Originally planning a hoopla with a potential price tag as high as $50,000, project commissioners decided to nix the entire celebration, according to commission chair David Brooks, who said commissioners decided the expense was too great.
“Any money spent was too expensive,” Brooks told New Times.
At the Aug. 26 Nacimiento Project Commission meeting, commissioners agreed to scale down the planned celebration, which would have included a video-production team, an emcee from the local media, and invitations sent to families of the three construction workers who died building the project.
A coinciding ceremony for family members of the three men who died building the project—Jacob Gaines, Manuel Villagomez, and Timothy Nelson—was tentatively scheduled to take place before the public ceremony, but was also canceled. Teichert Construction, which was the contractor at both sites where the fatal accidents took place during construction of the project, held a private ceremony with family members Oct. 23, Brooks said.
Bob Gaines, whose son Jake drowned while installing a section of pipe in Paso Robles, said the invitation he received “kind of rubs me wrong.” He added that the project’s completion was “bittersweet” for him.
Though the theatrical valve-turning was called off, the project is ready to go. Project officials have conducted a number of tests on the 45-mile pipeline, and expect to take it online within a few weeks.
Officials claim the project is about a month ahead of schedule and $2.3 million below the original $176 million estimated cost.
“However, let me caution you that the project is not yet complete, and there is no guarantee that the $2.3 [million] potential savings could be realized when the final paperwork is completed,” Nacimiento Project Manager John Hollenbeck said an e-mail.
A crumpled section of pipe discovered in August has yet to be investigated, and the cost of repair won’t be known until the investigation is complete, likely early next year.