DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – The sound of shovels signals long overdue progress at the Cummings Recreation Center in south Dallas.

“That gym played a big part of this community,” said Andre Moore, who has lived across the street from the facility his entire life. “I’d say that gym helped a lot of us stay out of trouble. It kept us busy, gave us something to look forward to.”

In 2011, the city closed the center, promising a $1.3 million renovation.
 After six months of work, though, construction crews disappeared, and the doors stayed shut.

“I don’t know what happened. They just stopped working on it, and that was two years ago,” said Moore.

Officials with the City of Dallas say they fired the initial contractor over the quality of work and the time taken to complete it.

While the building sat empty, vandals painted the walls with graffiti, shattered windows, and stole copper wiring from the air conditioning system.

“You could just walk in there and look around. They didn’t have no fence, no security guard. It was wide open,” said neighbor Amado Reyna.

Ultimately, according to the city, vandalism alone cost an estimated $53,000 in damage.

“We were sick. Really!” said Michael Hellmann, Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation. “This doesn’t need to happen in a project that we’re already struggling with. That on top of what was already going on was frustrating.”

The city is pursuing insurance claims and litigation to help pay for the project that is now two years behind schedule, and more than $250,000 over budget.

The parks department believes the initial contractor should be held responsible for not providing security.

Under construction Cummings Recreation Center. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

Under construction Cummings Recreation Center. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

Council member Dwaine Caraway, who inherited the area in last year’s redistricting, though, thinks the city may be to blame.

“It becomes our responsibility… our, the city, the parks department, to take a hands on approach to make sure the building is secure. And in my opinion, that is something that did not take place,” said Caraway.

A new contractor has taken over the project. The newly renovated center is now scheduled to open in September.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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