WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Two major city projects, worth about $4 million are on to the next phase after the city council approved construction bids on Tuesday morning.
“We’re glad to get the ball moving on these two projects especially the trail project because we have that deadline, we have to complete all the work in the railroad right of way, in a 12-month period,” Public Works Director Russell Schreiber said.
Chad and Brandi Wilson of Wilson Contracting were awarded the contract for the Barnett to Seymour Highway leg of the Hike and Bike Trail after Wilson’s bid came in nearly $300, 000 less than the next lowest bid.
They were also awarded the contract for the project to widen and extend Maplewood to McNeil avenue.
Five bids were received but Wilson Contracting submitted the lowest bid of $1.8 million, much lower than the estimate of $2.4 million by city staff.
Even with the lower than expected bid, the city council wasn’t unanimous when it came to awarding the contract.
Councilor at large Bobby Whiteley and District Five City Councilor Steve Jackson voted against awarding both contracts to Wilson.
And while Whiteley couldn’t be reached for comment as to why Jackson spoke up at the end of the meeting saying he will reject any Wilson bids that come to council because of Chad Wilson’s past.
“I will not now or ever vote yes to award a contract to Mr. Wilson as long as he continues this behavior,” Jackson said.
Wilson is a repeat DWI offender who recently had the terms of his probation adjusted in an agreement with the district attorney’s office after a motion was filed to revoke his probation.
As part of the agreement, Wilson had to spend two weekends in jail and agree not to file a motion to remove his ankle monitor until May 2020.
Up to 2017, Wilson had four DWI convictions and five DWI arrests.
During councilor comments, Steve Jackson read a statement that while everyone makes mistakes, he believes city leaders have a responsibility to take the moral high ground when it comes to accepting bids from Wilson.
“That time and time again, each of y’all put money or the priority over sending a clear and moral message to our kids and young people each time Mr. Wilson is rewarded a contract,” Jackson said.
In a rebuttal, Mayor Stephen Santellana called Wilson a good friend who hasn’t had a drink in more than 1,300 days.
Santellana said Wilson, as a contractor, hasn’t failed the city of Wichita Falls yet and that the city doesn’t disqualify people because of their past.
“Chad was a bad person. A lot of people ask me why Chad’s not in jail. I have no idea. He had a forgiving judge I guess and a good lawyer, but that’s not my position as mayor. I’m a steward of taxpayer money and I’m a Christian. It takes a strong Christian person instead of kicking someone while they are down to wrap your arms around them. It takes the community to wrap their arms around somebody,” Santellana said.
During the exchange with the mayor, Jackson walked out of city council chambers but came right back in to ask why Wilson’s bids are always lower than others.
“We have a responsibility to the taxpayers and as long as he is in here doing low bid work, saving taxpayer money and doing a quality job and turning it back over to the city I feel it is upon council to vote yes for that if you vote no I have no problem with that,” Santellana said.
He also asked how with five DWI’s Wilson is able to stay out of jail.
Public Works Director Russell Schreiber said Chad Wilson has been in the contracting business for quite a few years and has done a lot of work for the city of Wichita Falls.
“He was the low bidder, and he met the qualifications of the bid, he was the low bidder of four bidders on the trail project, five bidders on the Maplewood project so we have no reason to believe that he won’t finish the project on time and we believe he’ll do quality work,” Schreiber said.
In 2016 the mayor was accused of a conflict of interest by a political opponent because of his ties to Wilson in a business venture, and some have asked why the mayor doesn’t recuse himself from voting on Wilson’s business dealings with the city.
Santellana said he has checked any such issues with the city attorney and was advised there was never a conflict of interest and he has made no financial gain from any of the contracts awarded to Wilson.