Reason for Concern for Local Civil Contractors.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Posted by: Emelie Englehart
Reason for Concern for Local Civil Contractors:
Harvey building repairs push back work on other city projects
Efforts to renovate or replace streets, libraries, community centers, sewer plants and other facilities across Houston may be delayed for years as money that city leaders had set aside for the projects is redirected to repair facilities damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
City officials have begun the spring ritual of holding meetings in each of the 11 council districts to discuss projects listed in the city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan. These “CIP meetings” have been rebranded “district community meetings” this year, with a heavy focus on Harvey.
The need to repair storm damage means no new projects will be added in the fifth year of this year’s capital plan, officials have said, and the timeline for many projects that had been listed in prior years now says “to be determined” on documents distributed at the community meetings.
“We’re not saying that any of the projects that have already been approved for years one through four will not take place,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday. “They simply in some cases will be delayed. Some projects will move forward.”
After the meetings wrap up, the five-year plan will be sent to the city council, which typically approves it in May or June.
“When we have these types of damages, we’re required to use our existing funding resources,” Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock said at a meeting in District B last week. “As projects roll over and the CIP is impacted, this basically happens year after year until we catch up — which we think it’s probably going to take all five years until we get to the point where we’re caught up.”
Any project already being designed or built also will continue, Haddock said.
“Some of the projects may have been stalled due to funding,” District B Councilman Jerry Davis told his constituents.
The city must not only free up enough money in its capital plan to cover the 10 percent local match required when repairing disaster damage. Houston must set aside enough cash to do the full repair, then wait months for FEMA to send its 90 percent share as a reimbursement.
In District B, for example, that means projects at three fire stations, two libraries and three police stations likely will be delayed; six trail segments, three park upgrades and two library projects are underway and will continue.
Two fire station projects in Kingwood likely will be delayed, as will a project to replace the roof on the Flores Neighborhood Library in Second Ward.
Fifth Ward resident Ernestine Lloyd, who attended the District B gathering, said she was “let down” by the update.
“I was kind of disappointed because there’s no new projects. Apparently they’re all tied into Harvey,” Lloyd said. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am disappointed that so much needs to be done in Fifth Ward and there’s nobody doing it.”
Kashmere Gardens resident Mary Trahan said she had hoped to hear what steps city officials planned to take to lessen the risk of flooding after Harvey, such as, perhaps, building a detention basin along Hunting Bayou, which runs 300 feet from her home.
The bayou broke its banks and flooded the home where Trahan and her husband live, so they moved in with their daughter in the Greenspoint area. They are still there, awaiting repairs on their house.
Trahan was happy to hear Turner address the crowd, but his update focused more on the need to speed disaster funding to Houstonians than on proposed drainage fixes. “I know people are saying, ‘Mayor, where is the money?’’ Turner said. “When I get it, you will get it.”
“He talked about money he didn’t have — well, I don’t have it either,” Trahan said, chuckling. “That’s not helping me. He spoke very well. But it’s not helping my situation.”
Broadly, Turner said he is optimistic residents will understand the city’s need to deal with Harvey’s wreckage.
“Based on the four CIP meetings that we’ve already had, it does appear that people do understand. We have limited resources,” he said. “The Harvey projects are taking priority, and so they will come to the front of the line.”