J.D. Granger lands consulting contract to keep working on Panther Island project

🕐 5 min read

When J.D. Granger announced he was leaving his job with the Trinity River Vision Authority to start his own consulting firm, skeptics wondered how long it would be before he landed a consulting contract with the agency he was leaving.

The answer: not long.

Granger has already entered into an agreement that will pay him $12,000 a month for the next six months to continue his work on the $1.17 billion Panther Island Project as an independent contractor.

Granger, who has overseen development of the Panther Island project championed by his mother, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, announced on social media April 22 that he is leaving his job to start his own consulting firm.

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Granger has served for 16 years as executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA), the agency that manages the massive flood control and economic development project known variably as Trinity River Vision, the Central City project and Panther Island.

His last day as a regular employee will be Friday, April  29, according to a spokesman for the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), the parent agency of the Trinity River Vision Authority.

The six-month contract between his firm, JD Granger Group LLC, and the Tarrant Regional Water District will begin May 1.

The contract was authorized by TRWD General Manager Dan Buhman and is under the $75,000 threshold that requires approval by the TRWD board of directors. Granger will be paid a total of $72,000 over six months.

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As the Army Corps of Engineers “moves to final design and construction, and local partners execute their project responsibilities, we need to leverage all available resources to ensure the project’s success.” Buhman said in a statement.

“To that end, TRWD has entered into a 6-month consulting agreement with JD Granger Group, LLC, to support program management, provide institutional knowledge and provide strategic input to the benefit of this critical community project,” Buhman stated.

Leah King, president of the TRWD board, said the contract with Granger is “a very good thing.”

“The contract is very narrowly focused and for a specific amount of time,” King said.

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Members of the grassroots Water District Accountability Project question the need for Granger’s services since the TRWD already pays Mark Mazzanti, a retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers veteran, for his consulting services.

“Mark’s work is focused on (Washington) D.C.,” King said. “J.D. will work with the Corps office in Fort Worth on the design” for the 1.5-mile channel of the Trinity River north of the Tarrant County Courthouse. The federal government categorizes the channel as a flood control protection measure.

Mazzanti’s role helped secure $403 million in federal funds for the Panther Island project design from the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act earlier this year.

Lon Burnam, a former state representative and president of the Water District Accountability Project, expressed concern that the contract with Granger was done without a board vote since the payment amount was so close to $75,000.

“I’m glad he’s leaving in six months but I want to know J.D.’s not double dipping as he moves into the private sector of his real estate development career.”

In a long post last Friday on his Facebook page, Granger recounted his work on the project and his decision to move on, according to a screenshot of the post. Granger wrote that he achieved his goals for both the management and branding aspects of the project, including getting people into the river for the first time in 12 years.

“We are now known for having the only section of a river in a Texas downtown area that you can swim in and Texas’ only waterfront stage,” he wrote.

“It was an uphill battle … but I am extremely proud to have delivered both this spring,” he stated. “Having secured over $400 million in federal funds for the project and completed the first section of our new Riverwalk, I feel I have met my commitments to myself and my community,” Granger said.

Granger wrote that he has decided to “pursue new personal goals and opportunities.” He also wrote that he would “help” the Tarrant Regional Water District and the Trinity River Vision Authority as the Panther Island project transitions to its next phase.

Granger is the second top executive to leave the water district within the past year.

Jim Oliver, longtime TRWD general manager, announced his plans to retire in March 2021. After it was revealed that former TRWD board President Jack Stevens agreed to pay Oliver about $300,000 in extra compensation without consent of the board, the board voted to revoke the agreement.

Last fall, the board agreed to a settlement with Oliver for $300,000 over employment claims in exchange for Oliver’s consent to drop legal action against the district.

Granger has been an embattled overseer, operating under a cloud of criticism and controversy centering on questions about his qualifications for the job and objections to the nepotism inherent in his involvement with a project so closely tied to his mother, a former Fort Worth mayor and the project’s most ardent supporter as a member of Congress.

For all but the last two years, J.D. Granger had oversight over all aspects of the project, including recreation and entertainment, land acquisition and economic development as well as coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on flood control.

But after several years when the $1.17 billion project failed to receive the federal funds it needed to move forward, the Trinity River Vision Authority board hired a consultant to review the entire project and recommend changes that would improve its chances to get federal money.

As a result of the recommendations from the Riveron consulting firm, Granger was shifted into a somewhat diminished role reporting to Oliver. Also, Mazzanti was hired as program manager to coordinate work being done on the project – including the much-delayed construction of three bridges – in conjunction with the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County and other government entities.

In January, officials announced that the federal government had allocated $403 million for the long-stalled project as part of $14 billion in infrastructure money the Biden administration plans to spend to upgrade the nation’s ports and waterways.

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