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 — The City Council is expected to approve a $750,000 expenditure to ensure Santa Monica’s transit buses remain operational and eco-friendly through the remainder of a four-year contract with two maintenance companies.

The council is expected to authorize nearly $1.44 million Tuesday, the lion’s share going to the amended bus maintenance contract.

The original bid, awarded by the council in September 2009 to Ironman Renewal and Harbor Diesel and Equipment, was for $400,000 per year to provide engine overhaul services on city buses.

Ironman Renewal and Harbor Diesel split the money, with Ironman handling repairs on bio-diesel engines and Harbor Diesel maintaining the natural gas-powered engines.

Staff recommends the increase in contract funds in anticipation of an increase in engine maintenance, which is expected to be cheaper than replacing the aging machines outright.

According to a staff report, the engines have a “useful life cycle” of six years or 350,000 miles. Every one of the engines have exceeded that age — the diesel engines are 14 years old, and the natural gas engines have been in use nine years.

As the engines hit higher mileages, they will begin to emit dangerous pollutants and get closer to wearing out completely.

Rather than replace the engines with 2010 model Cummins natural gas engines, as originally planned, the Big Blue Bus system chose to overhaul the existing engines in an attempt to save money.

This is would be the second time the City Council voted to increase the contract amount for maintenance of the Big Blue Bus fleet.

The first was in July 2010, when the bid was upped by an additional $150,000 to cover additional diesel repairs.

An offer they can’t refuse

The council will consider spending half a million dollars on new plastic refuse containers that will be cheaper to maintain and reduce noise and worker injuries.

City Hall plans to purchase 696 two-yard containers and 567 three-yard containers for three years for $510,000 from the Superior Rotation Molding LLC.

According to the staff report, there are approximately 4,070 containers used in the city by multi-family and commercial customers.

The plastic containers have an edge on the current metal versions because they make less noise, are easily cleaned and resistant to graffiti, according to city staff

The bins are also one piece, which prevents wear and tear on the units.

Dial-a-Ride

The council is expected to approve a three-month extension of the contract that provides cheap rides to Santa Monica residents so it can study the consequences of changing service times and the areas covered.

The extension, which will cost $160,000, would keep the Dial-a-Ride service open for an additional three months, and would give city staff time to evaluate if the current hours of operation and service area meet the needs of the community.

It came at the request of the Disabilities Commission and the Commission for the Senior Community, which want to increase the number of vehicles in service during peak hours.

City Hall would otherwise put the contract back out to bid immediately.

The extension shifts the current contract onto a fiscal year calendar, and changes the overall price tag of the service to $2.04 million.

The $160,000 actually represents a $10,000 increase for the same quarter in the previous year to account for an expected increase in trips requested through the service.

Staff estimates that demand will increase 7 percent to a total of 2,432 vehicle service hours.

Contract change

A project to improve offices at Reed Park will require almost $20,000 in additional work, according to a staff report.

Staff requested a $19,500 amendment to a contract with the CST Construction Co. to provide additional safety, electrical, plumbing and data room work at the office.

The park, located at Seventh Street and Wilshire Boulevard, is home to the Miles Playhouse, Joslyn Hall, play facilities and the CREST Youth Office.

The council approved a $107,800 contract in October 2010 for improvements to the office, which had too little reception and counter space for computers used to complete online forms and registration for the 9,000 kids that sign up for programs every year.

Originally, CST Construction was supposed to consolidate the Youth Office with nearby adjacent meeting and storage rooms.

The additional money will go to relocating a water line, installing electrical circuits for exit signs and kitchenette and running telephone and fiber optic lines to a new network data room.

New game in town

One of Santa Monica’s swanky hotels will find itself under new ownership if the City Council approves a sublet that will allow a new company to take over management of the property.

According to a staff report, the Roscoe Real Estate Limited Partnership plans to sell its interest in the Viceroy Hotel to the Seaside Hotel Limited Partnership, of Delaware, for $82 million.

The city manager requested authorization to review and execute documents associated with the sale, the sublet and other documents required to complete the transaction.

City staff expect a one-time payment of $500,000 to the city.

Seller beware

The Santa Monica Police Department won a $7,500 grant, which the City Council must approve, from the state to up enforcement relating to selling alcohol to minors.

The grant, awarded by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, will allow the SMPD to conduct several operations across a five-month grant period to reduce underage drinking, deter adults from over-drinking and pay for overtime for the officers involved.

Duke retires

The SMPD will request authorization to retire its 12-year-old police dog after eight-and-a-half years of service.

According to a staff report, Police Canine Duke has been involved in many felony arrests and has received several commendations for his work, both from the SMPD and other agencies.

Old age and physical ailments are forcing the dog into retirement.

If authorized by the City Council, the SMPD will sell Duke to his handler, Officer Michael Von Achen, for the nominal sum of $1.

Keeping it local

The City Council will consider naming March 19, 2011 “Buy Local Day” as part of a series of events planned to encourage residents to support local vendors.

The declaration will coincide with the Buy Local Expo being held that day on the Third Street Promenade, as well as the L.A. Marathon weekend.

Expo organizers expect to present the resolution that day to the Buy Local Committee and Chamber of Commerce as part of the event, which will include a weekend of events including booths, demonstrations, food tastings and live music.

Hands off our cash

The City Council seeks to hold onto nearly $283 million worth of planned investments by passing a resolution expressing opposition to a scheme by the state to eliminate redevelopment agencies.

Under a current state budget proposal, California would axe redevelopment agencies across the state and use the $1.7 billion held in those agencies to close an estimated $25 billion shortfall.

That would put a stop to several projects in the works in Santa Monica, including 300 affordable housing residences, the Pico Neighborhood Library and pedestrian, bicycle and other access improvements around the Exposition Light Rail line.

The resolution also calls into question the legality of the cuts, based on the passage of Proposition 22 in November, which meant to protect state raids on local funds.

Santa Monica would join eight other California cities that have also passed similar resolutions in recent weeks.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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