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City approves $17,000 for wastewater study

Hanley questions cost of more research
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The city of Auburn is spending $17,000 on a study that will determine whether it is feasible and cost-effective to regionalize its wastewater treatment plant. The study is being conducted to determine whether Auburn should continue using its own wastewater plant or construct a pipeline to the plant in Lincoln. On Monday night Auburn City Council members approved the funding in a 3-1 vote. Councilman Kevin Hanley voted against it. Councilman Mike Holmes was absent. The study’s total cost is $170,000. Grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are cover 75 percent of the study with Placer County and the city of Auburn paying for the remaining 25 percent, according to city documents. City documents spell out the goal of the potential regional wastewater plant. “The project’s goal is to abandon the two wastewater treatment plants that serve the greater Auburn, California area by conveying wastewater from the Placer County Sewer Maintenance District 1 and city of Auburn collection systems to the city of Lincoln wastewater treatment plant for treatment and disposal/reuse,” according to the documents. A study was conducted in 2007 in regards to the project, but the new study would give updated information on the feasibility of the project as well as its cost, according to city documents. According to the documents, this summer the Placer Nevada Wastewater Authority suggested an updated study because in 2007 construction costs were higher than they are now. At the time the study was undertaken, the city’s portion of the project was calculated to be $83 million. Because of this, the city decided to update its wastewater treatment plant instead. A main factor in the study will be the amount of rock that follows the pipeline construction area. Rock boosts the cost of constructing a pipeline, according to city documents. Hanley said he didn’t agree with the partial funding of the study because it did not match the decision made by the City Council in 2008. “We have already paid for studies before to update our current plant or go regional,” Hanley said. “We have almost completed our current wastewater treatment plant, updating it.” Hanley said he didn’t think the city should spend $17,000 on the study when the money could be spent on other things. Councilman Dr. Bill Kirby said the study is an investment in Auburn’s future because the current wastewater plant is not going to last forever. Kirby said the study will look at funding sources for the project as well as feasibility, and an advantage of regionalizing wastewater treatment is that the regional plant could reuse the water, and some of the profits from that would come back to the city. “I think the $17,000 is very well spent,” Kirby said. “If the (cost) numbers come in too high, then we have a decision to make. The decision would regrettably be that it’s probably not a good decision (to regionalize).” Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate Bob Snyder said during public comment the costs derived from the previous study were far too high, and a new study is needed to come up with updated numbers. Snyder said if the council didn’t approve the study funding, it would be the same as telling Placer County the city was not willing to cooperate in any way in the project. “If you vote no on this $17,000-fee … you are really voting tonight to kill the regional sewer,” Snyder said. “You will be slapping the Water Quality Board in the face; $17,000 is a token payment for this cost estimate. It will give you accurate information instead of the inaccurate information you have.” Kirby said the study would bring back results by the end of October. In other business: · Megan Siren from the city staff announced a drug take-back event Sept. 25. The event will take place in the parking lot behind City Hall. Similar events are happening throughout Placer County. Residents can turn in prescription drugs as well as illegal substances. Chief Valerie Harris said unless someone has notified the Auburn Police Department about criminal activity involving a person’s illegal drugs, drop-offs would be taken with no questions asked. · The council approved a resolution to declare that it would work collaboratively with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy in state, federal, local and tribal government partnerships. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com