RMC Gets Tough on County
Regional Desal Project contractor wants to get paid.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
RMC Water and Environment is on strike.
The Walnut Creek-based contractor managing the $400 million Regional Desalination Project says it won’t do any more work for the Monterey County Water Resources Agency until it collects the money it’s owed.
In a series of letters obtained by the Weekly, RMC Project Manager Lyndel Melton complains MCWRA hasn’t paid his firm a penny for the services it’s provided since landing the $28 million project management contract.
RMC’s invoices with the county now total $634,309 – and none of it has been paid, according to MCWRA Finance Manager David Kimbrough.
California American Water tapped an $8 million line of credit to provide MCWRA with $458,000 for RMC, according to Cal Am spokeswoman Catherine Bowie. But the Board of Supervisors reportedly halted county payments to RMC while the project partners hammer out a number of disputes.
“It is unclear to RMC if the Board of Supervisors ever intends to pay RMC,” Melton wrote in an Aug. 30 letter.
RMC’s gig managing the Regional Project has been clouded by conflict-of-interest allegations against Stephen Collins, a former MCWRA board director. The District Attorney and state Fair Political Practices Commission are investigating whether he violated state laws by accepting $160,000 from RMC to advocate for the desal project in 2010, while also serving as a MCWRA director.
If it’s found Collins unduly influenced the Regional Project’s process, the RMC contract could be called into question.
“Obviously we’re all wondering about the status of that contract with RMC,” says Kristi Markey, chief of staff to Supervisor Jane Parker. “One could argue it should be void, but no one has voided it yet.”
In closed session Aug. 29, the Board of Supervisors delayed county payments to RMC pending mediations, according to Melton’s Aug. 30 letter to Marina Coast Water District and Cal Am. “It is now necessary for RMC to suspend services on all tasks that include MCWRA participation/payment,” he wrote.
On Sept. 9, Melton followed up with a letter to MCWRA General Manager Curtis Weeks, requesting a meeting with senior management to resolve the dispute by Sept. 30. Weeks confirms the agency has not paid RMC. “It’s related to the Collins matter,” he says, referring more detailed questions to county counsel Charles McKee.
But McKee would not comment on or confirm the supes’ alleged Aug. 29 decision to freeze RMC payments, citing attorney-client privilege and a confidential dispute resolution process. “We’re working diligently to try to resolve things and put the project back on footing that can move it forward,” he says. “It’s not something that’s easily done.”
RMC’s suspension of work for MCWRA likely applies to planning for the project’s seawater intake wells, as well as responsibilities shared by the other two project partners, Cal Am and Marina Coast. It may not impact work done solely for Cal Am or Marina Coast, such as planning for the water transmission pipeline and desalination facilities. Melton did not return multiple calls.
Bowie says Cal Am is up to date with RMC payments, totaling less than $400,000 so far.
Meanwhile, the state Public Utilities Commission approved an increase on Cal Am’s surcharge to cover Regional Project-related costs. On Sept. 30, ratepayers will see the surcharge rise from 10 percent to 15 percent.
For TMI on the desal drama, visit www.mcweekly.com/desal.