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Construction of the new Patuxent River Naval Air Museum and Visitors Center was supposed to be finished next spring, just about one year from now. So far, however, it is only a hole in the ground.

The St. Mary’s County government issued a stop-work order to Broughton Construction back in December, when county government officials said they discovered that the company unwittingly bought performance bonds that were issued fraudulently. Those bonds are required to make sure the work is completed. When work was halted, construction crews were working on the museum’s foundation. That work remains unfinished.

A county-imposed deadline to secure acceptable bonds, or alternatively an irrevocable letter of credit, has passed. Broughton, through an attorney, has acknowledged its contract to build the museum is coming to an end. All that remains is determining how that will come about.

As of now construction is four months behind schedule. That is according to the timetable announced after the $4,662,200 construction contract was awarded last fall.

Actually, though, the museum is many years behind schedule. The project began 15 years ago. Back in early 2001, the St. Mary’s County government expected the museum to be up and running by 2004.

During the years of delay, money was collected from the federal, state and local governments and the museum association raised $1.5 million in private donations. The original design for the building was scaled back.

“You talk about things being plagued with every damn thing you can think of,” Keith Fairfax, one of the driving forces behind the project, said last week. “It certainly is a concern to me. It’s kind of at a dead stop right now.”

But it’s too late to turn back now. The contract will have to go to another bidder, adding further delays.

Meanwhile the museum, which traces the development of naval aviation that began at Patuxent River Naval Air Station 70 years ago, sits in an old warehouse building intended to be its temporary quarters. It has been there since 2001.

In front of that warehouse, the partially completed foundation just outside of Gate 1 to Pax River is the only tangible sign of the new museum and visitors center that was conceived to be an anchor and showcase for Lexington Park and the Navy base that created the town.

It can be that still. But right now nobody knows when.