Palo Alto approves major library contracts

Council awards contracts for Mitchell Park Library reconstruction, waste-to-energy feasibility study

Contracts for library reconstruction and a waste-to-energy feasibility study were approved Thursday night in a special City Council meeting.

The council then adjourned for its annual summer recess in August.

The council agreed to partner with Flintco Inc. and Turner Construction to rebuild the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, despite the fact that the company doesn't pay its workers a union-equivalent wage. The $26.8 million contract drew a protest from a carpenters union member Thursday night.

"You're gaining the advantage of labor from low-wage areas, but you're punishing local low-wage workers," Dave Collins, field representative at Carpenters Union, Local 405, said.

"There are lots of tradespeople in Redwood City, East Palo Alto and Sunnyvale whom you could hire, but you went for a contractor who is cheap because it subcontracts in Sacramento and further away where wages are lower," he said.

Palo Alto, as a charter city, is exempt from a state requirement

to pay workers a "prevailing wage" for public projects. Council members had previously considered adopting a new prevailing-wage requirement, but dropped the idea in March.

Community members also raised concerns about the more than 70 mature trees that have been slated for removal as a part of the library's construction, wondering if there be adequate time for public comment. The Mitchell Park Library is one of three libraries that slated for major improvements under a bond the city's voters passed in 2008. The Main Library and the Downtown Library will also undergo renovations.

The council on Thursday also awarded a contract for design work for the Main Library, which is scheduled to be renovated after the Mitchell Park Library reopens.

The trees scheduled for removal near the Mitchell Park Library will be posted so that the public can view them before they are enclosed in a construction fence, Public Works Director Glenn Roberts said.

The council also approved the feasibility and environmental-impact studies for a controversial waste-to-energy facility near the city's wastewater-treatment plant in the baylands. The studies would evaluate the financial and environmental impacts of a proposed anaerobic-digestion plant, which would convert local yard trimmings, food waste and sewage into energy.

Opponents of the proposed plant, including conservationist Emily Renzel and attorney Tom Jordan, have argued that the proposed site in Byxbee Park is not appropriate for a new waste operation.

Other local environmentalists, including Walt Hays and former Mayor Peter Drekmeier, have urged the council to conduct the study for the new facility, which they said would save the city money and enable it to take care of its own waste. They are also preparing to place a petition on the 2011 ballot that would allow the dedicated parkland at Byxbee Park to be used for the new facility.

Councilman Greg Schmid voted against the waste-to-energy studies Thursday because he said other local partnering opportunities and technical options had not been sufficiently addressed or included.

Mayor Pat Burt said a special task force had reviewed many different technologies before identifying anaerobic digestion as the best one for the city to pursue.

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Like this comment
Posted by
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2010 at 9:13 am

why are we not earing anything about the new trash fee increase in
palo alto ?
looking at the increase number, the people that generate the
least trash (20-gal) pay $1.25 a gallon while people that generate
32-gal pay $1.02 a gallon.
The free increase is also skewed toward the people that generate
the least amount of refuse.

Like this comment
Posted by Money sink
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 6, 2010 at 12:18 pm

When the bid for construction of Mitchell Park came in lower than expected, the library added a NEW project. They want to design a temporary location for Main for the few months it will be closed for construction. ALL the other branches will be open at the time.
It became clear that they want money to design a place even though they do NOT have a location.
Thanks to Councilmember Scharff for trying to work his way through the verbal thicket by the Library director and Public Works director. But he was defeated by the violin music offered by Larry Klein, give the library as much money as they can squander.
Thanks Mr. Scharff for a good try.

Like this comment
Posted by Big Brother is Watching Your Garbage
a resident of Monroe Park
on Aug 6, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Yes, chavey, and that increase for those using the mini-can is a 33.33% increase, much more on a percentage basis than those who generate more trash and have larger receptacles. As I have stated in other posts, the punishing of those who are doing what is asked of them is absurd and at some point, there will be a backlash. My guess is that they simply believed no one would get all that upset over an increase of five bucks a month.

They have also set it up so that these increases will always be approved, as the only way to stop them is for a majority of Palo Alto parcel owners to write letters of protest over the increases, something which many property owners don't even know about, not having reading all of the information in the increase notifications, but also are not likely to take the time to bother to do. So, get ready to pay more for less. It's the wave of the future.

Like this comment
Posted by Another money waster
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 6, 2010 at 3:01 pm

What is missing here is that GreenWaste is proposing to build a similar anaerobic digestion plant just five miles up H.101 in San Mateo. These plants costs Millions of Dollarss to build and operate; so why are we proposing to waste that kind of money when GreenWaste with their waste-to-energy plant up H.101 will be doing the same thing.

We could sell GreenWaste our compost and buy back their electricity; save the City million in building and operating costs and leave Byxbee Park as open space.

Like this comment
Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2010 at 3:21 pm

In answer to "Another money waster", the feasibility study just approved by the City will also consider regional possibilities such as the proposed San Mateo plant. The San Mateo plant is also just a proposal at this point. The City seems to be following a very sensible path here, looking at the economic and environmental tradeoffs in dealing with an important problem. One important aspect of a facility in Palo Alto is that we have a regional sewage plant already here, which needs to be transitioned from expensive sludge incineration to the more economical and ecological solution of anaerobic digestion. While hauling the sludge to San Mateo is feasible, it will certainly add to the expense (the sludge is mostly water and consequently very heavy). We could build a sewage-only digester here and haul food and green waste elsewhere, but economics of scale, as well as the economics of ownership vs. paying for service, may make a local multi-organics facility the more logical choice.

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