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Funding discussions underway for regional plant

City would have to spend $10 million on Auburn plant over next 5-10 years, director says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The specifics of a regional wastewater treatment plant, including how it would be paid for, are still under debate, but local officials say there could be some movement soon. Auburn Mayor Bill Kirby, who also sits on the board of the Placer-Nevada Wastewater Authority, said there are a couple of funding options for the $92-million regional pipeline at this point. “We are trying to finalize the numbers,” Kirby said. “We are trying to get extended financing for the project. Forty years would be great if we could get it.” Kirby said the county could get Federal Energy Regulatory Commission funds through the Middle Fork project’s hydroelectric generation. The project is expected to be relicensed by FERC in 2013. The city could then take a loan from the funds, which it would pay back, Kirby said. Kirby said the city of Auburn has leftover monies from the last sewer bond in reserve, but it has only talked about using those to possibly buy capacity at the Lincoln plant and nothing is set in stone. If the Placer County Board of Supervisors decides to make upgrades to its Joeger Road wastewater treatment plant, the regional option would be off the table, Kirby said. The updates for the existing county plant would cost about $62 million, according to District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes. Holmes said the bids are in for the project, and he hopes after staff goes through them, compares them and makes sure the necessary information is there, the supervisors might hear from staff at the board’s Nov. 8 meeting. “I would say in the next couple of weeks we will have the numbers on that, and then it will be up to the board to sit down and discuss our options, if it works out economically and environmentally, about how to move forward,” Holmes said. Kirby said he expects to see some decisions made about the regional pipeline in a couple months time. A councilman’s concerns Auburn Councilman Kevin Hanley, who has expressed concerns about the regional project in the past, said he is not yet sure if he would support it. “I have been skeptical,” Hanley said. “I’m not going to rule out either supporting or not supporting (the project). We don’t have a specific proposal for the City Council, so I have been raising concerns about previous proposals put forward by the city of Lincoln.” Hanley said he would like two points addressed in the regional discussion. “My main concern is potential cost to Auburn residents for sewer services going into the future,” he said. “And then second, whether Auburn residents and their elected representatives, how much control would they have over the price of sewer services, because (in) previous proposals Lincoln would have the power to determine our sewer rates.” Spencer Short, mayor pro tem for the city of Lincoln, said the three governmental agencies are trying to create a win-win-win situation for everyone. “The county is moving forward with a stay-at-home approach because they want to see what their cost factors are,” Short said. “The cost overall is not the biggest issue. I think one of the bigger issues here is regional water quality throughout all the creeks that serve this entire county.” Short said with the system the way it is, effluent gets into local creeks and that water is then used to water crops and livestock. Short said Lincoln’s state-of-the-art plant would be able to handle the flow a regional project would bring, and with the waste moving downhill to Lincoln, the plant would be “effectively taking all the effluent out of the creeks.” The idea of a joint powers authority has been discussed as a way to govern the plant, and a good model to look at is the Western Placer Waste Management Authority, Short said. $10 million improvements Over the next five to 10 years the city of Auburn will have to spend $10 million on its plant to install a second oxidation ditch and make other improvements to maintain compliance, according to Bernie Schroeder, director of Auburn’s Public Works Department. Schroeder said the current ditch is about 30 years old and the second is necessary for redundancy purposes, especially if the original ditch needs to be shut down. North Auburn resident Steve Griffin said he doesn’t think there is enough information about the regional project available to form an opinion about it. “The cost, I guess that is speculative,” Griffin said. “The bottom line, if it’s going to be lower cost and better service, I would be for it. But I think that’s all speculative.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- Decreasing costs of a regional wastewater treatment plant project • 2008: $200 million • 2010: $140 million • 2011: $92 million - $64 million paid for by Placer County, $28 million paid for by city of Auburn