A large concrete pipe lays on the ground near the Vista Ridge pipeline project site in Stone Oak.
A large concrete pipe lays on the ground near the Vista Ridge pipeline project site in Stone Oak. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A legal dispute between the San Antonio Water System and a construction contractor alleging unfair procurement practices ended in SAWS’ favor after a state district judge dismissed the case.

On Friday, Senior Judge Larry Noll dismissed claims brought by a joint venture between Oscar Renda Contracting and Southland Contracting, both owned by Roanoke, Texas-based Southland Holdings.

In legal filings in District Court in Bexar County, the company had alleged that SAWS used improper bid scoring methods to award a contract to a competitor.

The contract was for part of a pipeline project that would connect the under-construction Vista Ridge pipeline to the broader SAWS system. The pipeline is set to begin supplying water in early 2020.

The case was dismissed Friday in an order granting SAWS’ plea to the jurisdiction, a procedural ruling.

“It means that our process, the way we bid for work, the way we judge that work, the way we score [bids] … is fair and we followed it,” SAWS CEO Robert Puente said in a phone interview.

David Prichard, an attorney representing Renda-Southland, said the judge’s order “doesn’t prove what Mr. Puente said at all.”

“There was no evidence taken,” Prichard said. “This was purely a legal matter.”

Prichard said they were “disappointed with the judge’s ruling … but he’s the judge and we respect his decision,” adding that they would be “talking about options going forward, and appeal is certainly one of those options.”

The lawsuit followed SAWS’ September board meeting, at which the board voted to approve a contract worth more than $48 million for the job, $16.6 million higher than Renda’s bid of $31.4 million. The contract was awarded to Guy F. Atkinson Construction.

A lawyer for Renda had said before the vote that the lawsuit could have significantly delayed SAWS’ ability to accept water from the Vista Ridge pipeline, potentially costing SAWS $220,000 per day.

SAWS officials had said they would have used the water in Stone Oak and other northern parts of the city if the integration pipeline had not been completed on time.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.