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Auburn City Council OKs $2.8M sewer pipeline deal points

Next round of regional negotiations begin
By: By Jon Schultz, Gold Country News Service
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The city of Auburn’s next round of regional sewer negotiations with Placer County and the city of Lincoln is set to kick into gear, albeit on a smaller scale than before.

The Auburn City Council voted 3-1 to approve a set of deal points for buying capacity in a common sewer pipeline with Placer County on Monday. The stipulations for agreements with the county and Lincoln will now be sent for their review.

Auburn’s buy-in for the common section of pipeline, which runs about four miles along parts of Highway 193 and Virginiatown Road, is estimated at $2.8 million. That would mean an annual rate increase of $30 for a single family residence beyond the consumer price index adjustment.

The common pipeline would leave the door open for Auburn to fully participate in the regional sewer project in the future, although that would come with an estimated $35 million price tag.

Auburn City Councilman Dr. Bill Kirby said buying capacity in the common line is in no way supporting Lincoln and Placer County’s regional project but it is insurance in case Auburn’s plant that is currently in compliance cannot keep up with future regulations.

   “I think it’s critical for the future of Auburn. Because we never really had an issue with our capacity, it’s really whether or not we can meet the standards down the road,” Kirby said. “If the numbers come in as advertised … I think it’s a cheap buy-in when you look at the possibility that 10, 15 years down the road, we may not be able to meet those standards.”

For Auburn to fully enter the project, it demanded about $18 million in outside funding to keep rates stable but Placer County rejected the city’s deal points on March 12 and instead extended an offer to reserve capacity in the common line.

Auburn Mayor Kevin Hanley voted against the common pipeline deal points and Auburn Councilman Mike Holmes was absent from the meeting.

Hanley has been outspoken against the regional sewer project, criticizing its lack of a joint powers authority, lack of evidence that shows Auburn would benefit from economies of scale and lack of “true” cost and savings sharing.

“Because these basic things have not been agreed to, I don’t want to waste $2.8 million on a flawed structure,” Hanley said.

An agreement on costs and reserved capacity between Auburn and Placer County would need to be reached before July, according to Auburn public works director Bernie Schroeder.

Auburn would likely reimburse Placer County for the upsizing of the common pipeline as work is completed during the two-year construction period. The county would fund the city of Lincoln’s construction of it, according to the staff report.

A clause is being added so that if Lincoln were to block the sale or lease of the capacity, then it would refund Auburn’s buy-in with interest.

Anyone looking to buy Auburn’s capacity in the future would have to have a separate environmental review performed before it could connect to the pipe between Auburn and Lincoln, Schroeder said.

Physical constraints would limit future developers’ ability to connect, Schroeder said, because of how the pipe is designed and the topography of the land.

Auburn’s reserved capacity would be 2.5 million gallons per day on average and peak at 5.2 million. Those flows would allow for future growth in the city to accommodate about 10,500 equivalent dwelling units, or EDUs, compared to its current level of 6,562 EDUs.

The deal points also stipulate that a joint powers authority would be created within five years of the date Auburn buys in to the common pipeline.

Auburn is also requesting a study to determine what its connection fee would be if the city chooses to connect to Lincoln’s plant.

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews.