What We Learned at the City’s Q&A Session

Save Morro Bay is disappointed with the answers and comments made by City staff at the May 16 Q&A session for the Water Reclamation Facility, especially when they showed they were acutely aware of the project’s significant cost drivers and flaws.

Nothing significant was learned from the Q&A session, which lasted for over two hours at the Morro Bay Library. However, some of the responses they gave were more nonsensical and irrelevant to the questions asked than what we learned at the League of Women Voters’ co-sponsored April 25 Special Meeting.

We have seen before, time and time again, the City’s inability to address simple questions. But in a setting that wasn’t televised or live, their answers were less polished.

When a resident asked why the City spent five years evaluating 17 sites but not technologies, Public Works Director Rob Livick responded by stating that “every” technology (without breaking down essential project components) went through the same treatment process steps; that there was no “silver bullet.” Though it appeared Livick was regurgitating text from a Wikipedia page on sewage treatment, he couldn’t answer the question.

Despite talking about how generic the treatment process is for the WRF, Livick claimed the project was “innovative.” He added that the water reclamation component is what makes the project innovative, yet he couldn’t specify how residents would directly benefit from that reclaimed water and how it wouldn’t end up being discharged into the ocean.

None of the City staff would answer questions about our dilapidated sewer collection system, which poses significant pollution hazards that impact our water supply. The City has known of these issues since 2002. Wouldn’t it be more innovative to fix our aging infrastructure to improve our water supply than deliver reclaimed water with no discernible purpose?

When a resident asked about project sites being considered without the existence of an environmental impact report, Livick replied, “We needed to have a project first.” The answer was nonsensical. Not only did the City consider 17 project sites, they prematurely selected two sites for the project prior to a draft EIR. In 2015, residents approved water and sewer rate increases for a project location (Rancho Colina) that wasn’t secured by the City. When negotiations fell through with Rancho Colina’s property owner, the City selected a new project location that was later met with strong community opposition. Community opposition appeared partly because the project was “selected” prior to public outreach.

When a resident asked why there were only two bidders for the project’s design-build Request for Proposals — that is, two bidders with conflicts of interest — Livick explained that the City wanted “big” firms to bid on a “big” project; that only a handful of companies could design and build a project like theirs. Black & Veatch, one of the two bidders, helped define how “big” the project would be in the Facilities Master Plan they authored for the city.

Livick’s answer was slightly more verbose than the response he gave at the February 27 City Council. Then, he explained having only two bidders for the RFP was a competitive bidding process because “one of them wants to win.”

When residents asked about the bids — which the City received on May 8 after further delays — program manager and Carollo Engineers’ Associate Vice President Eric Casares stated the bids would be kept confidential from the public pending “negotiations.” Though they received the bids, the City’s employees could not unequivocally state whether or not the bids were higher or lower than engineer estimates. They said they “hoped” the bids would be lower than engineer estimates, but refused to answer the question when they were further pressed by residents.

When the question was asked, “If the bids come in high, what happens if the City Council votes them down?” Livick answered the “entire process” would start all over again, which would plunge the City into disarray and could result in enforcement fines by the Water Board. Livick’s answer comes in stark contrast to comments made by councilmembers who previously vowed to vote down the bid proposals should the costs become too cumbersome. Livick’s answer is also a stark contrast to comments councilmember John Headding made at last month’s Town Hall meeting where he stated the council could “de-scope” the project if the bids are too high for residents.

City Manager Scott Collins visibly struggled to answer the question, “What could happen if residents successfully protest the upcoming Prop. 218 vote?” He indicated the City could plunge into chaos should residents successfully oppose the rate hikes.

At the Q&A session, City staff was more insecure and fearful than confident and secure about the WRF. If the process was done right and without delays, we wouldn’t be in such a position of uncertainty. At the end of the day, I was left seriously concerned about our City leadership. Their main selling point for the project is, “Trust us, the outcome might be good, fingers crossed. If you don’t like what we’re doing, prepare for disaster.” None of us should buy that.

We do not have to accept this project as it currently stands, and we must never stop contesting these issues as long as we recognize the need to be in compliance with participating regulatory agencies. If the City doesn’t act to make meaningful changes to reduce project costs, our residents will.

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2 thoughts on “What We Learned at the City’s Q&A Session

  1. From: “Mark Low”
    To: “JJacobus”
    Cc: “Rob Livick” , “Joseph W. Pannone”
    Sent: Friday, May 18, 2018 4:28:30 PM
    Subject: Moral Bay: USBF®, “Building a World of Difference®” & economical water reclamation facilities design and operation.

    G’day Dr. Jacobus,
    I really have but a single comment:

    Why wasn’t USBF® Bioreactor technology compared with MBR & SBR?

    Please see “Morro Bay+ESA” pdf attached. Also attached is the usual…
    Looking forward to an “unusual” result.
    Yours truly
    Mark Low
    Concerned Citizen

    Attached Letter:
    EDUCATED CITIZENS CONSERVE

    “gravity instead of electric pumps”
    The price of gravity has never gone up.
    After all, gravity “is” the ultimate green energy…
    Why wasn’t USBF® Bioreactor technology compared with MBR & SBR?

    Ten years ago I joined the battle over water, wastewater specifically, because I learned about a better “pre-engineered” mousetrap and “thought” that San Luis Obispo County (SLOCO) could have (should have) used that technology in Los Osos instead of the Oxidation-Ditch which somehow got over-built by twice.

    Here are my 2009 DEIR Comments to SLOCO as evidenced here; http://nowastewater.blogspot.com/2009/ these comments are relevant to your Morro Bay DEIR, Dr. Jacobus and I trust that your crack team can make the journey to review my very brief comments on cost and energy and use those comments to pack my concerns neatly into a chicken and egg “checked box.”
    An activated sludge design technology that uses “gravity instead of electric pumps” is a nuclear explosion event, and great news, for all folks concerned with protecting their environment while simultaneously protecting their pocketbook.

    Educated Citizens are rightfully more concerned with their own future financial well-being, instead of the future financial welfare of an industry’s business model.

    I am fighting to save my country from the tyranny of debt. The needless increased costs for SBR & MBR and especially of the ultimate legacy cost, electricity, designs are an affront to the ratepayer and the environment, especially for “a project” that will automatically come into compliance without spending another penny. http://yourbaynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Bay-News-04-26-18.pdf
    See Page 26 http://yourbaynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Bay-News-05-10-18.pdf
    It is impossible to ignore the past willful ignorance that is currently in use by engineers, public and private for hire and by SLOCO in 2008/9 and currently in use by the same engineering company who is working in Morro Bay today, as well as Morro Bay’s government professional engineer, to date. Amazing.
    Included with this submission are several letters which are relevant to engineers who choose to seek to avoid the Environmental Impact(s) associated with every wastewater project, but especially Morro Bay, where NO PROJECT IS BEST, at this time given that:
    Morro Bay has a Fix-It Ticket. FULL STOP

    The Fix: Do absolutely nothing and wait for the flows and loads to drop, thereby allowing the current facility to meet current and 2022 CCRWQCB 30-30-30 NPDES permit discharge limits, after Cayucos’ departure.
    Why wasn’t USBF® Bioreactor technology compared with MBR & SBR?
    An argument can be made that today’s consulting engineer’s financial interests together government apathy form entropy upon the governed and their financial interests. Citizens must work; now fight, to restore orderliness.
    I look forward to your treatment of my concerns regarding ‘the MBR/SBR results’ that the business model which avoids the use of gravity, in lieu of designs requiring perpetual electricity and miles of new conveyance requiring perpetual pumping and the forever commitment to energy costs in lieu of gravity.
    So much study should lead to wisdom.
    Kind regards,
    Mark Low
    May 17, 2018

    “The Usual” referred to by me are the 3rd party comparisons that “professional” engineers want to ignore.

  2. From: “Mark Low”
    To: “Dana Swanson”
    Cc: “Council” , “Rob Livick” , “scollins” , “Dana Swanson”
    Sent: Monday, May 21, 2018 7:09:59 AM
    Subject: May I please have electronic copies of the original bids, at once?

    G’day Ms. Swanson,

    As always, I appreciate the ability to communicate with a true Citizen’s representative of the City of Morro Bay, who is executing their fiduciary duty exquisitely. I wish more
    City employees would take notice and follow your fine example.

    THIS FEELS MORE LIKE COLLUSION.
    May I please have electronic copies of the original bids, at once?

    Kind regards,

    Mark
    Concerned Citizen

    http://www.savemorrobay.com/blog/what-we-learned-at-the-citys-qa-session/

    When [The Client] residents asked about the bids — which the City received on May 8 after further delays — program manager and Carollo Engineers’ Associate Vice President Eric Casares stated the bids would be kept confidential from the public pending “negotiations.”

    City Manager Scott Collins visibly struggled to answer the question, “What could happen if residents successfully protest the upcoming Prop. 218 vote?” He indicated the City could plunge into chaos should residents successfully oppose the rate hikes.

    REALLY!? The City will be tremendously better off once it removes the blood suckers.

    Are MKN & John Rickenbach still earning as project mangers, in addition to Casares?
    As of May 21, 2018
    CONTACT INFO
    John Rickenbach
    WRF Deputy Program Manager
    595 Harbor Street
    Morro Bay, CA 93442
    805-610-1109
    [email protected]

    http://morrobaywrf.com/

    Livick…explained having only two bidders for the RFP was a competitive bidding process because “one of them wants to win.”
    1) AECOM/WM Lyles Company Joint Venture
    2) Filanc/Black & Veatch Joint Venture

    THANK YOU FOR THE LAUGH ROB LIVICK!

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