State Recommends Change to New River Project Bid

City Council Approves General Budget with Slight Changes

JULIO MORALESON AUGUST 11, 2022 – Holtville Tribune

Calexico, CA –

A last-minute recommendation by state officials will prompt slight changes to, and potentially lower the cost of construction for, the city’s New River Improvement Project request for proposals.

The recommendation by the California Department of Water Resources called for a change in the type of material to be used for the estimated $32 million project.

The state’s request was submitted to the city a few hours before the City Council was scheduled to potentially approve the project going out to bid during a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 10.

The council ultimately voted unanimously to approve the invitation for bids, pending the recommended changes.

“They’re not really big changes, just materials,” City Manager Esperanza Colio Warren said on Thursday, Aug. 11.

The project’s request for proposals will now be resubmitted to the city’s contracted engineer to make the recommended changes. The opening date for bids was tentatively scheduled to be Sept. 6, according to the resolution’s backup documents.

The request for proposals also differs from the one that the city had previously opened for bidding. The current proposal breaks the project’s construction into two phases, whereas construction under the former RFP was to be undertaken in just one phase.

The division of the New River Improvement Project into two separate phases was prompted by a recommendation by Colio Warren during the council’s special meeting on July 28.

During that meeting, the council approved her request to reject the sole $41.7 million bid the city had received because it exceeded the $23.7 million currently available for the project.

While Colio Warren had clarified then that additional funds for construction were anticipated to be awarded from the state, she further suggested splitting the construction project into different components.

Phase 1 of the project will install a trash screen to remove debris from the river as it enters the United States from Mexico, as well as install a pumpback system that will divert the river’s water to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, where it will be cleaned and returned to the river basin to produce a “freshwater” stream.

Phase 2 will install a 6-foot bypass pipe to encase the waterway between the Second Street bridge to where the river reaches the All-American Canal, as well as install erosion control measures at the end of the bypass pipe, the bid document stated.

Prior to the approval of the request for proposals, council member Camilo Garcia sought assurances that the project, once completed, would have the necessary funds to maintain it.

“It would be a disservice to build it and then not be able to sustain it,” Garcia said.

City Manager Colio Warren explained that in 2017 the city, county and the Imperial Irrigation District had finalized a memorandum of understanding that obligated each entity to contribute $50,000 annually for 20 years to maintain the project, once operational.

The city was initially awarded $28 million for the New River project, consisting of $18 million from the state’s 2020-2021 general fund and $10 million from the 2018 Proposition 68 water bond co-authored by Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella.

The New River is shown where it crosses the international border from Mexico into the United States in Calexico. Efforts are underway by the city of Calexico to build out a $28 million project that will cleanup the river in the Calexico area. | KENNY ROBERTSON PHOTO

Annual Budget Approved, Again

In an effort to eliminate any confusion surrounding the status of the city’s fiscal year 2022-2023 budget, the City Council approved a finalized version during its special meeting.

Prior to its action on Wednesday, the council had approved a series of resolutions over the course of two separate meetings in June and July that had allowed the city to make expenditures while the council considered amendments to the proposed budget.

Yet there appeared to be some confusion about whether a continuing resolution the council had approved on June 30 had essentially approved the proposed budget, which it had, said City Manager Colio Warren.

So, to make the matter clear, the resolution unanimously approved on Wednesday reaffirmed that prior approval and allowed for some updates to be included.

One of the updates to the approximately $162 million FY 2022-23 budget that generated the most discussion during the meeting was the deferment of a $85,000 water capital fund project.

That project had called for the transition to a different chlorination system at the city’s water treatment plant.

Currently the plant’s chlorination system is operated with gas instead of a liquid, which has presented a concern for the facility’s personnel, Colio Warren said.  

But before any changes are made to the chlorination system, Colio Warren told the council that the city should first apply for state grant funds that would allow for an engineering evaluation of the plant’s overall operations. Such an evaluation would identify any operational issues, as well as recommend potential solutions.  

“I don’t feel that I should make a decision without an engineer reviewing the project,” she told the council.

Council member Garcia questioned the need for any system changes at the water treatment plant, which during a recent tour had left h