An expensive gaffe on the new City Hall project could cost the city $150,000 in legal fees, if Fort Worth City Council approves a contract for outside legal counsel Tuesday.
“We certainly want to ensure everything was done properly because it’s taxpayer dollars going to this project,” District 3 council member Michael Crain said. “So I think it’s prudent for us to have a comprehensive look in every aspect to ensure those dollars are protected.”
The $150,000 is in addition to $7.6 million in unprecedented costs the city has incurred to follow federal floodway requirements. City officials relied on a survey produced by Blue Sky Surveying and Mapping that approximated the boundaries of a federal floodway easement, rather than identifying its exact location.
Contractors moved forward with development plans under the impression that the survey was exact, and as a result, the city has incurred myriad extra costs to ensure the new City Hall, formerly the Pier 1 building, doesn’t run afoul of federal regulations.
Now, the city is going through a time-intensive and costly process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to secure a Section 408 permit.
The city plans to hire Cantey Hanger LLP as counsel. The firm, established in 1882, has offices in Fort Worth, Dallas, Midlothian and Austin.
“This is a unique situation that requires special legal expertise in a complex and difficult legal area,” a mayor and council communication states. “Cantey Hanger law firm has the experience necessary to advise the City with any claims that should be made or perhaps litigation that should be undertaken to compensate the City.”
Council members Elizabeth Beck, Carlos Flores, Alan Blaylock, and Mayor Mattie Parker declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Council members Leonard Firestone, Gyna Bivens, Chris Nettles, and Jared Williams did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
An initial budget of $180 million for the city’s new base of operations has ballooned to $230 million. In addition to the mismarked survey, the new City Hall project is also dealing with inflation, added project scope, and additional staff who will be moved into the building.
However, city officials maintain that the project is still far cheaper than building an entirely new city hall structure. In the most recent presentation to City Council on the project, contractors said the updated cost to construct a new building would be around $391 million — $161 million more than the updated budget for the Pier 1 building.
“We’ve been at the present city hall I think for 50 years,” Crain said. “It really is about an investment in our people. Again, the transparency, openness, the accessibility… and that’s why there’s a big, big thought process about parking, what that looks like and access to the building itself.”
The City Council will also vote on whether or not to take out $50 million in debt Tuesday to cover the budget overruns.
Residents can weigh in on the lawsuit and other agenda items during the Tuesday, April 11 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.
To sign up to speak, access the meeting agenda here and search for the item you would like to comment on. Click on “Speaker/Comment Card” to indicate whether you would like to comment in-person, virtually or in writing.
Other significant agenda items
Fort Worth City Council will vote to appoint four members to the Fort Worth Sports Authority Board of Directors. Former council member Cary Moon, who strongly advocated for a sports complex in north Fort Worth while he sat on council, is among the appointees. Moon spent 45 days in jail starting in January after violating probation related to a 2020 drunk driving arrest, according to the The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
An ordinance creating a tax break for a Carhartt distribution center is also up for approval Tuesday. The Report previously reported that the 1.2 million-square-foot building could bring in 500 jobs by the end of 2024.
Tuesday is also a zoning meeting. The City Council will consider 18 zoning cases. One applicant is seeking to rezone a lot at 3600 E. Rosedale Street to allow for the sale of cars on the lot. The location is two blocks away from the Polytechnic/Wesleyan Urban Village. The zoning commission unanimously recommended denial of the request.
The proposed rezoning falls into District 8 and future District 11.
District 4 could be receiving a new automated car wash. The facility would be located at 4941 North Tarrant Parkway, and the applicants are seeking approval for the construction of an Ultra Clean Express Car Wash.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 10 to include more information on the council’s agenda.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
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