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History engraves its way into heart of city

$8,000 could be better spent by state, taxpayer advocate says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Several pieces of Auburn’s history will soon make a permanent residence in Central Square. The Streetscape History and Art Advisory Committee has given the OK for 10 people, groups and things to be engraved on tiles in front of the square’s businesses. Each engraving is planned to have a blurb describing that particular historical item, and there will be one engraving per tile. In September the City Council, acting as the Auburn Urban Development Authority, approved $8,000 of redevelopment funds to go toward the engravings. The list of City Council-approved etchings is scheduled to include Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Richard “Rattlesnake Dick” Barter, Dr. John C. Hawver, Claude Chana, Stacy Dragila, Clark Ashton Smith, the first passenger train, the Placer Herald, Auburn and the 1959 Auburn Little League team. Councilman Keith Nesbitt said the list was narrowed down from 300 names, some of which may still appear in future phases of Streetscape. Nesbitt said because the council has already approved the items, the final verbiage for each would go back as an informational item at a future meeting. Nesbitt said he wasn’t sure when the council would see the final wording or when engraving might start, although there is a hopeful deadline. “We really want them in place before Amgen (May 17),” Nesbitt said. Bernie Schroeder, director of Auburn’s Public Works Department, said Ruhkala Monument of Rocklin is scheduled to do the engravings. The company was previously awarded the contract for the Streetscape Phase 1 area. Nesbitt said eight of the engravings would be etched into every third tile adjacent to the businesses in the main part of the square. Nesbitt said there is a planned sports zone in front of Wells Fargo, so Stacy Dragila and the 1959 Auburn Little League team will be etched there. Dragila was a 1990 Placer High graduate who became the first to win the Olympic Gold Medal in women’s pole-vaulting in the 2000 Olympic Games. The 1959 Little League team was the only Auburn team to play in the Little League World Series. Auburn resident Marissa Pontius, 14, who was visiting the square Monday, said she likes the idea of the engravings. “I think a lot of people do like history, and there are a lot of these names I have never heard of, so it would be cool to know them,” Pontius said. Ron Solomon, who owns Auburn Jewelry and Loan in Central Square, said he thinks the engravings fit in well with the idea of connecting Downtown and Old Town through Streetscape, because it gives visitors something to look at as they tour the area. “Somebody’s going to feel someone was left out, but I still think they are doing a great job, and I’m all for it,” Solomon said. Former Auburn resident Mindy Lawson, who was visiting the city Monday, said she likes several of the included subjects. “I love Rattlesnake Dick,” Lawson said. “I know his story. I like the Little League team. I think they are all great, and I think the stories should be told if they can.” Taxpayer Advocate Dan Sokol said he thinks the square is already too cluttered. “For one thing I think Central Square is too busy,” Sokol said. “If there is going to be engraving I think it’s better than the original proposal, which was all endurance. But I think it would be better to undo the whole thing. In the first place, I’m opposed to redevelopment. I’m opposed to the redevelopment authority. The City Council in their wisdom wants to spend the entire money that’s allocated, (but) I think it could be better spent in this case by the state.” Anthony Sadeghi, who is opening the new Karma Goods shop in the square, said he was drawn to the spot because he liked the look of Central Square. Sadeghi said he would have put different engravings on the tiles. “I would have put Karmic messages rather than historic messages,” Sadeghi said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com