Finally, the taxpayers in Fort Worth may find out just how badly they were burnt on a real estate development project they were told was for flood control in their city.
Panther Island, which Texas Scorecard has previously reported on, is a project run by the Trinity River Valley Authority (TRVA)—a subsidiary of the Tarrant Regional Water District, Tarrant County, and City of Fort Worth—that has cost the taxpayers $60 million of federal taxpayer money, and over $300 million from taxpayers locally, all in attempt to turn a part of Fort Worth into a hip entertainment hub reminiscent of San Antonio’s Riverwalk. The project has been estimated to eventually cost a grand total of over $1 billion.
Given the TRWD’s purpose is to manage water and flood control, the entertainment project has been viewed as starkly outside the scope of the taxing entity’s mission and, unfortunately for the taxpayers and residents of the city, after 13 years the still unfinished project has become a monument to government waste and inefficiency.
Now the taxpayers may finally get some answers. The TRVA board hired Riveron Consulting last week to audit the entire Panther Island project after Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and the city council called for an in-depth financial assessment of the project last October. The cost to the taxpayers for the audit is over $450,000.
Interestingly, Riveron was the only bidder to take on the review.
Panther Island has also been awash in allegations of nepotism as the executive director of the TRVA is the son of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger (R–Fort Worth). Granger also used her position in Congress to secure ongoing federal taxpayer money, on top of local taxpayer funds, to help cash flow the project until Washington, D.C. recently turned off the spigot.
Former TRWD board member and candidate for next month’s board election, Mary Kelleher, has insisted that an analysis of this project is long overdue. “I asked the local [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] to do a cost/benefit analysis of this project in 2017 and my requests were, and continue to be ignored,” she said in an interview. “While I served on the TRWD board, I learned one wasn’t done because Congresswoman Kay Granger pushed to exempt the project from the cost/benefit analysis and the requirement was waived by Congress.”
Gary Moates, another candidate challenging incumbent TRWD board members Jim Lane and Martha “Marty” Leonard, has also expressed support for a cost and benefit analysis of the project.
And this isn’t even the latest problem involving the TRWD, as Texas Scorecard is now investigating if taxpayers were the ones paying for the TRWD to give away boxes of goodies to fifth-graders at an elementary school.
Both Kelleher and Moates have been endorsed by former Fort Worth City Councilman and conservative activist Clyde Picht.
In this race, the top two vote-getters will be elected to the board.
Early voting for the May 4 election begins April 22.
Information in this article has been updated since publication.