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The 900 block of Paulin Avenue in Calexico is shown where city contractors have found badly deteriorated sewer lines that need to be replaced as part of a larger citywide line replacement project costing more than $1 million. Work got underway in July. The discovery has added an additional $144,000 to the project. | COURTESY IMAGE

Paulin Sewer Problems Reveal Process Solutions

Calexico Council Decision Hopes to Continue to Head Off Cost Changes in Advance

CALEXICO — Exploratory work beneath the streets of an older section of Calexico revealed an aging network of sewer lines in worse condition than first thought that recently led to an additional $144,000 in unforeseen expenses.

Yet, it’s a cost the members of the Calexico City Council say are worth bearing to avoid bigger headaches down the road.

“It’s something that it’s necessary, isn’t it? I mean, if we don’t follow through with it … the damages are going to continue and it’s going to cost us more money?” council member Rosie Arreola Fernandez asked, and stated at the same time, anticipating the answer.

“Yes, this area of Calexico is the old part of Calexico, so the sewer line is very deteriorated, and we are constantly having sewer breaks in that area,” Public Works Manager Liliana Falomir told the council during its Sept. 15 meeting.

“It will be more expensive not to do the job, in my opinion,” council member Gloria Romo said. “Thank you, Ms. Falomir for telling us before (something worse happens).”

In the scheme of things, the change is only $143,900 in an overall sewer line-replacement project of more than $1 million awarded in May 2020, but the peace of mind for the city — and the residents in the area — is likely worth more. The first change brings to total project cost to $1.2 million for A&R Construction.

Calexico City Council members Rosie Arreola Fernandez (from left), Mayor Pro Tem Camilo Garcia, and Mayor Javier Moreno listen during a meeting in July. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

The unanimous decision spoke to a larger issue of good governance the city is experiencing with large-scale projects of this type, which was yet another example of how a new policy regarding project changes that was adopted several months ago at the urging of Mayor Pro Tem Camilo Garcia is helping make better choices with limited funds.

“I think something that is missing in this conversation is the progress that we have made to the process that we have right now. From my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, previously, change orders like this didn’t come to council in a way that it’s before us,” City Council member Raul Ureña said, giving credit to Garcia’s push to get council approval on change orders first, and not after.

On a granular level, the $143,900 is specific to the poor condition of the lines beneath Paulin Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets east of Imperial Avenue and south of Birch Street. The problem was found as assessments of the city’s sewer lines continue as the project moves forward.

Work started in July, and areas of Dool and Beach avenues have already been replaced. These new issues were found as Paulin was started, but no work has been done on this part yet, per the policy of pre-approval.

On a larger level, gaining council sign-off seems to stem from the mass number of change orders that rose out of the months-long Cesar Chavez Boulevard widening, where eight changes totaling $1.5 million above the original cost, was heavily scrutinized by Garcia and led to him asking a policy change to be brought forward that gave the council more insight into what was happening.

During the course of approval of the change on Sept. 15, Garcia spoke about what this new process allows the city of achieve, specifically getting on the front end of a problem and being “proactive.”

To that end, he asked whether the city could reassess its “inventory” of infrastructure and see what else needs to be fixed and prioritized since the city has at least two rounds of American Rescue Plan Act funding coming to it.

“I think right now we have an opportunity with ARPA monies to be proactive, to be preventative,” Garcia said.

City Manager Miguel Figueroa explained to the council that the very nature of discussion delivered two points.

“I think what we’re trying to accomplish, one, is to make sure that we comply with the requests and the recommendations from City Council. … At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we follow through on other recommendations that you put on the table to improve procedures or processes in the city,” Figueroa said.

Norma Gerardo, Calexico Recreation Department manager | COURTESY PHOTO

“Number two is, I was sharing actually with a council member, that to some extent I think this is an example of the recommendations being put to practice,” he added.

Calexico Arts Get Major Boost from State

During Figueroa’s city manager’s report, he informed the council that the city has received its first-even grant from the California Arts Council to the day-to-day expenses of running the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center.

The city was one of two local organizations to be approved for the state Arts Council’s Arts & Cultural Organizations General Operating Relief grant program to help sustain cultural programs impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funds may be used to support any eligible expenses associated with the general operations of an arts or cultural organization, including but not limited to rent, utilities, and staff salaries, according to the California Arts Council’s website.

Calexico received $19,000 and the Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society in Ocotillo received $28,500.

“We just got notified that we had been awarded through those grants. It is the first time that we get something from the California Arts Council (and I’m) very excited we have a foot in the door,” Calexico Recreation Manager Norma Gerardo said.

“That’s what we need. We need the state to know us and (see that) we utilize the funds the way we said we will,” said Gerardo’s whose department runs the Durazo arts center. “I’m sure more funding will come through as we apply for more grants.”

The grant runs from November through October 2022, she added.

Bids on Airport Program Rejected

The Council unanimously approved rejecting all three bids received for the Calexico International Airport taxiway rehabilitation project and re-advertise the request for bids.

“We’ve come to a situation in which some of the proposals that we received have been deemed to be nonresponsive to all the elements outlined in the request for proposals,” City Manager Figueroa told the council on Sept. 15. “As a result of this, we can actually go back and re-engage in the procurement process.”

The scope of the project includes reconstructing the pavement the full length parallel to the taxiway and adjacent pavement areas with a new asphalt concrete pavement section, and other improvements, according to a staff report.

Through annual Federal Aviation Administration entitlements and specific project-related awards, the city had amassed more than $3 million in funding. However, of the three bids, the two lowest were considered “nonresponsive,” or did not meet all the desired criteria of the city, and the single responsive bid, was more than $300,000 above the second-lowest bid.

A plane sits on the tarmac at the Calexico International Airport in April. The Calexico City Council on Sept. 15 rejected the three bids for its taxiway improvement project for two of three bids being “nonresponsive.” | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO