HOUSTON — Taxpayers footed the bill for “at least” hundreds of thousands of dollars in furniture that was earmarked for a Houston Community College campus, but is instead being warehoused because of apparent poor planning, according to interviews Thursday.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth at least,” said HCC Trustee Dave Wilson after he showed The Texas Monitor the furniture stacked in a college warehouse. “It’s a pretty staggering number.”
The furniture was supposed to be for HCC’s Coleman campus, where the college system’s medical sciences programs are centered. The Coleman footprint had expanded in the wake of voters in 2012 passing a $425 million bond program for an HCC multi-building expansion.
“The configuration, what they anticipated, what they had pre-planned didn’t quite work out,” said William Campos, HCC’s surplus control coordinator who works at the warehouse. “So now you have furniture that was bought for a particular building with ‘X’ dimensions but for whatever reason that was changed.”
Campos spoke in front of a mountain of boxed furniture intended for Coleman that is now going unused.
“Now everything they had bought doesn’t fit,” he said.
Wilson agreed with Campos’ assessment.
“I would build a building first and then buy the furniture to fit in the building,” Wilson said. “I’m afraid what’s happened here is that there have been so many change orders, that these buildings have changed and that the furniture that was originally bought doesn’t fit in these buildings anymore. Now we’re going to have to spend more money on furniture that does fit.”
Records on the furniture boxes suggest they have been sitting unopened for nearly two years.
A college spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that the warehouse contains not just furniture for Coleman, but for all 14 campus construction and renovation projects.
“The College can obtain better pricing by making bulk purchases of furniture,” she wrote. “Bulk purchasing of furniture allows a large organization to standardize furniture and fixtures used within its facilities.”
She also said that ultimately all the furniture in the warehouse will be used.
Wilson has long been critical of how the college rolled out the $425 million bond, and said he believes the college system spent too much money too quickly without the proper planning, hence, the stacks of furniture purchased now have no use.
Wilson also said the bond program didn’t deliver what was promised.
“The buildings are all smaller than planned,” he said. “The square footage is down.”
The Coleman campus furniture isn’t the only issue, it seems.
Campos also said the warehouse is filled with other furniture pieces that sit unused because they are in the wrong color.
“We’ve had several instances in the past where you’d get an office manager who comes down here and says, ‘We want that’ for our campus,” he said. “So we do all the necessary paperwork, and when it comes to the campus manager, they’ll say, ‘No, no. That doesn’t match our color scheme.’”
He pointed at a row of desks and tables.
“We have all this good furniture sitting here because of the color,” Campos said.
Wilson opening the doors of the HCC warehouse for the media comes a week after his fellow trustees voted to censure him in a 5-2 vote.
Wilson has been an outspoken critic of college policies, and has been accused of publicly criticizing his colleagues’ votes and showing a lack of respect in the board’s decision-making process.
The formal censure motion against Wilson seeks to quiet his criticism, limit his spending authority and publicly punish him.
Quieting him, however, does not seem likely.
“I’m going to be bringing more corruption and more mismanagement here in the next couple months,” Wilson said.
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.