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Help Lincoln become the region’s wastewater solution

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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We need to keep a dialogue going with county supervisors. Having our Lincoln wastewater treatment plant handle the region’s sewage is a huge deal to Lincoln. To the tune of at least $12 million. Thanks to Lincoln city engineer Bruce Burnworth’s efforts, Lincoln would get $12 million paid back through the state revolving loan from our city’s treatment plant costs of a decade ago. That’s if the county decides to hook into our facility. “The county would finance their participation if the board of supervisors goes ahead with the project through a state revolving fund loan,” said Jenine Windeshausen, Placer County’s treasurer/tax collector, on Monday. “The county can use proceeds from that loan to purchase capacity in the Lincoln treatment plant. I’ve heard $12 million, $14 million. That’s subject to negotiation.” Windeshausen is liaison for the state revolving fund loan. “We work together and we confirmed with the state that we can do that,” she said. “Bruce is asking these questions, I’m having discussions with him. Bruce brought this issue up and asked that it be confirmed with the SRFL.” City staff and officials, starting 14 years ago, made sure our $85 million wastewater treatment plant that opened in 2004 on Fiddyment Road could handle the region’s future needs. The need for an improved regional sewer plan “became painfully apparent” in 1995 when a sewer spill killed fish in Auburn Ravine, according to an October 2006 News Messenger article. “Lincoln officials responded in 1998 by planning a regional wastewater treatment plant with enough land for future expansion. The city also installed over-sized pipes to handle county needs.” In an April 24, 2006 News Messenger story, U.S. Congressman John Doolittle, Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt and Placer County’s Department of Facility Services Jim Durfee, agreed that Lincoln’s facility would become the regional plant. They were at an April 19, 2006 groundbreaking near Oak Tree Lane for a county Regional Wastewater Pipeline Project of a 3.5-mile pipeline section. In the article, Doolittle said the completed construction would result “in the closure of seven sewage treatment plants.” He was praised at the groundbreaking for “helping secure more than $7 million in federal funding for the project, which is planned to eventually travel from Lincoln’s new wastewater treatment plant to Auburn and beyond.” How did that direction six years ago digress into today’s indecision by supervisors to commit to Lincoln’s facility? I asked Lincoln Mayor Spencer Short why. “It’s much easier to make a decision on a major project when grant funds are completely funding the project. It’s harder when you have to explain any potential increases to your ratepayers,” Short said. “It’s a hard decision. There are benefits on both sides. But the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages because we’re talking about a long-term and a short-term solution.” Last Dec. 6, county supervisors spent the day discussing a solution. The choices were construct a new pipeline from north Auburn to Lincoln’s treatment plan or upgrade/expand the north Auburn plant. A county report said the Lincoln option would cost between $91.6 million and $139.3 million. Estimated total cost for the north Auburn plant expansion option was $62.3 million. Meanwhile, the Auburn plant is fined $15,000 monthly because it hasn’t met state and federal requirements. Supervisors decided Dec. 6 to continue studying the regional sewer project between Lincoln, Auburn and north Auburn. The issue comes back March 13. The Dec. 6 meeting was just one of several on the issue. “We have been working on this for 10 years and have gotten a number of commitments from the county that they were coming in,” Short said last May, after supervisors requested more details on the proposals. “There had been requirements from the county to oversize some parts of the infrastructure to the tune of $8 million.” Short added that $8 million represents the negative cash the city of Lincoln had, as of May, in its wastewater fund. “When we oversized, we put the money forward,” he said in May. “Once the county hooks up (to the plant), that’s part of what we are expecting to get out of the entire project, as well as an estimate that the rates will go down for all operations.” The county “doesn’t have the authority to require” the city oversize its infrastructure, Supervisor Robert Weygandt said last May but it was asked.“We’ve been working on this for 10 years minimally and there are times when we have invested regionally. Certainly, the county has asked all players at different times to participate in the regional effort and the county was the organization that was trying to take forward the regional notion but we certainly didn’t require the city to do anything.” Lincoln deserves the pipeline. Just like Sacramento officials and residents are joining forces to keep the Kings there, Lincoln staff and residents should band together to bring the regional wastewater solution here. Residents can write support letters to the five county supervisors (see placer.ca.gov/bos.aspx for addresses). And attend the supervisors’ meetings usually held every other Tuesday at the County Administrative Center in Auburn (175 Fulweiler Ave.). Since Lincoln was warned last year by its auditor that bankruptcy might occur if budget issues aren’t addressed, we have to do all we can to ensure that county regionalization ends up at Lincoln’s plant. The city can not afford to miss this $12 million funding. City staff and residents must remain involved. It’s not very often we get a chance to take in $12 million.