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Economic news not always so bleak

By: Carol Feineman, News Messenger Editor
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As if we needed any more indications, news about the rapidly plunging economy was especially harsh the day before Thanksgiving. First, News Messenger reporter Brandon Darnell wrote a story for the Web (lincolnnewsmessenger.com) that Thunder Valley Casino contractors were called off the casino’s hotel and entertainment expansion project. When finally finished, the casino’s addition could rival the best of the best in regional nightlife with a 23-story hotel, performing arts center and nine-story parking lot. That proposed project, according to a casino spokesman in October, could also translate into 1,200 jobs. Figures released last week by the state’s Employment Development Department showed that Lincoln leads all south Placer cities in unemployment, with an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent. With that kind of statistic belonging to Lincoln, we definitely can’t lose potential jobs. So I hope this casino-expansion delay is just temporary and won’t be influenced by the nationwide recession that could last a few years. Doug Elmets, spokesman for the casino and the United Auburn Indian Community, told the News Messenger reporter last week that a decision would be made within three to six months on whether to continue the expansion-project construction. The second indicator of the worsening economy was in an e-mail sent by Angela Ficarra, the Lighthouse Counseling and Family Resource Center executive director, right before the holiday. The executive director wrote that Lighthouse has “hit a financial crossroad.” In her e-mail, Angela asked community leaders for financial donations so that the nonprofit organization won’t have to cut staff and programs or close for weeks at a time, due to more clients and also higher expenses. The center, which provided free counseling, classes and medical services to about 2,000 residents in Lincoln and Sheridan last year, is impacted cyclically by the economy. Angela and her board expect the Lighthouse client load to considerably increase in the very near future as residents have a harder time meeting basic needs as the recession and resulting job losses continue. As if the news couldn’t get any worse, especially the day before one of the traditionally happiest holidays, the Placer County public information officer sent out a press release. Spokeswoman Anita Yoder said the county is considering closing most county offices during Christmas week to save between $1.5 million and $2 million to regain a balanced budget. The county’s potential cost-cutting measure added an extra wallop to area residents still digesting news from the week before that Lincoln city government has to cut $1 million from the General Fund and $350,000 from the development fund by early next year to keep the Lincoln city budget in the black. In spite of this dreary outlook, some news the day after Thanksgiving actually caused smiles instead of frowns. By last Friday afternoon, Roger Ueltzen, president of Lincoln PAL and co-chair of the Mayor’s Youth Task Force, sent a few enthusiastic e-mails that gave an update on the so far successful 45-day-old Youth Center’s fundraiser. Currently, 30 middle-school students attend the free center from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Those afternoon hours, Roger said, are when youth typically gets in trouble. If a total of $15,000 is raised for the Youth Center via community members by Dec. 31, then an anonymous PAL board member will match funds for adding finishing touches and helping youth-center operations. “We’re hustling to raise the $15,000. Today, we got a check for $5,000 from Youth Resource Officer Steve Kruger’s parents, bringing the total amount received to $11,405,” Roger said Monday. “We also have received verbal commitments from two additional donors who have indicated that they will each contribute $1,500 to the Youth Center.” That would bring the community’s contribution very close to the necessary matching amount of $15,000 with a couple of weeks yet to go. “I did not imagine people would come forward. While I’m pleasantly surprised, it reaffirms my belief in the Lincoln community,” Roger said. “It’s a very generous community.” That’s why Roger now is sure community members will give what they can to deserving groups such as Lighthouse during these demanding times. Roger also believes the country will bounce back. “I’m a believer in the resilience of this country. Things cycle. I’ve been through three or four recessions. I believe this country will bounce back,” Roger added. Carol Feineman can be reached at 774-7972 or at carolf@goldcountrymedia.com