You Paid For It: Fired contractor puts $26 million Tampa public housing high rise in limbo again

TAMPA (WFLA) – The Tampa Housing Authority says it will likely be next year before the new $26 million Tempo high rise is ready for low-income residents — a year and a half after it was originally supposed to open.

That’s because the THA has fired a second construction company with ties to a public housing scandal in South Florida and is now searching for a third company to finish the job. The seven story job site has been silent since May.

“We should have somebody on board by the end of next week,” Housing Authority CEO Ryans said Thursday.

Last year, the THA dismissed Tempo’s original contractor, the Plantation-based Siltek Group, for shoddy workmanship and construction management problems. By that time, Siltek’s founder Rene Sierra had already been indicted by a federal grand jury for housing fraud in South Florida. Sierra eventually pleaded guilty, agreed to testify against other construction executives and was sentenced to house arrest for his role in cheating the federal government out of a fortune in public money through kickbacks and other corrupt schemes.

Sierra’s wife, Ana Silveira-Sierra, was running the Siltek Group last summer when the THA terminated the Tempo construction contract in June. The bonding company responsible for completion of the project then hired a newly-formed company named Tron Construction, LLC — also owned by Ana Silveira-Sierra — to finish the job against THA objections.

Then two months ago, the THA fired TRON Construction, LLC due to what it claims are ongoing construction problems at Tempo that mirror what was happening when Siltek was on the job. Ryans insists the THA had no choice in the hiring of TRON because the surety company was in control.

Whatever the case, Ryans insists that firing contractors is typical in the public housing business.

“I bet I’ve fired at least 20 contractors on jobs, because our job is they deliver on the job for what they say they’re gonna do and if they don’t it, you gotta cut em loose,” Ryans said.

This latest construction company firing left the Tempo project in limbo and possibly exposed to damage from summer rains and storms. Ryans said he hopes to have a new contractor hired to finish on the job very soon.

According to a published report in the Tampa Bay Times, there was a 9,000 person waiting list for residents eager to move into the Tempo. Now, it appears they may have to wait until next year.

“I’d say probably January or February of next year. I think it might be sooner, but I want to give myself some leeway,” Ryans said.

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