The engineering firm Metro board member Allen Watson works for has lost at least one contract with Harris County due to Watson’s vote on the GMP referendum, according to The Houston Chronicle:
Watson was one of five city of Houston appointees who approved a November ballot proposal that would give tens of millions of dollars more to Houston for roadwork at the expense of Harris County and most of the 14 small cities in Metro’s service area.
Tuesday morning, Harris County officials pulled a contract with Watson’s engineering firm, Cobb, Fendley & Associates, off Commissioners Court’s agenda.
“If somebody that wants to work for Harris County goes out and figures out a way to deprive Harris County’s unincorporated area out of tens of millions of dollars in Metro funding, I really don’t think they need to be doing business with the county,” said Commissioner Steve Radack. “Is it reasonable for him to say, ‘Well, by the way, I continue to want to get millions of dollars of work at the county?’ Is that reasonable?”
Radack is not the only one grumbling. Hedwig Village Mayor Sue Speck said Cobb Fendley has worked for her city before but likely will not in the future.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority board’s Friday vote was another step in the political minefield that is the future of the transit agency’s “general mobility” program. The program for decades has diverted a quarter of Metro’s 1 percent sales tax revenues to its member governments for use on roads, bridges, bike trails and other non-transit projects. Voters must approve a referendum to reauthorize the general mobility program to keep those dollars flowing to the cities and county.
The proposal Metro’s board chose to put before voters in November would base the payments on where the sales taxes are collected, which would give Houston most of the mobility cash. Harris County officials say the county will lose $163 million in mobility payments by 2021 if the measure passes; if the referendum fails, Metro would be entitled to keep all of the sales tax revenues.
Radack and others see the ballot proposal as a city of Houston cash grab. So, when he saw Watson’s contract on Tuesday’s agenda to design a road in his precinct, he called the county’s director of public infrastructure, Art Storey.
Storey said his decision was less about Watson’s vote and more about its implications: If the county is to lose $163 million over the next decade, Storey said, some projects need to be reevaluated. Storey noted that he also withdrew several other engineering jobs, totaling about $1 million, on Tuesday.
“We’re going to go forward with something, but we’re going to be somewhat constrained and limited,” Storey said. “It’s entirely possible, upon further review, we’ll go ahead and initiate the design and construction.”