The Bastrop Finance Department is strengthening its vehicle purchase process and adding extra security checks after city staff inadvertently ordered two dump trucks, each costing $102,000, though the City Council only approved the purchase of one.
Bastrop Finance Director Tracy Waldron said the dump truck purchase was approved for fiscal year 2017. The vehicle was ordered before Sept. 30, 2017, the last day of that fiscal year, but it wasn’t delivered until November 2017, two month into fiscal year 2018. Therefore, the City Council amended its fiscal year 2018 budget and reallocated the $102,000 to cover the cost of the truck.
The 2018 budget already had a purchase for a small dump truck approved in it for the Public Works Department and Waldron said the new budget amendment confused the department and, without realizing that the amendment was to pay for a truck already in the city’s possession, it approved the purchase of another $102,000 dump truck.
“Staff has spent the time, dissected what occurred with the duplication of the ordering of the dump truck, and understands where the breakdown occurred,” Waldron told the City Council on Tuesday. “Going forward, vehicle appropriations will be assigned a number that must be present when the purchasing summary is turned in.”
City Manager Lynda Humble said the generic nature of the dump truck purchase — being identified as only dump truck instead of having a specific number assigned to it — and the reappropriation of the money from one fiscal year to the next caused the confusion.
Waldron said she has created a fleet purchase list for fiscal year 2019 and assigned numbers specific to each vehicle to avoid confusion. She said the numbers have been passed out to city staff and the Finance Department will be monitoring the list carefully and all purchases will be made as close as possible to Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
“While I am disappointed this happened, the mark of a good organization is not that you’ve screwed up — because we will, we make errors everyday — but what happens when you make that error,” Humble said. “And I am very proud of the fact that united (city staff) came to my office, they didn’t throw anybody under the bus, they accepted full responsibility for their role, and not only did they bring the problem, they brought the solution.”
Mayor Connie Schroeder said that given the kind of awards the city has received for its financial systems and as diligent as city staff is, she was surprised the error wasn’t caught. The city learned of its error only after the second dump truck arrived in August.
“This leaves us in an awkward position because if you’re not messing up, you’re not doing anything; and nobody is perfect but this isn’t one person not being perfect, this took a collection of people to allow this to happen,” Schroeder said. “When we (City Council members) were elected, one of the things we all promised to do was to make sure that we were very diligent with the citizens’ money; because that’s whose money we’re talking about.”
Humble said: “This is a great example of the lack of processes that exist. And it is one of 100 I could give you today. And the life lesson is processes are extremely important and it’s not lost on any of them that this is not happening again.”
Humble said the company who sold the city the dump truck would not take it back as they’re built to city specifications. Bastrop Power and Light, the city’s electric utility, however, needs a truck and will absorb the purchase of the second truck.
Bastrop Power and Light shares the Public Works Department’s dump trucks but with the city’s growth, Humble said, the utility will benefit from having its own truck given the amount of infill development, line extensions, underground work and hauling of dirt assignments it has.
Waldron said Bastrop Power and Light will purchase the dump truck with money available in its vehicle equipment and replacement fund.
This is the second time this year the City Council has had to cover the costs of unapproved work or equipment.
In June, the City Council approved spending $86,500 for work a contractor on a water pipeline project performed without city approval.
Last year, the city awarded a $2 million contract to M&C Fonseca Construction to build a 16-inch pipeline that would supplement residents’ water supply and improve fire protection to developments west of the Colorado River.
The job required the construction company to bore the pipeline underneath the Colorado River as it ran parallel to Texas 71.The complicated task caused construction crews an additional $86,500 in unforeseen costs and the contractor carried out the work before the city approved the extra funding.
M&C Fonseca Project Manager Leo Perez said the company ran into issues when a pre-existing fiber optic cable was discovered underneath the Colorado River and in the planned path of the water pipeline. When the cable was discovered, the contractor made a field adjustment to drill the bore underneath the cable.
Humble said that due to the summer season, the completion of the pipeline was considered critical for the city, leaving no time to have the city attorney to engage with the contractor’s attorneys to settle the cost overrun.