Angleton, Texas delays sewer takeover

By Michael Baker
The Facts

Published January 05, 2004

ANGLETON — Barring a negotiations breakdown, the city’s wastewater services will for now remain in the hands of USFilter Operating Services, not the city.

The city was supposed to take over the services today, but City Council voted Saturday to postpone the move, allowing for further negotiations with the company. The delay was at the request of the company, said City Administrator Michael Stoldt.

“USFilter asked for an opportunity to negotiate,” Stoldt said. “So, we will provide the opportunity.”

The company has provided wastewater services to Angleton for eight years and the city last renewed its contract in 2001. However, the city told the company last year it was terminating the contract, citing dissatisfaction with the company’s performance.

The emergency meeting Saturday, which lasted about 45 minutes and was mostly in closed executive session, was called after USFilter’s attorney delivered a letter asking the city to extend the Monday deadline.

In his motion for the extension, Councilman Roger Collins said the company must meet with a group of city representatives by Wednesday. A date for a new deadline was not set, but Stoldt said the company must respond in a “reasonably short time.”

Should negotiations go poorly, council also gave Mayor Matt Sebesta the power to establish a new termination date without having to call another council session.

Questions seeking comment from council members after the Saturday meeting were deferred to Stoldt.

In the letter to the city, Ernest Blansfield Jr., USFilter’s attorney, warns the city it would have to pay the company a $29,000 termination fee and $76,000 to cover the cost of upgrades. The company also would pursue legal recourse against the city because of damage to its reputation, according to the letter.

City officials have said the company has not hired the 19 employees as required by the contract, but company officials said it has sufficient staffing.

Some USFilter employees planned to come work for the city had it taken over the services Monday, Stoldt said. The agreement to postpone is contingent that the company not retaliate against any of those employees, Collins said in his motion.

The company also has offered its employees the choice to remain employed at USFilter should the contract be terminated, according to the letter. As of Friday, about seven employees had decided to stay with the company.

“Of course, the city will not retaliate against any employee, either,” Stoldt said.

Michael Baker is a reporter for The Facts. Contact him at (979) 237-0150.