BAYOU VISTA — Crews pulled off road and drainage projects in Bayou Vista to take on an extra job and a road contractor said a slow-paying state bureaucracy was to blame — not the lack of city funds.
The crews are set to return soon and the roadwork will be done on time the city’s contracted engineer said.
Angleton-based Garner Asphalt Paving and Sealing is handling the road and drainage work that’s part of $2.1 million the city got in federal money to improve infrastructure after Hurricane Ike. The federal dollars managed by the state also paid for improvements on area water and sewer systems.
The federal dollars part of Community Block Development Grants are issued to the states. In Texas the General Land Office oversees those dollars.
Communities that get the dollars select the projects and hire the crews to do the work but can only make payments once the state signs off on the paperwork and sends a check said Jim Suydam a spokesman for the land office. The process to pay a contractor can take 60 to 90 days Suydam said.
That’s the situation Garner finds itself in. The limited cash flow also means the company was having trouble paying its suppliers.
To increase cash flow the company pulled off the Bayou Vista job to take on another — and quicker paying — project said John Mercer the lead engineer on the project.
”We’re fighting the bureaucracy” Mercer president of Mercer Engineering said. ”These are not humongous contractors. They are more local and have a limited cash flow.”
Mercer’s firm manages the project for the city.
Mercer said Garner was getting pressure from suppliers to pay for material.
When the opportunity arose to work on a quick-paying project that would take about two weeks the company moved its crews to that project he said.
That left work on Dolphin Barracuda and Pompano streets at a standstill. The city’s message board lit up with complaints that the city had run out of money and with worries that the roadwork would not get done.
Not so said Mercer.
”The contract is still active; the contractor is still committed” he said. ”It will get finished.”
Mayor Bobby Rosenquist tried to calm worries by providing residents with a copy of the notice from Mercer’s firm to the city explaining the situation. He supplied a copy of the memo to The Daily News.
”The city doesn’t control the money as it comes from the GLO” Rosenquist said. ”We only have control on the completion date and specs. We can’t make (the company) work the entire time in the city. Wish we could. We will be keeping up with the timeline though.”
Mercer said the slow pay because of the bureaucracy isn’t unusual.
”I get calls from contractors all the time complaining they haven’t been paid” he said. ”With the state it takes four or five people to look at something before it gets approved (for payment).”
Waiting up to 90 days to get paid should not be a surprise to the contractors though.
Suydam and Mercer confirmed that all contractors are told of payment procedures and how billing works before they are awarded a contract.
Mercer said the roadwork was on schedule to be done in October.
The last administration was plagued by problems with the construction of the community center which was funded with federal dollars. The project had a series of cost overruns that few aside from former Mayor Ed Flanagan and former police Chief Ed Lucas were aware of.
Then it was discovered that Flanagan authorized money to be pulled from the city’s emergency reserve account to pay for the community center funding. He did so without getting city council approval and it wasn’t until much of the emergency account was depleted that the spending was discovered.
Lucas who oversaw emergency management in the city faces a grand jury investigation that in part is looking into how the city managed its disaster dollars from the federal government.