Grazing fiber optic wires, a mistake during a routine new business water main installation cost Monterey Park $85,000 in settlement costs — an addition to $836,300 in water and sewer claims in the past dozen years, according to city records.
AT&T Inc. filed a claim in October 2014 seeking $99,900 in material damages and labor expenses that resulted when the city placed a new water main around 220 Garfield Avenue. While digging, city staff hit multiple underground cables and damaged a conduit, according to the claim.
City Manager Paul Talbot characterized the mistake as “darn expensive” and said staff are going back to double- and triple-check their work now.
“It’s a mistake that I wish never happened but apparently it did,” Talbot said. “We spent a lot of time reviewing the claim and making sure that they weren’t charging for things that were upgrades to the system and not just the damage.”
Monterey Park finalized an $85,000 settlement with AT&T on Sept. 9, said Tom Cody, director of risk management.
AT&T did not return calls for comment.
DigAlert, the Underground Service Alert of Southern California, found fiber optic wires running through the 220 Garfield Ave. area, Talbot said. Staff decided to go underneath but didn’t realize there were more AT&T wires down below.
“They were trying to not shut down more traffic than they would need to,” Talbot said. “We should’ve shut both lanes down. It would’ve messed up Garfield a bit, but we would’ve saved $85,000.”
The money for water main and sewer backup claims come from the city’s General Liability Internal Service Fund, which is financed by “a variety of city funds annually during budget formation,” city staff said, saying the money wasn’t taken from an account meant for water and sewer capital improvement projects.
The City Council approved a 15 percent water and sewer hike in September 2014. That price tag went up 10 percent this month and will continue to increase by 10 percent until 2018 when the City Council will revisit the subject.
The goal is to raise at least $113 million to spend on water and sewer capital improvement projects for aging infrastructure. Some sewer mains have been in service for more than a century, and 72 percent of the city’s water pipeline system is more than 55 years old, staff has said.
Some of the 50 water main and sewer backup claims filed since 2003 have closed with zero cost to the city or amounted to as little as $160, according to city records. Others were more expensive.
Monterey Park paid Ben Young $140,700 in 2013 for a city main line backup, according to city records. It paid 99 Ranch Market $139,200 in 2011 and Richard Yam $90,400 in 2007 for sewer backups.
Originally city records stated Monterey Park paid $2.29 million in settlements for water main and sewer backups, but Talbot said staff made a mistake. They included $1 million in legal fees Monterey Park spent suing Aerojet over getting proper water cleanup funds, he said. An updated list did not include some of the claims in the original list.
“We know that there’s sewer leaks and sewer losses that have come,” Talbot said. “Most of the damage is related to sewer backups, so that’s one of the reasons we’re going through the videotaping (of sewer pipelines) and repairing and replacing the sewer lines and mains.
“We’re trying to not have a water main break every day,” he said, adding that a water main broke near Monterey Highlands last week.
Monterey Park has spent more than $5 million in the past year to replace aging pipes and water mains, Talbot said.
According to Pasadena Star-News updated on September 21st, 2015