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UPDATE: Sanitation district board OKs $334,000 ‘outreach’ contract

Posted: April 10, 2013 5:00 p.m.
Updated: April 10, 2013 7:22 p.m.

WHITTIER — Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District directors agreed Wednesday to pay $334,000 on public outreach as the district prepares to release a plan to reduce chloride in the Santa Clara River.

Local sanitation board members meeting in Whittier awarded a contract for that amount to a Venice-based firm called Community Conservation Solutions. The contract was for the purpose of informing the public about the district’s efforts to reduce the concentration of chloride in the Santa Clara River.

Specifically, the company would be paid to “provide clear, concise and accurate information to the public to inform the community of the process and promote public participation,” according to Wednesday’s agenda.

Community Conservation Solutions had already been paid $551,000 by the sanitation district board in the last year and a half for earlier community outreach.

Before the vote approving the $334,000 contract, Grace Robinson Chan, chief engineer and general manager for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, praised the firm as she presided over the meeting that moved rapidly through other district agendas.

“Community Conservation Solutions was previously retained for public outreach service in compliance with state-mandated chloride limits,” she said. “These outreach services are very specific for the preparation of a facilities plan to look at alternatives for compliance with that mandate.”

The firm organizes “stakeholder meetings,” provides “outreach materials” for the public and takes out newspaper ads, she said.

State officials ordered the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District to reduce chloride in the Santa Clara River, where local wastewater is dumped after it is treated, because of farmers’ claims that crops downstream are damaged by it.

A 2010 plan that called for a reverse-osmosis plant — the first phase of which came with a $500 million price tag — was rejected by ratepayers. Since then, district engineers have been working on a less costly proposal, which is expected to be made public later this month.

Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar, one of three members of the sanitation district board, called the need to hire an outreach firm “an unfortunate necessity.” He approved the motion to hire Community Conservation Solutions again.

“There is no question in mind, at this juncture, that this is absolutely required to move forward on behalf of the citizens of the city of Santa Clarita,” he said.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich also approved the $334,000 expenditure.

Before the vote, Robinson Chan called on Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurene Weste to abstain.

Weste then told the assembled sanitation board directors that she sits on the Community Conservation Solutions’ board of directors.

“This is very common for us when we prepare environmental impact reports and facilities plans,” Robinson Chan said, referring to the practice of hiring the firm, “because they are specifically prepared for public review and to solicit public input.

“So we want to do the best job we can with public outreach,” she said.

“So this is very common for us when we do these types of projects.”

The draft report for the new chloride-reduction plan is expected to be released by the sanitation board in the next couple of weeks. Public information meetings and hearings will be scheduled after that.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt





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