Looking Behind The Scenes

Are wrong government workers taking pay cut?

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Downsizing the notebook while thinking the Governator targeted the wrong group for the layoffs/pay cuts. He should have saved the draconian measures for the legislature. … On the other hand, maybe he saw how far that idea got during the most recent meeting of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which voted on a proposal to cut the salaries of all of the state’s elected officials by 10 percent, at least for the duration of the fiscal crises. Commission Chairman Charles Murphy floated the idea, but received only one vote supporting the measure. That bit of bravery came from Kathy Sands, the former mayor of Auburn. Sands said she knew the proposal was doomed the minute it was considered. “You just knew how the vote would go, but I decided to support the chairman because it was the right thing to do,” she said, adding that after her years on the Auburn City Council, she believes in paying an elected official what his or her efforts are worth. “And,” she quickly added, “the legislators should be serving as an example during these times. Instead, we choose to cut the pay of those workers who can least afford it. Elected officials get paid very well as it is.” Somehow, she failed to note that there’s very little heavy lifting involved. ... Money right down the ...: The Lake of the Pines wastewater treatment plant, which just underwent a $20 million improvement, now finds itself on the smelly end of a series of fines levied by the state. Seems that not all of the stringent standards were being met during the upgrade. According to Gordon Plantenga, waste water operations manager for Nevada County’s Department of Sanitation, the fines probably will run about $130,000. He insists the Loplanders themselves are responsible for the fines, even though they don’t legally own the plant. But the good news, according to Plantenga is “there’s enough in the (plant’s) reserve operating budget to pay those fines.” Plantenga added that a couple of plans are afoot to alleviate some of the fines, including asking the state to consider its own statute of limitations (the fines accrued over seven years), and to allow half the fine money to be applied to a supplemental environmental project at the site. ... An assist: You may or may not recall the recent Sacramento-based story where the Fort Natomas playground structure got torched for a second time. And you may also remember that a juvenile suspect was subsequently taken into custody. The part of the story that didn’t get told was that the reason the case was solved was David Keenan. He’s a deputy probation officer for Placer County, and while returning to the county from picking up a juvenile fugitive at Sacramento, that young man got a bad case of the blabs. “He asked me if I’d heard anything about that arson,” Keenan recalled. “I told him I hadn’t and let him talk.” Finally, it became evident that the youngster knew something about the torch job, so Keenan promptly alerted Sacramento authorities, and after a few days’ investigation, they had their young man. And while we’re on the subject of probation, Stephen Pecora’s department has an important issue before the Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday meeting. It’s a program to expand the county’s alternative sentencing program, and to to do it through involuntary placements. “It’ll cost around $700,000 to start the program, but the eventual savings for the county will be in the millions of dollars,” Pecora insists. Among the alternative sentencing programs involved are work release, electronic monitoring (with GPS alerts), drug court, and adult day reporting centers. ... Not giving up: As was the case with all the readers, J.R. Conkey took proper notice of a recent Journal story announcing that Costco had submitted preliminary plans to construct a store within the Auburn city limits. Conkey was more interested than most, because he’s the developer for the Bohemia property on nearly 19 acres on Highway 49 between Luther and Wise roads. He’s made no secret that he’s been trying to get Costco to that site, and even though the announcement has been made, he’s not giving up just yet. “Theirs (Auburn’s) is a ‘C’ site while ours is an ‘A’,” he insists, pointing out that it’s a whole lot easier for shoppers to access a big box off of Highway 49 than it is to do likewise from Nevada Street. As for the announcement; it didn’t bother him that much. “It’s all part of the competition,” he said, “playing one off of the other, trying for the best deal. “Besides, if Costco doesn’t come, then we’ll go after Lowe’s.” In case you don’t keep score, Lowe’s recently claimed it was abandoning plans to open a new store at Rocklin, citing problems with that city’s planning commission. Having a Lowe’s come to this area is not far-fetched. Auburn Chamber of Commerce honcho Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson, and several Placer County officials have all — on the record — recently admitted that Lowe’s is in continual contact with this area in inquiring about a possible store site. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. He can be reached at, or post a comment at