Sunday, January 18, 2015

Engineering Drought Hurts City

City Council discussed the city's planned debt issue for capital projects during its December 17 meeting.  The topic of streets arose and whether to borrow now for expected street improvements or reconstruction. Assistant City Manager Micheal Dane said a 90 day lead time would be necessary to obtain bond financing.  That time frame grew dramatically when Dane added contracting time to obtain outside engineering services.

Director of Operations Shane Kelton said the street study would be complete by July or August.  At that point City Council will know the condition of all city streets and the recommended maintenance for each street, which could include complete reconstruction.  Prior City Councils under invested in city infrastructure and the team of Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton failed to advise them of the costs of a long term failure to maintain.  For their "go along - get along" silence both men have been promoted under City Manager Daniel Valenzuela.

Oddly, ex. Assistant City Manager and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff spoke directly to this issue:

"Unfortunately our city has been very negligent in keeping up with any infrastructure needs on an ongoing, sort of annual basis."

Shane Kelton told Council if they voted today to do Bell Street " based on our current staffing in Engineering, where we are today, we are looking at 12 months to go to bid."  Kelton added it could be go six to eight months faster with contracted engineering.  Assistant City Manager/CFO Michael Dane added in a series of remarks:

"He's got to hire an engineer...  If you go out of house for engineering, you're going to need money to pay for those engineers to do the work.  It takes three or more months to get a professional services contract...  It we're going to go outside for engineering we need to get the professional services purchasing process going now."

Repairing streets in San Angelo will get more expensive if contract engineering firms do the design. Design fees can range from 5 to 12% of the project.  That can quickly turn $60 million for streets into $65 million. 

Council's history of underfunding infrastructure combines with our current engineering dearth in expensive ways. 

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