Although preliminary work and the replacement of aging water lines are already underway, the bulk of about $40 million in upgrades to Calexico’s water and wastewater treatment plants won’t start until 2020, a city official explained.
The process to reach the point of construction is a lengthy one, but the city is making steady progress, Assistant City Manager Miguel Figueroa said.
“There have been continuous improvements to both of the plants throughout the years,” Figueroa explained during an Aug. 22 interview. “What we have undertaken is the complete overhaul required in both plants so we can meet and exceed our effectiveness. That obviously guarantees compliance with water-regulatory agencies in the state of California.”
Despite much protest from Calexico residents, the city council adopted water and sewer fee increases that first took effect Jan. 1 and will continue to rise at a rate of two percent each of the next four fiscal years from July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2022.
While the city has been stockpiling its water/wastewater enterprise accounts for years in anticipation of the needed plant upgrades, Figueroa said the city raised utility rates to be able to pay for ongoing operational and maintenance costs at both facilities.
“Water rates in Calexico had not been revisited for over a decade. It’s common practice to assess and analyze rates every five years,” Figueroa said. “It was overdue in the city.”
The sewer plant improvements are the larger of the two projects, which comes in at $30 million, Figueroa explained. Work on the 50-year-old plant includes replacing outdated equipment, modernizing all processes and increasing overall capacity.
The engineering design work, which is being done by Lee & Ro Inc. of the City of Industry, is 30 percent complete and is projected to wrap up in February, he said.
After the designs are complete, the city will begin the solicitation of bid proposals for the construction and expansion of the plant, Figueroa added.
The water treatment plant project will cost about $10 million and involve installing new water clarifying and filtration systems, in addition to changing out old underground water lines in several phases over the next few years.
The city is 80 percent complete in the writing of a new operations manual for the water plant, which Figueroa said is a state requirement before design and construction work can start. The next steps will be to hire an engineering design consultant to draw upgrade plans.
During the current 2019-20 fiscal year the city will spend more than $1 million replacing water lines along Paulin, Dool and Beach avenues, and Second Street, the assistant city manager said. The city capital improvement program fund for that period includes $11.8 million for water treatment and distribution improvements and $11.1 million for sewer collection and treatment improvements, Figueroa said.
The costs are mostly covered by the water/wastewater enterprise funds, with the remainder to be covered by a bond the city will take out.
Figueroa said the city is looking into installing solar panels at both plants to reduce energy costs.