San Luis Obispo County supervisors were unanimous in a decision to make a critical step toward building a new sewer for Los Osos—but at least one of them wasn’t happy about it.
“I’m going to say now that when these construction costs … when these bids come in, they better be low or I’m not going to support it,” said Supervisor Frank Mecham.
On Dec. 13, county supervisors approved a contract of about $7.68 million with HDR Engineering for “professional engineering services.” The contract marks a major step toward the ultimate construction of Los Osos’ $173 million project.
HDR’s contract falls into the category of pre-construction—what some have called “soft”—costs, which are budgeted into the overall sewer package. Early funding is coming through state and federal loans, which will be repaid over the life of the project through property owner tax bills.
Residents are beginning to see the early bills, which will shoot up to around $200 per month for some residents as the project comes to fruition. Initial reactions indicate they’re not happy about it.
Resident Richard Margetson criticized project officials for not “advocating” for Los Osos residents. At a Dec. 5 hearing with the State Water Resources Control Board, Margetson said county officials could have fought for a much lower interest rate on a state revolving fund loan. He told supervisors that he drove 10 hours to make the meeting and gave seven minutes of public comment, but generally felt abandoned by county officials who were only able to convince state officials to reduce the initial interest rate by about a half percent.
According to county project manager John Waddell, the interest savings equate to millions of dollars over the life of the project, though he said it would only translate to savings of about $4 per month for residents.
County officials said they were able to negotiate the HDR contract down by about $750,000. However, Margetson commented that the contract includes $794,663 for “additional services and contingency fund.”
“It’s easy to work the numbers, guys,” Margetson said.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson—whose district includes Los Osos—and Public Works officials commended HDR’s qualifications and said the costs for the contract fall within the project budget.