Funding for the project, currently a low-water crossing on West King Lane that is being used by oil companies in northern Bee County, has been put on hold until the benefactors — Texstar Midstream and Teak Midstream — are contacted for their opinions.
These companies together contributed $250,000 for what was initially thought to be a new bridge.
“It is just a good deal. A real good deal,” Mike Schlichte, vice president at Koltz Associates, said during an initial meeting with the court five months ago when the bridge was proposed to the commissioners.
Schlichte told commissioners that his company would work on the county’s behalf to build a bridge — not just replace a culvert.
“If the companies are willing to put up the funding, you get a new bridge, and you are going to get a much better situation out there than you have now for the people who live out there, the school buses that cross it and the oil companies,” he told the court during that prior meeting.
On Monday, things changed though.
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, who has been spearheading this project because it is in his precinct, said that there initially was some concern whether there was enough money to fully fund a bridge.
“What has happened was several of us questioned the possibility of being able to replace the culvert for several hundred thousand dollars,” he said. “As we went along with the company we are working with, it turn outs to put a bridge in was $500,000 to a million dollars.”
Commissioner Ken Haggard showed his displeasure with the situation in which the county is now being placed.
“I am just wondering if this company we are dealing with, this consulting firm, if they are just dead set on their own set of contractors and they are not going out and looking at anything different,” he said. “I feel we are being held hostage by this consulting company...”
The court previously approved paying Koltz Associates $48,000 for their assistance in the project and designs based upon what the county wanted.
DeWitt said that since all of this began he has received a set of plans from a company that has done work in the county before. However, these bridge plans didn’t have an engineer’s seal.
“When you are putting in something as a government entity and it doesn’t have an engineer’s seal, you are accepting every bit of liability that there is.”
No one on the court wanted to take that chance. However, they also weren’t keen on the idea of using the culvert plans provided by Koltz Associates.
“It is not what we thought we were going to get,” DeWitt said. “It will be safer but it will not be a bridge.”
Commissioner Carlos Salazar also voiced concern for the companies funding this project.
“The individuals who donated this money to the county, are they OK with culverts?” he asked. “We need to find out.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.