Delay ahead for water plant

SAN BENITO — The use of city crews will save as much as $400,000 on a major water plant project, part of which will be delayed until after summer.

Last night, city commissioners voted to reject an engineer’s recommendation to hire a subcontractor for a $676,667 project to upgrade the 90-year-old plant.

Instead, officials assigned the job to city crews to save $300,000 to $400,000.

Meanwhile, officials agreed to delay part of the 150-day project until after summer, when the plant generates about double the amount of water to meet the season’s high consumer demand.

“I’m very hesitant with taking on a major project right before summer,” City Manager Manuel De La Rosa told commissioners in a meeting.

City-contracted engineer Victor Gutierrez recommended commissioners approve a $676,667 bid from G&T Paving to help launch the second of three phases aimed at the plant’s $3 million overhaul.

Gutierrez said he recommended the subcontractor for the job, noting the plant shut down Jan. 8, cutting water flow across town while forcing the city to use water from Harlingen to service customers.

“They’re going to be working on areas and piping where you had a failure and you had to use Harlingen water,” Gutierrez told commissioners.

“If something goes wrong and something goes catastrophic … (the subcontractor) has liability insurance. He’s going to be responsible for the plant for the duration of the project,” Gutierrez said.

But Commissioner Joe D. Gonzalez said the city could save $300,000 to $400,000 if city crews did the work.

“Mr. De La Rosa, this is a very costly project in terms of the bids,” Gonzalez said.

Public Works Director Adan Gonzalez told commissioners his crews could do the job.

De La Rosa said the city will use its water tanks to hold reserve water while crews work on the plant during the day.

Officials said the project wasn’t launched earlier because the delivery of equipment took months.

Gutierrez said part of project includes the installation of pumps.

Last November, commissioners approved the purchase of a $165,000 Triplex backwash pump system.

The equipment took months to arrive, officials said.

On Jan. 8, the water plant shut down, cutting off water across town and leading the city use Harlingen water to serve customers.

In a report, consultant Lou Portillo told commissioners “freezing” temperatures created condensation which froze water in the plant’s air line, creating a leak that dropped the system’s water pressure Jan. 8.

Portillo recommended the city install heaters and insulation to protect equipment in the event of cold temperatures.

The city has implemented Portillo’s recommendations to ensure freezing would not cause another shutdown, city spokeswoman Martha McClain said.

In 2014, the city turned to the old water plant as its primary water source after shutting down its new $17.9 million water plant because it wasn’t efficiently working.

In turn, the city filed a lawsuit against companies behind the construction of the water plant built in 2009. That plant is not in use at this time.