A programmatic review from advisory firm Riveron revealed the troubled government agency run by the son of a congresswoman spends $2 million annually in taxpayer money to operate, with roughly 10 percent spent on public relations.
Panther Island, conceived in 2003, is a government plan to reroute the Trinity River via a 1.5-mile bypass—and redevelop prime real estate—all under the guise of flood control. The Trinity River Vision Authority, headed by Congresswoman Kay Granger’s son, J.D. Granger, was the entity created to oversee coordination of the bypass channel, recreational amenities, and land redevelopment.
However, the project began coming under intense scrutiny after repeated delays and cost overruns. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is “not permitted to spend federal dollars on local economic development […] .”As a result, officials in the Trump administration pulled federal funding. The move prompted the hiring of Riveron, a Dallas-based consulting firm, to perform a programmatic review of the project in hopes of restoring federal confidence and funding.
Until the troubled project can restore federal support, the Tarrant Regional Water District convinced voters to approve a $250 million debt proposal in 2018, which will keep Granger’s agency on life support and will be repaid by local property taxpayers.
Media reports have correctly noted that Granger’s son is one of the highest-paid local government bureaucrats in the DFW region, but the review showed other areas of bloat. In Fiscal Year 2019, Granger’s TRVA spent over $154,000 on office space in downtown Fort Worth, over $223,000 on “Community Education,” and $769,000 on a “Scheduler.” As an administrative agency responsible for coordinating contractors and vendors, not one of the expenses are directly related to construction projects.
Interestingly, of the funds budgeted for FY 2019 on “Consulting,” $40,000 was for “Planning Review Design Renderings and Schematics,” despite other TRVA documents claiming the design phase was “100 percent completed” as of October 31, 2018 at a total cost exceeding $35 million.
As previously reported, the Panther Island boondoggle has already spent more than $383 million in federal, state, and local taxpayer money over the past 15 years, according to Granger’s TRVA. Even worse, the total project cost has ballooned from $435 million in 2006 to more than $1.168 billion as of 2018, and its projected completion date has been delayed until 2028.
The exact price tag is still unknown as no construction aspect of the complicated project has been completed, according to TRVA documents. The TRVA has yet to undergo either a financial or forensic audit of where $383 million in taxpayer funds have been spent.
Texas Scorecard will continue to report on details of the 90-page programmatic review and the effect the redevelopment boondoggle is having on taxpayers.