Defenders find emails that show Ballenger Construction on hot seat before bankruptcy

Ballenger had road projects for state, city

SAN ANTONIO – A KSAT 12 Defenders investigation found both the City of San Antonio and the state of Texas had problems with Ballenger Construction before the company went bankrupt, stalling local road projects.

Ballenger had projects all across the north side when it shut down in December -- from Loop 1604 to Interstate 10 and Huebner.

Its closure left employees like Jesse Alamillo without work at a bad time.

"I talked to a couple of the drivers and the drivers are just in disbelief right before the holidays," Alamillo said in December. "It's just not right."

The city and state had 13 contracts with Ballenger and work at all of those projects stopped.

The Defenders went through thousands of emails between the state and Ballenger and found issues with the contractor way before they went bankrupt.

An email last August showed the state had numerous issues with Ballenger and payment to their providers.

In September, there were questions about their $10,000 per day price for equipment rental that seemed a bit high.

And indications were there was defective work on a ramp in October where numerous problems occurred.

There were other instances where Ballenger tried to get more money from the state but the state denied those attempts. The state knew Ballenger had underbid some of the projects.

On the Wurzbach I project, Ballenger bid $26.4 million and the state estimated it would cost $28.2 million.

On the Wurzbach III project, Ballenger bid $24 million and the state estimated it would cost $28 million.

A Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman would not say whether the state, having seen all these problems, should have known Ballenger was in trouble long before they went bankrupt.

The city, too, had problems with Ballenger.

On the DeZavala Road project, a city employee wrote: "I am disturbed about what I am seeing about how Ballenger is constructing this project."

Another email warned Ballenger "any substandard work will not be accepted."

The city said this was all normal in dealing with contractors.

The good news in all of that is that neither the city nor the state lost any money because of Ballenger's bankruptcy.

All projects were covered by bonding companies that picked up the projects and found new contractors.

The only problem was a slight delay.

An endangered spider shut down construction at Loop 1604 and Highway 151 and has now shut down construction of a San Antonio Water System water pipeline in that area.