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Council votes to upgrade local wastewater plant

Economic downtown shaved about $2 million from cost
By: Jim Ruffalo Journal Correspondent
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Although all five members of the Auburn City Council expressed a preference to join the proposed regional sewer plant based at Lincoln, they nevertheless voted unanimously Monday night to plunge ahead with an $8 million proposal to update the local wastewater treatment plant. While voting to advertise for an RFP (Request For Proposal), the motion did include Councilman Keith Nesbitt’s idea to use any savings to purchase future capacity in the Lincoln plant. City Engineer Jack Warren told the council that the original $10 million proposed cost for the local upgrade now was about $2 million less because the economic downturn had made prospective contractors a bit more ready to do business. In making his proposal, Warren also strongly suggested that work needs to begin by June, even though the project would not be completed by the next winter’s expected bad weather. “There’s that peril of impending fines, which will begin in March of 2011, if we don’t get it completed on time,” he said. During the discussion, Mayor Mike Holmes expressed some dissatisfaction with Placer County’s Board of Supervisors and staff, saying he thought that entity should have “moved forward more expeditiously” to bring all the parties together to achieve a regional solution. “Maybe tonight’s vote will send a message to the county that if we continue with these delays, we’ll lose any opportunity for a regional solution,” he later added. Councilman Kevin Hanley was even more explicit, pointing out that the Council had in a July 2007 meeting expressed an interest in a regional answer, and still received no official response from the county. The regional plan was also supported by former councilman Bob Snyder, who during public comment pointed out other benefits, including the rights to use treated water for local agriculture. Another part of the vote directed the city to seek conventional financing for the project, but no specifics of that were discussed. In other action: – A unanimous vote OK’d City Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi’s reorganization plan for his department. Under the plan, the position formerly occupied by the two retiring battalion chiefs will be eliminated, with three fire captains assuming those duties. Those captains will also take responsibility for commanding three separate shifts, and will assist D’Ambrogi in administrative duties. Three current firefighters/engineers will be elevated to station officers. With their slots filled from volunteer firefighters. – The Council also voted unanimously to a one-year “relaxation” of the current sign ordinance. That more liberal interpretation would allow a no-fee application by city businesses to use so-called A-frame signs, as well as additional banners and balloons to attract customers. The original proposal called for a six-month relaxation, but that was extended by Hanley and Councilwoman Bridget Power’s suggestion, although a six-month review of the measure was added by the vote. – A 5-0 vote also started the process of having Caltrans relinquish its Highway 49 rights to Lincoln Way and High Street. That state agency would also pay $150,000 to the city, and would move its portion of Highway 49 to Elm Avenue. Nothing in the agreement addressed the Highway 193 access of those roads, so Warren was directed to seek clarification form the state on that issue. – And the Council also voted unanimously to make a 10 percent cut in the pay of all elected officials, department heads and mid-level managers. All involved had already agreed to the cuts prior to the the vote, and Holmes thanked all those taking the cuts for putting the city first, and saving some jobs in the process.