(File photo)

(File photo)

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series that tracks the city’s expenditures appearing on upcoming Santa Monica City Council consent agendas. Consent agenda items are routinely passed by the City Council with little or no discussion from elected officials or the public. However, many of the items have been part of public discussion in the past.

 

CITY HALL — More Santa Monica College students are taking advantage of the Big Blue Bus’ “Any Line, Any Time” program created to cut traffic congestion, prompting the community college to increase the amount of money paid to City Hall to cover fares by 8 percent for a total of roughly $1.3 million per year.

The City Council Tuesday is expected to approve the agreement at its regularly scheduled meeting. It is one of a handful of items featured on the council’s consent agenda, which includes a total of roughly $3.2 million in expenses.

The “Any Line” program, which was created in the fall of 2008 after it was learned that most of SMC’s roughly 34,000 students and 1,700 employees commuted by car, has increased in popularity by 12 percent over the prior year for 1.78 million boardings as of February, according to a report by public transit officials.

Over the last year, City Hall and SMC have held discussions to come up with a reimbursement formula that is considered fair to all involved, hence the increase of $97,560 over last year to reflect the jump in ridership.

The formula is based on an average fare, which is calculated by assuming that half of the SMC riders would be under 21 and eligible for a reduced fare of 50 cents while the other half would be charged a regular fare of 75 cents. (The formula was adopted before the City Council voted to increase fares.) That came out to 65 cents a ride. Officials multiplied that by 1,951,168, which equaled the number of passengers seen boarding and exiting at bus stops adjacent to SMC in the spring of 2007.

It’s not an exact science and officials from the Big Blue Bus and SMC are currently discussing how they are going to get students to use a new fare collection system that involves smart cards. By getting all students, staff and faculty at SMC to switch to the smart cards, the bus company can track exactly who is using the bus and at what times to provide more accurate information on ridership patterns and potentially do away with having to use actual cash, which could speed up the boarding process, according to a city staff report.

With more accurate figures, the current reimbursement rate of $1,317,040 per year for “Any Line” will most likely change in the future to reflect real ridership.

Only SMC students with a valid student ID card can take advantage of the program, which is partially paid for by student fees.

 

Taking it to the streets 

 

Filling potholes and making sure streets are clean are some of the most basic services a municipality can provide, which is why the council is being asked to approve two contracts worth $2,658,890 for the repaving of streets and the repairing of sidewalks.

The bulk of the money is for a contract with Toro Enterprises, Inc., a California-based company that has agreed to repave streets, help with the creation of more bike lanes and fix sidewalks damaged by tree roots, all for $2,404,836. Civil Source, Inc., also a California company, will be paid $254,054 to make sure notices are sent to business owners and residents before the work begins so they aren’t alarmed by the sound of heavy equipment.

Street paving would occur mainly north of Montana Avenue and east of 17th Street, according to a city staff report. Sidewalk repair is expected to be concentrated in the North of Montana Avenue neighborhood as well.

Toro, which is located in Oxnard, Calif., has worked on similar projects in Simi Valley, Burbank, Thousand Oaks and other nearby cities. City officials said their work was completed in a “timely and cost-efficient manner while maintaining consistent quality.”

City officials said that for any construction work requiring temporary closures or detours on major roads “highly visible” electronic messaging boards would be placed in high traffic areas one week prior to the planned work so people can plan their commutes accordingly.

The project is expected to be paid for using General Fund money, as well as grants, and parcel, wastewater, gas and other tax revenues.

 

On two wheels 

 

Hollister Honda is in line to win a contract for $234,433 in exchange for nine motorcycles to be used by the Santa Monica Police Department.

City officials are asking the council to approve the contract with Hollister since it offered the lowest price and the shortest delivery window out of the two companies that qualified for the bid. City Hall has worked with Hollister before, purchasing two multi-purpose vehicles from them for the SMPD.

 

Keeping track 

 

To pay for those street improvements and motorcycles, the council needs cash. One of the ways it fills the coffers is through business license taxes and taxes on parking.

The council is being asked to approve a two-year contract with MuniServices, a California company, for $221,262 to conduct audits and make sure City Hall is getting all that it is due. MuniServices would audit 89 parking facilities and a specific number of companies identified by city officials as potentially underreporting their gross receipts.

City Hall levies a 10 percent tax on private and public parking fees collected, which generates approximately $9.3 million annually, $6.2 million of which comes from private parking facilities. Business license taxes, which are due on June 30 each year and are calculated using gross receipts, accounted for $26.3 million last fiscal year.

With all those numbers there’s always the possibility for human error or fraud, hence the need for audits.

 

Costs keep climbing 

 

It turns out that building a playground that all kids can have fun with is costing more than initially anticipated.

City officials are asking for an additional $102,762 to pay Micon Construction, Inc. to build Santa Monica’s first “universally accessible playground,” which will be located off Barnard Way at Santa Monica State Beach. If approved, the influx of cash would result in a new construction contract totaling $1,101,243.

Construction on the playground began in October of last year, and it is expected to be completed in late June, 2013.

After Micon was hired, changes were made to the scope of work, which increased the cost, city officials said. Some of those changes included redesigning the entranceway, ramp and gate, including more slip-resistant concrete sidewalks and more soil removal. Also, some old concrete footings, wooden piles and steel structures were discovered while digging.

City officials also want to add some more amenities for the kids, including “Chitter Chatter Talk Tubes,” and a “Wake Rider.”

 

Back again

 

City officials are going back out to bid for three new vehicles for the Animal Control Unit and a contract for vehicle filters and miscellaneous parts. City officials want to look at different model vehicles for the Animal Control Unit, as needs have changed, and get a better estimate on prices for all kinds of spare parts, not just a limited sample.

 

Part of the process 

 

And last, but not least, the council is being asked to spend $45,000 with Buerge Ford, Inc. for spare parts. It’s a three-year contract worth $135,000, but elected officials are only being asked to approve the first year on Tuesday night.

City Hall has 306 Ford vehicles in its fleet and needs the parts to keep them moving. Buerge Ford was the lowest bidder and is located just 2 miles from City Hall’s auto-repair shop, according to a city staff report.

 

kevinh@smdp.com

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