Friday Jun 12 2009
Our wastewater treatment draws notice of big guns in D.C.
By: Jim Ruffalo
Looking Behind the Scenes
Slam-dunking the notebook while mulling over the fact that the local NBA franchise opted for Paul Westphal instead of Kurt Rambis as coach. Obviously, in Sacramento, the sport of Kings still isn’t basketball. ... And local governments were also faced with a choice, only this time, it appears as if the right pick was made. It’s no secret that local mayors and supervisors have been flying off to Washington D.C. at an alarming rate. As usual, those elected officials are trying to lure back some of the massive piles of tax dollars we’re coerced to send east every April 15. In the past, those officials would always stop by John Doolittle’s office to genuflect and kiss his ring, which was OK until he started keeping the jewelry in his back pocket. Say what you will about John — and toward the end of his career we did just that — he always managed to earmark some cash for a few timely projects near and dear to the collective hearts of Placer County residents. But then came the end of his political days and his successor, Tom McClintock, is keeping his word about avoiding the earmark process. McClintock does go after funding the way it used to be done, namely by placing the request in the proper appropriations bill. However, these days, Republican congressmen get their funding requests approved about every ice age or so. With that in mind, 3rd District Supervisor Jim Holmes recently made his annual pilgrimage east, only to get the brush from McClintock. But figuring as long as he was in town, he’d stop by and chat with our Senators. Actually, one as lowly as a mere supervisor does not chat with a solon. Instead, you get a few minutes of so-called face time in which to mingle and murmur with staffers. As is the case with county government, staffers run a big part of any office, so Holmes managed to do all right with his brief presentations. “The upshot,” he says, “is that (Sen.) Barbara Boxer will try to appropriate $10 million for our regional wastewater operations plan, while (Sen. Dianne) Feinstein said she’d try to get us $2 million.” Holmes was seeking $10 million, which made the Boxer answer the more attractive of the pair. On the other hand, Feinstein is entertaining a run for the governorship, so maybe feels that she needs to spread the money out a bit thinner than does Boxer. Throughout this corner of the world, local governments have always preferred the regional plan over one calling for constant updating of local facilities. It’s just that the bottom line has always been the bottom line. If Auburn wanted to hook up with Lincoln’s super-sewer (and it does), local residents would see even more price hikes than what’s been currently implemented, so if there’s other money to pay for regionalizing, then go for it! That’s what makes the Senate appropriation so exciting. Now before the celebration gets out of hand, allow me to point out that $10 million for the county’s regional plan won’t begin to pay the total costs, which probably will run close to $100 million just to get the final plan into place. Still, one cannot call $10 million a drop in the bucket, if you don’t mind the mixed metaphor. “If we do get that money, and if we spend it wisely, it will demonstrate that Placer County knows how to use an appropriation in the right way, which could make it easier the next time we ask,” Holmes said. Jim Durfee, the county’s Director of Facilities Services agrees, adding that there is also a sizable upside to going the regional route. “Both the state and federal governments love the idea of regional projects,” he said, explaining that “not only does (regionalization) spread the benefit out over more constituencies, but there’s also more bang for the buck, such as avoiding duplication of efforts.” Durfee correctly points out that the Lincoln plant was originally built with a massive amount of future capacity, and also has extra land tucked away for even more expansion, if ever needed. While some see this latest effort as a chance to show off our local ability to bring off such projects, Durfee quietly points out we already have such a success story. “Since the early 1980s, the South Placer Municipal District has worked with the City of Roseville on a treatment system there. That system covers Granite Bay, Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln and it works,” he said. “We’ve already demonstrated what we can do, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll do this right if we get that appropriation.” Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.