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PAWSD greenhouse cost up to $4.9m

Green. Think green. Coming to mind when thinking of green is Kermit the Frog, money, vegetation, environmentally friendly. Throw out Kermit the Frog and what you’re left with encompasses the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s biosolids greenhouse project.

Up until this Tuesday’s PAWSD board of directors special meeting, the biosolids greenhouse had been mentioned during PAWSD meeting in updates and discussions were held as to the location. During the bidding process, which contractor and which engineering firm to use were also discussed. Throughout, much of the buzz and discussion around the biosolids greenhouse has been positive. Tuesday’s special meeting changed that, however.

The idea for the greenhouse was spurred in 2009, when PAWSD was the recipient of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds. A portion of the project — PAWSD Operations Manager Gregg Mayo estimates it was under $100,000 — also qualified for the Green Reserve grant.

The project was first bid in winter of 2009. Briliam Engineering was contracted for design, while Southwest Contracting LLC was the contractor. The contract with Southwest was for $3,320,000.

That, however, is not the final price of the project.

Early on in the contract period came the first change order for a little over $300,000 for contingency. Then, earlier this year, came a second change order for more than $400,000 for two additional blowers and to add supports and redo the flooring of the centrifuge building. That took the total to over $4 million.

At Tuesday’s meeting, a third change order was presented to the board from Southwest Contracting LLC Manager Steve Franchini for $439,335.

“I’m trying to figure out the cost versus the benefit,” Director Mike Church said, continuing to ask, “Where are we costwise? Where is the benefit?”

The cost savings for the biosolids greenhouse comes in two ways. First, by processing the biosolids at the greenhouse facility, it is expected to save approximately $35,000 per year on landfill fees. Second, since the greenhouse runs 95 percent on solar energy, it will save on gas and electric costs.

However, with this change order, the cost to date for the project is now $4.9 million.

“We are in so deep at this point, we can’t get out,” said Ed Winton, PAWSD district manager.

Mayo said that, about two months ago, he received a phone call from Franchini saying that, while he was not sure exactly how much more, this project was going to cost more. Then, on June 12, Mayo received the change order.

The money breaks down as follows: $92,300 for additional instrumentation; $70,035 for two additional electrical service upgrades and service to the greenhouse; $25,000 for adding a pump at the centrifuge discharge; $35,000 for using a certified greenhouse erector (Mayo said this was done to maintain the warranty); $5,000 for adding two inches of thickness to greenhouse walls; and $212,000 for excavation and backfill on foundation.

Winton and Mayo explained that this was a design issue and not an issue with the contractor. According to Mayo, the project was well on its way when Briliam’s subcontracted engineer, Dave Marsh, redesigned the project. The redesign was due in part to moving the facility from the front of the PAWSD facility property to the back, above where the old lagoons were located prior to 2003. The move was made after meetings were held with the residents of the neighborhood. Marsh called for screened rock to be used down to the bedrock with a vapor barrier put beneath the bedrock.

“His position is his name’s on it, and it’s not going to fall down,” Mayo said, adding that much of the foundational work seemed ultraconservative.

“He (Marsh) knew what the soil tests were. He could have designed it differently but he didn’t,” Mayo said.

However, Mayo told the board that 85 percent of this work has already been completed.

“So this is asking for forgiveness after the fact,” Church said.

Director Glenn Walsh asked if the greenhouse could be taken down and sold to another district interested in green projects.

Mayo explained that it would not recoup the cost. The actual greenhouse cost $900,000; other money was in the foundation and construction.

“How does this financially affect the district?” Director Roy Vega asked.

Business Services Manager Shellie Peterson assured the board that PAWSD had the money to cover the cost.

“The costs here are just outrageous,” Walsh said.

However, since the work had already been done, the board “reluctantly” approved the change order.

The greenhouse is still slated to be finished late August or early September.

At the special meeting, the PAWSD board also met in the spirit of cooperation with the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners. The BoCC proposed an offer for PAWSD to take part in the laying of fiber optics lines. County Administrator Greg Schulte explained that the project will provide bandwidth for future expansion and, “allow us to interconnect with other governmental agencies in a way that has never been possible before.” Only government entities are permitted to take part in this project.

County attorney Todd Starr explained that SB152 prohibits government entities from being service providers, thus this Internet service would not be offered to residents of the county or PAWSD customers.

“We can’t compete with private service providers,” Starr said. However, the entities can sell any excess capacity to Internet service providers. Schulte cautioned PAWSD directors, though, to not count on being able to sell excess capacity as it is not a given that there will be a demand.

Winton told the board that this would be an enhancement to CityWorks, a GIS management program that PAWSD, the town and county are using.

While the PAWSD directors showed interest in the project, since there was not a set dollar figure, no action was taken.

The PAWSD board, however, did take action on selecting an engineering firm for the San Juan Water Treatment Plant improvements. The board selected Bartlett and West for the project, the firm recommended by PAWSD staff. According to Mayo, Bartlett and West was the only firm to fulfill all the requirements, which included being full-service and in-house.

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