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Pump station upgrades go 24 percent over budget

ESCONDIDO — On Wednesday the City Council approved a budget adjustment of about $1.37 million to go towards the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility pump station project, which was approved in October 2012.

According to Director of Utilities Christopher McKinney, the 50-year-old pump station, located in southern Escondido, processes 83 percent of the city’s sewage.

Its aging and corroding pipes need to be replaced because otherwise, there is a risk of a leak or a catastrophic failure, McKinney said.

The budget adjustment is almost 24 percent over the original contract of $8.1 million.

During construction, the project ran into a few obstacles.

There were unforeseen underground conditions, including rocks and undocumented pipes that slowed down the project.

There were 8-inch potable water lines and 12-inch recycled water lines that had to be temporarily rerouted.

Staff had to install permanent pipes, which cost a total of $248,000.

The rocky conditions also changed the plans for building a 1,100-foot wall that buffers the pump station from a neighboring mobile home park.

McKinney said the city saved some money because they sped up the wall project and combined it with another construction phase so they didn’t have to mobilize workers twice or do two demolitions.

The removal of the rocks cost $91,000 and the new wall design and construction cost more than $316,000.

Part way into the project, operations staff requested a wider screen for the project. Screens remove debris from wastewater.

The wider screens will ensure the plant can process all flows. They cost nearly $62,000 more than the originally approved budget.

The budget for the wall and the new screens don’t need to be approved by council because their combined cost was within 10 percent of the previously approved budget.

Changes within 10 percent don’t need city council approval.

Another obstacle staff ran up against was the vactor dump station. The original plan was for wastewater collection staff to use an existing clarifier while the dump station was under construction.

The clarifier was deemed unfit for temporary use so a permanent one was built at a cost of $287,000.

The work to the pump station is limited to the dry season between April 1 and October 31.

McKinney told the council that operations had to shut down during the wet season because it wouldn’t be possible to respond to a storm if one was in the forecast.

“The work installing the pumps removes capacity from the systems for potentially weeks or months at a time,” McKinney said.

That’s fine during the summer because there is little rain so there is much less water flowing through the pumps.

All of the obstacles slowed down the project and construction had to stop last October before the project was complete.

Staff had to get temporary rental pumps and remove temporary installations, which cost $517,000.

“All these change orders were necessary for the safe completion of the project and the continued operation of the (pump station),” McKinney said.

Construction will resume on the project April 1.

McKinney told the council there was an issue with internal tracking of the costs and staff didn’t realize they had gone over the allowed 10 percent budget threshold until it was too late.

“Unfortunately, we did not come to you in a timely fashion,” McKinney said. “We’ve gathered as a staff to identify why that happened and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The council unanimously approved the budget increase.