Del Mar City Council concerned about rising utility undergrounding costs | #citycouncil

The Del Mar City Council approved a little more than $90,000 in task orders to proceed with the citywide utility undergrounding project June 3, but the conversation focused on longer term budgetary concerns of completing the project.

Last year, council members celebrated the completion the Tewa Court and 10th Street undergrounding pilot project, which included the removal of 1,000 feet of overhead wires and 10 poles taken down. San Diego Gas & Electric gave the city an estimate of $147,595 for installation of cables, pole removals and other work the agency had to complete as part of the project.

But a “reconciliation invoice” based on actual costs will add about $250,000, bringing the total cost of the Tewa Court portion to about $929,000, according to city staff.

There are also going to be cost increases as the city proceeds with the next portions of utility undergrounding, which are areas x1A, located by Crest Canyon, and 1A, which runs along Stratford Court South.

After an engineer’s estimate of about $3 million for construction on section 1A, the city received five bids that ranged from $4.72 million to $8.8 million. City staff said inflation was one of the main factors in the discrepancy.

The total budget for 1A is now a little more than $10 million, nearly double the $5.36 estimate from last December.

Based on those increases, Del Mar City Councilmember Dan Quirk asked if it was safe to assume that the citywide cost of undergrounding would be about $100 million, which is double a previous estimate of about $50 million.

“There’s a lot of stuff we need to do to solidify that number still, but I would say yes, we’re closer to $100 million,” said Martin Boyd, a city project manager.

Quirk also said there’s been a lack of transparency in the cost increases imposed by San Diego Gas & Electric.

“I think it’s insulting to residents that you have these giant cost increases and you’re not willing to provide any detail,” Quirk said.

Del Mar City Councilmember Dwight Worden said it’s still possible for the final cost to veer closer to $50 million. Echoing a previous suggestion by Quirk, Worden said the city should evaluate whether it’s possible to bring some of the work in house, as opposed to relying on contractors.

“I think it’s totally appropriate for us to take a pause and evaluate what are our options to address that,” Worden said.

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