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North Auburn-to-Lincoln regional sewer wins key Placer supes support

Possible Middle Fork funding for Auburn link a possibility
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Placer County supervisors voted Tuesday to support a regional sewer pipeline to Lincoln from North Auburn that the county estimates will cost $73 million. That figure could increase to $94.7 million if the city of Auburn adds a spur line to link up with the pipeline to be built between North Auburn’s Sewer Maintenance District No. 1 and the city of Lincoln’s wastewater treatment plant. The vote was close, the meeting was long, but the end result is that Placer County finally has a clear picture on the direction it will be taking on the future of North Auburn wastewater treatment. Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of moving ahead with the regional sewer project. Supervisors Robert Weygandt, Jennifer Montgomery and Jack Duran voted in favor of accepting Lincoln’s offer to complete the long-sought project and directing staff to negotiate final agreement terms. Supervisors had two other project options – to upgrade the 50-year-old North Auburn treatment plant for $48.3 million or opt for PERC Water Corp. to build and operate a new North Auburn facility at an estimated cost, according to county figures, of $58.7 million. Weygandt said the board had heard “numbers ad nauseum” over the last two years and that it was time to act – even though all questions were yet unanswered on future costs. “It’s a golden opportunity,” Weygandt said. “I’m sure we can work out the details.” Montgomery said the county should continue to work to find ways to stabilize sewer rates in the future for both North Auburn and Auburn. She suggested that rates could be subsidized and discussions should continue between the county and Auburn. “We need to move forward with a regional vision,” Montgomery said. Supervisor Kirk Uhler favored the PERC project. Holmes spoke in favor of the upgrade. “I see too many risks going regional,” Holmes said. Holmes said the upgrade was the least expensive fix at a time when other spending issues – including finding $7-9 million for new South Placer jail furnishings – were still unresolved. The session on sewer options lasted nearly five hours and drew city of Auburn and Lincoln officials, including Auburn City Councilmembers Bridget Powers and Bill Kirby, and Lincoln City Councilman Spencer Short. The regional sewer plan has been discussed and debated for more than 15 years and the vote was seen by some as a landmark one. Still to come is a possible partnership on the project with Auburn, which has been supportive but has held off on making a commitment until it understands funding options. One of the biggest possibilities is funding coming from Middle Fork Project electricity sales revenues. But Placer County supervisors are reluctant to commit a portion of potential revenues until the county has established a policy on where it can dedicate funding. Powers came to the board with a decision from Monday’s meeting on a 5-0 vote calling for opening up discussions to talk about county assistance on the regional pipeline. “We’re fine right now but we’re not going to be fine in the future,” Powers said. “Rates are now $55 a month but if it goes to $125, we can’t participate. Let’s have a conversation about what that assistance needs to be.”