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Willacy County, Construction Company to settle lawsuit

Last week, the Valley Morning Star reported that Willacy County, Texas has entered into mediation over a lawsuit filed against a construction company that allegedly practiced poor workmanship in constructing a controversial private prison in Raymondville. The subsequent repairs cost the county $620,000, according to County Judge John F. Gonzales ("Prison lawsuit goes to mediation", 4/18/2014). 

The county filed the lawsuit against Hale-Mills Construction, a company that operates out of Houston, on March 7. The county has accused Hale-Mills of poor construction on the $7.5 million Willacy County Jail, a $14.5 million county private prison used by the U.S. Marshals' service, as well as a $111.5 million county-funded private detention center comprised of tent-shaped structures.

The county wishes to mediate with Hale-Mills, which has been accused of poor construction practices that allegedly resulted in roof leaks at the U.S. Marshals'-contracted prison. These conditions lead the Marshals' Service, which pays the county to house prisoners, to threaten to remove the people in their custody from the facility in 2011, according to Gonzales. 

"We want to get this resolved as soon as possible," Gonzales said. Traci Koenig, Hale Mills' director of business development, hopes for a "peaceful resolution" to the lawsuit as well.

Gonzales said that Hale-Mills began reparing the roof in 2012, a job that was not completed by November of that year, which prompted Willacy County to hire another company to repair the leaky roof which cost the County $620,000. Even with those damages, Gonzales claims, the roof was still under warranty at that time. 

Hale-Mills and Corplan Corrections, an Argyle consulting firm, are not new to Willacy County. Both were hired by the county to construct the Willacy County Adult Correctional Center. That year, two former Willacy County Commissioners pleaded guilty to receiving bribes of $10,000 from each company.