Event Center sits vacant during construction contract feud

One year after construction, a portion of the Weslaco Events Center still looks new.

But behind a door is a whole different scene.

The whole building looked like this, it was just a shell, Weslaco City Manager Leonardo Olivares said.

The building that houses city hall was once an Albertsons grocery store until the city bought it.

Part of the building was left empty with plans to build an office for the Public Safety Division, but instead city council members decided to put in an office for the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and create a mid-sized event center.

Phase one of the project was completed last year, and the search for a construction company to build phase two was started.

Albert Ochoa, owner of DK III Hornback Construction Co., was awarded and completed the first phase and was chosen again by the EDC board to complete phase two.

But when he applied for a city permit he was denied.

The city called me and told me they are not going to release any permit to me at all, Ochoa said.

He said the city never gave him an explanation as to why he was denied.

He filed a lawsuit against the city manager and several other city council members over the matter.

Olivares said the reason he was denied the permit is because the city council had questions about the legality of the approval of the construction bid.

He said the city council expected to pay $1.2 million for phase two but the EDC approved $1.5 million for Ochoa TMs company to build.

Any contract over $100,000 has to be approved by the city, he said. That has not happened yet.

Another area of concern is who signed off on the contract at the EDC.

The director of the EDC board, Hernan Gonzalez, approved and signed contract but according to the board TMs rules, it should be the president who signs the contract.

The pending lawsuit further complicates the issue.

We need to untangle this thing, but we cannot do that because the city has a policy that it will not contract people who sue the city, Olivares said.

Ochoa believes the hold up on his permit is politically motivated.

I just want to work, I mean that TMs what we do, we are general contractors, Ochoa said.

He said the stand still hurts his business.

They have held my contract for so long they have hurt my capacity to get more work for my company, Ochoa said.

With more than a million dollars at stake, neither side show signs of backing down.