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City looks at sewer treatment options

Future residential fees could exceed $100 per month
By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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City sewer fees for residents could spike to more than $100 per month within in the next few years. Auburn city councilmembers got their first glimpse Monday night of what costs ratepayers could expect to see if the city ultimately decides to connect to a regional sewer pipeline in Lincoln. The city has been mulling over whether to make upgrades to its existing wastewater treatment plant in Auburn or to connect to the regional pipeline in order to meet state water quality guidelines. Jack Warren, city public works director, presented three options to the council Monday night. The first was to resume work on the final design of Auburn’s existing treatment plant but to also send a letter to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board expressing interest in the regional option. The second was to proceed with the regional solution and authorize staff to begin the sewer rate increase process. And the third was to resume with the design of the existing plant upgrade, send a letter to the board but also share costs with Placer County where applicable for a joint regional pipeline and compensate the city of Lincoln for over-sizing its pipeline. The council voted 4-1 by resolution Monday to approve option one but to not send the letter for 16 days. Councilman Bob Snyder voted no. He wanted to direct staff to come back with more information on the city’s third option in two weeks. “I’m afraid there may be an opinion of the staff to stay home,” Snyder said. “A (final) decision hasn’t been made and I think we need to deliberate on this meaningfully. It is important we make every effort to understand these options carefully.” Councilman Kevin Hanley said a decision needs to be made soon. “We can’t continue to delay a final decision,” Hanley said. “At a certain point you have to ask yourself if it is possible to get firm numbers and I don’t think there is.” The city has until March 1, 2010 to reach compliance by making on-site improvements and until Jan. 1, 2013 if it decides to connect to the regional pipeline. City staff estimates connecting to a regional pipeline could cost the city anywhere from $70 million to $83 million dollars and making improvements to the existing wastewater treatment plant would cost roughly $12 million. City sewer fees were increased last June from $35 per dwelling unit to $52.50 to compensate for on-site improvements. The City Council voted last fall to stop design work on its existing treatment plant and move toward connecting to the Lincoln pipeline, which originally had a completion schedule far beyond the compliance date. Monthly sewer rates would need to be increased anywhere from $100 to $125 per dwelling unit to fully fund the regional option. But the monthly rates are based on both the city of Auburn and Placer County pursuing the regional project. If Placer County decides not to pursue the project, then monthly sewer rates would have to be increased by 25 percent or more, officials estimate. Warren said two construction seasons would be needed to complete on-site upgrades at the local plant. And to stay on schedule with the regional option, the city would need to have a concrete rate increase and construction plan and vote by the City Council this spring. In other business Monday night the council: n Declared April 20-26 Youth Temperance Education Week n Declared April Child Abuse Prevention Month n Declared April 21-25 West Nile Virus and Mosquito and Vector Control Awareness Week n Issued a commendation to the Placer High School girls snowboarding team for their first place win at the California-Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation championships. n Voted 4-1 to direct city staff to continue working to determine the feasibility of a new corporation yard, fire station with storage area to accommodate safety vehicles, multi-modal rail station future parking needs and road access to either Merrow Court or Buena Vista/Greenwood Street on 12.6 acre- vacant parcel off Blocker Drive. The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at jennan@goldcountrymedia.com or comment on this story at auburnjournal.com.