Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

TOP STORY > > Builder faces sanctions

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

It may be a carrot or it may be a stick, but the Air Force will not decide whether the Carabetta organization can bid on future government contracts until negotiations are settled and a new developer in place to build and manage housing at four Air Force bases where Carabetta failed to fulfill its contracts, according to Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, commander of Little Rock Air Force Base.

“That’s the leverage the Air Force is holding,” he said.

Schatz said he hoped the letter of intent would be signed this month and that negotiations could be completed in three or four months, with Hunt-Pinnacle in control by October.

Work on Little Rock Family Housing couldbegin next spring, he said.

Only about 1,000 of the 1,200 units at Little Rock Air Force Base are currently occupied, the general said, and the new contract may call for about 1,000 total units.

The Carabetta organization was managing partner of American Eagle Communities and Shaw Infrastructure was the co-owner.

“The parties involved have been working out a letter of intent for the sale, which establishes the negotiation parameters,” the general said.

“Things are on the right track,” he added.

American Eagle Communities completed only about 25 of the 1,200 new and remodeled housing units it contracted to build, own and manage at Little Rock AFB and failed similarly at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, Hanscom in Maryland and Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

At the end of three years, Carabetta was two years behind on the Little Rock AFB contract, according to the Air Force.

Most of those jobs have been shut down since last May, and while some Little Rock area contractors and suppliers have been finally paid, contractors at Moody alone are said to be owed millions of dollars.

Schatz said the Air Force, the banks, Carabetta and Shaw are in negotiations that would allow Hunt-Pinnacle to take over the projects—on a reduced basis—at all four bases. Hunt-Pinnacle was chosen in January over Forrest City and GMC, the general said.

Hunt-Pinnacle will be the developer, provided that contract details can be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction, Schatz said.
The Valdosta Daily Times, near Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, reported that Carabetta was holding up negotiations, seeking immunity from prosecution and trying to stay off the disbarment or federal watchdog list, but negotiators for the Air Force would not confirm this.

This has taken longer than we anticipated,” said Schatz. “There’s a large amount of money and a little lack of trust between participants.”