Joplin city officials are trying to determine the status of a Texas-based contractor hired to lead the Missouri city’s recovery from the 2011 tornado after it vacated its offices without notice.
Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is no longer operating out of its offices in Joplin and repeated efforts to reach its key executives have been unsuccessful, The Joplin Globe reported. A phone call Monday from The Associated Press to the company’s headquarters in Sugar Land, Texas, did not connect and an email did not receive a response.
Mayor Mike Seibert said city officials don’t know the firm’s status but as far as the city is concerned, its contract remains in force. “We have no confirmation of anything,” he said.
City officials planned to have a closed-door meeting Monday evening to discuss the issue.
The city had paid Wallace Bajjali about $1.7 million in development fees as of August.
Ginger Sweet, property manager for the building where the company had its offices, said Wallace Bajjali is no longer a tenant. She said she was told the firm was moving to one of its project sites but she would not comment on whether it was behind on rent or broke its lease prematurely.
City Manager Sam Anselm told the newspaper in an email that Raymond Braswell, the firm’s chief operating officer, attended a meeting with city staff last Thursday and confirmed that the Feb. 6 purchases of the land for a shopping and entertainment complex will go forward as planned from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp., which has assembled land to hold tax-free for master development projects.
JRC Chairman Gary Duncan said he was not aware of any changes in the master developer’s status in relation to JRC work.
Some community leaders recently were subpoenaed to testify in a city audit conducted by state Auditor Tom Schweich. One was Jane Cage, chairwoman of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, which recommended the city hire a master developer and recommended Wallace Bajjali. She said Friday she was unaware of any changes with the firm.
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