Interoffice memos obtained recently by KHTS AM-1220 detail a $42,077 contract between the city of Santa Clarita and Community Conservation Solutions regarding chloride outreach.
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City Councilman TimBen Boydston questioned the nature of the contract Wednesday, particularly the fact that what the contract would bill for was not detailed in any written agreements before the deal was made.
“My issue was that what the consultant was being paid to do was not defined,” Boydston said. “Everyone knows that a good contract delineates what Party A is going to do for what Party B is paying for them to do — that’s the nature of a contract.”
The purpose of the contract was to use the firm’s “experience in the environmental field and contacts with the Regional Board… regarding environmental regulation processes in California,” according to documents.
Community Conservation Solutions was selected for public outreach shortly after the Santa Clarita Valley’s Sanitation District’s governing board rejected an Alternative Water Resources Management Plan in 2010, according to a memo.
The AWRM plan was to address the chloride levels in the Santa Clarita Valley’s watershed.
The rejection was due to a “vocal minority” of stakeholders in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to Sam Unger, executive director for the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, in a presentation to the regional board.
However, the city’s contract, which was authorized by former City Manager Ken Pulskamp, listed no details as to what services would be provided.
The city manager contracted CCS, which had an unpaid board member, Laurene Weste, who was also on Santa Clarita City Council at the time the contract was made.
Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar, who’s also a member of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District, praised the work of CCS and Esther Feldman, the organization’s president.
The contract was never submitted to City Council members for a vote because the city manager does not need council authorization for a contract less than $50,000, according to city law.
The terms of the contract were reviewed and OK’ed by the city’s attorney, who cited a clause that said definitions for services rendered would be spelled out at a later date, Boydston said.
However, that never happened.
“There was no definition of what we were paying for,” said Boydston, who wasn’t on the council when the contract was initially sent out for proposals in October 2011.
Weste is a board member on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District. She was on the CCS board when the contract was agreed upon, but has since stepped down from her position on the CCS board.
She refused to comment on the story or to answer questions regarding her involvement with Community Conservation Solutions.
CCS was hired to help the city get the word out in regard to the chloride situation and possible remedies for Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers.
Kellar said he met with Esther Feldman after Boydston raised questions publicly at a council meeting, regarding the board’s public-outreach spending.
“I gave a report. Everything that I’ve learned has been nothing short of excellent, and we’ve been able to utilize (CCS) expertise,” Kellar said. “On surveys and a myriad of things — by virtue of helping the Sanitation District they’ve been helping the SCV.”
Feldman did not return calls for this story.
The “scope of services” in the city contract only cites the rates that were paid to the consultants, which includes $300 an hour to Feldman as project director, $120 an hour to Chun Lu as an IT specialist and $65 an hour to Julia Shiplacoff as a project assistant. Adi Lieberman ($300/hour), principal for Adi Lieberman & Associates, and Dan Freedman ($147), an associate, also are cited in city paperwork pretaining to the contract.
The city contract preceded more than $800,000 in outreach for the same purpose, which were awarded by the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District to Community Conservation Solutions.
The contract was extended for one year by Pulskamp, on March 14, 2012, and ended earlier this year.
Kellar and Weste also are both members of the Sanitation District, along with county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
The city received bills for the services rendered by CCS, which includes more that $1,800 in calls and emails to, as well as document preparation for Weste; $600 spent to “develop talking points for City to respond to mis-information; and more than $4,500 in meetings with Weste and Robert Newman, director of public works for the city of Santa Clarita, and Adi Lieberman & Associates.
The July 2011 invoice was for $12,277.69, which included 35.33 hours of service by Feldman at $10,599.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District was mandated to come up with a solution to lower the chloride levels in its watershed for downstream users and contracted CCS for the same purpose, community outreach.
The district must come up with a solution by Oct. 31, according to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, or it will face additional fines.
The board was hit with a $280,000 fine in November 2012, which was later negotiated down to $225,000.
The city has yet to make an official recommendation regarding the four alternatives that were proposed by Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District staff, however, it did comment.
However, Newman, representing the city of Santa Clarita, commented on the EIR for the city of Santa Clarita. The comment, which was three pages long, contained more than a dozen questions for the Sanitation District staff.
The questions included asking the district why it would be more fiscally sensible to build infrastructure to address the chloride solution as opposed to continuing to pay fines.
The Sanitation District proposed four alternatives in a draft report for approval, and the deadline for public comment was July 24.
The comment deadline was originally June 24, but city officials requested and received a one-month extension from the board, which is still comprised of Weste, Kellar and Antonovich.
In May, Kellar sent a list of questions to the state’s regional board, which were answered in August.
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Source: Santa Clarita News