An amendment to the Pecan Valley sidewalk project was postponed to a later meeting of the Marble Falls City Council when councilors heard about a $40,000 contract change that deviates from the city’s original plans. Staff photo by Nathan Bush
The Marble Falls City Council delayed approving a $40,000 increase for the design of the Pecan Valley sidewalk project’s drainage plan over concerns the engineering company did not follow the city’s original request for underground drainage.
Engineering firm Aguirre & Fields designed the sidewalk with above-ground drainage instead and asked for $40,000 more to change it to underground. The item was on the City Council’s regular meeting agenda on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
The original $275,000 contract was approved in February 2023 and specified underground storm drainage.
“They’re asking us to pay for something we asked for to begin with,” Mayor Dave Rhodes said.
City Engineer Jeff Prato, who was not on staff during project development, explained to the council that he could find no evidence the city had changed its mind.
“There was no indication that anybody in the city gave (the engineering firm) the direction to change the design,” he said.
Assistant City Manager Caleb Kraenzel explained to councilors how the change between underground and above-ground storm drainage might have occurred.
“It was talked about in collaborative, milestone sessions, but the directive was never made,” he said.
Kraenzel also noted the “speculated window of the change” occurred before Prato joined city staff in January.
“It was during the interim city engineer time period,” he said. “I’m more culpable for this than Jeff is.”
Councilor Bryan Walker was upset with the firm’s decision, regardless of how or why it happened.
“It seems like it’s an opportunity of, ‘Oh, you had different engineers come in? Yeah, I don’t know what we heard,’” Walker said. “If they can’t produce any documentation for it, I don’t like it.”
Although the proposed amendment totaled $40,000, the city of Marble Falls would only owe 20 percent of that amount because of a Texas Department of Transportation matching grant.
“I’ve talked to TxDOT, and they’ve agreed to fund 80 percent (of the increase), and potentially a little bit more if they have the funding to allocate,” Prato said.
Prato also reminded councilors that Aguirre & Fields is overseeing the city’s $10 million Nature Heights Extension Project to connect Nature Heights Drive with Mormon Mill and Park Ridge roads.
“To be candid, we try to maintain a good relationship with Aguirre & Fields,” he said. “They do TxDOT projects, and they’re very good at what they do. This is really to ensure we save a good relationship.”
Rhodes was quick in his response.
“Good relationships are two-way streets,” he said.
The Marble Falls City Council plans to revisit the proposed amendment with a representative from Aguirre & Fields at its next regular meeting on Dec. 5.