Fort Worth

Here’s why the Panther Island review has no price tag

What is Panther Island?

Panther Island is a $1.16 billion plan to re-route the Trinity River and redirect flood waters around the low-lying areas north of downtown. Here's what you should know.
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Panther Island is a $1.16 billion plan to re-route the Trinity River and redirect flood waters around the low-lying areas north of downtown. Here's what you should know.

No price tag has been set for the broad review of Fort Worth’s $1.16 billion Panther Island project that city leaders say is necessary to restore confidence in the flood control and economic development effort.

G.K. Maenius, Tarrant County administrator and Trinity River Vision Authority board president, said consultants vying to review the river project should focus on experience and quality, not the cost of doing business. The analysis will look at “management structure, including accountability structure and staff composition and roles.”

“It’s not good to set a price and then not get what you need,” Maenius said. “We don’t necessarily have a budget, but price will be one factor.”

When Tarrant County looked at long range planning for the the Hospital District around John Peter Smith Hospital, consultants were paid more than $1 million for reviews, according to the county. Heath Management Associates studied the Hospital District for six months at a cost of $655,532 and Cumming Construction Management, which focused on the hospital’s facilities, was paid $415,000 for a year’s worth of analysis.

Maenius said it would be hard to compare costs to the Panther Island review, which is broader and will be done in a shorter period.

The board met Thursday to briefly explain its request for proposal to prospective consultants. A firm should be selected by March 7 with the review done by June 19.

Calls for an independent review came last fall after the federal government skipped funding the Congress-approved project, also known as as the Trinity River Vision Central City project.

Though the project has missed out on 2019 funding, the Panther Island project has about $9 million held over from past years. Most of that work will be done away from the downtown bypass channel in Gateway Park. To stay on the “critical path,” the minimum work to keep the project on schedule, Washington will have to kick in at least $26 million in 2020, water district officials have said. About $322 million in local money has been spent since the project’s inception more than 10 years ago. Purchasing the land needed for the channel and relocation of displaced businesses has cost about $140 million.

At least four national consulting firms with offices in Dallas-Fort Worth have shown interest in reviewing Panther Island:

AlixPartners, a corporate renewal firm.

BDO, accounting consultants.

Mercer, specializing in human resources.

Riveron, a business consulting firm.

Fort Worth-based engineering firm Bannenbaum has also expressed interest while representatives from engineering firms Fort Worth-based Freese and Nichols and Kansas City, Mo.,-based Burns and McDonnel attended Thursday’s meeting, said David Owen, Tarrant Regional Water District purchasing manager.

Local firms will not be given preference over national firms, authority board member and city councilman Carlos Flores said. Instead, the board will select a consultant based on overall experience and ability to complete the review in 90 days.

“I think a company’s objectivity will be clearly seen in their proposal,” Flores said.

When Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called for the review in October, she and council members said the city would consider withholding an extension of a special tax district meant to fund $250 million in bonds to help support the local piece of the Panther Island Project.

Flores said this week it was too early to know if a vote on the extension will come in the year.

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