Auburn out for now on Placer, Lincoln regional sewer

Placer supes decide to pull plug on $7 million offer, proceed
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Time and money concerns resulted in a decision Tuesday by the Placer County supervisors to take its $7 million offer off the table and proceed without Auburn on a regional sewer project.

Placer County had offered the $7 million inducement to the Auburn City Council but the city countered that it would need $18 million from the county to prevent its sewer rates from rising. The county had estimated that the $7 million would have dropped a rate increase by $5 a month for Auburn customers.

As it stands now, Placer County and Lincoln will partner on a project that has an estimated base cost of $73.2 million. The project will provide a pipeline from North Auburn to Lincoln’s wastewater treatment plant and end the county’s use of a treatment plant on Joeger Road that the state has judged to be in non-compliance with water quality regulations. Auburn’s plant was recently upgraded and is in compliance. 

Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said that with the regional project on a tight time frame toward compliance by Aug. 31, 2015 – the target date for completion of the regional sewer – there was no time for more talking. That was bolstered by Facility Services Department staff’s estimate that while the project was still on schedule to meet the 2015 deadline, it could be delayed no further.

“At this point in time, we no longer have the ability to run back and forth,” Montgomery said.

Supervisors voted 5-0 to move forward without Auburn. Supervisor Jack Duran, who presented the initial offer to Auburn, said he would still like to provide some up-sizing in the system to allow Auburn to tap into the pipeline at a later date.

“We’re short on time and kind of need to move on,” Duran said.

County staff is also preparing a hearing schedule and documentation that would result in a proposed rate increase for Sewer Maintenance District No. 1 customers in North Auburn to finance regional sewer improvements. The estimated increase would be to $95.78 a month from $82. Environmental engineering programming manager Kevin Bell said that formal notices on the proposed rate will go out to property owners next month. The rate increase has already built in the assumption that Auburn would not be taking part, he said.

Bob Snyder, a former Auburn mayor who has been a leading proponent of the regional plan, told supervisors Tuesday that the city’s starting point on talks were “at a different place” than the county because it had already repaired its own plant.

“It was typical of a reluctant buyer – to make demands that can’t be met,” Snyder said.