Mine water, county cooperation among Grass Valley leader’s priorities | TheUnion.com

Mine water, county cooperation among Grass Valley leader’s priorities

Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer

Jeff Foltz, Grass Valley's interim city manager.

A familiar face is sitting at the helm of Grass Valley, at least for a little while longer, in a newly created executive position.

"I've always had a special place for Grass Valley. I've always like the small town (atmosphere)," said Jeff Foltz, Grass Valley's interim city manager, a position that did not exist a month ago when the city still operated as a city administrator form of government.

Foltz presided over his first official city council meeting as interim city manager Tuesday night.

On top of Foltz's interaction with Grass Valley during his more than two decades in Yuba City's government, he also served as Grass Valley's interim city administrator between the firing of Gene Haroldsen and the 2008 hiring of Dan Holler. Foltz came back on board following Holler's unexpected resignation in late August.

"It was supposed to be a short amount of time, but it was a year. Longer than a year," reflected Foltz on his first tenure in Grass Valley five years ago.

Today, Foltz is tasked with recruiting the city's first official city manager, as well as beginning the recruitment of a finance officer, facilitating an audit of the city's finances and crafting a final budget for the city, he said. Foltz expects to have recruited a city manager by the beginning of 2014.

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"Some of the issues are the same as when I left five years ago," he noted.

One lingering issue is the Newmont Mine Corporation, which owns the Empire Mine in Grass Valley. That unused mine adds 400,000 gallons each day to the city's 1.6 million gallons-per-day water treatment plant — nearly a quarter of the facility's total flow, according to city staff. The city often cites that additional water as a contributing factor to wastewater overflows that spill into nearby Wolf Creek, for which the city incurs environmental fines.

In a February 2009 settlement agreement with the city, Newmont agreed to construct its own treatment plant to keep water from flowing into the city's system, in addition to a $4 million payment for past treatment cost and fines associated with sewage spills. However, Newmont missed a May deadline to begin building the plant, jumping its annual payment up from $300,000 to $375,000. To date, the company has paid the city more than $1.2 million.

Foltz rounded his fingers into the shape of a zero to describe how much Newmont Mine has done toward building a water treatment plant.

"Enough is enough. We need to get to the state and say, it's time," Foltz said. "For the health of the city going forward, that issue needs to be solved and put to bed and get Newmont's water out of the city sewer plant."

In addition to overflow, the added water contributes to the treatment plant's wear and tear, Foltz noted.

"If I can at least get the seeds planted to move that along, that needs to get done," Foltz said. "That's a piece we are going to look at."

Foltz would also like to see more cooperation between Grass Valley and the county government.

"The cooperation between the city and the county, even when I was here, it was always a little tenuous and I don't know if it's gotten a lot better," Foltz said. "We're all servants of the people here. We're government services and we're all here to provide it, let's work together to do that for the residents of Grass Valley and Nevada County."

However. Foltz sees much of his temporary duty in Grass Valley as resolving around finances.

"With the economic downtown, small cities are struggling to make sure they have adequate resources and Grass Valley is no different," Foltz said. "It's tough for them."

Between 2008 and 2012, Grass Valley's more than $10 million general fund lost about $1.5 million and Nevada City lost $487,000, prompting both agencies to appeal to voters to approve temporary local sales hikes to prop up city services.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the citizens who taxed themselves," Foltz said. "You don't see that happen too often. To see the community have that kind of commitment, that is something kind of special for the town."

Foltz, who was born on Coronado island in San Diego, has plenty of experience with city finances. After serving in Vietnam as a Naval officer, Foltz said he began work as a planner for the city of Los Alamitos while getting his master's in business.

"And doing work for the city manager, so I did a bit of everything. I remember that I had three desks with three different projects going on," Foltz said. "I was having a lot of fun and couldn't wait to get to work in the morning and stayed late. So that's how I got started."

During his career, Foltz worked for Clovis, Susanville and Yuba City, where he was city manager until his 2006 retirement.

"Coming in this time, it is about making sure the fiscal health, the numbers, are in place now so the new person coming on board can have a good foundation," Foltz said of his return to Grass Valley.

Foltz lives in Rocklin with his wife. They have two children and two grandchildren. When he is not traveling, fly fishing or riding his horse, Foltz also serves Placer County on the Rocklin Oversight Committee and works with the Rocklin Historical Society.

"When I retired from Yuba City, my sense was that I wanted to give back to the community," Foltz said. "I go back to when (President John F.) Kennedy talked about giving back to your country. That was the mental set, public service was big."

"For the ups and downs of little Grass Valley, the employees here put their all into trying to provide a service. Their dedication to public service is pretty exceptional," Foltz told The Union earlier that day. "The council's love of Grass Valley and working to do what is best for Grass Valley is always commendable. There are lots of places where you don't always see that."

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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