TRINITY — A construction crew has begun removing more than $500,000 worth of stonework from buildings at the Trinity Town Center after the developer declared it "defective" and a "safety hazard."
The costly do-over is the latest development in the disputes between Trinity Town Center and its subcontractors over millions of dollars in unpaid work at the $60-million project billed as Trinity's "Main Street."
In this case, Trinity Town Center LLC says Tampa-based Italian Cast Stone manufactured and installed decorative stonework that did not meet certain strength and water absorption standards, according to tests conducted by Central Florida Testing Laboratory. The developers also say the panels they tested lacked required reinforcement bars and that the grouting technique was not up to par.
Italian Cast Stone, which says it is owed nearly $525,000 on the project, is one of more than a dozen subcontractors that have filed construction liens against Trinity Town Center.
Developers and their associated general contractor, South Capital Construction, made an unusual decision to promote the removal of the stonework from the four buildings, issuing a press release with the headline: "Trinity Town Center Development Moving Into High Gear After Firing Subcontractor for Substandard Work."
On the advice of her lawyer, Italian Cast Stone president Rosy Conto declined to comment, saying the developers' statements may be defamatory. In previous interviews, she has said no one had told her about any problems with her company's work until after she filed a lien seeking payment.
Paul Aiello, a vice president of South Capital, said the developers are making a show of the removal of the stonework because they anticipate that people may say Trinity Town Center is only looking for a reason not to pay up.
"I have nothing to gain as a construction company from tearing this stuff off," he said.
Trinity Town Center has hired a new company, AAA Cast Stone of Bradenton, to make and install new stonework. Now Aiello said he anticipates that the buildings to house a couple of high-end restaurants and retail shops will be completed by October.
Trinity Town Center is a subsidiary of Quality Holdings of Florida, which is the family business of William and Regina Planes. William Planes is also one of the principals of South Capital Construction.
Planes and his lawyer, Langfred White, maintained in an interview last month that they have not withheld payment from subcontractors who were owed it. They cited poor workmanship as the reason for not paying some of the largest lien holders. And they also blamed other subcontractors for not paying their own suppliers.
However, several subcontractors have reported in court filings and in interviews that some of the checks they got from the general contractor bounced. And South Capital's defense in not paying some of the subcontractors has been to cite a portion of the contracts saying the subcontractors would not be paid until Trinity Town Center pays South Capital, according to court records.
Court documents also include a Jan. 28 e-mail from Planes that says his lender, Kennedy Funding, "has been slow in processing and funding the advances." In December of 2007, Planes wrote, Trinity Town Center was $3.5-million short on funding.
Planes has been seeking new financing, a difficult effort during today's credit crunch, and has not found any yet.
Kennedy Funding, a New-Jersey based lender that specializes in quick loans, sometimes in as little as 24 hours, has committed $47-million to the Trinity project.
Jeffrey Wolfer, president of Kennedy, said Tuesday that his company has released funds to Trinity Town Center when they are due, including a payout last week. "We are funding the job," he said. "We get along with him (Planes) fine."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.