<i>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.</i>

CITY HALL — Hoping to improve efficiency on its rapid lines, the Big Blue Bus is planning on buying a fleet of new articulated buses.

The City Council tonight is expected to approve an estimated $11.6 million contract with North American Bus Industries to purchase 11 articulated, low-compressed natural gas buses, which typically come with two cars linked with an accordion-like center. The item is part of a roughly $14.5 million spending package.

The new vehicles will replace a group of 40-foot buses that have exceeded their useful life. About three of the new buses will be purchased using $2.8 million in economic stimulus funding.

The buses will operate on the Rapid 3 and Rapid 7 lines, which run primarily on Lincoln and Pico boulevards, respectively.

“Articulated buses provide 33 percent more seating capacity than a standard 40-foot transit coach,” a city staff report said. “The benefit of operating articulated buses on high demand routes such as Rapid Blue service is the ability to carry more passengers per bus trip, which will allow the city to manage its transit labor and fuel costs more efficiently.”

The public transportation agency is also expected to request that council approve a contract with A&A Protective Service to provide security at the Big Blue Bus facility.

The company is being called upon for temporary security after City Hall’s former provider, International Services Inc., filed for bankruptcy in April. The contract, which will remain in effect until a permanent provider is selected, will run on a month-to-month basis, charging City Hall about $54,000 a month. Another $541,284 has been budgeted for next fiscal year, which will begin July 1.

City officials said International Services Inc. has not paid its employees since early April, which is a breach of its contract.

Demonstrating alternative energy

City Hall is planning on partnering with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) for a new project that aims to show the viability of a zero emission, all electric and medium duty service truck.

The council will be asked to approve the estimated $227,043 project, approximately $190,543 of which will be paid by City Hall. The remainder will come from AQMD funds and other sources.

City Hall currently owns two dozen Toyota RAV4 electric vehicles and about 32 Neighborhood Electric Vehicles. The RAV4 electric vehicles have been out of production since 2003.

“The successful demonstration of this vehicle will help bring full-speed electric trucks to market and prove their suitability for this application,” a city staff report said.

Improving city streets

More than 860 sidewalk locations in the city will receive some needed attention.

Sequel Contracts is expected to receive an estimated $4.4 million contract to repair several hundred sidewalk spots north of Santa Monica Boulevard. An additional 291 sidewalk locations south of Santa Monica Boulevard are being repaired in house with City Hall’s Street Maintenance Division.

Civil Source is also set to land a $525,000 contract to provide construction management services for the project.

“Failure to complete the repairs will lead to further deterioration of streets, sidewalks and bridges and higher liability exposure,” a city staff report stated.

The maintenance work is part of City Hall’s Annual Street Improvement Project and will also include minor repairs to four city bridges that were identified as needing attention in a recent inspection done by the county Department of Public Works. The bridge repairs include cleaning exposed rebar and sealing cracks.

The project will also cover street paving in an area bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard to the south, Seventh Street to the west, San Vicente Boulevard to the north and 18th Street to the east.

More money for legal help

The council will consider whether to extend two existing contracts for legal services by a combined $100,000.

Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo Law Firm is seeking an additional $30,000 to its contract while Liebert Cassidy Whitmore is asking for an extra $70,000. Both firms deal with labor and employment law. Their contracts are set to expire at the end of the month.

The reason for the extension is because services used for both firms during the current fiscal year have exceeded the threshold set in the contract.

Analyzing economic impacts

The council is expected to extend a contract with Whitney & Whitney by $80,000 to continue providing economic analysis for the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

The strategy framework for the LUCE, which is the update to the city’s general plan, is currently being refined.

“The economic analysis performed by Whitney & Whitney will provide additional dimensions to inform the City Council’s decision-making on the final LUCE,” the staff report stated.

melodyh@smdp.com