News About the North Bay Water Reuse Authority

Lowest pipeline bid could get tossed because of safety issues


By  PETER JENSEN, Napa Valley Register, 12/17/13

Bids for a proposed recycled water pipeline to the Coombsville area came in much lower than expected, but the lowest bidders may be disqualified under the Napa Sanitation District’s safety standards.

If that’s the case, landowners volunteering to pay for the project may be on the hook for paying more money for a smaller pipeline, Deputy Public Works Director Phil Miller told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The 5-mile pipeline, once built, will extend from Imola Avenue, through the Coombsville area and out to the Napa Valley Country Club on Hagen Road. It’s intended to wean large water users off groundwater, allowing those supplies to replenish faster in an area that drains the Milliken, Sarco and Tulocay creeks.

Landowners have formed an assessment district that would allow the state government to loan the money needed to build the project, and be repaid through annual property tax payments. The federal government has pledged to pay 20 percent of the total project cost.

The pipeline’s size is still to be determined, with a 1,000 acre-foot pipeline and a 2,000 acre-foot pipeline as the potential options that were put out to bid. Total costs for the larger project, including a pump station, pipeline, engineering work and other costs, are estimated to be about $17 million, and the smaller project is estimated to cost about $14 million.

The pipeline component of the larger project was estimated to cost $10 million, and $8.5 million of the smaller project. Two firms’ bids for the larger pipeline came in at $6.7 million and $7.06 million, respectively.

However, the low bidders for the larger pipelines have below-average track records for workers’ compensation claims, and therefore may have their bids tossed out because of the sanitation district’s safety requirements.

The next lowest bidder on the larger size — one with an acceptable workers’ compensation claims history — was $9.2 million.

A similar issue applied to bids for the smaller pipeline. The two low bids were from companies with safety issues. The lowest bidder without safety complications was from a contractor who bid $7.8 million.

“This project was never going to be easy,” Miller said.

The sanitation district requires bidders’ workers’ compensation claims to meet or exceed the national average for workplace safety, district general manager Tim Healy told the board.

The requirement has been in place for more than a decade, and stems from the district’s participation in an insurance pool. Complying with those standards has saved the district roughly $200,000 annually in insurance rate payments, said Supervisor Mark Luce, who sits on the district’s board of directors.

Attorneys for the sanitation district are reviewing the low bids for the larger pipeline, and may determine that the safety standards can be exempt in this situation. If not, the bidder for the smaller pipeline may be awarded the contract.

Healy said an update is due to the sanitation district’s board of directors at its meeting Jan. 22.

Supervisor Keith Caldwell said the district should have used prequalifications in the bidding process, so it could have disqualified the low bidders if they didn’t meet standards.

Miller said the county is still working with the state government to get an easement so it could build a pump station on the Napa State Hospital grounds.

The project remains on track to start construction next year, as the pump station still has to open for bids, Miller said. The plan is to award the bids for the pipeline and the pump station at the same time, and start construction in the spring.

The bids on the pipeline remain valid for four months, meaning the county and the sanitation district have time to work out the issues with the safety requirements, he said.