The conversation about the city’s contracts and its relationship with Howerton Engineering picked up Monday night right where it left off at the last Portsmouth City Council meeting. In fact, the conversation prompted City Manager Derek K. Allen to make the statement — “If we lose our flood insurance, it’s not because of the city. It’s because of one individual.” That one individual in question was Howerton Engineering.
Allen was again questioned by First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson as to why the city does not give Howerton more projects. Johnson asked why only certain companies were given requests for quotes (RFQ) and why Howerton has somehow been out of the loop for those projects.
“Last year we had to pony up $126,000 more,” Allen said. “We were contacted in February by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and we were given an April 8 deadline to turn in, not additional work, they wanted to see the homework behind the answers we gave.”
Allen said within two weeks — AMEC, the two Howerton subcontractors, Cole and Thelen — turned their work in.
“We are today, May 9, and we are waiting on him to turn his work in,” Allen said. “It was due to FEMA April 8.”
It was at that point in the conversation, when asked by another member of city council who Allen was referring to as “this individual” that he responded – “Howerton.”
“We’ve asked, ‘when are you going to turn the work in?’” Allen said. “My questions go unanswered.”
Allen said the city has had to resort to going through Howerton’s attorney for answers and the city is still unable to get answers.
“This is an individual who you (Kevin W. Johnson) are advocating – why aren’t you using them?” Allen said. “I RFQ’d for engineering. I can’t answer as to why he did or did not apply.”
The Thermoplastic contract was somewhat at the center of the conversation. The Thermoplastic project is the lane marking project on Gay Street. Allen said he gave that project to Public Service Director Bill Beaumont and since the estimate for the project is $37,000, it does not have to be left for bids. He said Beaumont contacted Thermoplastic companies.
“I’ve met with Mr. Howerton and I expressed what it would take to begin the process to get back to a good relationship,” Allen said. “And he has chosen not to follow that advice. Your engineer is supposed to be somebody who works with you, has a good relationship with you and does these things, not confrontationally. If we lose our flood insurance. It’s not because of the city. It’s because of one individual. I cannot get him to submit what was asked for. His subs submitted. Everyone has turned their work in but him. Why would I give him any work?”
“You’ve answered my question,” Johnson said. “Thank you.”