The opinions expressed in the Soapbox are not necessarily the opinions of the ECA. I am speaking my own mind and not stating any collective ECA opinions.
Getting More Projects Out to Bid Sooner!
The City of Santa Rosa is not delivering capital improvement projects at a rate needed to sustain their infrastructure. Putting it in “laymen terms”, the sewer/water/streets assets that the City has, need to be replaced on a regular basis and that replacement has not been happening for several years. The ultimate result of not maintaining/replacing your assets that wear out? Failure. Failure of water lines, failure of sewer lines, and failure of road.
I have been writing about this problem for a while. Some of you have been speaking to me about this problem for a while. We held a CIP workshop in October of 2021 with the City of Santa Rosa staff in an effort to understand if the problem is real, and what can be done about it. Since October, I have had discussions with several department heads in Santa Rosa, they have hired Mike Prinz to kick the capital improvement project backlog in the butt, and they last week reported to the board of public utilities. Here are some of the findings reported to the BPU last week:
Local projects awarded in 2021 = $3.1 million
Local projects scheduled for award in 2022 = $24.9 million
Subregional projects awarded in 2021 = $1.3 million
Subregional projects scheduled for award in 2022 = $50.9 million
To see the staff presentation click here for the link–
As you can see, Jason Nutt was correct when we spoke a few weeks ago about a lot of work coming out in 2022. However, I must clarify that a large portion of the subregional project cost is in a project for new ultraviolet equipment for the wastewater plant ($49 million for that one project!). Although it looks like a lot of work is coming out to bid in 2022, not all will benefit our members unless they bid on the UV project. That is more what my old firm (Kirkwood Bly, now Western Water) would be bidding on, not the ECA members.
One of the most interesting slides in the presentation, depicted the “need” dollars @ $99 million/year vs the “allocations” of $36 million per year. That, folks is a shortfall of $63 million per year!! To make matters worse, the current “bandwidth” (actual CIP projects going to bid) is only around $24 million per year. Even worse!!
Summary Conclusions from the staff report concludes:
- Delivery has been falling behind relative to past years’ CIP Plans
- Our CIP Plan appropriations (and proposed rate increases) are not sufficient to sustain our infrastructure long-term
- Grant funding pursuits, disaster recovery, and other “extra” projects are needed, but cut into our baseline delivery capacity
The staff report concludes that the CIP program needs some major work to deliver projects. This is no surprise to those of us that follow the City of SR, but now the staff report has been presented to the Board of Public Utilities and there is no hiding from their conclusions.
This is a complicated issue (made so by City of SR staff shortages and difficulties in getting right of way easements and bid documents delivered for public bidding in a timely manner. The new CIP Deputy Director has been recently hired, and he is Mike Prinz. Mike is a take charge “get ‘er done” kind of guy, so I would expect to see more aggressive hiring, implementation of design build concepts, and some redefining of staff incentives coming soon. The entire program needs to have a reset attitude of HOW FAST CAN YOU SAY YES from top to bottom of both utilities and transportation/public works departments.
The ECA has reached out and will continue to do so to offer ideas, and solutions so we can get more projects out to bid sooner!
That’s All Folks!