In a step forward that will help inform and educate the City's decision as it pursues options for replacing the Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Lake Oswego City Council approved a contract to retain the law firm Hawkins Delafield & Wood, LLP, to support the issuing of a request for proposals from three firms identified by public works as being qualified for the project.
According to Deputy City Attorney Evan Boone and Public Works Director Anthony Hooper, the City will require further legal expertise beyond what Boone and City Attorney David Powell are able to provide in the crafting of a public-private partnership contract to design, build, operate and maintain a potential new wastewater treatment plant.
The Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant was built in 1964, and while it's been maintained properly, the technology doesn't have the capacity to meet new environmental standards for effluent discharged to the Willamette River by the Oregon Department Department of Environmental Quality. The facility is owned by the City of Portland, and Lake Oswego contracts with Portland to provide wastewater services at the plant.
According to Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, the facility requires a $130 million investment — split 50/50 between Portland and Lake Oswego under the current agreement — to either repair or replace the technology to meet new standards. One of those potential technologies is a membrane bioreactor which public works has researched and vetted over the past several months.
City Manager Scott Lazenby told the council that Hawkins Delafield & Wood isone of the preeminent law firms qualified to handle advising a city on precisely this type of project. The firm is being retained to craft terms for the pre-development agreement to go out with the RFP which Hooper is hoping to publish sometime in July to get 30 percent design on whatever type of repair or replace project that the three firms decide to submit.
That plan could change though, should Hawkins Delafield & Wood advise the City to move in a different direction with the RFP process, Hooper told the council.
"There's still a few decisions that need to made on those details," Hooper said.
Mayor Kent Studebaker and City Councilors were somewhat apprehensive of the fact they'd need to invest money into the project before figuring out whether they'd be investing money in the proposed $130 million project to replace the facility.
"My concern is the cost as we go forward — whether they come back with 10 percent design or 30, they're coming back with something," Studebaker said. "I'd like to see some off ramps so if we see some doubts about the efficacy we can get out instead of getting into a quagmire of costs."
According to Lazenby that's exactly the point of having the legal advice of Hawkins Delafield & Wood.
"We're trying to have the decision points where they make sense; this first one, we'll tell the three firms, 'this is what we can afford based on projections for the current upgrade option,'" Lazenby said. "We'll ask, 'Can you stay under that?' And they'll have to answer yes or no. It may end right there. For them to know whether they can get to it, they need to know what that obligation is going to look like."
Lazenby said he believed hiring the firm would allow both the council and the City of Portland know the broad parameters of what a public-private partnership will look like over the long term — the
type of forecasting which Hawkins Delafield & Wood specializes in — in order to make the most informed decision possible.
According to Hooper and Boone, the two will meet with the firm May 23 to go through the financing options, crafting the pre-development agreement and authorizing the RFP. The contract to retain Hawkins Delafield & Wood outlines a blended hourly rate of approximately $495 per hour. The total cost of those legal services will depend on how much the city should call upon them to help craft the public-private partnership contract, pre-development and development agreements.
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