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Search under way for treatment plants' operator

June 28, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The Gateway of the Americas project is looking for someone to run its sewer and water treatment plants, whose construction is expected to be completed by Sept. 1.

A number of entities are under consideration for the task, including the Imperial Irrigation District, the cities of El Centro and Calexico and the community of Heber, as well as private entities and the county itself.

To create such a setup, a county services area and its associated costs must be established among the Gateway landowners.

County Executive Officer Ann Capela, with whom the landowners are meeting weekly on the issue, said the discussions are going well and the price to set up and run the CSA begins at about $360,000.

"Initial costs are going to be highest," she said Wednesday. "We're doing a bottom-up start-up operation."

Capela said IID officials are considering the issue but would like to find out what the other entities say.

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IID officials would not comment on any role the district might play.

Underlying the creation of a CSA is how much each landowner will be assessed to pay for it.

The principal landowners are Los Alamos Land Co., a La Jolla-based partnership including attorney Thomas Nassif and members of the Maggio farming family; growers John and Marscia Menvielle and their sons, John Pierre, Ralph and Robert; Edward, Tony and Joseph Menvielle, the sons of John's brother, Tony; and Eric and Pauline Rice.

John Pierre Menvielle said being able to obtain building permits depends on the CSA being up and running, but it must be at a reasonable price.

"We have to keep our costs reasonable to where we're competitive with other areas," he said. "We don't have a lot of users so some costs may have to be subsidized in order to keep the costs competitive and to get the plants up and running."

Menvielle would not comment on where that subsidy might come from or how much it might be.

Tom DuBose, Development Design & Engineering of El Centro manager, speaking for the Rices and some of the Menvielles, said the CSA issue has been a struggle.

He said the challenge is to find someone to operate the project's basic needs in a competitive manner with those projects in other areas from San Diego to Texas and for a price found locally.

DuBose said although the initial price has been pegged at $360,000 through a request for qualifications effort, it's just a starting point.

"We hope to arrive at a solution prior to current construction being completed Sept. 1," he said.

The issue has not come before the El Centro City Council.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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