Buda puts brakes on third party review

Apprehension about spending $500,000 to allow a third party to oversee the final phase of Buda’s wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) expansion led city leaders to hold on the matter Jan. 2. 

Instead, the Buda City Council recommended its staff take a closer look at an agreement with Walker Partners, LLC before it makes its way back to the dais. 

The proposed agreement would allow Walker owner representation during the $26 million third phase of the city’s WWTP expansion project. The expansion, which is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete, would increase capacity at the city’s wastewater treatment plant from 1.5 million gallons per day (MGD) to 3.0 MGD. 

Buda City Engineer John Nett said Jan. 2 the WWTP expansion is a “very complex project” and having owner representation along with support from Walker during the bid process would be important.

“It’s important that we have the right level of advocacy and expertise,” Nett said.

Nett also said that Buda has worked with other engineering firms on Propositions 1 and 2. Nett cited firms such as Broadus and Lackey, which provided many of the same services that Walker Partners intends on providing, should the agreement be approved. 

Buda Assistant City Manager Micah Grau  said in an emailed interview the engineer of record on the WWTP project, AECOM, does not require a third party engineer to be involved in overseeing the project. However, city staff recommend a third party for a project of this scale.

“For a project of this magnitude and complexity, it is recommended that this service be added to help oversee the construction,” Grau said in a later emailed interview.

City Attorney George Hyde said Jan. 2 approving the professional services agreement with Walker was akin to the city’s insurance in the Phase 3 project.

“That’s the insurance that you’re purchasing in this project,” Hyde said regarding the agreement. 

Aaron Archer, a representative with Walker Partners, LLC, said the agreement would include work during the design phase, the bid phase and the construction phase of the project to ensure that every specification is met in order to avoid any costly oversights in the future.

“It’s important we have that engagement and oversight of the engineer and the general contractor to make sure our dollars are spent wisely,” Nett said Jan. 2. 

However, city council members were reticent to approve the agreement with Walker Partners due in part to possible redundancies in the work. 

“It’s a difficult check to write, half a million dollars, when we don’t know exactly what we’re getting,” Evan Ture, Buda city council member, said. 

Even with concerns with the proposed professional services agreement, city council members felt getting the project done correctly the first time could avoid costly failures.  

“The cost of having a wastewater treatment plant failure due to inappropriate or improper installation of equipment or systems failure is going to exceed anything we put into a contract,” Buda Mayor George Haehn said.

Buda City Council member Lee Urbanovsky agreed the city would benefit from a third party to oversee the expansive project. 

However, he also echoed concerns that the proposed agreement needed additional review before adoption.

“I see the point for representation and I agree that the city needs to have somebody, but I am more concerned with the logistics of a $500,000 contract,” Urbanovsky said.

Council is expected to take up the agreement again on Jan. 16. 

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