Los Osos Goes Gravity

On April 7th the SLO County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to rule out the STEP/STEG, the sole alternative system surviving a flawed rough and fine screenings, in favor of fast-tracking the more expensive gravity collection system. Supervisor Mecham, the lone dissenter, cited concerns over affordability, fair process — and “conscience” — as key factors in not supporting the vote.

Rock News Wire

Following up a favorable community opinion survey with a stunning display of power politics, the SLO County Board of Supervisors on April 7 voted 4 to 1 to drop the STEP collection system from final consideration as an alternative technology to gravity collection for the Los Osos Wastewater Project.

    The vote came as STEP was about to have its real costs compared to the County’s gravity system to see which one was cheaper and by how much. It was a sudden and alarming turn of events for alternative technology advocates who believed the County had promised to compare costs, system to system, to determine the “best value” solution for Los Osos.

   The County’s monthly Los Osos project update meeting drew about 70 speakers queued for hours of public comment. Most speakers requested that STEP costs be compared “apples to apples” with gravity costs through the design/build stage, which had been repeated as the stated goal by the County up to this point. That’s why the power move by the County was such a surprise.

    If the County was using the cover of “shock and awe” to break from the process and enforce their brand of governance, the “awe” part was how clearly obvious it was by the groans of disbelief through the chamber audience that the board’s decision had already been made before the board’s vote was taken.

    County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren told the board that there was no compelling reason to move forward with STEP. “We do not support the continued expenditure of fiscal and project efforts on this alternative…

     “We do recognize that STEP as a technology is an alternative that is appropriate in situations, in some cases that share some characteristics with Los Osos. But the research, evaluations and opportunities with STEP in Los Osos do not in our opinion outweigh its uncertainties and risks,” Ogren concluded.

     Supervisor Gibson agreed, expressing cursory disappointment at the turnabout. “I had hoped that STEP could be carried further through the design/build process than it had been, but in both my heart and my head I concluded that staff is right in bringing the recommendation… that further work on STEP should be tabled… For a number of reasons, I think it is simply not a technology that’s going to fit the needs of this particular project.”

    Yet, Gibson also admitted, “a benefit [of exploring STEP would be] a more definitive cost comparison. If we move STEP forward there would be a clear benefit of a more definitive cost comparison. We might see a less expensive project. That is a potential benefit of moving STEP further down the process.

     “But at this point it’s uncertain,” he said, “and we have a definite cost to open the process for further competition to one competitor.”

     Supervisor Frank Mecham asked Project Engineer John Waddell, “Do we know what the costs would be to delay this [process] for a comparison?”

     Responded Waddell: “There would be additional costs for developing the RFPs (to include STEP/STEG system in the design/build procurement) of $150,000 to $200,000. Then we would also have significant delays in the project process and miss out on the opportunity for stimulus funding. Beyond that the quantification of what the actual costs of several months of delays are… The only hard costs we know right now are to develop the RFP documents would be approximately $200,000.”

    Meacham asked staff: “If [contractor W.M. Lyles] suggested a STEP system, couldn’t they actually, somebody suggested, put together something to propose with the same time frame that we are looking for by September? Could that not happen?”

    Without providing a direct answer, Waddell reemphasized the difficulty in trying to quantify the cost of “the additional funds and schedule delays that would result, and then the risk of the missing the opportunity to pursue for stimulus funds for the project.”

     As of the April 7, the County had already appropriated more than $7 million reimbursable dollars from the general fund on studies, including $1 million to a Washington lobbyist. The $200,000 costs to add STEP back in consideration seemed nominal compared to millions already spent, against the potential savings to “Prohibition Zone” homeowners bearing the main burden of sewer costs.

     Said Dana Ripley of Ripley Pacific Company, author of the 2006 “Los Osos Plan Update” and a Lyle team consultant, during public comment about the possibility of a STEP plan meeting the County’s deadline for stimulus funding: “The report that we did in 2006 can be used as a facilities plan updated and be every bit as fast and responsive to the stimulus funding deadlines that your staff has given you.”

‘Things happened’                                                                                            

    Gibson believes STEP already had been already fairly evaluated in the County process and didn’t merit further expenditures.

    “If this were a race,” he said, “we had a qualifying heat. We had a competition through the response to the qualifications, and staff found that the one entity out of 10 that was proposing STEP did not come up to the quality of the three [gravity teams] that they had proposed for the short list.

    ”I realize that I’m probably never going to convince certain of the folks who show great concern for this process and come here often to talk about it that I’m not breaking the promise regarding competition of STEP/STEG in the design/build process.”

    Gibson said that the promise to include STEP through design/build was misconstrued by the system’s proponents as carved in stone, impervious to changing circumstances.

    “Some will claim that this is a biased process and some will continue to claim that we have broken a promise,” he said. “I heard a couple of very objective commentators here, people that I respect, make it very clear that the promise was never verbatim, a head-to-head comparison of bid. The promise was to allow STEP to compete with gravity through the design/build process.

    “Now,” he explained, “many envisioned, and I will put myself among them, that competition meant getting to the point of a STEP proposal, or one or more STEP proposals and one or more gravity proposals, that we apply head to head. That was the idea when that strategy was formed many months ago, many months ago before a lot of things happened, before the economy took the turn it did, before the analysis had been completed as it had, before the possibility of significant government funding was put on the table for us.”

     Despite Ripley’s clear statement to the contrary, the threat of STEP endangering stimulus dollars was the key reason Gibson and staff kept turning to, again and again.

Survey Results

    Emboldened by the results of a questionably-worded, County-commissioned community survey, which indicated as many as 70% of respondents preferred gravity collection, the County apparently decided the timing was right to jettison the alternative option. The survey was one of several reasons given by Board Chairman Gibson and Public Works Director Ogren for abandoning STEP, the only alternative system left in the process, along with comparing STEP’s cost to gravity. Alternative system supporters’ had long claimed that gravity received a “free pass” throughout the County’s process and that MWH, a global builder deeply invested in the aborted Los Osos project, owned the inside track on the new project, despite its badly checkered track record in Los Osos and Florida.

     Several speakers during public comment challenged the validity of questions that appeared, even to Supervisors
Hill and Patterson, written to generate a positive response for the County’s gravity preference, the most expensive system, bringing into larger question the validity of the survey itself and how it was designed and used strategically as the prime reason for pushing for the elimination of any alternative. The community survey was biased and should not have been utilized in decision making of this magnitude, with so much at stake.

    “Some have asserted that I have lost integrity and manipulated the community and that the [community opinion] survey is flawed,” said Ogren. “I find it simply impossible to believe that I have the ability to hoodwink a community to such a great extent that would have been needed to obtain the survey results that we see…. I believe that the consensus we have on the (gravity) collection system is the strongest consensus that exists on a component of the LOWWP.

    “Some have said that we have varied from the process or we need to follow through. Today is the process. We have evaluated. Coastal (Commission) has commented. WRAC [Water Resources Advisory Committee] has had its special session and acted.”

‘Conscience’ Vote

    Supervisor Frank Mecham disagreed with the majority and registered the lone “no” vote: “I heard more than anything the comment of process and the comment of ‘give us some comparison costs,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience feel that we are doing that. I’m very sensitive to the issue of affordability, too… as we’ve heard time again. And when we went and pled the case to Washington we talked about a community that was not a high-end community…

    “I’m concerned that we are not going to be affording them the opportunity to take a look at a couple of options that might in fact reduce the cost of this.”

    The main reasons echoed in Gibson and Ogren’s duet for dropping STEP boiled down to often repeated catch phrases such as: “uncertainties and risks,” “overwhelming survey results,” “loss of stimulus funding,” “RFP costs of $200,000,” “unknown delay costs,” “differentiating local characteristics,” “general readiness” “differentiating local characteristics,” and the evergreens, “inappropriate” and “we need to move forward.”

      For Gibson, delaying the unknown results of stimulus funding was more significant than the unknown of cost-comparing cheaper STP against more expensive gravity. When all so-called reasons were easily rebutted by Ripley in three minutes at the podium, and the results of a premature survey lacking any costs to justify its existence thrown away, all that remains was the $200,000 and “differentiating characteristics.”

     Ogren cited a Virginia Tech study and chart on “differentiating characteristics” that help rule out STEP for Los Osos “The closest [STEP system in the country] that we could find that was of the size of Los Osos [Charlotte County, Florida] still had some distinguishing characteristics that were very much not like Los Osos.” The “differentiating circumstances” prevailed solely on the professional opinion and judgment of the Director of Public Works who, perhaps significantly, is not an engineer.

     Curiously, the “characteristics of Los Osos” are neither defined nor identified as a selection criteria, based on the terms of the RFQ. The RFQ is used for the purpose of creating a short list of qualified design/build entities to respond to an RFP. An RFQ is not a tool to evaluate a team specific to the “characteristics of Los Osos.” It should be designed to select the teams that provide proven experience, the best approach to assuring all or “the most” goals and objectives are used, and provides the “best value” to the end-user.

     That leaves the $200,000 “late fee” the County was charging STEP. Any delay caused by not issuing an RFP to STEP contractor W.M. Lyles Co. appeared to be the County’s fault, not the cheaper STEP system and not the homeowners in Los Osos’ “Prohibition Zone,” whose tax dollars are building the sewer.

     STEP wouldn’t appear to be late if the County had been included it all along, from the beginnin, just as gravity was. Since the County has already spent more than $7 million of what will be Los Osos’ money on what now seems like window-dressing, including $1 million for just an unseen lobbyist reporting to the County, the $200,000 would have been community money well spent.

    Instead, thousands of hanging-by-a-thread, cash-strapped PZ homeowners, facing a $300-$400 a month sewer bill to build a sewer they can’t afford, were robbed of choice and costs, just as vital cost comparisons were about to be made, at the moment before the very moment of truth.

Community Survey Concerns Raise Questions of Fairness

By Aaron Ochs

Prejudiced as it was, the hotly debated Los Osos Community Advisory Survey received a stamp of approval by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on April 7th, 2009. The Board of Supervisors and County Public Works concluded that the survey results showed “significant community opposition” toward the STEP/STEG collection system.

The County’s action to include the community survey as one of the primary reasons for eliminating STEP/STEG and additional collection component options was heavily debated by several members of the Los Osos community during public comment at the April 7 meeting. Supervisor Bruce Gibson would later conclude the meeting by imposing limitations of discussing and debating STEP/STEG. As the reason for silencing the opposition to STEP/STEG, Gibson cited what he called “overwhelming” community support for Gravity – regardless of widespread economic and social impacts – as shown in the survey results.

Out of a total of 8,167 mailed questionnaire forms that were sent on February 18th, 2,771 (34% of the total amount of forms sent) were returned and tallied. Out of the 2,771 questionnaire forms returned, 69% of respondents definitely or probably would prefer a gravity collection system. Approximately 1,912 respondents out of a total of 8,167 questionnaires sent to residents favored gravity. Only 23% of the total amount of questionnaires sent preferred gravity.

“The overwhelming reality is that the response to that question was overwhelming in one direction (for gravity). It was not a close call,” said Gibson, despite the community’s response to gravity being statistically lackluster, though a valid sample number.

Board of Supervisor directors Adam Hill, Frank Mecham and James Patterson discussed concerns with Gibson over question #17 on the survey, which read:

“Two different collection systems are being considered: ‘hybrid’ gravity system and a STEP/STEG system. The Project team has found both options to be technically viable for Los Osos. A Project peer review by the National Water Research Institute also found the two systems are ‘functionally equivalent.’ However, the Draft EIR has determined that a gravity system has slightly less environmental impacts than STEP/STEG. A gravity system will also be less disruptive to individual properties and have less initial out of pocket costs for property owners, because it does not require the installation of new septic tanks in front yards, nor upgrading of your electrical panels. A STEP/STEG system might result in a lower overall project cost for property owners and residents but that is uncertain, especially considering the time required to design a new collection system and that further delays could jeopardize grant funding. Which system do you prefer?”

The questionnaire packet that was sent did not include the NWRI peer review or the Draft EIR analysis. Instead, Opinion Studies, the San Luis Obispo-based research group hired by the County to put together the survey for them, projected their own analysis.

Question #17 showed the benefits of gravity collection and expressed only concerns of uncertainty for STEP/STEG. There was no analysis or rebuttal in defense of STEP/STEG, thus raising questions regarding the legitimacy of the County’s promised due diligence review of the two collection components.

“I believe the specific [survey] question in mind laid out the facts and basically let people decide on a set of true statements,” said Gibson.

On page 18, Section 3 of the County’s “Final Community Survey Results” document, after delivering the results found in question #17, Opinion Studies concludes, “This is a clear mandate for decision makers to move forward with plans for a gravity-based system.”

During public comment at the April 7th meeting, Los Osos resident Michael Jones claimed that the survey is the embodiment of a political campaign technique called the push poll. The survey questions presented are designed to convince the respondent that they are participating in a questionnaire when the true objective is to modify and influence the views of the respondent.

The partiality shown in the community survey is one of many stumbling blocks toward the fairness that was once touted as the mission of the County process.

Ripley Steps Up to the Mic for STEP

Following is the full test of public comments by Dana Ripley of Pleasanton, California-based Ripley Pacific Company, made at the April 7th Board of Supervisors meeting. A 30-year veteran of the wastewater industry and author of “The 2006 Ripley Update” for the LOCSD, Ripley is a consultant with the W.M. Lyles group, the STEP company that applied for the project, but was ultimately rejected.

    “I’m pleased to say that STEP collection was fundamental to the plan that we developed in 2006. It was reviewed by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) in November 2006 and completely validated in their report of December 2006.
    “What I’d like to share with you today is agreement with four points that Joe Sparks, president of the LOCSD made, in that the design/build process, by carrying it forward and having alternative technologies, does three things: It provides for a practical design; it provides for cost containment; and it provides for a ‘best-value’ design. If you preclude a particular technology, those three points will be voided.
    “The fourth point that Mr. Sparks indicated was his concern over timing, and I’d like to say that having listened to the staff report I am at odds with the statements that the STEP collection system will take longer to design, to permit for CEQA clearance and for any type of approval via the stimulus funding relative to gravity. I believe that the report that we did in 2006 can be used as a facilities plan updated and be every bit as fast and responsive to the stimulus funding deadlines that your staff has given you.”


MWH Business Practices Haunt Florida Project

What happened to the Cape Coral, Florida, utility expansion project should raise eyebrows in Los Osos. Both projects hired MWH for construction management, and now MWH appears twice on the short list for the Los Osos Wastewater Project. Have the necessary lessons been learned by SLO County, or is history helpless but to repeat itself – at great cost to Los Osos PZ homeowners?

In 2004 Cape Coral, Florida, was “the fastest-growing city in the country,” southwest Florida’s News-Press reported, “thousands of new hookups were pushing the city’s water and sewer plants toward their limits. MWH mapped out the $469 million plan for the facility expansions and started work in 2006.”
    The city utility expansion program was launched to bring sewer and water services to 10,000 homes in southwest Cape Coral, but audits found that the process wasn’t compliant with state requirements.
    According to the State Attorney General in 2007, the City of Cape Coral may have violated a state law when it negotiated two contracts for major utilities projects. The Attorney General’s opinion addressed issues raised in the state audit concerning utilities operations between Oct. 1, 2000, and March 31, 2005.
    Stated the Attorney General: “Separately negotiating each phase of a multiphase project that has been awarded to a construction manager at risk or program manager at risk does not comply with the plain language or intent of section 287.055(9)(c), Florida Statutes.”
    Cape Coral City Manager Terry Stewart responded to the State AG’s comments on the Construction Manager at Risk: “The Attorney General’s opinion may have significant repercussions for communities and agencies beyond the City of Cape Coral…
     “The Attorney General’s report said the city was wrong to negotiate the price for complex utilities contracts in phases rather than all at once. The findings could have far-reaching implications that could affect how future utilities projects are bid, how lawsuits are resolved, how quickly the utilities expansion program continues and how much confidence citizens have in the city’s government.”
    Added Stewart, “Because of this widespread impact, one option may be to pursue legislation that will clarify the intent of these statutes.”
    Two years later, the project has been stopped, and the March 31, 2009, News-Press reported, “A halt to the billion dollar utility expansion project, stunted population growth and a dismal economy are reasons the city is considering the unprecedented rate increases to pay the bills.
    “Fewer customers are coming online, pushing the cost of facility expansions and design work onto the existing 50,000 rate customers.”
     From the March 26, 2009 News-Press: “City officials say they have no choice. The higher bills are needed to pay for $479 million worth of almost-completed water and sewer facilities and work on future expansion projects that remain in limbo. If the City Council doesn’t raise the rates, Cape Coral will default on $315 million worth of bonds, destroying its bond rating — akin to a credit score — and leaving the city unable to borrow money.”
     Water and sewer bills could almost double, reported the News-Press, on average 93% over the next five years.
     What happened to the Cape Coral, Florida, utility expansion project should raise eyebrows in Los Osos. Both projects hired MWH for construction management, and now MWH appears twice on the short list for the Los Osos Wastewater Project, for both the collection system and treatment facility.
    If history repeats itself from coast to coast, Los Osos “Prohibition Zone” taxpayers can look down the road to a troubled future of major cost increases, accounting and accountability issues, and, inevitably, based on past experience, higher fees and rates on sewer and water. Has the County learned anything from Cape Coral?
    Said County Council Warren Jensen at the April 7 SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, when asked if the County had any conflict of interest with MWH: “The mere fact that MWH is a creditor in the Los Osos bankruptcy doesn’t suggest anything particularly sinister. They had a number of creditors when they went into bankruptcy. I just don’t see that that alone has any significance. Now whether there’s some other facts I don’t know…”
‘Taken Advantage’
     Councilman Tom Daly believes the City now needs to move ahead with utility expansions, add more customers to the system, and bring the project back under city control, according to the News-Press, “almost a decade after the Cape hired an outside construction management firm to oversee the project.
    “I think people felt like they got taken advantage of with (project manager MWH),” Day told the News Press. “We need to get the profit motive out of the picture.”
    But by the time the audit results were complete and MWH could be impacted, it was already too late to shut everything down. Projects in areas known as Southwest 1, 2, 3 and along Pine Island Road in Cape Coral were under construction at the time. Work on the next phase of the project, Southwest 5, was called “too far along” to stop. City council had already approved the start of the next phase before any changes could be made. Work was also under way in Southwest 4. Those lines reportedly will cost each of the area’s nearly 4,000 homeowners $25,000 to $40,000, and the level of outrage in Southwest 4 is running high. Assessments in areas completed earlier fell between $11,000 and $15,000.
    “The council would have to calculate the costs of killing a contract with a firm called MWH Americas to manage the construction phase,” the mayor said.
    Three different audits criticized the city’s management of the utility expansion program, reported the News-Press. One 2006 state audit led to the Attorney General’s opinion. A 2006 audit by New York-based Kessler & Associates opened a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into possible bid-rigging in prior projects. The third audit, by auditor R.L. Townsend in 2005, concluded the city was overpaying to run the program.
     Concluded Kessler: “In conducting this inquiry, Kessler encountered issues that it believes require systemic reform within the City. Some of the issues have already been addressed implicitly in this report. These include taking steps to guard against future deception of the taxpayers; diligently monitoring vendors and accurately responding to citizen complaints and inquiries and not discounting them simply because of their source. The fact that certain items at issue in this inquiry — from questionable bidding practices to obstructing authorized fact-gathering efforts — pervaded during this engagement suggests serious and systemic management failings.”
     Continued Kessler: “The City should also re-examine its policies relating to allowing vendors complete control of projects without adequate City oversight and determine whether changes need to be made in those policies to ensure that future multi-million dollar contracts are properly supervised and taxpayer funds properly spent.
    “The conduct of certain employees in the context of this engagement is also very disturbing, all the more so since the most egregious conduct was committed by persons in positions of substantial responsibility and leadership.”
    The City Auditor’s Office concurred with Kessler’s concerns about questionable bidding activity.
    At least four lawsuits related to the utilities projects were filed.
    John Sullivan, a Cape Coral resident suing the city, told the News-Press that the AG’s opinion only raised more questions. “Are these contracts illegal? If they are, what recourse do citizens have? Are our public officials responsible for this?
    “People have a shot at starting a class-action suit against the city,” said Sullivan, who founded the Cape Coral Minutemen, a group of residents dedicated to lowering costs of the utilities projects. “This is just going to shore up lawsuits.”
    MWH’s website (www.mwhglobal.com) says “MWH provides comprehensive management services and solutions across our global platform of 197 offices in 38 countries.”  
    One of t
hose 197 offices listed on the MWH website is at located 1236 Los Osos Valley Road in Los Osos, an office closed since 2005. It could open again soon.
    “It’s like living in the twilight zone,” commented Councilman Mickey Rosado about Cape Coral’s predicament. “It’s outrageous.”
    Even more outrageous than “like living in the twilight zone” is living in the twilight zone and the “Prohibition Zone” and in Los Osos at the same time, continuously, for 26 years.
    It doesn’t get much more outrageous than that.

Compiled from articles originally reported and published in the News-Press, Ft. Myers, Florida.

The Vote to End Affordability and Transparency: The Gibson/Mecham Exchange

Following is edited transcript from the dramatic, almost day-long April 7th Board of Supervisors meeting in San Luis Obispo in which Board Chairman Bruce Gibson and Supervisor Frank Mecham each explained their votes – wily veteran Gibson in favor of dropping STEP and board newcomer Mecham opposed.

Gibson: “While I understand the emotional concerns, as we sort through the issues before us today we have to be rationale about the decisions we make and strategic is the application of the principles that we’ve laid out… So what I’m hoping for here is a proper balance of heart and head as we move forward in this… It seems quite clear we do need to move forward on moving the gravity system through the design build process and we need technical specifications of that… I move that we accept staff’s recommendation regarding the amendment of an engineering consulting services contract. Is there any discussion on the motion?”

Mecham: “I’m not going to support the motion and I guess mainly because two things. One, I completely agree in terms of head and heart. I never once have ever questioned the integrity of anybody that’s working on this project, nor the people that I work with, nor those who come before us.] I heard more than anything the comment of process and the comment of ‘give us some comparison costs.’ I cannot in good conscience feel that we are doing that. I’m very sensitive to the issue of affordability, too. As we’ve heard time again, and when we went and pled the case to Washington we talked about a community that was not a high-end community. I’m concerned that we are not going to be affording them the opportunity to take a look at a couple of options that might in fact reduce the cost of this. I don’t always agree with [former LOCSD board member] Miss Julie Tacker at all, but I don’t hang my hat on stimulus stuff, either. This is money that we hope will come in, that we are trying to hope that we can to find a way to make it happen.  But I don’t believe that we can hang our hat on that and think that that’s going to make this project work. That’s why I have to go back to trying to find another alternative option that might be a little bit more affordable…. I cannot in good conscience support the motion. We are excluding anything else.”

Gibson: “I too am disappointed that we’re not at a point where we have an easy comparison here, but there’s nothing about this project that is particularly easy. It is a complicated, expensive, contentious bit of business. But on the matter of getting gravity specs going forward we need to do that, and I would hope that we give staff a clear recommendation here that we move forward.”

Mecham: “I can support your motion if it would include further investigation and discussion about that.”

Gibson: “It’s not going to.”

Mecham: “Well then I can’t support it.”

Mecham: “I take exception with the responsibility that we have in [not] taking things lightly. I don’t take anything lightly. [I feel that my responsibility is, first of all, to the community that I would be representing, which is the San Luis Obispo County.] I’m not arguing that the gravity system isn’t a good system, and I’m not arguing that that might rise to the top. I don’t know that from a cost (comparison). You (Chairman Gibson) made the case when you talked about the economy. You said that the economy has turned. We don’t know if there’s a cost savings here. I don’t want to run the risk of not finding some type of a funding mechanism to try to help these folks out, that’s the last thing I want to do, but I just don’t feel that from everything I’ve read and everything I’ve heard that we gave them the option to make that choice from the community.”

MWH in Los Osos – Unanswered Questions

MWH is the No. 1 qualifying contractor for the Los Osos Wastewater Project, topping the short list for both the collection system and treatment facility. Do potential conflicts of interest and a costly history in Los Osos make the Bloomfield, Colorado-based global builder a risk to the community? Following is a list of events and activities in Los Osos wastewater history that shed light on MWH business practices with the LOCSD and wastewater project from 1998 to 2009. This summary provides reasons how working with MWH on the County’s current project could come back to cost the community, and why the Board of Supervisors should rescind staff’s decision to short-list MWH for the LOCSD wastewater project.

■ September 1999. The original project management contract between the LOCSD and MWH, discovered in December 2005, was signed by future (but not then) GM Bruce Buel. It wasn’t signed by Interim GM Paavo Ogren or by the Board President. The backdated contract, authorized by Buel, who was not employed by the LOCSD at the time the contract was implemented, was amended several times for millions of dollars.

■ 1999-2005. Two original contracts between the LOCSD and MWH were both amended several times each, with millions of dollars in unscoped work added to the original project costs. All additional work was sole-sourced to MWH.

■ 2001 Project Report and Final EIR. MWH Project Report determines that an out-of-town project is cheaper, and FEIR finds it environmentally preferred. MWH’s conclusions about “cheaper-out-of-town” were not disclosed in the FEIR, dividing the town over the project and location. MWH’s design disposal rate information for the Broderson site caused numerous professional, legal and permit challenges based on dubious engineering decisions and accounting practices that proved very costly for citizens.

■ Spring 2005. Project bids for three separate elements of the construction of the wastewater project came in 40%-57% above MWH professional Engineers Estimates.

■ Spring 2005. The largest amendment made to the MWH design contract was for Construction Management Services. The amount was for $7.48 million — more than $10,000 a day (for a staff of only five), and it was based on a percentage of the higher bids that came in. There was no competition. This was a sole-sourced contract (on a 3-2 LOCSD vote), and the decision was primarily based on advice received from MWH who stood to directly benefit from their own recommendations to the LOCSD board.

■ Summer 2005. Aiming to save their lucrative contract with the LOCSD, MWH makes $10,000 donation to “Save the Dream,” a political campaign group organized to fight against the recall of three LOCSD board directors.

■ Fall 2005. In November 19, 2005, there was a “break-in” and robbery of the MWH offices at Sunnyside School in Los Osos. This occurred shortly after the successful recall of three member majority of the old board. Reported stolen: computers and files from the Los Osos Wastewater Project.

■ Fall 2005. LOCSD passes several resolutions and requests for a formal investigation of MWH contracts and false claims.

■ Winter 2005. Letter to DA and False Claims complaint filed against MWH detail all irregularities with the first and subsequent contracts and amendments. DA acknowledges illegality of contract between MWH and LOCSD but doesn’t prosecute. Complaint goes to AG. Results pending due to bankruptcy.

■ Winter 2005. Formal complaint filed against MWH with Construction Management Association of the Americas, describing allegations, contract irregularities and conflict of interest. Investigation still active and pending due to MWH lawsuits against LOCSD in bankruptcy.

■ Spring 2006. MWH sues LOCSD. Still active due to bankruptcy.

■ Spring 2006. Court audit reveals that MWH was improperly paid out of SRF funds in the fall of 2005. These funds had been mandated to reimburse the district for borrowed project monies, not to pay consultants.

■ Fall 2006. County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren requests that LOCSD Board release MWH so that County can hire them. LOCSD refuses due to lawsuits and false claims in bankruptcy and offers to provide all MWH design work to the County. Ogren tells LOCSD that he “hired them anyhow.”

■ Winter 2006. Carollo’s Scope of Work with County for wastewater project lists MWH as subconsultants.

■ Spring 2009. County BOS announces that MWH collection design will be incorporated into the design build process in order to save time.

■ Spring 2009. MWH selected for County short list for both collection system and treatment facility, listed as first choice. SLO County also chooses previous MWH collection design and incorporates this work into the design process.

■ Spring 2009. Design/build code appears to disqualify MWH from short list due to use of their design products and their assistance to the County and Carollo. Explained County Project Engineer John Waddell: “MWH was not retained by the county to assist in the development of project specific documents related to the design-build process and is eligible to submit a design-build proposal under Section 20133.”

■ Spring 2009. Formal complaint is filed with County regarding MWH, submitted by Lisa Schicker, LOCSD President and Board Member 2004-2008.



Urna eget erat non purus

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