Good news, bad news comes out of government affairs meeting

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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A Tuesday Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored meeting had good news and bad news. Lincoln businesses, the bypass and drug and gang activity were discussed during Tuesday morning’s Government Affairs Committee meeting. Sam Jordan, Highway 65 Bypass project manager for Caltrans, provided details about the current phase of bypass construction as well as the next two phases. The first phase, according to Jordan, is four lanes of freeway from the south end of the bypass to Nelson Lane and two lanes of highway up to Sheridan. “Sept. 15 is the target date for opening, plus or minus a few days,” Jordan said. “The project is on time and within budget.” As of March 5, Jordan said $135 million, or 88 percent of the budget, has been spent. Construction activity, which stopped during the winter, resumed on April 2, according to Jordan. The bypass’s Phase 2a is the construction of four lanes from Nelson Lane to Wise Road and bridges at Markham Ravine and Airport Creek, Jordan said. Phase 2a construction could start in June and be finished “in almost two years,” Jordan said. Phase 2b would be the construction of four lanes from West Wise Road to Riosa Road as well as four bridges. “That’s more of a wish list kind of thing because we haven’t been able to secure project funding,” Jordan said. Mayor Spencer Short also spoke during Tuesday’s meeting, choosing to talk about “good things on the horizon” rather than the city’s budget. “I’ve talked to some folks and they’ve said stop talking to us about the budget,” Short said. Short talked about the opening of new businesses in recent months, including Kobe Teppanyaki and Sushi, Fresh and Easy, and Beermann’s. “We have more small businesses coming in,” Short said. “Housing is something we’re not focusing on right now. We are looking for mixed-use projects.” Short also talked about the recently approved regional sewer project. The project entails building a pipeline from North Auburn and potentially the city of Auburn and pumping that sewage to Lincoln’s wastewater treatment plant for treatment, according to previous News Messenger reports. “We’re going to be working with Placer County and Auburn, hopefully,” Short said. “Placer County has said they’re in and Auburn is hedging. They are concerned rates are going to go up.” Lincoln’s wastewater rates for residents are $32 per month, with Auburn at $58 per month and Placer County at $80 per month, according to Short. “Assuming the project is completed on time and on budget, we’ll get back $12 million that we had fronted,” Short said. Short also encouraged audience members to attend tonight’s fiscal sustainability committee workshop, which starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall (600 6th St.). Short described the meeting as the “hottest ticket in town,” with “interesting discussion.” Lincoln Police Chief Paul Shelgren discussed drug activity in Lincoln, and both he and Lincoln Police youth services officer Steve Krueger discussed gang activity. Shelgren said Lincoln is not “a hotbed for drug activity” as reported by a Michigan TV news station in February. “That’s propaganda for a case that started a year and a half ago,” Shelgren said. There is “drug activity in every city in the United States,” Shelgren said, and officers see “methamphetamine on the street.” He said marijuana “isn’t a big issue in Lincoln,” due to Proposition 215. “The biggest issue we have is an increase in gang activity,” Shelgren said. “Gang activity is picking up and we’re seeing it in Lincoln and across the region.” Gang members are moving up to the Sacramento Valley region from Southern California “to get more influence and activity going on,” according to Shelgren. “The only way to stop it is active enforcement,” Shelgren said. “We see graffiti and several instances of violent activity.” Krueger, who spends the majority of his time working with Lincoln’s youth, said he’s “concerned” about Lincoln’s gang activity. “One thing I hear is unfortunately because of our decrease in suppression ability, gangs know that,” Krueger said. “When suppression levels decline, gangs move in.” Krueger described some of Lincoln’s gang members as “wannabes” or “youth that want to be involved.” “It needs to be considered that some kids grow up in a generational gang lifestyle,” Krueger said. “The prevailing sense in Lincoln is, ‘Don’t leave a mess in your own backyard. Adult gang members do most of their business elsewhere, not in Lincoln.” Krueger said it’s important for residents to report graffiti to the police department, and can do that by calling 645-4040. “It’s important to get it quickly because it’s an advertisement for a rival gang to cover and mark over or for someone (from same gang) to come and add (graffiti),” Krueger said. “The sooner it’s removed, the less likely it is to come back.”