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And then there was one

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Montgomery Watson Harza, the much beleaguered whipping boy of contractors pegged for the Los Osos wastewater project, is out of the running—for now, at least.

On March 15, San Luis Obispo County supervisors officially accepted the decades-
old sewer project. After the project’s 4 1/2 years under county jurisdiction and $8 million in general fund contributions, supervisors officially accepted it for the county, essentially a technicality that allows the county to move forward with accepting design and construction bids and get construction rolling.

However, MWH, the company that handled the design work so far—which is also embroiled in legal battles with the Los Osos Community Services District—bowed out of the redesign. The company has been criticized by locals who note it was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion in New Orleans.

After relocating the sewer’s treatment plant, the collection system required a redesign before the project could move forward. MWH was one of three “short-listed” contractors county officials had lined up to bid on the design work. However, only the group CDM submitted a proposal. Auburn Construction, also on the short list but less controversial locally, didn’t submit
a proposal.

The announcement that MWH didn’t submit a proposal prompted relief and condemnation from vocal Los Osos residents, who seem elated to be rid of MWH temporarily, but worry the county’s process has lost the advantage of placing contractors in competition with each other to lower the bids.

In an e-mail response to New Times, Project Engineer John Waddell said the next step, to select who designs the treatment facility, is currently on hold.

“Selection for a design-build process is based on best value, which includes the overall life-cycle costs, qualifications, and schedule,” Waddell said.

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