Council takes emergency action on Wastewater plant

By: Cheri March
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Colfax City Council members declared an emergency ordinance Wednesday evening to relocate and install new sand filters at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
It’s the second emergency action taken since December, when the pumps that move sewage and liquid effluent – or wastewater – to the plant from the Pond 3 collection reservoir unexpectedly stopped working.
Those pumps are in the process of being replaced after the council authorized City Manager Bruce Kranz to contract out the job, which is on track to cost approximately $13,000.
As a result of the failed pumps, water at the plant has become increasingly turbid with stirred up particles, making it difficult to discharge effluent without violating the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, a state cease and desist order and a litigation settlement with the Edwards family, who had to close their downstream farm after suffering sewage spills from the plant.
Under settlement terms, Colfax must discharge a certain amount of effluent every day to sustain nearby Bunch Ravine creek, according to the city’s report.
To make matters worse, recent heavy rain is increasing flow to ponds and – without the ability to discharge effluent – the city fears they could overflow.
But city consultants believe placing new filters upstream could clear the water. Council members estimated the cost at approximately $10,000.
Declaring an emergency allows the city to proceed without competitive solicitation for bids. Emergencies must then remain on future agendas until the issue is resolved.
Kranz said he recently submitted a new USDA grant application requesting $5 million wastewater treatment plant improvements like inflow and infiltration repairs and the lining of Pond 3.

Billboard policy
Council members discussed plans to update city signage guidelines, starting with the city’s own billboard on So. Auburn Street, which currently has no established rules. Proposed billboard guidelines will appear on a future agenda.
“There are issues and there has to be consistency in policy,” Mayor Josh Alpine said. “(The city billboard) is designed for nonprofit use, but right now if city wanted to throw a McDonald’s (sign) on it, they could. The original intent was for nonprofits and I’d like to secure that in a way.”
Much like the billboard visible in Old Town Auburn from I-80, Colfax hopes to use its sign to promote local events.
But first they’ll need to determine details like “what kind of messages we’d like to see on it, the application process and the cost,” Alpine said.
Alpine said other signage polices would be addressed by the spring.
“We plan to get standards in place…so people can have the right to have efficient advertising without cluttering the town,” he said.
However, City Attorney Mick Cabral advised the council to anticipate public opposition.
“These can be some of the most contentious issues – where (to place signs) within a city, the size, whether they’re placed on public land or private land…if you really got into this, it could take a long time,” Cabral said.

Farmers’ market
In other business, council members plan to review a site plan for a new Friday night farmers’ market with Bob Hicks of Sierra Fresh Market.
“We’re already looking at 17 vendors,” Alpine said. “And that could double, if not triple, by July.”
Colfax chose not to continue business with the Foothill Farmers’ Market Association, which held markets Wednesday nights in the Freight Depot parking lot, after last season.
Friday markets will be held either at the depot or on the north side of S. Main Street, in front of downtown restaurants, Alpine said.
The city is also considering outdoor dining and a concert series.