Hidalgo County says company in charge of courthouse construction ‘essentially stopped working’

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Hidalgo County has claimed the company hired to build the new courthouse, which has seen numerous setbacks toward its completion, has “essentially stopped working” on the project.

In a Friday news release, the county said Morganti Texas was hired by the county to build the new courthouse in 2018, but said they have failed to meet the set deadlines for the building’s completion on multiple occasions.

“While the interior of the courthouse is closer to completion, and despite the County’s effort to get Morganti to honor the contract and complete the project, Morganti continues to fail the County and has essentially stopped working on the project,” the release read. “In addition, the County is disputing Morganti’s billings, which the County contends are in violation of express provisions in the contract.”

The new seven-story, 322,000-square-foot courthouse is designed to house 31 courtrooms, the Hidalgo County Bar Association, a central utility plant, a security screening area, a 700-person detention center for inmate defendants, district and county clerk’s offices, as well as parking spaces.

Hidalgo County hired Jacobs Engineering as the project manager to “oversee the courthouse project and its respective superintendent(s) from conception to the finished structure, as well as communicate with both the construction professionals and the client, Hidalgo County.”

The county says that construction of the courthouse proceeded on schedule and on budget despite the COVID-19 pandemic, but in December of 2021 when the project was 85% complete, Morganti requested additional time and committed to the substantial completion of the project by May 2022.

“Despite their commitment, Morganti failed to reach substantial completion and requested yet another extension until August 2022,” the county said. “Hidalgo County agreed to the prior extensions, but unfortunately progress on the project had become dramatically slower, with increased challenges in dealings with Morganti from May 2022.

“Morganti did not reach substantial completion in August, and they sent another request for an extension until October 2022, which the County contested.”

The new Hidalgo County Courthouse under construction on Thursday, April 6, 2023, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The county said that the exterior envelope, as well as several other system testing failures in November of 2022, resulted in the hiring of an independent engineering firm to investigate the construction issues related to the exterior envelope of the current structure.

An assessment report revealed construction issues in the exterior envelope of the new courthouse that need to be addressed.

The Monitor filed a Texas Public Information Act request for that assessment, but in a request asking to withhold the information sent to the Texas Attorney General, the county said that it anticipates litigation related to the project.

Meanwhile, one subcontractor has already sued Morganti.

In the Friday news release, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said the new courthouse is one of the largest and most needed projects here.

“Unfortunately, overcoming hurdles is common with these types of projects. We will push forward and clear the path to complete this project, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience. We will get to the finish line,” Cortez said.