Santa Paula: Council Considers $25 Million in Expenditures

By Sheryl Hamlin

Four items on the Council Agenda for September 5, 2018 have significant financial implications.

Item # 16: Spill Mitigation…Estimate: $350,000
Item # 17: Street Sweeping Contract…$137,268 annual contract
Item #20: Police and Corporation Yard Relocation ….$24 million estimate
Item #6: MKS Contract … $121,942 annual contract

Spill Mitigation: No Responsibility for Spills

The City has suffered two spills at the wastewater treatment plant: one during the tenure of PERC in October 2015 and one more recently after the city acquired the plant in March 2018 during the tenur of American Water, the current operator. Both spills cost the city millions in cleanup and repairs. Insurance has not reimbursed at this point in time.

The following statement in the staff report indicates that the chances of determining responsibility for the current deficient conditions of the plant are nil:

Additionally, forensic evaluations of the spill events uncovered deficiencies in documentation of the WRF control and electrical systems, making it more difficult to track down the causes of the failures. Some of these deficiencies may be a result of repairs made in haste after the first discharge. These forensic evaluations have also identified areas where the control philosophy does not seem to provide adequate protection from failures that could lead to a spill.

According to the consultant and the staff, the spill occurred during power fluctuations and these are conditions for which tests have not been done. Staff is in contact with Edison. No word was spoken about power backup, particularly in light of Edison’s new plans to cut power during fire emergencies.

Presumably this expense will be borne by a Sewer fund, but that was not discussed.

Street Sweeping Contract: Not a Wash

The council had previously decided to get a bid from Athens for street sweeping. According to City Manager Rock, this will free up one Public Works employee for other tasks and relieve the city of maintaining the street sweeper, which can be sold.

The City Manager said that the costs of the employee plus the maintenance of the sweeper was approximately equal to the proposed contract from Athens. The contract will be paid for by the fee Athens pays the city. Rock represented this as a “wash”.

Council Member Crosswhite tried to explain that this was not a wash because the city was using the $130,000 Athens pays the city, so those funds will not be available in the future. What this contract does is return the fee back to Athens for performing the street sweeping.

Police and Corporation Yard Relocation

The Police station renovation was triggered by a Grand Jury report in 2015. The project was subsequently discussed on May 21, 2018 with the idea of using Measure T monies to avoid borrowing.

In the September 5th 2018 Rock Report (oral), the City Manager suggested that the initial estimates for the remodel were too low and that the site was too small for the desired outcome. He now said they were thinking $10 million for the SPPD station which includes land acquisition presumably, but he did not elaborate.

The Corporation Yard has been red tagged for years and is considered unsafe. The cost to move and replace, said City Manager Rock, could be $14 million.

The council spent a considerable amount of time discussing the land acquisition process. The challenge is to identify properties without naming the locations specifically so as not to drive up the price. No doubt this is a chicken-egg problem many city governments face. The City Manager will return with a plan. He is authorized to spend up to $25,000 on consultants to help with this project.

There was no mention about financing of either of these projects. Presumably this will occur at a later date. Such a discussion would also include the disposition of the current properties.

Michael Nunley & Associates Contract

Three previous references to MKS were reported here. The firm was brought in to write the RFP for the new water recycling facility operator.

This is notable because American Water, the current operator who replaced PERC, was given six months to find deficiencies in the plant during the turnover, which was mentioned by Mayor Gherardi. No such deficiencies were found prior to the second spill. This means that no fail safe tests were performed.

The tasks described for MKS are:

• As-needed support, including review of plans, recommendations, and capital expenditures proposed by the contract operations firm
• Review of budgets and expenditures for wastewater operations
• Site visits and meetings as directed by City staff

If MKS is not the liaison between the City and the Operator, who is? Will the takeover of the American Water contract by Veolia eliminate the need for MKS? There were no such questions at the meeting.

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