I hadn’t realized it was taking this long.
A divided Houston Community College board has failed to approve construction contracts for its November 2012 voter-approved bond program, potentially costing the college system tens of millions of dollars in fines.
The clock to break ground on building projects is ticking to meet federal spending deadlines that, if missed, could result in fines under a worst-case scenario, HCC’s hired bond counsel, Tom Sage, warned in March.
Some trustees, however, have said the college administration has not provided enough information about projects in the $425 million bond package. Others questioned why the college system wasn’t planning to spread contracts around to more local companies.
Concerned about delays and perceived meddling by some board members, a volunteer oversight committee called a special meeting earlier this week to urge the board to approve contracts for all 14 building projects Thursday.
“This is a gross example of the board trying to micromanage a major job,” said oversight committee member Ed Wulfe, a commercial real-estate developer who has served on numerous local boards. “ … Right now the community is back to HCC being in a state of confusion, and the perception is reality.”
Board Chairwoman Neeta Sane defended her colleagues.
“I’m here to give you the assurance, there is no hanky-panky going on,” she told the committee, which the board created to monitor the bond package.
In March, HCC Acting Chancellor Renee Byas sought the board’s approval to hire eight companies to serve as the construction managers for the 14 bond projects. The fees the firms would earn range from an estimated $575,000 to $5.6 million, depending on the project size, according to the agenda item.
The board rejected the proposal on a 6-3 vote.
A followup story indicates that at Thursday’s meeting, the Board did unanimously approve four contracts for construction, with a fifth left pending because it needed to be paired with a related issue. I’m not exactly sure what brought about the change – Campos has his suspicions – but I’m glad to see them move forward. I don’t know why this was more time consuming for HCC than it has been for HISD, which according to the first story has approved 22 contracts for projects related to its 2012 bond referendum. HCC doesn’t have the best track record in these matters, so if this is just the Board being a little extra careful then that’s fine, but let’s get on with it. There’s a reason this construction was needed, and that hasn’t changed.