Following the Money, Live at City Hall With the Trinity River Corridor Project Committee

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Sam Merten
Dave Neumann and Rebecca Rasor chat before this morning's committee meeting.
We're here at City Hall for the Trinity River Corridor Project Committee's briefing about the recent setback in the city's rush to restore the Trinity River levees' 100-year flood protection before FEMA finalizes new flood maps at the end of 2011. At issue is a request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for additional testing of the soil strength that costs about $1 million and has turned Mayor Tom Leppert, City Manager Mary Suhm and committee chair Dave Neumann against the corps.

"Remember at lunch last week I told you we were changing our tone?" Neumann said to someone before the meeting. "You're damned right we are."

But before we heard about that, the meeting started with a look-see at an expenditure report for the Trinity project, which includes a new pink column representing the $25 million nabbed from other projects to pay for the levee study.

"We will forever have this complication in accounting where we have this pink column," Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan said.

Surprisingly, Neumann was somewhat aggressive in his questioning, pointing out to Jordan that approximately 74 percent of the $246 million approved by voters in 1998 for the Trinity project has already been spent.

"Am I missing something?" Neumann said. "Please tell me."

"If you look at it a different way, we're probably at about 75 percent," Jordan replied after adding that the $25 million for the levee remediation study needed to be included.

Then Neumann hit on a biggie. He wanted to know how much the city has spent outside the original scope of the '98 bond funds on the Trinity project, but no one had an answer.

"We're incurring an enormous amount of expenses that were never expected," Neumann said. "Would you agree?"

"Yes."

Neumann also noted that, according to the document, there is nearly $1 million that vanished from the Trinity River Audubon Center.

"There should be $800,000 left, yes?"

"Yes, sorry about that."

During Steve Salazar's comments, Jordan said she'll brief the council on which projects from the 2006 bond program will be unfunded to scrape together dough for the 100-year levee fix. Neumann jumped in and said, "or delayed," but Jordan simply said "well..." without explaining, so it would appear some projects won't be restored.

Neumann, Salazar and Pauline Medrano recused themselves from the levee briefing because they own land near the floodway, and Jordan just finished up. Let's follow along in the comments.
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