Santa Paula Times

Pictured above is an artist rendering of the completed Water Recycling Plant now under construction just south of the old facility on Corporation Drive.

Ground broken for Water Recycling Plant

July 16, 2008
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesElected officials and dignitaries were on hand for the big dig at Monday’s official groundbreaking for the city’s new, $125.5 million Water Recycling Plant, the cost spread over 30 years. The ceremony included gold shovels and hard hats for those at the site the new plant, to be constructed just south of the city’s existing, aged facility.The groundbreaking came a week and a day before the court ordered mandate that construction begin by July 15. The plant’s owners are Alinda Capital Partners/PERC, who formed Santa Paula Water LLC; the city has options to buyback the plant. Layton Construction of Utah/Arizona is the main subcontractor.“It’s a big day for us and the city obviously,” PERC President Brian Cullen told the crowd on hand for the ceremony. Cullen thanked the Mayor, City Council and staff, and noted that actual construction of the 3.4 MGD plant would start “this week.” The startup has been fast, and Cullen said he believes PERC has never started construction two months into design work, but the project has been fast-tracked.“It’s a monumental event for Santa Paula,” and one that Mayor Bob Gonzales said must be credited to the Council, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, City Attorney Karl Berger, Special Project Director Cliff Finley and staff. “We did what we did to find the best deal for Santa Paula,” although Gonzales added that the cost is still being whittled down. “It’s good for Santa Paula to do what we can to keep the costs down,” Gonzales added, and he thanked several area residents for their “support and research for the city.”“My job will be done when I stand here a year and a half from now” when the completed facility is dedicated, said PERC founder Yohan Perslow, who thanked supporters for standing fast through the ups and downs of the project finalization.“Some might not know who Alinda is,” said Vice President Phil Dyk. “We are the money,” with the majority of company investment capital culled from unions and pension funds throughout the United States and Europe. “We only work with first class companies like PERC,” on quality projects. Dyk, whose company has 90 percent of Santa Paula Water, noted, “We’re proud to be here as the owner” of the new plant, and he said staff and the Council have done a “great job assigning risk” and still examining cost savings.“We have a hard week ahead of us,” said Cullen.
Local elected officials, Linda Johnson representing Senator George Runner and Dana Nielsen of Assemblywoman Audra Strickland’s office, Cullen and Dyk were among those who wore hardhats and wielded shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking. “We’ve decided on deep shaft, so keep going,” Councilman John Procter joked, referring to an earlier technology studied and rebuffed by the Council.The issue of the wastewater treatment plant bitterly divided the community and the Council, which a year ago had a majority vote to drop, at the 60 percent design level, a conventional plant financed by the city for the Design/Build/Operate/Finance process.“It’s a good thing, and something the state says has to be done,” said Former Fillmore Mayor Roger Campbell, who attended the ceremony. Fillmore has its new plant already under construction: “None of us want to pay the bills,” but new, more environmentally friendly technology and processes must be used to replace polluting plants.The Fillmore plant, a 2.3 MGD facility costing about $37 million, is “coming in quite a ways ahead of schedule and considerably under budget, a good thing for a public project,” which Campbell hoped would be mirrored by Santa Paula’s project. The cost of the Santa Paula treatment plant is about $58 million, and the city will kick in about $8.5 million - funds that otherwise would have been fines if an agreement had not been reached with the state and the court on the plant replacement.The city has already paid more than $400,000, including legal costs, to settle the lawsuit filed by the state. The plant, which will use MBR technology, must be completed and fully operational to state standards by December 2010.