City faces $12,000-a-month wastewater fine

Regional plant participation delayed upgrades to Auburn’s plant, director says
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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The city of Auburn could pay upward of $72,000 in fines if its wastewater treatment permit is not extended by next month. Jack Warren, Auburn’s public works director, issued a report to the city council during its Monday night meeting. He said city staff was told that despite submitting a permit renewal in October, the Regional Water Quality Control Board said the report for the permit will most likely not be heard until this fall. That means the city could pay $12,000 in fines monthly for about six months until the renewal permit is approved or the onsite improvements to Auburn’s wastewater plant are completed, Warren said. Warren said in 2007 the council approved a conceptual plan to make the city’s existing plant compliant while also supporting the regional pipeline project from North Auburn to Lincoln. However, Warren said that the agreement to help the regional project delayed construction of improvements to Auburn’s wastewater plant. “If we hadn’t delayed construction of our onsite improvements, we would’ve been finished long before now,” Warren said. “Our plant would’ve been in compliance.” By agreeing to support the regional pipeline project, the city accepted at the time that the possible $12,000 a month fines could be levied and that would be the “cost of doing business,” Warren wrote in a staff report. Warren said Monday there is enough money to pay the fines and the funds will come out of the sewer fund. “It’s not if there’s money to pay the fine, it’s a matter of trying to help the regional project and getting punished for it,” Warren said. Warren said the permit could be renewed as early as the board’s March meeting but it’s not likely. He said renewal could possibly happen by April or May. Site construction upgrades are not expected to be finished until fall, Warren said. Councilman Mike Holmes suggested appealing the fines while Councilman Kevin Hanley and Mayor Bridget Powers suggested that staff work further with the board to stave off the penalty. Powers highlighted that the water quality control board’s executive director came to a council meeting to encourage a regional solution. “We certainly hope the (board) will consider that when it comes to fining us,” Powers said. Other news from Monday’s meeting include: - The council approved a resolution to accept $194,000 in funding from the Assistance for Firefighter’s Grant to pay for 30 self-contained breathing apparatuses for the Auburn Fire Department. - City Manager Bob Richardson’s contract was extended through February 2014 as part of the council’s consent agenda. - The council approved an amendment to its solid waste franchise agreement with Recology Auburn Placer. Also, a majority of the franchise fee money will be temporarily reallocated to the city’s general fund. That will bring about $90,000 to $100,000 of additional money to the fund through July 2013 ---------- Streetscape ribbon cutting What: Streetscape ribbon cutting ceremony When: 4:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 24 Where: Downtown Auburn Entertainment: The ceremony will include live music from No Hands Band as well as food and drinks ----------