Another blown deadline at SCI Phoenix with $25 million still disputed with builders of Pa.'s largest prison

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel leads a tour through the newest prison in Pennsylvania Friday, September 01, 2017 at State Correction Institution Phoenix in Skippack, Pennsylvania. The facility is inching closer to opening, two years late, to replace Graterford Prison at a cost of $400 million. (WILLIAM THOMAS CAIN / For The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Weeks after another blown deadline, inspectors have approved Housing Unit D, the first of 12 cell-block buildings for occupancy by prisoners at State Correctional Institute Phoenix, the $400 million replacement prison rising next door to the 1920s-era Graterford complex in Skippack Township, Montgomery County.

All 12 inspections were to have been completed in September, two years after the original target date. State officials say the pace should pick up soon: “We expect Housing Units E, F and H to be inspected for Certificates of Occupancy within the next week,” said Troy Thompson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, which oversees state building projects. Some 14 of 32 total “Final Inspections” should be done by the end of this week, with 18 more “anticipated” by the third week of December 2017.

The state says general contractor Walsh/Heery Joint Venture is still racking up “liquidated damages” at the rate of $35,000 a day for the past few years, since failing to meet a November 2015 deadline. Damages now total $25.4 million, and are rising every day buildings have not passed final inspection, according to General Services.

The general contractor insists it should not have to pay the money. Earlier this year Pennsylvania advanced the contractor $2 million to pay subcontractors while insisting it wants that money back, along with the liquidated damages, when the job is done.

The state Department of Corrections expects to move prisoners to Phoenix from Graterford by the end of June, 2018.