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AGC Municipal and Utilities Division: A View from the Underground

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Wendy Foster with the Texas Water Development Board discusses the importance of the Chapter's Prop. 2 initiative to Texas' future needs.

At a recent meeting with a member in North Texas, I was told AGC of Texas is an organization for Highway Contractors. I hear this quite often as I interact with members around the state, and as Director of our Municipal and Utilities Division, this doesn’t sit well with me.

It is time to set the record straight, because while AGC of Texas does indeed serve the highway construction industry in Texas, and has done a tremendous job doing so, that isn’t all we are about.

The AGC of Texas Highway and Heavy Branch was originally founded in 1924, making it one of the oldest trade associations in the nation. In 1983, it merged with the Texas Heavy, Municipal, and Utilities Branch, uniting Texas contractors into one of the largest, strongest, and most progressive Chapters in the construction industry.

By definition, Municipal & Utility (M&U) contractors perform utility construction and rehabilitation work including underground construction, sewer lines, storm drains, water lines, and water and sewer systems including treatment facilities. This also includes local roadwork, grading, drainage, sidewalks, driveways, curb and gutter, and box culverts. Typically this construction is performed for municipal, city, county, and regional authorities and public works agencies.

Since 1984 AGC of Texas has endeavored to support and cultivate its M&U members through developing relationships with local owners and promoting market development, in addition to safety training, regulatory, and legislative advocacy on the state and national level.

What has AGC Done for M&U Contractors?

As the name implies, M&U contractor issues tend to be local in nature. Often times this means AGC is called upon to meet with local entities when they are contemplating new specifications or delivery methods or when local contracting issues are brought to AGC’s attention. In the last year alone, AGC has advocated successfully on members’ behalves, submitting input on development of local prequalification criteria, DBE programs, specification re-writes, correcting misinterpretations of federal assistance regulations regarding labor unions and providing local project information in our area forecasts and plan rooms.

On the state level, AGC has also worked to develop markets and forge new relationships. During the 82nd Legislative Session, the Chapter advocated for key contracting reforms impacting M&U contractors and successfully advocated for increased water infrastructure funding. This effort included hosting a panel discussion for the public and legislative staff at the Capitol to discuss Texas water needs. Speakers included House Natural Resources Chairman Allen Ritter, and an expert panel consisting of AGC contractor and engineer members Art Daniel with AR Daniel Construction Services Inc. and Jim Gooch with Freese and Nichols. The panel also included Mr. Jim Parks, Executive Director of the North Texas Water Utility, mayors and representatives of the manufacturing industry on behalf of the US Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Association of Business, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Water Conservation Association.

Most notably, AGC members saw the fruits of M&U efforts in November 2011 with the passage of Proposition 2 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) bonding authority. Proposition 2 established a revolving $6 billion GO bonding authority ensuring local and regional water entities and the state have access to low interest financing making crucial water infrastructure investments possible. Proposition 2 would not have passed without strong statewide AGC member involvement and allocation of significant chapter resources to coordinate education efforts with member and partner organizations. In addition to building and sustaining markets we are making sure that the rules are clear and fair at the TWDB. The Chapter, working through our Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) Task Force and Water and Wastewater Committee, has also provided crucial comments on development of TWDB’s guidelines for Design Build and CMAR to ensure that the process is fair and efficient for AGC members.

Developing and enhancing relationships with the TWDB and working with entities such as the Texas Water Conservation Association (TWCA) is bringing results for AGC members. The TWCA represents the majority of municipal water utilities and regional water systems in Texas, and AGC’s participation as a member of the TWCA is crucial in ensuring AGC has a seat at the table with water entities. As another well-established Texas entity focused on legislative and regulatory issues in both Austin and Washington, our involvement with the TWCA helps to support the development of AGC members’ markets while building relationships with owners and related issues.

In February, AGC participated in key meetings in Washington, DC in conjunction with Texas Water Day, which was organized and sponsored by the TWCA and the TWDB. AGC hosted the members of the TWCA, which included senior officials from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Water Development Board, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the majority of major Texas municipal and regional water suppliers, and utilities such as the City of Houston, San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS), and the Trinity River Authority at AGC of America’s townhouse. Additionally, AGC participated in key meetings with the Texas congressional delegation, advocating for funding and regulatory relief. Developing these relationships has great potential for local M&U contractors who participate and need to tap into AGC resources.

In March AGC submitted comments on proposed penalty enhancements for violations of Texas damage prevention laws. AGC is and has been the only organization in Texas representing contractors’ and excavators’ interests in the development of One- Call and damage prevention laws since 1996. Our members and staff have worked closely with both the Legislature and the Texas Railroad Commission to ensure fairness in damage prevention.

It is also noteworthy to mention that AGC members play a crucial role in damage prevention representing excavators on the boards of Texas 811 since 1999 and the Texas One-Call Board since its inception. AGC also hosts and participates in regional damage prevention training with the Railroad Commission and area damage prevention councils working with key partners such as AGC Associate Member Texas 811.

Damage prevention is one of many issues in which a member can call on the resources of the chapter and AGC of America. AGC of America, and its M&U Division, which includes many leaders from the Chapter, has also been key in working to protect the interests of contractors with federal agencies, such as the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration. This includes AGC of America’s participation in the 1998 Common Ground Study, which ultimately led to the creation of the Common Ground Alliance or CGA. As a long time sponsor and participant in the CGA, AGC members from across the nation have worked to promote fair damage prevention policy and best practices.

In addition to advocating for fairness and collaboration in national damage prevention efforts, AGC of America has been a leader in Washington weighing in on issues such as proposed rules on crane safety and confined space regulations which specifically impact M&U contractors in addition to a myriad of other environmental and other regulatory issues. In fact, AGC of Texas M&U member input during the rulemaking process played a key factor in OSHA’s decision to pull back the confined space rule for further internal review.

Several AGC of Texas M&U members have served as small business representatives in the Small Business Administration Review process for the crane rules and are presently serving in the same capacity in the review of proposed Illness and Injury Prevention Plan standards from OSHA. Working with AGC of America, AGC of Texas M&U members have also presented testimony to Congress on issues such federal regulation of water and wetlands.

While protecting our market in DC is important, so is growing it. AGC of America was one of the largest contributors to the Penn State Public Television documentary “Liquid Assets: The State of Our Water Infrastructure.” Working with key chapters, such as AGC of Texas, this documentary was viewed on PBS stations across the nation over 1,800 times and over 15,000 DVD’s were distributed nationwide.

AGC of America working with the Texas Delegation also ensured that Liquid Assets DVDs were distributed to all 535 members of Congress. AGC of America working with the “Water Infrastructure Network,” or WIN, played a key role in ensuring the largest federal investment in the EPA State Revolving Loan Fund program in decades with the Federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Not only did AGC and WIN provide support for inclusion of $6 billion water infrastructure funding leveraged to almost $1 billion in Texas alone, but AGC and key members from AGC of Texas M&U Division worked with the US EPA to avoid overly onerous “Buy American” requirements achieving a common sense solution for granting waivers due to availability and realities of the water market. This not only protected contractors, but helped get stimulus dollars into projects without needless and additional red tape protecting AGC members here in Texas and nationwide.

Do You Still Think AGC of Texas is Just for Highway Contractors?

Since the merger occurred in 1983, AGC M&U Contractors have had a seat at the table; they have served as AGC of Texas Committee Chairmen, Chapter Presidents, State and Federal Division Leaders, and National Executive Officers of AGC of America. Yes, it may be a small constituency in the chapter by comparison, but AGC of Texas M&U Contractors who have stepped up, participated, and engaged in all levels have made enormous contributions for our industry in Texas and nationally.

The moral of the story is the the AGC of Texas M&U Division wants you! Take advantage of the resources and the platform that this organization and its members have worked on to better your company and your market. Like all other markets, M&U markets are changing. We are seeing a proliferation of alternative project delivery and pressure to compete is at an all-time high. Water will be one of the biggest issues facing Texas over the next fifty years; this will not be an optional investment if we are to meet the needs of a prosperous and growing Texas. Take time to participate, to leverage the resources and relationships we already have and are constantly building on.

If your company wants to make a difference in your local or state M&U market, we have a place for you, so let us know what you need and participate.

For more information on how you can get involved please contact Perry L. Fowler, Director of the M&U Division at (512) 478-4691 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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