by Lou Binninger
For a “disadvantaged city” Marysville has money to burn on consultants and engineering firms when local professionals offer their expertise for free or at much lower costs. It seems nowadays that county and city administrators though paid $150-300 thousand dollars annually bring little to the job other than hiring consultants with exorbitant fees.
Marysville appears to be hooked at the hip with EKI Environment and Water that has struck gold working for the little city. EKI proposes to run Ellis Lake like an aquarium by using 2 compressors, 25 aerators and chemicals spending a fantastic $695 thousand to start and then $45,000 annually. Yet there are no guarantees of a clean lake. In fact, the water will not be fit for swimming.
Next, EKI wrote a $400,000 Water Resources grant to put a well in Gavin Park where EKI receives up to $79,900 for design and administrative services. A local contractor / well-driller could do the job for less than $10,000. It wouldn’t take $400,000 to put wells and pumps in every park in the city. (The parks have been dry for years due to the unaffordable rates of California Water Service. The option is to put wells in each park.)
Having EKI do the engineering and oversee installing a well and pump to run sprinklers for $400K is like hiring an industrial engineer to oversee the housekeeping of your 900 square foot apartment. EKI charges from $85/hr for secretaries up to $286/hr for a Chief Engineer plus mark-ups on subcontractors.
How did Marysville marry EKI? Does former Public Works Director Dave Lamon come to mind? He works there now after leaving Marysville with $3 million in California Water Resources fines for not filing 11 quarterly waste water reports. He also is the one who began pumping ground water full of minerals leading to the Ellis Lake algae outbreak and lobbied against using Yuba River water for the lake. The Riverfront Park Boat Ramp was allowed to become unusable under Lamon, as well.
Both EKI proposals for the Ellis Lake rehab and for the Gavin Park well are seriously flawed. EKI’s estimate of more than a million dollars to pump Yuba River water is so outlandish as to raise questions about their competence or a bias. Locals estimate pumping river water will cost $10-15 thousand annually.
EKI proposes drilling a 300-foot well and installing a pump to provide up to 175 gallons per minute at Gavin Park. That’s like using a 50-caliber gun to kill a rabbit. The current Cal Water Service connection to the park is using just 15-20 gallons per minute.
The city could have a 100-foot well and a 1-horsepower submersible pump installed for less than $7000. This system would produce plenty of water and would not need an engineering firm to oversee the project. Since the water is free to the city this system would irrigate the park for far less than using the prohibitive Cal Water Service.
There are additional concerns with the city decision-making. The Department of Water Resources set a timeline for the city to spend the state’s gift of $144,144 for restoring the lake. The city has violated that agreement set for project completion in 2018 and could be looking at more penalties.
If the city paid EKI for services rendered to this point, began Yuba River water deliveries and gave an update to the state they may avoid further state costs and restore / protect their water rights to the Yuba River. Otherwise, the city appears to be headed for another debacle costing millions of dollars.
For the Gavin Park irrigation grant EKI could be paid for its services
thus far and then ask Water Resources to amend the grant to include all parks by installing the appropriate sized wells and pumps in each. If the city leaders do not know what they are doing they would be better off in the future utilizing local professionals rather paying extraordinary fees for services not needed from companies out of the area. You don’t need an engineer to install a well and pump.
Councilmembers Phone Numbers
Ricky Samayoa 530-749-3901
Bruce Buttacavoli 530-749-3901
Brad Hudson 530-632-5656
Stephanie McKenzie 530-217-8562
Bill Simmons 530-844-0229
(Get Lou’s podcast at “No Hostages Radio” and his articles at nohostagesradio.com)