Port CEO Strawbridge Raises Ire of City Council
It was reported that the fish kill on the island was cleaned up by a cooperative effort of private citizens, businesses, and the city. The City hauled away 137 tons of dead fish.
The City is preparing for spring break. Congestion on the island is expected to be worse than normal during spring break because of the construction of the Park Road 22 bridge.
There was a report by Brett Oetting CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. They unveiled a new ad campaign for the Coastal Bend. He stated we haven’t seen a return to pre-Covidnumbers of visitors but expect more traffic to the coast this season as people are predicted to be avoiding large cities this year.
Low Bidder Issue?
One item is a discussion was item 21 concerning the reconstruction of street, water, gas and drainage infrastructure along a section of Leopard Street. The company that receivedthe contract was almost one half million dollars over the low bidder.
The low bidder Burnside Services Inc. was found to be nonresponsive because it lacked the technical experience in the judgment of the staff to complete the contract successfully. Thecontract was awarded to Clark Pipeline Construction who donated over $13,500 to winning candidates in this election cycle.
The bid process was questioned by Councilman Lerma, Pusley, Smith and Barrera. They all scrutinized it for not being the lowest bed. They also questioned why the bid process wasn’t clarified enough for Burnside to know they didn’t meet the criteria before they went to the time and expense of bidding on a project.
This is the second time Burnside had been rejected when having a low bid. After an explanation of the nonresponsive bid, the bid was passed with Barrera voting no. The staff said they would work on improving the information on the bid process and explain in any rejections more thoroughly in the Council packet.
We did not talk to anyone at Burnside services but their website shows they are primarily an earthmoving company who works on athletic fields. It appears that there is no wrongdoing on the issue but it creates a negative perception when a low bidder is twice rejected in favor of a one who has made large campaign contributions. Lerma was the only Councilman who received a donation ($1,000) from Clark that questioned the contract decision. Molina ($1,000), Hernandez ($2,000), Guajardo ($8,500) had no questions about the bid award.
Council questions Port Commissioners on policy direction:
Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge City Commission representatives David Engle, Rajan Ahuja, and Richard Vallsmake a presentation and held a discussion with the Council.
The Port had an outstanding year and has $339 million in cash on hand and $310 billion in debt bonds with $58 million available for financing new projects. It has budgeted $150 million for the development of Harbor Island next year into VLCC port and $60 million for land acquisition around the bay.
The Council took issue with the Port for pursuing legislation that would allow them to compete with private developers by leasing port land which is exempt from property taxes and possibly City development fees. That would give developers on Port property an unfair advantage. The effect would be to expand the Port’s authority and encroach on the rights and privileges of the city of Corpus Christi.
Councilman Smith stated that a recent meeting at EDC when he objected to this idea he was told that if the city objected theywould build a tank farm or a railyard in the location next to the SEA District which the City has targeted for revitalization. Last October Former Mayor McComb and every minucipalty signed a letter opposed to such legislation.
When the Port backed off on the legislation, the County sponsored almost identical legislation at the urging of Judge Canales. Canales domestic partner, Doug Allison was hired at the Port two weeks after she took office even though his primary law practice is listed as “Personal Injury”. He also represented Lynn Frazier on the North Beach issue. Canales is a member of the City TIRZ 4 on North Beach.
Another dispute arose when Strawbridge stated that the Port was only seeking permits for desalination to give them to the city of Corpus Christi. It was pointed out that only a week ago he made a presentation of the city of Ingleside that they were applying for the permits in order to provide water to industry.
He continued to insist that they were only applying for the permits to give them to the City. One Councilman pointed out that the City had rejected the Harbor Island site three different times in writing and asked, “So why are you still pursuing that permit.” Strawbridge’s response was that he disagreed with the City and they were going to pursue it anyway.
In general the Port declared they would communicate and cooperate, but did not back off any of their demands. Strawbridge and Valls seemed primarily interested convincing the Council they knew best and how the City losing authority and income was a good thing.
It was suggested that the Port stay in its own lane of developing industrial property and sell land it owned suitable for commercial development. The response was it’s our policy to not sell any property. Hernandez suggested they change the policy. The Port has $60 million set aside for land acquisition this year.
Private developer wants support for legislation establishing as a taxing district
In other attempt to legislate a local issue MPM development was proposing a Municipal Management District in the London area which would make the private developer a taxing entity. They were asking the City support. This like Emergency Service Districts would set up dual tax entities over the same jurisdictions. The Council took no action, meaning it was rejected.
To listen to an analysis and commentary of the meeting by John Kelley and Matt Pierce Briscoe by clicking here to listen to the South Texas Vox podcast .