Lancaster Builder Stops Construction on Arts Center

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The main contractor of Lancaster's nearly $13-million Performing Arts Center has halted work on the job and may be going out of business, creating a snafu that is expected to cause yet another delay in the center's planned opening, city officials said Thursday.

Lancaster-based Cates Construction Inc. has asked a bonding company to take over its management of the project, and the city and the bonding company now plan to hire a new contractor and set a new completion date, said Jeff Long, the city's director of public works.

The 758-seat center on Lancaster Boulevard--probably the costliest public works project in city history--was about 85% complete when work was halted Friday, Long said.

But the project had been delayed several times before the problems with Cates arose.

Company officials did not return phone calls Thursday.

But after attending a City Hall meeting that included company President Danny Cates, Long said he believed that the company had overextended itself by working on several large projects at the same time and probably is going out of business.

Long predicted that it will take at least two weeks before a new contractor can be hired and work on the center can resume.

The building's completion had been set for late last year, then delayed to this month, and then again until April.

Long said he now hopes the project can be completed by May.

Long said the city should not suffer any financial losses as a result of Cates' departure.

He said the bonding company, Transamerica Insurance Co., has agreed to ensure completion of the center and to pay more than $800,000 in claims by subcontractors not paid by Cates.

The city already has paid Cates about $6 million of its $8-million construction contract for the center, Long said.

The city plans to pay the remaining $2 million to the new contractor, Long said.

Any cost overruns would be the bonding company's responsibility, he said.

The price tag for the Performing Arts Center--designed for music, drama, dance, lectures and community activities--is expected to approach $13 million and will include what the city paid to acquire the site, make various improvements and develop parking facilities.

Cates' financial problems also led the company Friday to halt work on the Palmdale School District's nearly completed Mesa Intermediate School.

Last June, amid complaints of delays, Los Angeles County terminated its $7-million contract with Cates to build the Lost Hills sheriff's station in Agoura.

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