The Buellton City Council on Thursday voted to extend contracts for its two engineering firms for the next six months while councilors and city staff look at changing the division of labor between the two companies.
Councilors discussed transferring responsibility for the city’s wastewater and stormwater from MNS Engineers to Tetra Tech.
At the council’s last meeting, councilors David King and John Sanchez created an ad hoc committee to go over both companies’ contracts.
King said he wanted a detailed list of what the city was being billed for. Hourly rates go as high as $220 to $250 per hour, according to city documents.
“We need to know what service was provided, who did it and why they were there,” King said at the March 1 meeting.
At that meeting, Mayor Holly Sierra said when Tetra Tech was awarded a contract, “I thought it would be a lot more equitable than it turned it out to be. I’d like to see Tetra Tech take a little bit more of the pie.”
Sierra called in to Thursday’s meeting.
King said after he and Sanchez met with MNS they were provided with a detailed list of who did what work and how much it was billed for.
At Thursday’s meeting, King asked Jason Fazzero with Tetra Tech if the engineering firm could deal with the wastewater treatment plant.
“It’s just that would be new to us so I want to make sure before I commit to something to make sure that would be something we could do,” Fazzero said.
Sanchez suggested some of the roles could be taken over by city staff, like training a staff member to be a stormwater inspector.
Public Works Director Rose Hess said that wasn’t an option with the amount of work staff was doing.
“As far as training staff that is an option, but considering staff’s current workload we don’t have the staff time available to do that work,” Hess said.
Sanchez said the city should look at hiring more staff to “get more of a working staff that would be doing some of the work instead of having everything split up and farmed out so much.”
Councilor Art Mercado said it might be more cost prohibitive to hire someone new.
“I know long term it might be nice to say we want to hire more people, but we also have to look at CalPERS and other issues,” Mercado said.
Sierra asked Hess if there was a replacement plan for water and wastewater pipes.
Hess said there wasn’t an extensive plan, but the city has a lot of work it’s started to review.
City Attorney Greg Murphy recommended councilors extend both contracts for six months, formalize the ad hoc committee to report back regularly at meetings and for staff to work with both the ad hoc committee and two companies on division of projects and labor.
King made a motion to extend the contracts for six months.
“It’s going to take more time for us to pull this apart and say what’s practical and what’s not practical for us to divide between these two companies,” King said.
The motion passed unanimously.