Kitty Hawk engineer Joe Anlauf has worked for the Town of Southern Shores for more than 20 years, according to the man himself.
It is time for a change. The Town Council needs to hire a different engineer.
It actually is long past time for a change. The Town should have ceased working with Mr. Anlauf after the canal dredging project fiasco, which now-Mayor Tom Bennett oversaw as the contractual project manager.
Mr. Anlauf, who operates a sole proprietorship, does not mention the troubled canal project, in which he played a critical design role, in the professional experience he includes in a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ) that he recently submitted to the Town.
On April 27, thanks to the three new Town Council members, the Town issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find a “qualified N.C. licensed professional engineer” to provide “ongoing general professional engineering, environmental, surveying and related services” upon demand.
Four engineering firms, including Mr. Anlauf’s firm, which has a “supporting engineering” arrangement with Deel Engineering, PLLC of Kitty Hawk, replied by submitting statements of qualifications.
The consensus at the Town Council’s June 1 meeting, during which the hiring of a new engineer was discussed, seemed to be that the applicants are all equally qualified. Town Councilman Matt Neal, a builder, said he knew them all.
Mr. Anlauf’s qualifications and interpersonal communication style have been called into question since the canal-dredging project was completed in 2014, as we will explain below.
In 2015, Mr. Anlauf was one of the defendants, along with the Town, who settled a lawsuit filed against them by the original dredging contractor for a wrongful discharge.
Nonetheless Mr. Anlauf has been rubberstamped by a Town Council that has preferred the comfort of cronyism over an expansion of opportunity to other qualified candidates, including those that are minority-owned.
It is time for a change.
ENGINEERING CONTRACT AND RFQ
Southern Shores has a contract until June 30 with Deel Engineering, not with Mr. Anlauf. The contract dates to June 2016 and was originally for three years. A simple majority of the Town Council extended it last June for a year.
Although he is not a contractual party, Mr. Anlauf is often referred to by Town staff and Town Council members as the “Town Engineer.” In fact, that is how he refers to himself in his SOQ. Mr. Anlauf typically runs the Town’s Capital Infrastructure Improvements Planning (CIIP) Committee meetings.
Mr. Neal and Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey sought at last week’s meeting to postpone a decision on the new engineer until new town manager Cliff Ogburn could weigh in.
As the longtime town manager of Nags Head, Mr. Ogburn—whose starting date, Mr. Neal said, is June 22—has worked with both a staff and contractual engineers and would have the experience and knowledge to distinguish among the applicants, something the Town Council, other than Mr. Neal, cannot do.
But Councilmen Leo Holland and Jim Conners thought it was imperative that an engineer be hired by the Council’s June 16 meeting, even though there is no engineering design work to be done immediately after the June 30 expiration of the Deel/Anlauf contract.
The Beacon questions this rush to hire an engineer. We also question the Town’s imposition of a ridiculously short amount of time to reply to the RFQ, which seems onerous to us in the detail it required. The applicants’ qualification packages were due within 24 days of the RFQ’s issuance.
We would like to ask Mr. Ogburn if the Town’s RFQ contains standard requirements and if the 24-day deadline is typical of similar RFQs that he has issued.
“I would like to hear his opinion,” Mr. Neal said at the meeting about Mr. Ogburn evaluating the applicants.
Said Ms. Morey: “Me, too.”
It is Mr. Ogburn, not the Town Council, who will have “direct interface,” as Mr. Neal said, with the new engineer.
Ms. Morey also said she had not had time to do her “due diligence” and carefully evaluate the applicants. The new flood ordinance had consumed much of her time.
Small wonder. We obtained the four SOQs pursuant to a public records request. The Council had about a week to read and process 140 pages. That Mr. Holland referred at the meeting to the written “presentations” by the applicants, rather than to their qualifications and project experience, is not surprising, either. Visuals can be eyeballed.
As The Beacon reported 6/2/20, Councilman Conners shockingly interrupted Mr. Neal with a motion to approve “Deel/Anlauf”—as he referred to Anlauf Engineering’s SOQ— when Mr. Neal was in the middle of making a motion to table a decision on the engineer RFP until a later date.
Mayor Bennett seconded Mr. Conners’s blunt and inappropriate motion—supporting his former canal dredging partner—after what may have been a withdrawal by Mr. Neal of his motion.
We could not hear a withdrawal in real time during the Zoom videoconference, and we cannot definitely hear one on the meeting videotape. All we know is that the Mr. Conners’s breach in protocol was eventually “cured” by a unanimous tabling of Mr. Conners’s motion until the Council’s June 16 workshop meeting.
QUALIFICATIONS THAT CAN BE CONSIDERED
Mr. Neal pointedly asked Mr. Conners when the latter made his motion what makes the Anlauf/Deel application “superior” to the other three applicants, which include Coastal Engineering & Surveying, Inc., of Kitty Hawk; Albemarle & Associates, LTD., of Kill Devil Hills; and American Engineering Associates, a Pennsylvania-based firm that has an office in Kill Devil Hills.
Carlos Gomez, the president and owner of Coastal Engineering & Surveying, is a Southern Shores homeowner who has served on the CIIP Committee, as well as the Town Planning Board.
Mr. Conners replied that “they’re all very qualified,” but he likes the engineering team’s “fees” and “the history that the Anlauf/Deel firm is offering.”
Mayor Bennett actually referred to the applicants as candidates who have submitted “quotes.” But fees and quotes are not what an RFQ is about. An RFQ is not about the “low bidder.”
In fact, N.C. law specifically prohibits local governments from taking fees into consideration as part of their selection process for engineers, architects, and other construction contractors. While towns may request “unit price information,” they may not make their choice of a contractor on the basis of “costs or fees.” (N.C. General Statutes sec. 143-64.31(f).)
The Town’s RFQ (in paragraph 4(t)) requires applicants to submit a “proposed unit price,” which it defines as an “hourly rate,” for “design, bidding and contracting, and monitoring and inspecting infrastructure construction projects.” We believe this requirement contravenes state law.
An hourly rate is clearly a “fee,” not a unit price. The Town Council’s choice of its next engineer cannot depend on hourly rates. The choice must be based on demonstrated competence and qualifications.
Mr. Gomez certainly has history with Southern Shores and its road system, as may some of the other team members of the applicants’ firms.
Let’s look further at some of Mr. Anlauf’s “history.”
THE ANLAUF HISTORY
Mr. Anlauf’s insistence upon a defective design of a hydroclonic dewatering system for the Southern Shores canal dredging project resulted in substantial delay and added to an accumulation of costs that doubled the price tag for the $1.7 million canal project.
Mr. Anlauf prepared this design with his former employer, Quible and Associates, P.C.
We are not saying that Mr. Anlauf and Quible are solely responsible for the additional costs and delay of the 7.5-mile canal project, but they significantly contributed to both.
The Town Council started planning the canal-dredging project in 2003 and hired Quible and Mr. Anlauf as the design engineers and now-Mayor Bennett as contractual manager of the project. Dredging should have started in 2006-2007, but it was 2009 before it finally did, and the project did not wrap until February 2014.
One key reason was that the dewatering design upon which both Mr. Anlauf and Mr. Bennett insisted was unworkable, and it had to be replaced. Other problems, including those in the permitting process, also occurred.
The original dredging contractor, Sampson Contracting, Inc., sued the Town, Quible, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Anlauf, and others in 2013 over what it alleged was a wrongful termination by the Town.
The final cost of what was envisioned to be a maximum $2 million canal-dredging project was $3,465,377, according to a report by former Town Manager Peter Rascoe.
The Town also paid costs related to the litigation, including $123,500 of a $248,000 settlement that the defendants paid to Sampson. The Beacon does not know how much of the settlement Mr. Anlauf paid.
More recently, Mr. Anlauf announced at a Town CIIP Committee meeting that a section of Chicahauk Trail that was repaved just 10 years ago is already showing “alligator cracking” and will need to be replaced much earlier than contemplated. Mr. Anlauf designed this rebuild; he is in charge of all of the Town’s road engineering work.
While Mr. Anlauf sought at the December meeting to attribute the failures in asphalt to an asphalt mix standard “mandated” by the federal government, known as the Superpave system, The Beacon learned in subsequent research that engineers and road contractors have to adjust Superpave to the specific environmental conditions of their geographic areas. They also must consider, and allow for, the type and amount of traffic to which a pavement will be subjected. (See The Beacon, 12/21/19.)
Mr. Anlauf’s professional assessments and decision-making regarding this road rebuild should be scrutinized, as a matter of quality control, but the members of the committee—including co-chairpersons Mayor Bennett and Councilman Conners—showed no inclination to do so.
The Beacon believes that other road rebuilds Mr. Anlauf has designed and overseen should be evaluated for their sustainability, as well. The “new” Hickory Trail between Hillcrest Drive and East Dogwood Trail is not in very good shape after just 10 years, either. (A Chicahauk resident reminds us of the “over-engineered” rebuild of Gravey Pond. We have lost track of how many times the dipsy-doodle Chicahauk bridge has been corrected.)
We further question why Mr. Anlauf designed curbs in conjunction with the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk that have narrowed the road in a number of locations, making traffic flow more hazardous. The curbs are not adjacent to the walkway.
Since December, Councilman Neal has served as co-chairperson of the CIIP Committee, replacing Mayor Bennett. We are hopeful that he will push for a professional review of the Chicahauk Trail paving project. Roads should last longer than 10 years.
Four years ago, when Mr. Anlauf’s previous contract expired, then-Town Council members Gary McDonald and Fred Newberry sought to replace him as “Town Engineer.”
They strongly objected to what they saw as Mr. Anlauf’s hard-nosed tactics with homeowners over tree removals on Fairway Drive and South Dogwood Trail and his arrogant demeanor. The 2016 contract presented to the Town Council for approval appeared to be with Deel, not with Anlauf, which satisfied Mr. McDonald and Mr. Newberry, who voted to approve it.
They were unaware that Deel and Anlauf came as a package deal and felt circumvented.
Mr. Anlauf’s name only appears in an hourly rate schedule for 2016-17 that was appended to the contract. It states: “The rates reflected hereon describe the current billing rates for Deel Engineering, PLLC and Anlauf Engineering, PLLC to perform work in the Town of Southern Shores.” It also refers to the entity, “Deel/Anlauf Engineering, PLLC,” but the only contracting party is Deel.
The Town Council extended the Town’s three-year contract with Deel and Anlauf last June for one year—this time over a strong objection by Mr. McDonald and Mr. Newberry. Although interested in considering other local engineers, former Councilman Chris Nason, an architect, voted with the Mayor and Mr. Conners for the extension.
The Mayor and Mr. Conners tried again recently to extend the contract for another year, but this time they did not have a third Council vote to give them a majority.
To their credit, Mr. Neal, Ms. Morey, and Mr. Holland opposed the extension.
Like Mr. McDonald and Mr. Newberry, The Beacon not only objects to Mr. Anlauf having such a tight grip on the Town’s engineering projects for such a long time—especially in light of the canal-dredging fiasco and, more recently, the failed asphalt in Chicahauk—we also take issue with Mr. Anlauf’s treatment of, and attitude toward homeowners.
Mr. Anlauf has been described by members of the public—including myself, in full disclosure—as rude, arrogant, and condescending.
South Dogwood Trail homeowner Paulette Jones found him to be just that when she called Town Hall to complain about a large camellia bush in her front yard being removed during the sidewalk construction, without notice, and was referred to Mr. Anlauf.
Mrs. Jones should not have been subjected to Mr. Anlauf’s rudeness and condescending manner. When she spoke with The Beacon later about the incident, she was furious.
The Southern Shores Town Engineer should treat homeowners with respect and courtesy, regardless of what he thinks about a complaint. Anything less is unacceptable. He represents the Town, not himself, in dealings with the public.
It is time for a change.
THE CANAL DREDGING LAWSUIT
Dredging contractor Sampson Contracting, Inc., contended in its lawsuit that it was “scapegoated” for the flawed Quible-Anlauf dewatering design that was never going to work, but upon which Mr. Bennett and Mr. Anlauf insisted.
Sampson alleged that the Town required the dredging contractor to use Mr. Anlauf’s unworkable design, after more traditional dewatering methods had been permitted.
The Town acknowledged no error in judgment or design on the record–not of which we are aware.
Emergency Town Council meetings were held in January and February 2010 to address the struggling canal-dredging project. After a closed session held during an emergency meeting on Feb. 6, 2010, the Town Council—led by Mayor Hal Denny—declared Sampson in default of the dredging contract.
Mr. Bennett, who attended the privileged session between the Council and the Town Attorney, had sought the default declaration. Mayor Denny also invited Mr. Anlauf and a third contractual party to attend the closed session.
Previously, in the January meeting, the Council had authorized using geotubes, instead of a hydrocyclone machine, to dewater the canals.
In its lawsuit, Sampson called the Quible-Anlauf hydrocyclonic dewatering system “a catastrophic failure of epic proportion.”
A geotube-based dewatering system, which was the method that Sampson claimed it wanted, and it expected to use, effectively finished the job.
The Town Council emergency meeting minutes are inadequate to determine exactly what occurred among the contracting parties, and The Beacon has no intention of launching an investigation now.
We did come across a Feb. 1, 2010 Outer Banks Voice article in which Mr. Bennett said, “[The hydrocyclone gets] most of the heavier spoil, but leaves fine silt in the water that needs to be cleared out in a settling pond before it can be returned to the canals.”
The Voice reported in the same article that “[Joe] Anlauf said he still believed the hydrocyclone method would work and would like to attempt it again before looking into other solutions.”
The Town hired Byrd Brothers Emergency Services of Wilson to step in after Sampson.
The hydrocyclone machine was not a feasible method of dewatering dredged material. Mr. Anlauf’s insistence that it was cost Southern Shores dearly.
It is a shame that an independent investigation of the handling of this project was never done. There should have been accountability to the public.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
In expressing some preference for “Deel/Anlauf” last week, Councilman Holland said, “I’d just as soon dance with the person I know,” to which Mr. Neal quickly replied: “That’s boring.”
Mr. Holland is a well-intentioned person who seeks to do the right thing, but we disagree with him in this instance. How “comfortable” he feels with Joe Anlauf is not relevant to the decision-making process. When a government contractor becomes a familiar favorite, it is past time for a change.
The Town is not, and should never be run as, a private club. It should have an open door of opportunity to people in the business community. It should not show biases.
Being “comfortable” with someone because of familiarity is a bias that predisposes an elected official to a candidate for subjective reasons and discourages newcomers from knocking on the door.
Contractors should never have a lock—exclusive control—over governmental business for 10 years, much less 20. Competition and change are healthy. Different professionals with their own fresh perspectives, talents, and skills should be welcome and encouraged to participate in the operations of a town run openly and democratically.
While we would prefer to leave the decision to Mr. Ogburn, we would approve the Town Council’s qualifications-based choice of any engineer other than the current one.
“Continued discussion of Town Engineer Contract” is the second item of business on the Town Council’s agenda for next Tuesday’s workshop meeting at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center. The public hearing on beach nourishment is the fourth and last item.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/9/20