Controversy swirls around unfinished South Bay hospital

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- A war of words is brewing between Santa Clara County and one of the country's largest construction firms over a $300 million hospital project that was supposed to be completed two years ago.

Instead, the hospital is nowhere near done, leaving both patients and taxpayers victimized by delays that are costing the county an estimated $36 million a year.

Back in 2008, Santa Clara County voters approved a bond measure to build a new bed building on the Santa Clara Valley Center to meet seismic standards. It's project that broke ground in 2009 and was supposed to be done in 2013. Now, two years behind schedule, a quick tour Monday shows the 168 patient rooms are far from finished.

"We've had multiple delays, multiple unmet promises," said Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith. "We had a situation where they built out an entire floor to specs that were not approved by the state."

Smith blames Turner Construction for not living up to its "contractual responsibilities." It has given the company one week to remedy what he calls a "construction disaster." If the county doesn't, Smith said, the county has no choice but to sever ties.

It doesn't help the county further alleges Turner Construction lacked sufficient staffing for this project, setting sights on another project in the South Bay, Levi's Stadium.

"The Levi's Stadium project offered an incentive for early completion," said Smith. "Turner who was the general contractor pulled many of its subcontractors and our project got neglected."

"Absolute nonsense," said Turner Construction spokesman Larry Kamer. "Turner builds thousands of projects a year. It knows how to build two projects at the same time."

Turner Construction the real reason for the delays is mismanagement from the county. The company said the county had given hundreds of confusing and contradictory change orders and failed to respond to thousands of its requests for information.

"The county knows why this project is delayed," said Kamer. "It's finding excuses like Levi's, a meteor shower or whatever the heck else it says is the reason for the delay. The county look no further than itself and it's on management team."

County Executive Jeff Smith said Turner Construction's allegations are "untrue." Although Smith won't say outright if county will sue, he did say the county does have an obligation to recoup any taxpayer money.