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Council OKs contracts for Water Treatment Plant 4
Friday, August 7, 2009 by Austin Monitor
In their first major test as a group, and Lee Leffingwell’s first test as their leader, the Austin City Council voted 6-1 late last night to award the construction manager at risk contract for preconstruction services for Water Treatment Plant 4 to MWH Constructors, Inc. Council Member Laura Morrison was the lone vote against awarding the contract.
The Council also voted to give the contract for improvements to
The business community, including various minority contractor groups, strongly supported awarding of the contracts. But members of the Save Our Springs Alliance, Sierra Club, Environment Texas and Clean Water Action voiced objections, mostly based on their belief that the city could conserve enough water to avoid building the plant. The plant is estimated to cost between $500 million and more than $800 million with interest.
Leffingwell, who has championed water conservation, believes that
Council Member Randi Shade, the important fourth vote in favor, says the point of no return is really in October, when the Council will vote on a contractor to prepare the site, including tunneling for water lines. Shade voted in favor of the motions but said she would not fully make up her mind until after a Sept. 17 town hall meeting on the matter.
Council Member Bill Spelman tried to put off the vote last night for two weeks, arguing that it would give him and other Council Members more time to digest and compare data from the Austin Water Utility and environmental groups. He lost a 4-3 vote to delay considering the construction manager question, with Morrison and Council Member Chris Riley joining him.
More than 70 people signed up to speak to Council on the issue yesterday, but many did not stay for the hearing, which started after lengthy hearings on two other controversial items. Leffingwell limited time to 30 minutes per side, which also cut down on the number of speakers, angering some of the opponents.
Council Member Sheryl Cole clearly did not buy the arguments of those who said the city could save money by not moving forward with the plant right away. She said she wanted to address the question of delaying the plant “in light of the fact that we’re having some budget issues. First of all, the bidding market for heavy construction costs is currently down 25 percent and also, inflation is at the lowest rate it’s been for 20 years. It is not reasonable in my mind to assume that if we wait a year, or two years, or five years when we really think we need this plant that it will really be cheaper at that time.
Cole also addressed the questions raised by those who compared
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