Council approves new wastewater treatment plant operator

July 14, 2004
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council approved a new operator for the city’s wastewater treatment plant but not without some heated discussion on the replacement for OMI.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe City Council approved a new operator for the city’s wastewater treatment plant but not without some heated discussion on the replacement for OMI.The council approved the contract for ECO Resources, Inc. a Texas based operator.Public Works Director/City Engineer Cliff Finley said that a panel of wastewater professionals “sat down and had two very good interviews,” with ECO and Ventura Regional Sanitation District (VRSD) representatives.The VRSD had been the city’s plant operator for years before being replaced by OMI in the 1990s.After the interviews and studies of the proposals, both firms were found to be “very good but clearly ECO came out number one,” on all levels, said Finley.The city’s request for proposals “included the scope of work and was very well defined,” and VRSD’s bid was $300,000 annually more than ECO.“During the interview we tried to see what made up that difference and the interviewers concluded,” that the VRSD proposal contained additional costs.“ECO’s fixed costs were also about $20,000 less,” than OMI, and “that gave us some feeling of comfort,” noted Finley.OMI and the city worked together to establish a reasonable cost which includes about $170,000 annually for maintenance out of the contract’s total annual cost of about $995,000.ECO will take over the city’s plant August 1.Councilman Ray Luna noted that the council had discussed the city operating the proposed new wastewater treatment plant.“Normally, I would be against an out-of-state agency coming in to manage some of our agencies, not only OMI but up the hill,” a reference to Quorum Health Resources, the management company that operated the now shuttered Santa Paula Memorial Hospital.
Luna said he would support hiring ECO but “hopefully in the future” the city will operate its own plant.Councilman Rick Cook, who also serves as a VRSD director, asked for details on the bid differences: “I asked VRSD,” and was told that their bid was based on an overall cost. ECO might be “overriding one area and under-running another area, that’s what OMI did. I have problems not knowing what actual costs are for each.”The number of employees was one difference said Finley, who noted that the ECO bid was calculated for five and one-half employees.“We had seven,” and VRSD noted seven, said Cook.The seven OMI employees also serviced Fillmore, which received a package deal with Santa Paula on the contracts, said Finley.“Fillmore said we took away their employees,” Cook said. “I felt we were second fiddle when OMI was over there.”Cook reiterated that cost breakdowns were lacking in ECO’s bid and Finley noted that ECO’s contract is “performance specific, it was exactly what we want to produce and do. . .it’s not an item by item,” breakdown but an exact breakdown could be provided.“One reason I want to push for someone local,” is response time, said Cook. “I just don’t want them to maintain it I want them to fix it. If you comfortable with it I feel comfortable with it. . .it’s just things I have to go to my board (VRSD),” and discuss.Luna said he was satisfied especially since the odor problem at the plant has been addressed.“Your staff spent I don’t know how many hours on the wastewater treatment plant,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. “If the council and the community are unhappy the buck stops with us. The issue of line items are not relevant, what is relevant,” is meeting wastewater treatment standards to the satisfaction of the state.“If they do not meet the Regional Water Quality Control Board they will no longer operate the plant, period. . .we’re all committed to that.”The council had been told in the past that things were running smoothly, said Cook. “You can see my hesitance; I want to make sure we’re getting our best bang for the buck.”The full council approved the new contract.

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