Weeks of approving bids for water plant improvements left Marco Island city councilors weary on Monday.
Nearly $1 million more was approved, at the meeting, for engineering services for projects at the northern water plant and the reclaimed water facility.
As part of the membrane filtration project at the North Water Treatment plant, engineering contracts for additional professional design services and evaluation during construction were awarded to CH2M Hill not to exceed $582,311.
Phase 4 at the Reclaimed Water Production Facility received $374,000 for oversight engineering services provided by design engineers CDM, Inc.
On Feb. 22, council approved $3.9 million for Phase 4 improvements to Marco Island’s reclaimed water facility, and on March 7, it approved $3.8 million for a membrane filtration system and plant improvements at the North Water Treatment Plant.
Vice Chairman Larry Magel questioned what he called “outrageous engineering fees” and raised the issue of diminishing consumption when water rates ultimately increase.
He recommended council hire an outside agency to validate whether the city was using the right technologies for its water plants and to confirm that the city was getting the best value for its engineering dollar.
Jeff Poteet, acting general manager of the city’s Utility Department, assured council that his staff was able to determine if costs were valid.
“We have two engineers (on staff) who have been on the other side of the business,” Poteet said. He confirmed the city does on-site inspections for engineering firms to reduce travel and labor hour expenses.
“In the past, it saved about $300,000 (for the city) by doing it ourselves,” he said.
But Magel could not contain his frustration.
“We’re not experts in this. We’re all lay people. In the end we defer to staff. What choice do we have?” he asked.
Poteet explained that the city was required to meet mandatory DEP and state of Florida statutes. In addition, diminishing consumption would not decrease the cost of improvements and the necessary engineering required.
“We are not increasing capacity, we are maintaining,” he said. “And we could cut down on more expensive costs if demand went down.”
As an example, he pointed to the south plant, Marco Island’s reverse osmosis plant, where production of potable water is more costly. If the north plant became more productive, he explained, less costly water could be generated there and reduce overall costs.
Currently the north plant provides the majority of treated water for the Island.
“We have committed to this, but I’d like to see us slow down unless it must be done now,” Magel said.
Both engineering contracts passed unanimously.