The Killeen City Council approved a $7.8 million trail and road extension contract with a Belton-based construction firm in a contested 4-3 vote Tuesday.
Last week, council members raised concerns over a recent wrongful death lawsuit filed against James Construction Group, who was tabbed as the low bidder for the 0.6-mile extension of Rosewood Drive and the construction of two segments of the Heritage Oaks Hike and Bike Trail in southeast Killeen.
In what is becoming a familiar bloc, council members Gregory Johnson, Shirley Fleming and Steve Harris voted against awarding the contract Tuesday, saying they were following the will of their constituents during the vote.
Mark Buchanan, a representative for James Construction, addressed the council, saying the public discussion Feb. 20 about the firm’s litigation without consulting the group was irresponsible.
“Litigation happens,” Buchanan said. “Unfortunately we all deal in a litigious society, and I do not want that to be a bar to a contract for work.’
Killeen city attorney Kathy Davis said because James Construction had been chosen by a city committee from among four sealed bids and recognized as the low bidder, there was little recourse for the council to bar the firm from being awarded the contract.
“We don’t have a lot of leeway not to accept the contract,” she said.
Killeen Director of Public Works David Olson said he and city staff felt comfortable with James Construction, which previously contracted with the city for work on the Rosewood Drive and Interstate 14 intersection. Olson said James Construction’s record had been vetted during the bidding process and presented no glaring red flags.
“We feel very confidently that we can say they are a good construction company,” he said.
Council members Juan Rivera, Jonathan Orkray and Debbie Nash-King and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick voted to approve the contract.
In other business, the council unanimously approved a $673,673 contract with Bruce Flanigan Construction for the 10th phase of the city’s Septic Tank Elimination Program.
The newest phase will bring city sewer access to 101 homes in the Tucker Subdivision at 6000 S. Clear Creek Road. The city estimated the cost to homeowners who opt into the program will be $1,800.
Olson said Tuesday the city’s elimination initiative would likely continue indefinitely as the city expands its corporate limits to the south and attempts to bring more homes onto the city’s sewer system.
“We will continue this program as we annex and will continue to address those homes within our city limits,” he said.
Olson told the council the program began in consultation with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to reduce the risk of sewage tank flooding in city neighborhoods.
The council also:
Tabled a zoning change and future land use map adjustment for about a 20-acre plot of land east of the Clear Creek Mobile Home Park on Clear Creek Road. The zoning change would clear the way for the construction of roughly 60 duplexes on the narrow rectangular plot.