Faced with major cost overruns, angry business owners and constant gridlock along Carson’s downtown strip, city officials halted construction this week on a recycled-water pipeline that has gone way over budget.
In what is developing into a bitter feud between the city and the West Basin Municipal Water District, the City Council demanded that the district pony up nearly $4 million to finance the pipeline, which already is more than halfway complete, before work resumes. The district has only committed to paying $842,000 for the finished line
West Basin, which provides Carson’s recycled water that irrigates medians, the StubHub Center, the Goodyear blimp facility and other properties. Said it’s not responsible for costs the city already paid since it wasn’t consulted thoroughly on the project. The line will be turned over to the water district after it’s complete. But the agency said it never approved of the city’s design plans and believes Carson overspent and did a poor job of carrying out the work.
The city’s lead engineer, Gilbert Marquez, said that’s not true.
“West Basin’s consultant agreed with the city consultant’s design during that time,” Marquez said, adding that West Basin was involved in the entire design process.
Mayor Albert Robles called the agency’s unwillingness to pay for the entire project a political stunt engineered by his rival in the Nov. 8 election, former Mayor Jim Dear. Dear’s brother, Don Dear, serves on the district’s board of directors.
In feud with water district, Carson suspends project snarling traffic on main thoroughfare
“I think there was an effort at West Basin to delay this project. And to then have someone running for public office blamed for the delay,” Robles said, suggesting it was done intentionally to hurt his chances for re-election. “The inconvenience of the Carson Street development (would then) be blamed on the City Council and, in particular, me.”
But West Basin’s general manager, Rich Nagel, said there’s nothing political about the board’s decision.
“We’re being thrown under the bus,” Nagel said. “Normally, we design and construct recycled water lines. However, in this instance, the city of Carson decided to install a recycled water pipeline on their own. It was great they did that, but they didn’t ask for a financial contribution until May.
“They submitted their designs to us. We commented that they did not meet our recycled water standards. We never approved the design specifications that went out to bid. They did not even do the bare minimum of trying to locate underground utilities (before construction). We told them they needed to do much more.”