by Walker County News Today staff
Though there had been no announcement by the City and no prior public discussion, it came to light at Tuesday’s (June 19) City Council meeting that the City of Huntsville has contracted out for an Interim Public Works Director.
This information surfaced as a result of questioning by Councilmember Ronald Allen of a proposed budget amendment allocating funds for the Interim Contract. Although the amendment did not identify the Interim Public Works Director by name, the agendas for both the June 5 and the June 19 meeting referred to Mr. Brent S. Sherrod as the new Interim Director of Public Works.
But Councilmember Allen pointed out that Mr. Sherrod was previously identified as the Project Engineer whose services the City obtained in April 2017 through a contract with ACES (American Civil Engineering Services, L.P. based in Conroe). This contract was to provide project management oversight for the City of its several ambitious and high- cost Proposition 3 Water and Wastewater projects.
Mr. Sherrod is shown on the ACES website as being the Managing Partner of ACES, a company that the website claims provides a wide range of professional services to both public and private clients in Texas.
Though it had not previously agreed to fund Mr. Sherrod’s separate contract as Interim Public Works Director, the Council, at its June 19 meeting did agree to fund the contract for four months at a rate of $10,000 per month. It also provided another $60,000 to extend the ACES Project Management Support contract through December of this year.
In discussion at the meeting, Councilmember Ronald Allen quoted from the backup material provided to Council: “A contract for an Interim Public Works Director has been entered into by the City. The contract is for early May through August 31, 2018. It is estimated the City will pay around $40,000 on the contract for this time-period. In April 2017, the City Council approved entering into a contract with American Civil Engineering Services (ACES), Brent Sherrod, PE, to provide project oversight and management for the Proposition 3 water and wastewater projects.”
Councilmember Allen then continued, “So, the way I understand this, we have Brent Sherrod as both the Interim Public Works Director on contract and on contract to provide project oversight on the Proposition 3 bond project as an independent contractor. I thought the $7500 a month contract with ACES, Brent Sherrod, PE was to have independent eyes looking at the same project as our staff was.”
Councilmember Allen then asked City Manager Kulhavy if he thought this was in the best interest of the city, to which Mr. Kulhavy replied, “Absolutely, 100%.”
He then asked City Attorney, Leonard Schneider if he saw any potential problems with this situation. Mr. Schneider replied, “As the independent Public Works Director, he signed an independent contractor agreement. I specifically told Aron that’s the way it needed to be done, to keep it separate so we can review his hours and make sure he’s doing his job.
Councilmember Allen concluded his remarks with, “I just want to make sure that, down the road, in the future, we don’t find out that we’ve had the fox guarding the henhouse.”
That concluded the discussion at the meeting. The question still left open is whether a conflict of interest or other problems might exist since one individual is now expected to perform important jobs that were previously defined as requiring two or more people.