors came to the site and approved the work.
"I don't blame them for the stop-work order,” Taylor said, “but the city did not say what type of wood was required when we started. It was all going along just fine and everybody was happy, then all of a sudden it was shut down."
The city stated that the job did, in fact, pass initial construction inspections by the Capital Projects Administration, but later was flagged by Safety and Permits for the contractor's failure to meet flood regulations.
“The City of New Orleans Capital Projects Administration is responsible for inspecting for constructability,” Communications Manager C. Hayne Rainey wrote in an email. “Flood elevation compliance issues are regulated through and inspected by the City of New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. It is Commander Corporation's responsibility to comply with all applicable regulations. The Safety and Permits Inspector was the proper agent to identify the contractor's deficiency. Commander Corporation recognizes this and is taking the necessary steps to come into compliance on this project.”
Now that the job has been halted, it appears that everything constructed so far will have to come down.
The city suggested the existing frame can be treated, but Taylor said he most likely will have to start from scratch.