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Posted on: November 17, 2023

Helix Water District wins Golden Watchdog Award

Tunnel Hill Tanks under construction.

Last night, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association honored Helix Water District with a Golden Watchdog Award in Municipal and Educational Services for the district’s Tunnel Hill tanks project that resulted in a $6.3 million cost savings for its customers. 

The association’s annual Golden Watchdog and Fleece Awards recognize the best and worst in local government decision-making, spending and efficiency. 

“It’s a mindset at Helix,” said Helix Water District Board Vice President Dan McMillan. “From the board to our frontline workers, we all keep an eye on cost control. We are good stewards of public funds.”

The estimated cost to replace the Tunnel Hill tanks was $10 million, while rehabilitation was priced at $3.7 million.  The $6.3 million savings was just one benefit of the project, which also brought its Tunnel Hill tanks into compliance with new seismic standards, reroofing one tank and recoating both tanks inside and out. The improvements will extend the useful life of the tanks for another 50 to 60 years and reduce future maintenance costs. 

“We are proud of our employees and the work we do every day. This project is just one example,” said Helix Water District Board Member Joel Scalzitti to the audience of community and business leaders and elected officials at the Golden Awards. 

Last year, staff at Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant saved $2.4 million by opting not to outsource the upgrade of the plant’s ozone generators and to do the project themselves. The district also secured a $10.3 million state grant for infrastructure replacement.  

“Now our customers don’t have to fund that $10.3 million. We are always first in line when federal and state grants are available,” said McMillan. 

The Tunnel Hill tanks project has also received accolades from San Diego’s engineering community, receiving the Material Project of the Year Award from the San Diego section of the Structural Engineers Association of California, the Outstanding Seismic Retrofit Project Award from the San Diego section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Honor Award from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Public Works Association.

San Diego County Taxpayer Association's Release - Winners for Golden Watchdog and Fleece Awards

Watch our video to learn more about the Tunnel Hill tanks project.

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