Construction at River Ranch County Park has stalled for a year because of problems with contractors, district judge says

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Construction on the River Ranch County Park between Leander and Liberty Hill has been on hold for a year because of problems with the general contractor, according to the county. (Employee of Community Impact Newspaper)

Work to complete River Ranch County Park is back on track after a year-long delay caused by problems with the contractor, County Judge Bill Gravell said in an interview Community Impact Newspaper.

Gravell said the county contracted with a construction company that “didn’t meet” the county’s standards for the park.

The 1,354-acre park, located between Leander and Liberty Hill, will include 10 to 12 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails; campsites; Playgrounds; RV sites; pavilions; and an interpretation center.

In an email, Williamson County confirmed that it had sent a notice of default to Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co., the project’s general contractor, alleging that it had failed to meet the milestones set out in the contract and those implemented Works not adequately supervised and failure to build improvements in accordance with plans and specifications.

According to the email, the county terminated its contract with Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co. on June 2, 2021.

Because the contractor was mortgaged, Gravell said the county had to go through a bond or surety bond company to replace the contractor — a process that halted construction of River Ranch County Park for a year. Gravell described working with tied companies as an insurance policy to ensure the services promised in construction contracts were completed.

“We never thought it would take a year for the bonding company to move,” Gravell said.

Similar delays are occurring at the Heritage Trail West project in Round Rock, also awarded to Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co. Round Rock parks and recreation director Rick Atkins said the Pflugerville-based developer filed for bankruptcy in late 2021.

On February 22, the Williamson County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with Design Workshop Inc. — a landscape architecture and urban planning firm — to outline a new scope of work to complete the remaining work and repair the defective construction at River Ranch County Park.

According to the agreement, Design Workshop has until May 31st to draft these plans. Claire Hempel, a director at Design Workshop, said the company is on track to meet the deadline. The district will then bid for a new general contractor to carry out the remaining work.

The county said once the River Ranch County Park is complete, it will revert to Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co. and its performance bondholders to address additional costs and lost time on the project. At that point, the county said it was too early to know the financial impact of the delay.

Community Impact Newspaper tried to reach Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co. but found the phone number was disconnected and the website was unavailable.

Gravell said River Ranch County Park is 90% complete but did not give a timeline for when it will open.

“A date for the park’s opening has not yet been confirmed, but all parties are working on solutions and look forward to a 2022 opening,” the county said in an email Feb. 23.

Williamson County awarded Ritter, Botkin Construction Co. a $11 million construction contract for River Ranch County Park in November 2018. Groundbreaking for the project took place in December 2018 and was originally scheduled for completion in 2020.

The county originally purchased land for the park in 2008 for $10.63 million. In April 2019, the county purchased an additional 350 acres of land for the park for $4.375 million, according to earlier reports Community Impact Newspaper Reporting.

Upon completion, Gravell said, the park will be known as the premier park in Williamson County, rivaling any state park.

“We’re going to finish the park,” Gravell said.

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