Morro Bay could save $39 million on its new wastewater treatment plant

Morro Bay's proposed Wastewater Reclamation Facility would replace this wastewater treatment plant.
Morro Bay's proposed Wastewater Reclamation Facility would replace this wastewater treatment plant.

Morro Bay's Wastewater Reclamation Facility project will cost nearly $39 million less than initially projected, according to a statement from the city of Morro Bay.

The Morro Bay City Council faced significant public outcry in April 2017 when the city released an estimate that the project would cost a total of $167 million. This prompted Morro Bay to request a peer review from area public works professionals, which managed to reduce the estimated price tag to $150 million.

The new cost projection is $128.5 million.

City manager Scott Collins said the significant drop had to do with "the process of refining the project components, encouraging competition among qualified proposers and rigorously reviewing with project team and citizen advisers."

The announcement comes as the Morro Bay City Council on Wednesday authorized city staff to begin negotiating with two firms — Filanc of Escondido and Black & Veatch of Irvine — concerning the next phase of designing and building the Wastewater Reclamation Facility (WRF).

The firms have submitted a maximum bid of $69.5 million to the city, meaning they will not charge any more than that amount and the final amount could be negotiated to be much lower, Collins said.

Once those negotiations conclude, the firms will take the existing design plans "to 100 percent design and then go from there" into the actual work of construction, Collins said.

The city manager said there is no hard timetable for the negotiations, but that work cannot proceed until they are complete. He said the process could take one or two months.

Not everyone was happy that Black & Veatch was selected by the council.

In a letter to the city, Jeffery Heller wrote that the proposed selection was "a clear violation of the California Public Contract Code," as Black & Veatch also developed the draft Master Facilities Plan.

In response, Collins told The Tribune that state law does prohibit Black & Veatch from receiving the contract to do design and construction work for the WRF.

"State law does require the city to have guidelines that provide for the ability of a firm, such as Black & Veatch to participate with a team that will bid on the WRF design/build process. The city has such guidelines," Collins said.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler