Museum hits deadline: Questions loom about $1 million grant specs

SAN BENITO — Today, the city was supposed to have completed the $1.7 million project to build the San Benito Cultural Heritage Center.

When it entered into a contract with Jones Construction in January, the city set today as the project’s deadline.

Yesterday, the crew worked along the building’s exterior, cutting brick while installing tile along the upper section.

Meanwhile, a $1 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant requires the project to be completed by Sept. 27.

Yesterday at the construction site, contractor Michael Jones declined comment.

But the city’s administration believes Jones will make the federal deadline, City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez.

“Substantial progress has been made with the contractor accelerating his efforts toward completion of the project,” city spokeswoman Martha McClain stated yesterday.

At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, officials said the project was about 67 percent complete.

“They’re working diligently to get the project done,” Rodriguez said, referring to Jones and his crew. “They’re keeping us up to date.”

Questions surround the scenario if the city fails to make the federal deadline.

Rodriguez said the EDA could stop funding the project after Sept. 27 if the city fails to complete the project by that deadline.

“If there’s money due, they don’t pay it,” Rodriguez said.

As the deadlines have grown closer, commissioners have met in closed session to discuss “contractual obligations” with the contractor.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be legal action or not,” Rodriguez said.

McClain did not respond to the question of whether the EDA could cut funding if the city does not make the federal deadline.

Meanwhile, Rey Avila, founder of the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum, said the city might be able to request the EDA extend its deadline.

McClain did not respond to the question of whether the EDA could grant such an extension.

As the city’s deadline loomed over the project, tragedy struck.

Meg Jorn, who served as the project’s local architect, was killed Wednesday morning following a crash involving a tractor-trailer.

Now, architect John Pearcy, Jorn’s partner at Megamorphosis Design, will work on the project, Rodriguez said.

“Where she left off or what decisions she made, he’s going to take over,” he said.

Last month, Jorn told commissioners Jones Construction was behind some of the project’s delay.

“Some things had to be undone because they were not done properly,” Jorn told commissioners in a meeting.

But in an interview, Jones said “most (delays) have been material-related, some subcontractor related.”

Yesterday, Avila said Jones has apparently done a good job building the 6,932-square-foot museum featuring an entrance designed in the shape of a guitar.

“To me, it looks good,” Avila said. “It’s looking beautiful. It’s a unique building. I think they’ve done an excellent job.”

San Benito Cultural Heritage Center

 San Benito History Museum

 Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum

 Freddy Fender Museum

 6,932-square-feet

 Guitar-shaped entrance

Construction timeline

 January — construction begins

 Feb. 7 — groundbreaking

 Sept. 15 — city construction deadline

 Sept. 27 — federal grant deadline