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Otay Water District project budget decreased; costs a factor

The Otay Water District will spend about $8.8 million less on infrastructure projects this fiscal year than the previous year.

The district's updated capital improvement program budget, which went into effect July 1, indicates approximately 18 projects either in planning, design and construction totaling $28.5 million during the 2011 fiscal year.

"(In) the last few years material prices have gone down, like in steel and asphalt, so this brings down construction costs," said Ron Ripperger, engineering manager for the Otay Water District. "Construction bids are also coming down and this has brought down how much we spend on our projects."

Ripperger added that a typical $2 million project will get approximately 12-13 bids, whereas before there might have been four to five bids. The water district also is now receiving bids from contractors from outside San Diego, including ones as far away as Oklahoma.

"All these contractors are hungry," he said. "They are just looking and keeping their workers busy and not for a profit."

The Otay Water District awards contracts based on a lowest responsible bidder mechanism for projects over $35,000, based on its charter.

Anything less than $35,000, the water district can hand-pick the contractor.

"We have to take the lowest responsible bidder and make sure they comply with all regulations of the project and have no numerical errors with their bid," Ripperger said.

Some of the capital improvement program's larger projects include the first phase of the Otay Mesa Recycled Water Supply Link. This $ 8.1 million project will connect recycled water from East Chula Vista to the Otay Mesa area.

There also is $7.8 million allocated to projects under construction or in the planning stages. These include a pump station replacement and installation of a 36-inch pipeline.

According to Ripperger, projects are placed in order of priority based the Otay Water District's Master Plan on necessity.

The capital improvement program separates projects into four categories: capital facilities; replacement or renewal; capital purchase; and developer reimbursement.

The water district's board updates the capital improvement program every year.

Money for these projects comes primarily from customer's fees and rates collected by the Otay Water District, with some federal dollars coming in on projects focused on transporting recycled water.

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