Local Politics

San Juan Bautista City Council approves sludge removal contract

Because of cost, the city might have to settle for removing less than planned.

The San Juan Bautista City Council approved a contract with Synagro during its Sept. 18 meeting, which will start the process of removing sludge from the city’s wastewater treatment plant located at 1120 Third St.

The city engineer, consultant Patrick Dobbins from Harris & Associates, said there were several bidders that did a walkthrough of the plant, but that the city received only one bid, for $449,000, before the Sept. 11 deadline.

The city has a budget of $400,000 for the four-week project, Dobbins said, so instead of removing 400 tons of sludge for bid amount, the city could contract Synagro to remove 315 tons for $370,000.

Sludge has not been removed from the treatment facility in more than 25 years, according to the meeting agenda packet, which has led to Pond 2 being half-full of sludge.

There are about 800 tons of sludge in Pond 2, Dobbins said, and it’s affecting the treatment capacity efficiency.

Removing sludge should be done every five to seven years, according to the agenda packet.

Dobbins said he estimates Baltimore-based Synagro’s mobilization fee at $78,000. He also said Synagro’s unit fee is $930 per dry ton instead of his estimated $700 based on previous projects, for the following reasons:

  1. Offsite staging, because there is no room for sludge handling and dewatering in the plant property
  2. Security personnel and security fencing after the working hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  3. Equipment staging in three different areas on Pond 2
  4. Costs to dispose the dry sludge

Dobbins said he called the John Smith Landfill and was told they can accept 160 to 180 tons a day.

“This is definitely an expensive way to remove sludge,” Dobbins said. “We have limitations here and we really need to get some sludge out of this treatment plant.”

City Manager Michaele LaForge said an adjacent property would be used as a staging area for the drying beds.

Dobbins said he and LaForge were planning to talk to Synagro in an attempt to lower the unit price.

“We are going to do everything possible not to come back because of money,” Laforge said. “We’ll do everything possible to work with them to get what we requested: 400 tons of sludge removed at $400K, and we’ll do our darndest to hit that.”

Vice Mayor John Freeman suggested looking into having the sludge approved as ground cover by CalRecycle to cut the disposing fee almost in half.

The disposal fee of dry sludge is $30 a ton, Dobbins said, and the landfill operators would accept the ground cover without a fee.

Councilmembers Tony Boch, Chris Martorana and Dan De Vries voiced concern about getting an accurate estimate of the capacity of the treatment plant to better make decisions when it comes to housing developments.


Other actions

The City Council confirmed three new members to the Youth Commission to fill vacant positions that will expire in 2020; Armann Sohi, a 10th-grader at Gavilan Early College Academy; Jade Bixler, an 11th-grader at Monte Vista Christian School; and Simran Kaur, a ninth-grader at Gavilan Early College Academy.

The Youth Commission still has one vacancy to fill in the seven-member organization.

A new chapter on Emergency Organization and Functions was added to Title 5 of the San Juan Bautista Municipal Code.

The City Council also nominated Anthony Ponce to be honored on National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 15.

“Anthony has been running for two or three years, virtually single-handed, the Junior Giants program,” Martorana said.

Ponce was honored by the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park as one of the best coaches in the entire program, Martorana added.

Consideration is given to an individual, or individuals, who have contributed their time and efforts to improving the community, the agenda packet stated.

The event is organized by the Community Foundation for San Benito County and held at San Juan Oaks, where brief presentations will be made to recognize each volunteer. Approximately 45 volunteers are honored at the event.



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School graduate with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.

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