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Divided council funds nonprofits

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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After a debate that left the City Council divided, several nonprofit organizations in Lincoln will still receive city funds. In a 3-2 decision Tuesday, the City Council voted to fund the Lincoln Lighthouse Family Resource and Counseling Center, the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Arts and the Lincoln Volunteer Center. Councilman Paul Joiner joined Councilwoman Linda Stackpoole in voting against funding the four organizations. “I’m a great supporter of nonprofits. I belong to several of them. I will give my personal money to them but I will not support using taxpayer money,” Stackpoole said. Stackpoole added that each of the nonprofits contributes to the community but said there is no place for using city funds to support them – an argument she makes every time funding nonprofit organizations arises - at least once a year when the city budget is approved. Joiner said that since the funding from the nonprofits – a total of $65,000 for all four – comes from redevelopment funds, he could not support the decision. Redevelopment funds are meant to be used to enhance a portion of the city. Lincoln had planned to use redevelopment funds to enhance the downtown area and make it viable for business when the Highway 65 bypass is completed, City Manager Jim Estep said. The city’s redevelopment funds took an $870,000 hit when the state borrowed them to balance its budget. The city was able to make up about $800,000 by redistributing money from other funds that had been accruing since 2006, Estep said. “We’re very close to where we expected to be budget-wise,” Estep told the council. “Next year it is all gone.” According to Mayor Spencer Short, the nonprofit organizations provide a service to the community that goes beyond what the city can offer. “It’s just the right thing to do,” Short said. The Lighthouse, which accounts for $45,000 of the total $65,000, will receive its share in two sums of $22,500 – one now and one halfway through the fiscal year. “The Lighthouse was formed because of the fact that people were reluctant to travel to Roseville and Auburn to access social services,” said Lighthouse Executive Director Angela Ponivas. “We provide services that, in the long run, save the city and the county money.” Short agreed, saying that having the Lighthouse has kept the city from having to hire a police officer to provide counseling services. The chamber of commerce received $10,000 and the volunteer center and Lincoln Arts each received $5,000. Those amounts were already in the city’s budget, but became a divisive topic after the state’s borrowing of redevelopment funds to balance its budget last month. Conservation plan approved Lincoln’s habitat and natural preservation areas will focus on quality over quantity in the future. That is the idea behind the city’s teaming up with Placer County to adopt a conservation plan that will be mutually beneficial, said Mayor Spencer Short. “The benefit to the city and the county is you can bring permitting in-house,” Short said, explaining that with a federally approved plan, the drawn-out processes to obtain permits will not be needed. The process has taken years. Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt joked that he was in his 40s when it began, and he is now almost 60. “It’s been a long process and a lively process,” said Councilman Tom Cosgrove. “All along, we’ve agreed it’s a habitat conservation plan that allows our general plan to develop in the way we wanted it to.” According to Cosgrove, the plan both fits the needs of the city’s future development while providing for the preservation of natural resources. The average resident, according to Short, will not notice any differences. In streamlining the permit process, the city will be able to work more closely with businesses and developers, he added. “It, to me, is one of those grand ideas that will be the final icing on the Placer County cake, if you will, as it relates to planning,” Weygandt said. According to Weygandt, the new plan will not cost the citizens any more, and should provide a greater value in open space preservation. Lincoln’s 50-year general plan calls for 40 percent of the city to be made up of open space. “It’s a testament to everyone working together,” Short said. According to Short, Placer County is not unique in adopting a cooperative conservation plan, and it is something that the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers “want to see happen.” The next step is to submit the plan for federal approval, which will be early next month. “The big picture here is we get permitting for public projects,” Short said. If approved, the plan will allow for faster repairs to bridges or removing of beaver dams, among other positive effects, Short said. Any funds associated with having the plan – and according to all involved, that is an as-yet-unknown number – will be borne by future development, according to the agenda packet. According to Weygandt, having a conservation plan in place also makes the area eligibly to receive federal grants. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.