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Contract flaws revealed in WTP4 audit

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TWC News: Contract flaws revealed in WTP4 audit
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Austin officials are weighing in on Monday's audit report on Water Treatment Plant Number Four.

The audit shows construction costs are higher than the budgeted $359 million. By some estimates, the project could run $60 million over.

Sarah Faust has a solid understanding of the history and politics of WTP4. She is an appointed member of the Austin Water and Wastewater Commission.

In 2010, Faust and a majority of the board advised city council it was a bad idea to allow Austin Water Director Greg Mazaros to have carte blanche over construction contracts.

"We had one entire meeting about the construction manager-at-risk," she said. "I was disappointed that they gave up the oversight, that they would have had over the
project. I also think we would have known sooner that it was not coming in under budget."

Council Member Bill Spelman agrees with Faust. He was in the minority when the council voted to give Mazaros free reign.

"Had we not the 4-to-3 vote, we would have seen this stuff coming a couple of years ago and I think we would not be shocked to find we are over budget now," he said.

During the city’s Audit and Finance Committee meeting Monday, Meszaros told council he needs more money to get the project completed.

"We are asking for about two percent above our original estimate. Instead of $359 million, we are asking for are asking for $374 million," he said.

An additional $15 million request, coming even after $44 million worth of costs, things like a $15 million water main, were cut or deferred from construction plans.

But those projects that were once part of the overall construction plan may have to be built later on down the line--yet another cost for taxpayers.

"We're at least $30 million over budget, depending on how you score it, we may be as high as $60 million,” Spelman said.

For Faust, she wants Meszaros and WTP4 contractors to try and get to right.

"Since we are building this water treatment plant, I would like for it to be built in the most efficient manner possible," she said.

As of now, $354 million of the contracted $359 million has been allocated for construction.

Three remaining contracts worth $20 million have yet to be awarded. City council will have to approve spending any money above budget.

Click here to read the audit in full.

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