If you drive anywhere in Williamson County, undoubtedly, you’ve seen the banners popping up promoting the 2019 Road Bond Program. Or if you’re on social media, you’ve seen the ads promoting the 2019 Road Bond Program. Or, you may have received something in the mail promoting the 2019 Road Bond Program. I haven’t checked public restrooms, but I wouldn’t doubt there would be ads there as well.
If you’re curious, like me, you look all that info over and see that it’s paid for by “Citizens for Safety, Quality Roads and Parks”. “What public minded citizens”, you might think. But then you dig a little deeper.
If you go to the Williamson County Campaign Finance Report website at https://www.wilco.org/Departments/Elections/Additional-Information/Campaign-Finance , it all becomes clear. Scroll down to “Citizens for Safety, Roads and Parks” and check out their campaign finance reports.
The first one, filed on 5-28-2019, appoints a Treasurer for the organization. A gentleman, who with a little digging, appears to be a Business Manager with an engineering firm.
The second report, filed on 7-15-2019, reflects two $5,000 contributions, the first from an engineering firm out of Houston, and the second from a gentleman who works for an engineering firm out of Austin.
The third report, filed on 9-30-2019, reflects $151,050 in contributions almost exclusively from engineering firms.
If you’re wondering why engineering firms from all over the country are so interested in “Safety, Quality Roads and Parks” in Williamson County, perhaps it’s because our Williamson County Commissioners award no bid contracts for engineering work on the projects funded by these bond elections. Sadly, when I investigated the last two road bond projects, I found about 70% on the contributions to our County Commissioners came from a lot of these same engineering firms. I’m not researching our current commissioners, because frankly it’s a lot of work and no one is paying me to do this.
Even more amazing is the fact that none of this is illegal. Under state law, engineering work falls under professional services and that kind of work does not have to be bid.
The previous two bond elections had the same shenanigans going on under the guise of “Citizens for Better Williamson County Transportation …”. I harangued about it then to no avail, and we’re back in the same place.
The projects on the bond election may all be perfectly valid, but until the process passes the smell test, it’s certainly hard to support it.