I was planning this month's report to highlight all the wind power developments that have been announced for the Lone Star State over the past few weeks — from T. Boone Pickens making known his plans to build a $10-billion, 4,000-megawatt wind farm near Pampa, to two wind power research facilities to be built in Texas.
Last year, the Texas General Land Office announced that Texas had been chosen as the site for a historic new federal wind blade test facility to be built on the Texas coast. Plans and permitting are being finalized to build the facility at Ingleside near Corpus Christi.
In early June at the WINDPOWER 2008 conference and exhibition in Houston, Danish wind turbine manufacturing giant Vestas announced that they will be building their USA research center in Houston. A Vestas spokesman declined to provide information to Texas Contractor about the specific location of the center or the names of architectural, engineering and construction firms that will be involved in building the research facility, but they expect the research center in Houston to open in 2009 and become fully operational in 2010.
But then news started emerging that there will be changes in the way the state does business. The Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) Division of the Comptroller's Office announced a new process to try to save administrative cost to the state and add flexibility. The TPASS awards and manages hundreds of statewide contracts on behalf of more than 200 state agencies and 1,700 local government agencies.
There will be one single RFP with many features. Evaluation and Award of Contracts will be based upon the best value to the state by considering the proposed cost per mile rate multiplied by the number of hauling miles in the proposal, and the unit price multiplied by total quantity. The RFP may be awarded in any number of ways: statewide, by maintenance zone or combination of zones, or line items, depending on the types of proposals received. Multiple proposals may be awarded on a single line item.
The AGC of Texas reviewed the "Request for Proposals (RFP) Requisition #745-A1, Road and Building Materials" and found "it possesses a dangerous lack of specificity in both material types and the process by which they are requisitioned."
During a meeting in June, building contractors and suppliers voiced concerns regarding the limited details allowed for in the RFP. For instance, hauling miles must be accounted for; however, there is no place on the form to specify if there are multiple plant locations. Hot mix is not listed with any grade specified. The Comptroller's Office reserves the right to add onto a proposal at any time and may extend a contract for up to nine months, and there is no provision for the supplier to refuse the extension.
The time limit for response before final decision encompassed only a matter of days, far too short a time for our magazine to rally readers. This type of situation reflects the benefit of trade organizations capable of rapidly eliciting response among members.
In June, the Sunset Commission Staff published their unflattering preliminary report on TxDOT and the Transportation Commission, and commentary has been flying. In 1977, the Texas Legislature created the Sunset Advisory Commission to identify and eliminate waste, duplication and inefficiency in government agencies. The 12-member Commission is a legislative body that reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies every 12 years.
The Sunset Commission Staff Report's recommendation would abolish the Texas Transportation Commission, naming a single Transportation Commissioner with a 2-year term, and place TxDOT under a four-year legislative conservatorship. Immediately following the conservatorship, another Sunset review would monitor the agency's progress.
For more than 80 years, the Texas Transportation Commission was made up of three members until Gov. Perry expanded that number to five. OK, go back to the three member panel, but as Sen. Robert Nichols, who was himself formerly a member of the TTC, said, "The last thing the state needs is a 'Transportation Czar.' There would always be intense pressure to have the larger urban areas represented in this singular position and therefore it would become a more political appointment." As for the Transportation Commissioners' term to be reduced from six years down to two, Sen. Nichols' voice of experience once again weighed in. "Two years is too short; it takes a substantial amount of time to learn what the agency does and how it does it. By the time you become effective, your time would be up."
Their recommendations also call for TxDOT to redevelop the long-range Statewide Transportation Plan and regularly measure progress toward those goals, and to make the Department's contracting functions more accountable. The word 'transparency' was mentioned a lot.
A Sunset Commission public hearing was held July 15. The final report from the commission is expected to be published sometime in September.