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
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.Email | Print