Nevada City hosts the premier event of 1984 | TheUnion.com
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Nevada City hosts the premier event of 1984

I HAVE ATTENDED many celebrations to commemorate one thing or another through the years, but far and away the most unusual took place on Dec. 5, 1984, in Nevada City. An event that was hosted by Cranmer Engineering Co. of Grass Valley and the City of Nevada City to celebrate completion of a multimillion dollar upgrading of the city’s waste water treatment facility – formerly known as the sewage disposal plant – complete with hors d’oeuvres and California champagne! What in the world? Here’s the story.

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When the event was announced, there were those who questioned the City Council’s sanity for planning such a celebration. An unidentified Broad Street habitué was heard to proclaim, “Never let it be said that Nevada City doesn’t have a sense of humor or a sense of historical importance!” Additionally, City Councilman Bob Paine and a leading raconteur of the time, observed, “Nowhere but in Nevada City.”



Cities both large and small often fall under the gun of state and federally mandated public works projects, which can include clean water delivery system, better roads or even improved waste disposal facilities or any of a number of other civic improvements. In the early 1980s, Nevada City was required to improve its aging sewage disposal plant which had served the city well since constructed in 1950.

With a loan from the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), federal and state grant money and cash from its own funds, Nevada City put together a $4 million-plus plan to meet the town’s then current disposal needs. The upgrade did not increase the plant’s capacity of peak flow of 1.5 million gallons per day, but rather greatly improved the quality of its discharge (effluent) into Deer Creek.




There has since been additional construction work at the plant in order to keep pace with the ever-changing state and federal environmental requirements. Not the least of these is California Fish and Game’s order for ever cleaner water discharge into Deer Creek.

Rebuilding the plant located at the end of Jordan street on the banks of Deer Creek had an initial completion date of June 1984, but weather related problems – including a landslide that blocked the access road – moved completion to November. Major contractors were: Cranmer Engineering Co., F&M Engineering Contractors, Santa Cruz and L.N. Craig Construction, Orangevale.

City Council members were pleased and wanted to share with the general public and especially with Nevada City residents their admiration for the new facility. An open house seemed to be the council’s consensus. Cranmer Engineering offered to supply refreshments and the mayor was authorized to pursue the matter.

Mayor Paul Matson, with the aid of Councilman Bob Paine, a master of public relations, mounted a campaign to publicize the unusual event. “It was destined to be unique from the start,” Matson said, as word of mouth of the celebration began to circulate and to appear in the local press and heard on radio.

Paine, who was acquainted with the San Francisco Chronicle’s ace columnist, the late Herb Caen, sent him an invitation to witness the celebration to include “a blessing of the effluent by a clergyman to be named later.” Caen sent regrets but wished the city well in its momentous undertaking.

Paid advertisements were inserted in The Union and The Independent newspapers and a personal letter went out to residents and other VIP’s inviting them to “join us in making this a truly memorable occasion.” The mayor added that he “would like to personally show you our new facility.”

The invitation crowed, “We are understandably proud of the new facility and the high quality of the effluent … ,” then continued with facts and figures pertaining to input, output, quality and capacity. A sheet detailing the foregoing was given each of the 130 or so guests as they arrived by bus at the Jordan Street facility.

Parking was quite limited compelling the city to run shuttle buses from in front of the City Hall on Broad Street to the plant. The service and the tours began at 10 a.m. and continued until noon and a good time was had by all. All the refreshments were consumed by an amused if not enlightened public.

Of this event, it can truly be said, “Nowhere but in Nevada City!”


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