San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

July 27th, 2009
Council stays with KBR contracts

Sabas Avila, the city’s assistant director of public services-transportation, discussed KBR road contracts with the San Marcos City Council last week. Staff photo.

By ED MIHALKANIN
News Reporter

The San Marcos City Council decided to go ahead with two change orders on road work with KBR last week, despite concerns raised by citizens about the engineering and construction company’s various legal problems.

After taking into consideration ethics questions connected to KBR’s international business and its war contracts with the federal government, the Hays County Commissioners Court cancelled a road engineering contract with KBR in April.

However, the San Marcos council decided the city is too deep into its projects with KBR to discontinue two existing contracts. Thus, the city approved one change order in a contract with KBR to improve McCarty Lane, then approved another such order with KBR widen Hopkins Street/Hunter Road from Wonder World Drive to Bishop Street.

Leading up to the vote on the Hopkins/Hunter contract, councilmembers engaged in a long conversation about the possibility of writing an ethics policy for city contractors. However, the discussion ultimately led to no such direction for city staff.

Council member John Thomaides said he hoped the city would act on the KBR issue in light of the “valid concerns” that the citizens had brought up. Councilmember Kim Porterfield suggested that the city develop an ethics policy, eliciting agreement from Councilmember Chris Jones.

However, no other councilmember joined Thomaides, Porterfield and Jones in their sentiments. San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said the lack of agreement on the matter basically amounted to individual opinions and “was not direction to staff.”

San Marcians spoke against the city doing business with KBR during the citizens comments portion of the meeting.

City council candidate Lisa Marie Coppoletta asked the Council to vote away the contract. Former mayoral candidate Daniel McCarthy spoke against the city having a contract with KBR, saying the company was “the equivalent of Wal-Mart.” San Marcos resident Bobby Sira opposed the contract because, in his opinion, KBR “has done unsavory things” and “has hurt our soldiers overseas.” Griffin Spell, who is managing Coppoletta’s campaign, asked the council to develop an ethics law that would prohibit the city government “from doing business with businesses that have been guilty of defrauding the US government.”

However, city staff argued that pulling out of the contracts with KBR at this point would be inefficient from the standpoints of time and money. Staff said KBR has been the design engineer on the Wonder World Drive extension project for at least three years. More germane, in response to a council member’s question, city staff said that the McCarty Lane improvements would probably not be finished by the beginning of the public school year if the contract change were not approved.

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0 thoughts on “Council stays with KBR contracts

  1. As someone who prefers their government to operate in a fiscally responsible manner, I applaud this move. How much extra will it cost the taxpayers to have someone else come in and finish the county jobs that were abandoned when KBR was released? I hate the idea of footing that bill.

    As someone who prefers to do business with companies whose ethics I can support, I’m not nearly as enthusiastic. I just tell myself that as corporate citizens go, KBR is probably no worse than any of the others….also remember that all the allegations against them are just that – allegations – at this point.

  2. Dano,

    The case against KBR go far past allegations.
    KBR has admitted to over charges to YOUR government. They have knowingly electrocuted soldiers, screwed Katrina victims and have made Dick Cheney richer.
    KBR is a bad citizen and as such should not be welcome here.

  3. CNN was just running a story of the soldier killed by KBR failing to ground it’s electrical equipment. I’m no electric engineer, but don’t you learn how important that is, especially when dealing with water, fairly early on?

  4. Having a spouse who works for an honest and upright industrial construction company, who by the way is right here in the United states. I find it unbelievable that the city of San Marcos would do business with a company that prefers to questionable business practices. Anyone in the construction business knows why to stay away from KBR and Haliburton. They have taken advantage of our tax dollars for years and yet no one ever steps in to stop them. Let San Marcos be the first!!!!!

  5. Like it or not, San Marcos is making the appropriate decision. All of the projects discussed are WAY too far along to change now. Make the changes for any future RFQs so this won’t happen again.

  6. That was the conclusion I came with; it would have cost the city too much money and too much time to back out then. The key thing is for the city to come up with an ethics policy. Thank you members of the council who are open to adding ethics to the criteria for the selection of contractors.

  7. Griffin,

    Think again. If the city has 5 million dollars just sitting around to lend free of interest and $600K to simply away as a gift, it doesn’t follow that much else the citizens want is ‘just too expensive’. The city MUST do what the citizens want them to do, or it is the right, nay the duty of the people to revoke the charter and start from scratch.

  8. As distasteful as it may be, I think the council’s choice was the correct one. That being said, they should never sign another contract with KBR going forward.

  9. Ringo,

    The city DOES NOT have 5 million just sitting around. That was one of the major problems with the original Springtown proposal, the city was going to have to loan the money from someone else at interest to loan it to the Springtown developers.

    I don’t like the city doing business with KBR. But I also don’t like wasting taxpayer money and setting our road projects back months. The important thing is looking forward to future contracts, do we want the city doing business with KBR? If you don’t, give the council a call or show up at the next meeting.

  10. My sentiments exactly, Griffin.

    If our city council wants to “make a statement”, then let them publicly announce that no further contracts will be signed with KBR.

    But let’s not waste taxpayer dollars – not to mention the inconvenience of dealing with the delays on these projects – simply to make that point.

    I would much rather see our money go toward incentives for new business than to re-doing road contracts.

    Oh, and I thought that the city was going to use our special utility fund money to make the loan to the Springtown developers?

  11. Really, Keith? “Knowingly electrocuted soldiers?”

    The stories I read indicate that KBR was installing the electrical work to conform with British codes and may have done some of the work in a substandard manner. These stories also indicate that KBR is working with the government to correct these problems.

    Less sensationalism and more facts would be helpful here.

  12. Obviously the correct fiscal decision. However, I would rather in future that they did not allow KBR to do any work. KBR seems to hire the cheapest labor they can get. You’ve prob. heard the tales of KBR using Indian/Filipino labor in Iraq and paying them literally small fractions of what they pay the American workers. I wonder if they are charging the American Government the same for each person?

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