New WRF Costs ‘Is not Good News’

When Morro Bay decided to move forward with a new sewer project in 2018 the program budget was $126 million. That budget has been growing ever since. 

Last week the City announced the current budget: $160M. That’s a $34M or a 27-percent increase due to change orders. By way of reference, our sister city Cayucos spent $26M for their entire project.  

If we were Carmel or Pacific Grove or Del Mar, our residents could probably absorb any potential rate increases. Morro Bay is none of the above.  

We struggle continually with housing affordability. The newly announced $160M is not good news.  Many residents have lost confidence in their elected officials as a result. 

How did Morro Bay’s project get so out of control? 

It’s been said “When things go wrong there is plenty of blame to go around.” That is certainly true in this case.

Large capital projects include many stakeholders — from citizens, elected officials, staff, attorneys, contractors, regulatory agencies and many more.  

I know this since I have managed large capital projects in California for over 30 years. Most often the critical mistakes in capital projects are made by “the owner.”

The owner is this case are the residents of Morro Bay and the officials they elected to office (I am one) to represent their interests. As a group — the elected officials are accountable for the $34M in cost overruns.

What can possibly be done now to stop the bleeding?  

The Mayor and council need to acknowledge the project is not going as planned. That is an important first step if public trust is to be restored. 

Secondly, the mayor and council need to meet in closed session with our City Attorney and staff and review our contractual and staffing options. Until that step is taken your elected officials may just keep hoping that the $160M current budget will grow no further.

If you agree, email the Mayor and City Council at: Demand that we take action. It’s not too late.

Jeff Heller

Morro Bay City Councilman

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