Fire Fighter Bill Howard (right) performs a back-up line during rutine practice at Fire Station Five on 25th Street Monday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

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 — To keep more than 120 Big Blue Buses and other city vehicles on the road through the end of the current fiscal year, the City Council is expected tonight to approve a $1.8 million contract for the purchase of liquefied natural gas.

In all, the council is expected to spend a little more than $4.6 million Tuesday, much of it going toward the purchase of fuel, street light improvements, a cold milling machine used for street repairs and consultants working on the implementation of the Land Use and Circulation Element, an update to the city’s General Plan that will dictate development in Santa Monica for the next 20 years.

The natural gas contract is with Clean Energy, a California-based company that has been providing fuel for City Hall since 2006. The council originally hired Clean Energy for years at a cost of $11,829,319, according to a city staff report.

The BBB operates 124 natural gas buses and plans to increase that number in the coming years. BBB also provides natural gas to fuel city vehicles and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, which combine to consume an average of 200,000 gallons of fuel every month. City staff is currently working to determine future fueling needs and is expected to have a recommendation to the council by June 2011, at which time a long-term contract can be approved.

The council is also being asked to spend $1 million over the next two years on engine overhauls for buses. The contract is with Cummins Cal Pacific and is a reflection of an increase in the number of engines needing repairs.

BBB staff said the overhauls are needed to keep buses from emitting harmful pollutants, maintain compliance with clean air rules and regulations and keep buses operational. The natural gas engines to be overhauled are 6 years old and at the end of their life cycle of 225,000 miles, according to a city staff report.

Putting the fire out

When the Santa Monica Fire Department purchased four new fire engines last year, they did not include equipment such as hand tools, hoses, nozzles and other items needed before the engines could be put to use.

To get those four trucks on the road, the council is being asked tonight to spend $155,465 on the necessary equipment. The contract is with Curtis & Sons, a California-based company. In all, six companies submitted bids for the contract, according to a city staff report. Funds for the contract are available in the SMFD’s budget.

Out with the old

To repair Santa Monica’s roads, city staff is asking the council to buy a new cold milling machine at a cost of $406,953. The machine will replace one that has reached the end of its lifespan under the guidelines of City Hall’s vehicle replacement program. The machine is used to remove part or all of an existing layer of pavement with a grinding drum, according to a city staff report.

The vehicles are very specialized off-road equipment and are not available with alternative fuel engines.

Two bids were received. City staff chose Nixon-Egli Equipment, a California-based company, because its milling machine offered more flexibility, allowing the operator to adjust the milling width, which cuts down on the number of times a section of asphalt has to be compressed. The Nixon-Egli machine also allows for faster repairs of the tool head and it has an ergonomically- designed cab and seat, providing the driver better visibility.

Turn on the lights

The council is expected to award a $429,000 contract to California-based Wildan Engineering to provide street lighting design services as part of the 15-year, street light conversion program.

The program, which is approximately 60 percent complete, replaces high-voltage street light circuits and fixtures with more modern, safe, reliable and energy-efficient 120-volt circuits and fixtures, according to a city staff report. The program is coordinated with sidewalk replacement and street resurfacing projects.

Wildan recently completed similar projects for the cities of Newport Beach, Anaheim and South Gate. Representatives from those cities said the work was completed on schedule and within budget.

Preparing for the future

Three consultants stand to make a total of $390,000, payment for detailed work on the LUCE. The firms are being hired to help city staff complete the Bergamot Area Plan, the Downtown Specific Plan (which includes the future Expo Light Rail terminus) and the Memorial Park Neighborhood. The work will include design services and guidance on implementing a bicycle network, height and density limits and circulation of traffic.

Another firm, Fehr & Peers, is expected to receive $275,000 for work on traffic patterns associated with the arrival of Expo Light Rail and how this will impact Downtown and the Civic Center.

The council will also be asked to allow the city manager to accept a grant in the amount of $625,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Bergamot Transit Village and Mixed-Use Creative District Master Plan.

Takes money to make money

To collect on the sales tax increase approved by voters in November, the city manager must approve an agreement with the State Board of Equalization. The council is being asked to allow the city manager to move forward with the agreement so that City Hall can collect the estimated $12 million the tax increase is expected to generate.

City Hall must reimburse the state $175,000, the preparatory cost to administer the tax. That money will be withheld from future payments to City Hall.

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