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Construction scams surface in Ellis County

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Taxpayers deal with shoddy workmanship
JOEY DAUBEN
The Ellis County Press

ENNIS- James Brazier paid Ennis builder Danny Eckeberger almost $200,000 to build a new home, but could have to front an additional six-figure sum just to repair the physical damages to the structure.

Brazier, who later sued Eckeberger, doesn't know how he'll be able to get his home finished - even if the judgement in his case is ruled in his favor.

'It's a nightmare,' Brazier said. 'We had to tear bricks off the wall because they weren't put on right. We don't know what we're going to do [if lawsuit is unsuccessful].'

The damages to Brazier's house include dilapidated floors, hole-filled roofs, electrical and countless other anomalies. Eckeberger, who would not return calls for comment, had his attorney, former Ennis Independent School District Trustee Don Young inspect the home.

Young said he could find no apparent damages, according to


Brazier.

Brazier's case is just one of many examples of Ellis County homeowners and taxpayers forced with paying hundreds of millions of dollars for homes, government buildings or schools - some facilities people didn't even want - and then having to settle with substandard or shoddy work.

Despite voters turning down the proposal twice, the Ellis County Justice Center, a government building county officials financed anyway, is sitting idle on a downtown Waxahachie lot awaiting massive repair or demolition.

The county has sued the general contractors, as well as the architects for water and mold damage as a result of poor construction quality; the second floor of the three-story pink stucco building is too weak to hold office furniture or equipment used for county legal services.

'When I want to have something built, I want quality and this isn't quality,' said County Commissioner Ron Brown, the most vocal opponent of the justice center. 'It's a nightmare.'

Similar problems have surfaced with the addition to the Ellis County jail, located directly south of the justice center; mold and water damage forced construction crews to unearth a drainage pipe, because, according to sheriff officials, the armory was being flooded.

Recently, excavations had to be made on the jail addition again - this time because the sidewalks did not slope high enough due to federal Americans with Disabilities Act mandates.

And in the Midlothian Independent School District, taxpayers there approved a tax increase from a bond package four years ago to fund the construction of a high school annex, but later - and with hardly any media attention - extensive water damage was found in the gymnasium, forcing officials to hire contractors to repair and replace the hardwood flooring. There has also been a lingering sewage smell in and around the annex, according to district officials and students who attend school.

Just last week, a bill was filed with the state legislature to help taxpayers with the substandard work many have had to deal with.

'Both the homeowner and homebuilder want to identify and resolve construction problems as quickly as possible, before they escalate,' said Bob Garrett, president of the Texas Builders Association. 'This resolution will settle disputes fairly and efficiently, without the need for costly and time-consuming litigation.'

Currently, the courts are the only solution for much of the construction problems.

The bill, if passed by both the state House and Senate, would create another state agency, the Texas Residential Construction Commission, a department that would consist of a nine-member board seeking to aid homeowners and settle any disputes between builders and taxpayers.

'When we use taxpayer money to fund government buildings, we should expect quality and accountability,' Brown had said. 'I was never for these [buildings], but I am for quality. What the people got was crap.'

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