City Council agrees on engineer for infrastructure contract, but clash over proposed council involvement in negotiations

From left, AECOM Vice President Don D'Adam, Holland Harper and Reeves Hayter talk before Monday's council meeting. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

From left, AECOM Vice President Don D’Adam, Holland Harper and Reeves Hayter talk before Monday’s council meeting. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

AECOM, a Fortune 500 company, has been selected to handle the planning and design of the City of Paris’ $35 million replacement of deteriorated water and sewer pipes. AECOM has about 45,000 employees around the world.

The Paris City Council voted unanimously Monday night in favor of AECOM over three other large companies. In AECOM’s favor was its announced intention to make extensive use of local companies Hayter Engineering, and Harrison Walker & Harper.

The two local companies were represented in the council discussions by Reeves Hayter and Holland Harper.

AECOM vice president Don D’Adam said his company would provide approximately 41 percent of the planning and oversight, including most of its work in the early stages, with Hayter and Harper providing 59 percent of the oversight, primarily in the construction stage.

AECOM made its presentation to the council one week earlier along with three other companies — Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.; Teague, Nall and Perkins (TNP); and HDR Engineering.

The three other companies said they would consider sub-contracting part of the work to local officials, while Hayter and Harper participated with AECOM in its presentation. D’Adam had Hayter and Holland speak specifically about specific infrastructure issues in Paris that they had special insight into.

Hayter and Holland spoke to the council last week about the importance to the community of two of the local infrastructure projects — Pine Bluff Street (from Main Street to Northeast 20th Street) and Southwest 19th Street.

During the years 2010 through 2012, those two streets had some of the largest number of work orders for repairs — 158 water and sewer calls along Pine Bluff Street and 109 water and sewer trouble calls along Southwest 19th Street.

“Pine Bluff is much more than just a street. It’s a major artery through the city,” Hayter said. “It is only 30 feet wide, but it carries several thousand cars per day. It is the access for dozens of home owners along that street. It is an arterial route for people to go to work every morning. It’s an arterial route for school buses, for local truck traffic, for all kinds of situations that are vital to our quality of life and to our economy.”

One of the more significant importances of Southwest 19th, Harper noted, is that it serves Turner Pipe, which has 600 jobs; Kimberly Clark, which has more than 700 jobs; and Florida Power and Light, which has more than 100 jobs.

“We are going to work diligently and together to make sure that we keep those businesses operational and to make sure those important persons get to work every day. We will make sure that the 1,900 trucks that follow that road every day will be loading products and shipping them out are successful and in business every day,” Harper said.

“As you can see, I can’t do it without these guys,” D’Adam told the council after Hayter’s and Holland’s discussions last week on Pine Bluff Street and Southwest 19th Street. “These are things I would have never known about unless I had met these two gentlemen and put this together.”

The council also indicated it was persuaded by AECOM’s commitment to get to “hit the ground running,” as soon as 24 hours after a contract is signed. D’Adam said although he is based in Dallas, the planned project manager lives nearby, in Commerce.

D’Adam said his company could have the construction bids packaged by March.

D’Adam said a recent AECOM project at Brownsville “is a mirror image” of the Paris proposal.

In response to a question from Mayor AJ Hashmi, D’Adam said his firm’s costs should be lower, not higher, because of the involvement of Hayter Engineering and Harrison Walker and Harper.

The two firms’ specific knowledge of local conditions reduces the learning curve, the AECOM officer said.

“I really like that AECOM is committed to hiring local firms. They’re our neighbors and will do a good job for us,” District 2 Councilwoman Sue Lancaster said.

Her colleagues agreed with that assessment.

“They live here and have a vital interest in this. They want to make sure that what is done is going to last for a long time,” District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said. “I like that they would be here locally to oversee it and watch the construction.”

While the council was unanimously for the selection of AECOM, it was split 4-3 on a motion by Hashmi that two council members — District 3 Councilman John Wright and Lancaster — sit in with City Manager John Godwin in the AECOM contract negotiations.

Drake asked the mayor’s reasoning.

“I would just be more comfortable that somebody can come back to us and clearly tell us (what is going on),” Hashmi said.

District 5 Councilman Matt Frierson and District 4 Councilman Dr. Richard Grossnickle spoke against the proposal.

Frierson suggested that was preempting the city manager’s authority and expertise.

“Mr. Godwin was hired for a reason, and this is part of it. He has more experience, and it’s our responsibility to …”

“I am sure that Mr. Godwin will do it, but there is a personal interest on the part of the council. The council has shown a lot of interest in it,” the mayor responded.

“I’m really not in favor of it, either,” Grossnickle said.

“None of us has the kind of background that Mr. Godwin has, and as Matt said, he was hired to do his job. If someone wants to sit in, maybe they would be allowed to sit in and listen,” Grossnickle continued.

“But I really think that we would be better served if we let the city manager do what he’s trained to do. We don’t have any special training in it,” Grossnickle said.

Lancaster and Wright both said they would like to see council involvement in the negotiations. District 1 Councilman Aaron Jenkins said he was undecided.

Hashmi then formally made his motion to appoint Wright and Lancaster to participate in the contract negotiations.

“But we don’t have any expertise in this area,” Frierson persisted.

“We don’t have any expertise to vote on this, either. You are not an engineer, and I’m not an engineer. We make a decision based on what you have learned and studied and been presented. You don’t have to vote for it. Any further questions on it? If not, I make a motion that…”

Frierson interrupted. “Can we even vote on this. It’s not on the agenda.”

Hashmi replied: “It’s part of the…”

City Attorney Kent McIlyar looked unsure, and Wright said: “It’s procedural.”

“Yes,” Hashmi said. “I make a motion to have two council members as part of the discussion of the contract agreement. Can I have a second?”

Wright: “I’ll second.”

Hashmi: “All in favor?”

Hashmi, Wright, Jenkins and Lancaster held up their hands, and the motion carried 4-3 over the no votes of Grossnickle, Frierson and Drake.

“I think that’s it,” the mayor said. “Motion to adjourn?”

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

 

Orr Honda of Paris celebrates grand reopening with “Pre-Party Party”

OrrHondaHundreds gathered today for the grand reopening of Orr Honda. The event, advertised as a “Pre-Party-Party” for next week’s Festival of Pumpkins, began at 10 this morning and continued until 6 this evening.

Those in attendance were in for a fun-filled day. The event kicked off with the Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony. Dozens gathered behind general manager and partner Dwayne DeMedio as he did the honors. Inside, DeMedio and co-owner Steven Burns presented $500 checks to the Bridge Breast Network and Dylan’s Drivers, both charitable organizations dedicated to saving lives. DeMedio took the time to express his gratitude to all involved, including Orr, the Orr Group, Light it Pink, the Chamber of Commerce and Dylan’s Drivers.

“We’re so proud to be in Paris, Texas. We’re so thankful for our whole staff that has really been behind me to get this business up off the ground,” he said. “We’re just so thankful for the whole community and we will be very involved and look forward to a lot of business here…”

Steven Burns, like DeMedio, also expressed the importance of the community’s role in the business.

“We understand this dealership is part of the community…” he said. “And we’re going to get back to our roots and make it a great store.”

The party then continued outside in the parking lot. Callihan’s Steak & Que provided free hamburgers and hot dogs, and a bounce house and slide sat nearby for children and adults alike to enjoy. Guests could meet two local radio DJs, and, later in the day, sit back and enjoy the band East of Azle as they performed live on stage. All the while, as music played in the background, guests had the opportunity to show their support to local Joann Robinson in her fight against cancer. Donations to the cause could be made via a bake sale or through t-shirt sales. As of 3:15 this afternoon, donations had already totaled over $700. All proceeds will go to help with Mrs. Robinson’s medical bills.

Throughout the day, visitors were able to submit their names for a prize drawing, set to occur at around 4 p.m. Brandon Flannery won a Blu-ray player, Matthew Wood won a 32″ flat screen television and Joseph Filkins received a free event t-shirt.

Charitable organizations in attendance of the event included Light it Pink Paris, Dylan’s Drivers, and a local blood drive.

If you would like to make a donation toward Mrs. Robinson’s cause or would like more information about the event, contact Jonathan Robinson at 903.249.7497

Orr Honda of Paris is located at 1505 Loop 286 NE.

By Courtney McNeal, eParisExtra

City Council approves contract for storm damage repairs to Grand Theater

grand theaterLocal contractor Bobby Smallwood was approved for two contracts at Monday night’s City Council meeting. He was given a $125,000 contract to make storm damage repairs to the Grand Theater.

He also won a contract for just under $400,000 for the Safe Routes to School project that will encompass sidewalks and bicycle lanes around Justiss Elementary School and Crockett Intermediate School.

Among other things in a four-hour meeting, the council:

  • approved a residential tax abatement plan for most of the city inside the loop. None of City Council districts 6 or 7 are included. Residents will be exempt from taxes on new homes or on improvements for five years. None of City Council districts 6 or 7 are in the tax abatement zone. The council had tabled the item several weeks ago, but at the behest of Mayor AJ Hashmi agreed to approve the earlier plan and to decide in a year whether to further tweak the ordinance.
  • approved the final plat, and a zoning change, for a tract in the 3900 block of Bonham Street, just west of the loop. The existing service station and Ward’s West Side Restaurant will be torn down to make room for a 5,000-square-foot convenience store. The restaurant will relocate into an existing building directly to the west of the present cafe.
  • agreed to lease to the Valley of the Caddo Museum and Cultural Center space in the depot adjacent (to the north) to the Paris Economic Development Board. The space has been used previously as a transportation museum. In an arrangement similar to the genealogical society, the city will pick up the utility costs. Dr. Phillip Bandel and Gene Stallings were present to represent Valley of the Caddo Museum.
  • spent more than two hours hearing presentations from four large engineering firms interested in designing the first $35 million in Paris’ $45 million infrastructure bond issue. Members of the council had questions for each presenter. The council will meet in a special meeting next Monday with each council member instructed to have rankings on each of the four and suggestions as to how many to go with. None of the four firms was allowed in the council chambers for their competitors’ presentations.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

 

City Council approves 89 projects earmarked for infrastructure replacement

The Paris City Council agreed Monday on an updated list for city-wide infrastructure projects to be undertaken during the first $35 million phase of a $45 million bond project approved on May 11 by voters.

Among the top projects on the list is replacement of water and sewer lines on Pine Bluff Street between Main Street and 20th Street,  and Southwest 19th Street.

The Southwest 19th Steet project is one that would improve the infrastructure for Turner Pipe, Kimberly Clark and the power plant.

Godwin1

City Manager, John Godwin

The list is a combination of projects recommended by KSA Engineers under a 10-year capital improvement plan, and projects suggested suggested by City of Paris field staff, “who we believe know which projects are most needed,” City Manager John Godwin told the council.

“It is our plan to begin construction in Spring 2014,” Godwin said.

Here are the Top 15 projects — designated as “Tier 1″ projects on the council-approved 89-project list for infrastructure replacement (including the number of water and sewer work orders over the past three years):

  • Pine Bluff, from Main Street to 20th Street (water and sewer). Water work orders: 16; sewer work orders: 142.
  • East of Johnson Woods Drive, from Lamar Avenue to Mahaffey Street (sewer only). Water work orders: 0; sewer work orders: 7.
  • Downtown Paris, from the Plaza one block south and three blocks in each of the three other directions (water and sewer). Water work orders: 37; sewer work orders: 23.
  • Lamesa Heights Addition (water and sewer). Water work orders: 17; sewer work orders, 74.
  • Southwest 19th Street, from Bonham Street to the southwest loop (water and sewer). Water work orders: 42; sewer work orders: 65.
  • Southwest 7th Street, from Field Road to the southwest loop (water only). Water work orders: 3; sewer work orders: 0.
  • Along the southwest loop, in the vicinity of Southwest 19th Street (water only). Water work orders: 3; sewer work orders: 0.
  • From West Washington Street cross-country southwest to Field Road (water only). Water work orders: 4; sewer work orders: 0.
  • Southeast 33rd Street, from Lamar Avenue to Clarksville Street (water and sewer). Water work orders: 17; sewer work orders: 64.
  • Southeast 3rd Street, from South Church street to the south loop (water only). Water work orders: 11; sewer work orders: 2.
  • Southeast Loop 286, from Clarksville Street to Jefferson Heigts (Big Sandy to FM 1507) (sewer only). Water work orders: 0; sewer work orders: 0.
  • Carson Lane, from Southeast 28th Street to Johnson Woods Drive (sewer only). Water work orders: 3; sewer work orders: 12.
  • West Houston Street, from Northwest 34th Street to the west loop (water and sewer). Water work orders: 6; sewer work orders: 45.
  • Dawn Drive, from the east end of Dawn Drive to the Loop 286 crossover (sewer only). Water work orders: 10; sewer work orders: 1.
  • Northwest 19th Street, grinder pumps (sewer only). Water work orders: 0; sewer work orders: 32.

 By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

 

Former city councilman accuses Clifford of ‘misleading and unethical’ report

PEDC Chairman Rebecca Clifford

PEDC Chairman Rebecca Clifford

Rebecca Clifford, chairperson of the Paris Economic Development Corporation, asked the Paris City Council on Monday for an opportunity to address the council at its next meeting concerning a citizen’s complaint she gave the council a “misleading and unethical” report.

Mayor AJ Hashmi asked City Manager John Godwin to honor her request.

“I would like to go over everything. I will go through, line by line, and I will show the council where I got every detail,” Clifford said of a Sept. 9 report to the council in which she compared the PEDC’s annual expenditures for administration and promotions, compared to other Texas cities.

Businessman Don “Pinky” Wilson, a former city councilman, wrote a letter to all seven council members Sunday afternoon.  He said he had met with the mayor personally and again by phone “several times during the past four weeks to request that Clifford explain and disclose “the altered figures” in her report.

“I have received no response,” Wilson wrote.

His complaint concerns the spreadsheet comparison of the PEDC with other Type 4A economic development corporations around the state. Paris showed the highest percentage spent on personnel and administration.

Wilson said first of all, Clifford used operating expenditures as a percent of total income, rather than as a percent of sales tax revenue, which led to misleading percentages — apples vs. oranges.

Also, Wilson said, she took figures for the seven comparison cities directly from the state comptrollers “Texas Ahead” website, but did not use the numbers that Gene Anderson, City of Paris finance director, reported to the comptroller’s office regarding the PEDC.

Clifford altered six of the 10 Paris entries in her report, Wilson said.

Using her numbers, Clifford came out with 74 percent (instead of 57 percent) for the PEDC’s percentage of income spent on salaries and administration, Wilson said.

“In fiscal year 2012, PEDC spent more than any of these peers for personnel, administration and marketing in both absolute dollar amount as well as percentage of income,” she said during her Sept. 9 presentation.

“PEDC spent approximately $900,000, or 74 percent, of our current year’s income on these categories. No other city in our peer group spent more than 27 percent,” she said.

At the beginning of her presentation, Wilson wrote, Clifford gave her accounting education, professional credentials and work experience to add credibility to her presentation.

“Therefore, her report should be covered by the Public Accountants Code of Ethics,” Wilson said in his weekend letter to the council.

“This complaint is not about whether Gene Anderson’s figures in Texas Ahead are correct or Rebecca Clifford’s altered figures are correct,” Wilson said.

“The issue is a failure to disclose that the Paris figures published in Texas Ahead were altered, which resulted in a misleading and unethical report.”

Wilson quoted from the “Public Accountant’s Code of Ethics,” which states:

  • “A professional accountant should not be associated with reports or communications that contain A) materially false or misleading statements, B) statements of information furnished recklessly, or C) omits or obscures information required to be included where such omissions and obscurity would be misleading.”

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra