By Samantha Smith
The Buda City Council dropped a figurative bomb last month when it announced after an executive session that it was going to enter into dispute resolutions with the ECM International consulting firm over design issues with Buda’s new municipal buildings.
“The dispute resolution will give us the chance to take a step back and work on getting on the same page with ECM,” Mayor Todd Ruge said.
Prior to that decision, ECM Senior Vice President Brenda Jenkins was scheduled to give a presentation to council as a regular agenda item on June 21. But the presentation was put on hold by council, who retired into executive session for “consultations with city attorney” at 8:25pm.
Council came out of executive session at 11:07 p.m. and immediately brought the item back to the floor for discussion after having reached a decision in executive session.
Jenkins then preceded with her presentation on where the design team was in the process. She asked council to make decisions based on two different cost proposals in order to move forward with construction.
According to Ruge, both options provided to council by ECM International were not acceptable by design or budget standards.
“The scope of things that we (city council) wanted are missing from the two proposals; neither of these is acceptable to us,” Ruge said.
According to an emailed response from Buda City Attorney Catalina Gonzales, Buda is not in litigation with ECM International nor is there any plan at this time to file any lawsuits.
Gonzales added that city council has the right to retire into executive session at any time during open session to consult with their attorney on legal matters, which it did before ECM’s presentation on the agenda item.
Ruge said the action to enter into dispute resolution with ECM was taken due to both parties feeling like they weren’t on the same page as far as design concept and budget go.
When asked if ECM’s senior vice president knew of Buda’s intentions to begin dispute resolution proceedings, Ruge said the contract between ECM International and Buda stipulated either party could enter into dispute resolution at any time.
“I would think that they would be aware that it could happen at any time,” Ruge said.
Originally, the new municipal buildings were scheduled to be open in either November or December 2017.
Ruge said with the dispute resolution construction could be delayed, which could push back the opening of the new buildings until early 2018.
According to Ruge, at this time there are no plans by council to dissolve the contract with ECM International regarding the work on Props 1 and 2 of the 2014 Bond Program, but “it could be a possibility in the future as with any other contract.”