Katy City Council postpones hiring of health authority, rejects project bids

By R. Hans Miller | Times Senior Reporter
Posted 4/13/20

Katy has once again postponed the hiring of its own health authority at its regularly-scheduled April 13 meeting which puts it in the default position of relying on Harris County Health Authority Dr. …

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Katy City Council postpones hiring of health authority, rejects project bids

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Katy has once again postponed the hiring of its own health authority at its regularly-scheduled April 13 meeting which puts it in the default position of relying on Harris County Health Authority Dr. Umair Shah. The council also rejected bids for sewer construction and rehabilitation as well as parking lot improvements at the library and police station on Franz Road.

“There are some particulars on the (health authority) contract that we’re working through, but as rush-needed because we did verify with all the regional agencies and Harris County – we are fully provided (for) under Harris County’s plans for the entire city of Katy, so there’s no issue on not having (a health authority in place) right now,” said Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harris after the meeting.

Harris pulled the contract from the meeting agenda during the meeting per city staff’s request, he said.

While hiring Dr. Joe A. Anzaldua, the current candidate for the position, would allow the city to customize its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said the city is currently taken care of because it falls under Shah’s jurisdiction. However, having its own health authority physician in place would allow the city to customize its response to the pandemic, such as allowing it to place first responders who contract COVID-19 in hotels to protect their families if the need should arise as the situation continues, Harris said.

Approval of a health authority had previously been postponed from both the April 6 and April 9 special meetings held by the council. However, a contract moving through a government body in Texas – even under a state of health emergency such as has been declared in the city, all counties the city resides in and statewide – in less than a week is not necessarily unexpected or unusual under state procurement regulations. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has specific requirements for government contracts in the state that must be met.

City officials said last week that they have been having a difficult time getting in touch with Shah to obtain authorization to move forward with their own planning, which is why they want to move forward with hiring a Katy-specific health authority. However, Shah said Saturday that he was unaware of the city attempting to reach him for assistance.

“Directly, I haven’t gotten any contact like that. Our team may have been contacted,” Shah said.

Shah did acknowledge that his pace since the health crisis began has kept him from getting to all of the emails he has received, but he had not heard from anyone at the county level indicating that Katy’s administration was trying to reach him.

Katy City Council also rejected bids for sewer projects and repaving of the parking lots in front of the police station and library on Franz Road. Documents provided by the city indicate that the bids received for the sewer projects far exceeded the budget for the sewer renovations.

Katy Public Works Director Elaine Lutringer said the initial budget for the sewer project was $200,000 but the bids received for the project varied greatly. She also said that, given budget uncertainties, the city would reduce its goals and only do two of the four sewer projects that had initially been planned. A request for bids from vendors will go out for work that will be done on South Woods Lane and Alabama Street, which Lutringer said would be the projects set to move forward now that the bids had been rejected.

City Administrator Byron Hebert said the project for the improvements to the parking lot at the police station and library would be put on hold in order to be cautious with the budget. Sales tax revenue has taken a hit for the city, Hebert said, which places the city in a position to be more cautious than it ordinarily would.  

“We’re going to try to keep as much money as we can right now in our general fund to see where that sales tax number is going to go, so right now we’re asking that (Katy City Council) would just postpone on this – reject them now, and when we come out of this (health crisis) we’ll put these budgets back up,” Hebert said.  

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