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Sewer project given green light, Council mulls regional appointments

ENCINITAS — The Council unanimously agreed to award a $4 million bid to replace a 50-year-old sewer line Wednesday night, and Council penciled in a handful of appointments on various regional boards, but made no official vote on it. 

First up on the agenda was the sewer line, which was approved following more than an hour of discussion.

The main part of the sewer line is located between Second Street and Third Street, and runs from J Street to north of C Street. City staff said a new line needs to be put in place, as the current one has cracks in some sections and is prone to buildup. Also, the high water level in the sewer line has contributed to increased maintenance costs.

Although councilmembers had questions about the timing and costs of the sewer project, much of their discussion centered on unrelated opportunities construction on the sewer could create.

Because the new sewer will require burrowing into the ground, councilmembers said it warranted looking at whether groundwater is contributing to bluff failure at nearby beaches. If so, also of interest was if the water can be diverted and collected. As such, Council requested city staff to investigate and bring back a report on the matter.

“If we can eliminate one source of bluff failure, it seems it would be smart to do that,” Councilman Tony Kranz said.

The sewer project, which is funded by capital reserves from the Encinitas Sanitary Division, is slated to begin in January and finish around October. Factoring in contingencies and additional construction costs, it’s expected to total $5 million.

Council also gauged who might be best for various appointments on regional boards. The final appointments are expected to be voted on during the Dec. 19 meeting.

Mayor Teresa Barth said she requested the item be placed on the agenda due to past confusion over the process.

Since she’s been on Council, she said, “there was never a public conversation as to who was interested, who was even available.”

Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar agreed, noting the process had been “mysterious” and felt like a “fill-in-the-blank exercise.”

Gaspar expressed a strong desire to continue serving on the Encina Wastewater Authority, and said she did not wish to be assigned to other appointments at this time.

Also, Gaspar said she’d like to see Barth serve on the San Diego Association of Government board.

Kranz said he’s interested in the North County Transit District, a role other council members said he’s a good fit for due to his longstanding interest in rail issues.

Councilmembers said Councilman Mark Muir should serve on fire, safety and water boards, as he’s a former fire chief who has sat on the San Elijo Joint Powers Water Authority, among other boards.

Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said she’s interested in being appointed to the School District Liaison Committee.

For an appointment to be approved the mayor must make a motion and a majority Council vote must confirm it.