HCA Hosts Director of Houston Public Works, Carol Haddock, as April Luncheon Speaker
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
The Houston Contractors Association was proud to welcome Carol Haddock, Director of Public Works for the City of Houston, as the guest speaker for the April luncheon. Houston Public Works (HPW), the largest and most diverse public works organization in the country, is responsible for designing and maintaining Houston’s roadways, drainage systems, water, and waste-water facilities. The bids on these types of civil construction jobs are what HCA members are wanting to win, and the quality of work HCA members perform makes them the companies that Houston Public Works wants to work with. Having a healthy working relationship between HCA, it’s members, and Houston Public Works is mutually beneficial for these groups, the City of Houston, and the local civil construction industry.
This being her third time as an HCA luncheon speaker, Director Haddock began her remarks by expressing her gratitude for HCA. She stated that HCA and Houston Public Works work closely and have positive, constructive communication. She stated that the two groups meet on a monthly basis to openly discuss ways of improving the relationships with HPW, the civil contractors, and the public.
As an example of including Houstonians in the conversation, the City of Houston hosts a town hall meeting in each council district, Director Haddock stated. These public forums offer a platform for the publics’ comments and suggestions before the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is implemented. She stated that from the feedback given at these town hall meetings, improving the HPW’s website was highly suggested. Director Haddock stated that in response to that recommendation, over the past few months HPW updated the department’s ReBuild Houston website. A main focus was to redesign the site to be more intuitive and user-friendly. Generating most of the website’s traffic is the search for public works projects she stated. Now being able to search by the CIP number, project name, address, or council district vastly improves the searchability. The website also offers great detail of the projects as well. HPW has detailed information on each individual project as to the location, outline of the project area, funding source, status, project notes, and incorporates Google street view. Director Haddock was excited for the website’s improvements and further invited feedback from the HCA luncheon attendees.
Director Haddock stated that she starts off all of her staff meetings with a quick reminder that Public Works is not funded by the general fund. The department’s funding is from dedicated revenue sources like utility bill payments, permit fees, drainage and street renewal fund, drainage charges, and the METRO mobility fund. As a result of this financial separation, she stated that the CIP and upcoming projects are not being influenced by the discussions happening around the general fund. She stated that the adopted CIP has not changed its projects, only small changes in the CIP funding. Director Haddock wanted to make a point of highlighting this information with HCA members.
HPW is making changes, but only in the size and timeline of projects. She stated that instead of focusing on only a few larger projects that have historically taken over five-years to complete, HPW will be blending in a targeted approach to put more focus on smaller projects that can be developed and implemented in less that one year. She stated that there will be an increased amount of work-order type contacts with a quick turnaround in an effort to offer more contracts. Before the end of 2020, she stated that there will be $75 to $100 million worth of construction work specifically in these work-order type projects.
Director Haddock stated that when Public Works is solving infrastructure problems, they coordinate with all of the public entities that have jurisdiction within and surrounding the City of Houston. Just like with HCA, Director Haddock meets with other groups like ACEC, Texas Department of Transportation, and Harris County Flood Control. In these meetings, the groups coordinate and discuss trends they are seeing, problems and benefits they are experiencing, and more importantly, the groups learn from each other.
This information is beneficial when HPW overlaps directly with a need that has been identified by the county as well. The Director stated that when implementing projects, being aware of what other public entities are working on allows for the coordination of designs that ultimately make the projects better.
Director Haddock transitioned to the topic of Hurricane Harvey recovery. She stated that from the funding the City of Houston is receiving, infrastructure is a primary focus. She added that there is $2 billion worth of work that needs to be completed to repair city owned assets that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. For everything the City of Houston has submitted to FEMA, the director stated, only $7 million has been received. The $2 billion worth of funding is coming and will result in many projects that will start throughout the next two years. In response to Hurricane Harvey, a brand-new Housing and Urban Development project is focusing on direct infrastructure projects for neighborhood drainage improvements in our community.
Director Haddock then stated that she is often asked about the consent decree, specifically how close is the deal between Houston, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Justice to being finalized. She said there is not a timeline for these types of agreements. When this consensus is met, there will be an increased amount of work on the waste-water systems, primarily on the collection system pipes and lift stations as well as having bigger tunnels.
As mentioned earlier, the director stated that HPW and HCA discuss ways to improve the relationships these two entities have with the public. As a result, the groups will now be designing their projects to take the public into consideration. The projects will be less disruptive to the community it is working in. This change will be reflected in the bid packages, so she suggested to the luncheon crowd to be aware that.
As Director Haddock was finishing her presentation, she truthfully stated that the current relationship between HCA and HPW is the best she’s seen in the past 20 years. She looks forward to working with HCA members in the future.