Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dixon Looks at Fees Trove

Dixon Looks at Fees Trove
City Will Ponder Use of Millions From Developments
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

How the city of Dixon will spend millions of dollars in development fees from two large residential developments will be the subject of some discussion tonight when the City Council meets.

Recent development agreements between the city and developers Brookfield Homes and Southwest Development include extra fees per home, the money from which will be available for the city to use however it chooses.

Councilman Steve Alexander has requested that the council discuss how the funds will be used since the "city may expend the Enhanced Benefit Contribution for any lawful purpose in the city's sole discretion," according to the development agreement.

"Anytime the city gets windfall above and beyond the normal housing permits and property tax allocation from new developments and sales, these funds should be used for community projects or off-setting future fees and taxes," said Alexander in an e-mail to The Reporter. "I wish the council would consider using these funds to help off-set the future tripling of our sewer rates, or put into a fund account that cannot be used by the General Fund, but for community projects."

Brookfield Homes has proposed to build some 400 homes as well as senior housing on land in southeast Dixon. The development will land for part of a site for a new high school. Southwest Development includes a handful of developers and would include some 908 houses southwest of the city.

One option for how to spend the extra development fees suggested by City Manager Warren Salmons is to place the funds in a reserve account to provide long-term resources for major repair of existing buildings in the city.

"The funds will be coming in over a course of 20 years," Salmons said. "The Council could also consider if they want to leave future fund decisions to the future councils to decide."

Agreements with these types of fees on housing may be new to Dixon, but they are not uncommon in other cities that Brookfield has worked with, according to Pete Peterson, vice president for land acquisition for Brookfield.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 600 East A. St. in Dixon.

Melissa Murphy can be reached at dixon@thereporter.com.

City Leaders Discuss Future of Travis in Washington

City Leaders Discuss Future of Travis in Washington
By Mike Corpos

FAIRFIELD - The future holds nothing but blue skies for Fairfield and its chief resident, Travis Air Force Base.

Fairfield city leaders are in Washington, D.C., this week for talks with defense officials on projects at Travis and the base's future, as well as to lobby Congress for money for city programs.

Mayor Harry Price said Monday's meetings with Air Force brass and officials at Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co. went well.

The modernization program for Travis' C-5 cargo jets is on track, said Councilman Frank Kardos, adding that the group was briefed on the subject by a trio of Air Force generals.

He said Lockheed Martin officials told the group the upgrades to digital avionics and new engines are going well.

Once the C-5s are upgraded, they will be re-designated from the current C-5 A/B models to C-5 M for modernization, Price said.

"The modernization program should extend the longevity of the C-5 at Travis through 2040," Kardos said.

That's good news for a community that relies heavily on the base for jobs.

Kardos also said the money is on track for the purchase of a full squadron of new Boeing C-17 jets to be housed at Travis.

As a part of that addition, the base is slated for $74 million in construction projects.

"Things are going very well," Kardos said.

The first of the C-17s should arrive this summer, Price added.

Also on tap is a major overhaul of base housing at Travis, said Vice Mayor Jack Batson.

The privatization program will involve 390 units on the base, and requests for proposals will be let this summer, with a contract to be awarded in June 2007, Batson said.

"They want to have housing of the highest standard for our troops when they come back from their deployments," Batson said. "It's about retention, to make them want to stay in the Air Force and at Travis."

Travis, along with Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, is the model base for total force integration, Batson said.

It means that Travis is ahead of the curve in making its National Guard and Air Force Reserve units equal partners in the base.

"It felt good to hear our base praised so highly," Batson said.

Price said the most recent developments "guarantee the future of the mission at Travis Air Force Base."

The generals were also highly complimentary of the community's Travis Consortium, which deals with base-related issues, Price said.

"We're well-positioned at Travis," Price said.

The city delegation is scheduled to meet today with California's congressional representatives to discuss funding for education and public safety programs.

Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6977 or mcorpos@dailyrepublic.net.

Guittard Chocolate is Sweet on Fairfield

Guittard Chocolate is Sweet on Fairfield
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - Guittard Chocolate Co. - the nation's oldest family operated chocolate company - will begin moving its manufacturing operations from its headquarters in Burlingame to its facilities in Fairfield, according to company executives.

Fairfield's location along Interstate 80 between Sacramento and San Francisco was a key enticement to the chocolate company.

Currently, the chocolate maker uses its 280,000-plus-square-foot warehouse in Fairfield solely as a distribution center, while manufacturing its chocolate in Burlingame.

But over the next several years the company hopes to move all of its manufacturing to Fairfield.

"We are looking to try and have something in place, initial production, in 2007," said Gerry Allen, vice president of operations for Guittard. "It is not going to happen in one fell swoop. We will be installing some production over a period of time. It will evolve over the course of several years."

Allen said the initial relocation scheduled for 2007 will create new jobs. But he declined to provide exact numbers.

The company's Fairfield facility, which is about a fourth of the size of Westfield Solano mall, is large enough to incorporate its Burlingame operations, according to Allen.

The privately owned company was founded in San Francisco in 1868 by Frenchman Etienne Guittard, who came to the area with hopes of discovering gold. The company primarily wholesales its chocolates to other candy companies that package the chocolate under another brand.

The news Guittard Chocolate is moving its manufacturing here comes on the heels of Meriden, Conn.-based Thompson Brands announcing it will close its Fairfield chocolate mold manufacturing plant after Easter. Thompson is relocating all operations to its headquarters in Connecticut.

Curt Johnston, assistant director of planning and development for Fairfield, said the city is pleased another chocolate manufacturer will be operating in Fairfield.

In fact, the city recently revived the creation of promotional chocolate bars extolling Fairfield as a good location to do business.

City officials specifically asked that Guittard Chocolate be used. The front of the bar reads "Fairfield: Northern California's Sweet Spot."

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or nhalverson@dailyrepublic.net.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Tolenas Industrial Park Welcomes Saint-Gobain Container Co.

Tolenas Industrial Park Welcomes Saint-Gobain Container Co.
By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas

Here's a test for readers: What's the largest commercial building in Fairfield (and probably Solano County)? If you guessed Westfield Solano Mall, you are correct.

The mall covers approximately 1,100,000 square feet. However, there is another Fairfield commercial building under construction that will almost be as large as the mall.

Saint-Gobain Container Co.'s 1,020,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility for glass bottles located at 2600 Stanford Court (the corner of Airbase Parkway and Peabody Road) will be completed later this year.

Saint-Gobain currently operates out of two buildings totaling approximately 900,000 square feet in the Cordelia area adjacent to Rodriquez High School. The operation has existed since 1991, and the pending move will allow Saint-Gobain to house its operations under one roof. This specialized wine and bottle distribution facility will employ 240 persons when complete.

The Saint-Gobain facility will be the headquarters for their West Coast regional wine bottle business. The building is 40 feet tall, and with its parking areas, driveways, landscaping and utilities covers approximately 55 acres in the Tolenas Industrial Park in northeastern Fairfield. The structure is concrete slab-on-grade surrounded by concrete tilt-up walls.

The sheer size of a 1,020,000-square-foot building changes the visual character of an area.

The rectangular Saint-Gobain building measures 1,700 feet long by 600 feet wide. These measurements equate to 17.7 football fields.

However, although this facility is of significant size, the parcel it occupies is large enough to accommodate an adequate amount of landscaping for screening and softening to significantly reduce the impact on adjoining properties. The city's Conditions of Development Approval mandate layers of screen walls and landscaping of both deciduous and evergreen trees that will mask and diffuse the scale of the building.

The impact on adjacent properties and travelers in the area will be further reduced because of the distance to the property lines: It will be at least 100 feet from Air Base Parkway and 110 feet from Peabody Road. The building is also situated at an angle to the two roadways, which also reduces the impact of its size.

Tolenas Industrial Park is not a stranger to large-scale business operations. Overall, the park is comprised of approximately 273 total acres.

Businesses in the park include manufacturing and distribution operations for a variety of local, regional and national corporations, many of them, like Saint-Gobain, tied to the local beverage industry. Some of these businesses include Clorox Products, Duracite, Rexam Beverage Containers, and Ball Metal Containers.

Tolenas Industrial Park is one of the few areas in the city zoned General Industrial, a "heavier" industrial district that permits a wide variety of manufacturing and distribution land uses.

It was also one of our few industrial parks with a large vacant parcel. In fact, it's quite possible the Saint-Gobain megastructure may be our last one for the foreseeable future since our business and industrial parks have challenges accommodating uses that require very large parcels of land.

We welcome Saint-Gobain to their new location and wish them continued success.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or e-mail at kdumas@ci.fairfield.ca.us or bkmiller@ci.fairfield.ca.us.

Upscale Offices Slated Near I-80

Upscale Offices Slated Near I-80
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Construction on a gated, upscale office building on Eubanks Drive in Vacaville will likely begin May 1, adding to the surge of development near the intersection of Interstates 80 and 505.
Designs for the building - which would offer nearly 33,000 square feet of office and warehouse space to small users - are currently being reviewed by the city, confirmed Michael Palombo, Vacaville's economic development manager.

"It will offer an IBM image," said John Grippi, a partner in the investment group Grupalow Grippi Owen LLC, which purchased the site in December. The firm also owns and manages the Live Oak Business Center on Cotting Lane, and a similar complex on Cotting Court.

"We like Vacaville," Grippi explained. "We like the cleanliness of the town, the developments in the downtown, and also it's a good area for housing."

The firm hopes to attract corporate users who would find those attributes attractive for their work force.

Amanda Janis can be reached atbusiness@thereporter.com.

Rundown Downtown House to Become Office, Apartments

Rundown Downtown House to Become Office, Apartments
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Snags apparently have been resolved in the proposed transformation of a dilapidated downtown home to an office building with second-floor apartments.
Developers of the proposed Dassah building on the southwest corner of Mason and Davis streets near Vacaville's downtown core have reached an agreement with the city on a number of disputed improvements, clearing the way for construction.

Chris Gustin, the city's assistant director of community development, said all remaining issues have been resolved.

One quibble was over who would pay for the installation of "no parking" signs along Mason. It turns out that those signs are already in place.

Another issue arose over the sidewalk ramps on a joint driveway for the building. Gustin said the contractor doing utility improvements in the area will upgrade the ramps as part of its project.

That last remaining dispute was over an adjacent alley in poor condition. Gustin said the developer has agreed to repair the roadway instead of fully reconstructing it, as was previously requested.

The plans for the building were approved by the Vacaville Planning Commission in January, but not without applicant Gerry Holzapple Jr. taking the opportunity to speak out against public improvement requirements.

Gustin told Holzapple at the Jan. 17 meeting that the commission had no authority to waive the improvement requirements. Only the City Council can make such concessions, Gustin said.

Holzapple appealed the commission's decision to approve the project with the public improvement requirements included. The matter was scheduled to go before the council Tuesday, but the recent resolution of the dispute caused the appeal to be withdrawn by Holzapple.

The project would be only the second mixed-use building in downtown Vacaville.

The Dionicia building on East Main Street was completed about a year ago. Vasquez Deli, a longtime downtown staple, sits on the ground floor of Dionicia while three apartments and the deli's administrative office are on the second floor.

Mixed-use projects have been lauded by city officials and business leaders, and several other Solano cities have begun looking into the idea as well.

Tom Hall can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Milken Institute - Best Cities Index 2005

Milken Institute

Best Cities Index 2005
: "2005 Best Performing Cities Back to 200 Largest Cities List

Vallejo-Fairfield CA

Overall Rank: 41
MSA Population: 412,970

5-yr Job Growth (1999-2004)1 Score: 111.59 Rank: 12
1-yr Job Growth (2003-2004)2 Score: 99.94 Rank: 97
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth (1998-2003)3 Score: 120.00 Rank: 5
1-yr Wages & Salaries Growth (2002-2003)4 Score: 103.08 Rank: 19
Job Growth (July04 - July05)5 Growth: 0.89 % Rank: 124
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (1999-2004)6 Score: 138.44 Rank: 7
1-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2003-2004)7 Score: 98.43 Rank: 137
High-Tech GDP LQ - 20048 Score: 0.72 Rank: 111
# of HT GDP LQs Over 1 - 20049 Score: 4.0 Rank: 134

Thursday, February 23, 2006

New Travis Air Base hotel offers amenities

Article Launched: 02/23/2006 7:03 AM PST

New Travis hotel offers amenities

By Reporter Staff

A new 350-room hotel called the Westwind Inn has opened at Travis Air Force Base to accommodate visiting military and government officials.

The base will host an official opening ceremony today for the new facility, said base public affairs officials.

The new, modern building features a spa, a conference center and a restaurant for light dining, according to Doug Marchel, the base's lodging manager.

The hotel's lodging adds to the 220 rooms previously available to visitors to Travis Air Force Base. An expansion was needed, Marchel said.

"It was costing the government more than $10 million per year to send people downtown because we didn't have room for them," he said.

Many of the old lodging quarters are dorms spread across many of the buildings at the base. Some of the quarters lacked private baths, housekeeping and other basics, Marchel said.

The base's new hotel will provide mid-level hotel accommodations that offer those types of amenities.

The Westwind Inn is one of only three hotels like it in the Air Force. Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and Osan Air Base, Korea, also have similar accommodations.

The impact that the base's new hotel will have on surrounding businesses is not clear. Vacaville and Fairfield hotels have played host to visiting officials during the last several years.

Transportation Leaders Finish Crafting Tax Measure

Transportation Leaders Finish Crafting Tax Measure
By Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - Transportation leaders on Wednesday completed crafting a half-cent county transportation sales tax measure that could raise an estimated $1.57 billion over 30 years.

The Solano Transportation Improvement Authority board unanimously approved the measure, with one member absent. Mayors from Solano County's seven cities and county Supervisor John Vasquez comprise the board.

All that remains is for the county Board of Supervisors to consider placing the measure on the June 6 ballot. Supervisors are to take action on Tuesday.

STIA board members are hoping they've come up with a projects list that strikes home with voters. The tax is to do such things as help fix the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange, improve Highway 12, fill in potholes on local roads and add trains, buses and ferries.

Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said 11 public meetings were held in 2005 and 2006, plus four meetings of a 62-member citizens advisory committee.

"I think we have a pretty good handle on what the public wants, in terms of priorities," Halls said.

The tax spending list comes with the endorsement of the county Board of Supervisors and all seven of Solano County's cities. The county and each city council voted on the spending plan in recent weeks.

Thirty-six elected officials voted for the plan at those meetings and four against, with one abstention. One councilmember in both Benicia and Dixon and two county supervisors voted against it, though some said they hoped their concerns would be worked out.

It remains to be seen whether the tax measure will have organized opposition. Some orderly growth advocates are concerned that better roads without growth controls will lead to sprawl and ultimately more congestion. Local taxpayers groups opposed a previous transportation tax measure. The tax measure must win approval from two-thirds of the voters to pass.

The STIA board on Wednesday made a few changes to the measure. For example, it specified a proposed four-lane version of Highway 12 through rural Jameson Canyon would have limited entrances.

"I think this goes a long way toward making this an ordinance we all can support," Ernest Kimme of the Solano Orderly Growth Committee told the board.

Kimme said it looks "very encouraging" that the orderly growth advocates and transportation sales tax advocates can reach a meeting of minds.

The STIA board did more Wednesday than approve the often-technical language of the tax measure. It also created a citizens "watchdog" committee to monitor the tax, should it be approved by voters.

This committee has slots for 11 members who have yet to be appointed. Each city and the county will appoint one member. The STIA board will appoint three.

"I think this is another way we can build trust in the plan," Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering said.

The committee would meet four times annually. It would do an annual audit on the tax and could comment to the board on the finances of individual, tax-funded projects.

Rio Vista Mayor Eddie Woodruff missed the meeting because he had another meeting in Rio Vista. He has supported the transportation tax ballot measure.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Transportation Tax Spending List

- Highway improvement and safety: $625 million, 40 percent.

- Local streets and roads: $315 million, 20 percent.

- Commuter mass transit: $190 million, 12 percent.

- Safety projects and safe routes to school: $155 million, 10 percent.

- Money to county and cities for transportation projects: $155 million, 10 percent.

- Senior and disabled mass transit: $115 million, 7 percent.

- Solano Transportation Improvement Authority administration/finance: $15 million, 1 percent.

* Based on 30-year revenue estimate of $1.57 billion

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Solano Mall Remodeling Set to Begin

Solano Mall Remodeling Set to Begin
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

The extensive remodel project at Westfield Shoppingtown Solano mall breaks ground today.

The ground breaking will be marked by an early morning ceremony, featuring guest speakers Harry Price, mayor of Fairfield, Sean Quinn, director of the city's planning and development department, and Larry Green, Westfield's senior vice president of development for its western region.

Planned improvements include enlarged skylights, and upgrades to lighting, fixtures, and flooring, as well as to escalators and elevators. The shopping center will also be "divided" into four themed areas.

"Part of the renovation is to incorporate themes that relate to the county and communities that it serves," Katy Dickey, vice president of communications for Westfield, told The Reporter. She explained that the four themes will be "flight," in honor of Travis Air Force Base; "market," as a tribute to the county's agricultural legacy; "fair" in homage to the fairgrounds in Dixon and Vallejo; and "winery" as a nod to the region's proximity to wine country.

Remodel plans include substantial renovation and enlargement of the center's four main entrances, incorporating additional landscaping and vibrant theme-related signage.

Dickey also told The Reporter, "We hope to - as part of the renovation - recover the old theater building and incorporate a 24 Hour Fitness center, as well as other services that may include a car wash."

Representatives for the shopping center and 24 Hour Fitness met with the city this week, confirmed Erin Beavers, assistant director of Fairfield's planning and development. The proposal, Beavers said, will be presented to the city's planning commission March 8.

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Rio Vista Catches a Breeze

Rio Vista Catches a Breeze
By Barry Eberling

The Rio Vista Delta Breeze, a new bus service connecting Rio Vista with Fairfield and Suisun heads toward Rio Vista on Hwy 12. (Photo by Mike McCoy/Daily Republic)

RIO VISTA - Bob Miller recently blew into Suisun City with the breeze.

The Rio Vista Delta Breeze is the new bus service in the eastern Solano County city. It not only has routes within Rio Vista, but also establishes the first mass transit link between that small town along the Sacramento River and Fairfield-Suisun.

If Delta Breeze hadn't begun service in February, Miller couldn't have made his mass transit trip from Walnut Grove to Isleton to Rio Vista to the Suisun City train depot.

"No way," Miller said.

But Suisun City wasn't his destination. Miller put his red backpack on a chair in the depot and used a machine to buy a train ticket to Martinez. The Delta Breeze links Rio Vista not only with Fairfield-Suisun, but the regional mass transit systems that have stops in those cities.

Now the jury is out on whether the Delta Breeze will succeed. The run Miller took from Rio Vista to Fairfield-Suisun had only two passengers. A 1 p.m. bus run around Rio Vista that day had no passengers. The city is trying to get the word out that the new system exists.

Driver LaVerne Carradine sees the routes filling a need. He recently carried a couple of passengers who had no other means of transportation, he said.

"This is going to be great for people like that," he said.

Deputy Public Works Director J.D. Lynd expects ridership to rise. He's getting lots of phone calls expressing interest in the bus system, he said. He talked of having at least 50 riders a day by April or May.

The goal is to recover at least 10 percent of the operating costs from the farebox, with that rate rising to 17 percent. The Breeze costs about $270 a day to run, Lynd said.

The Delta Breeze came about after Rio Vista did a transit study. The study showed the previous dial-a-ride service didn't do a good job serving the citizens, Rio Vista Mayor Eddie Woodruff said.

"It got to the point where it was serving a very small number of people," Woodruff said.

So the Delta Breeze is on a six-month trial run, to see if this revamped system with bus stops and regularly scheduled runs works out.

Lynd recently sat outside of the Trilogy clubhouse. This senior community, with its palm trees, golf course and tan stucco subdivision homes, is a few miles from downtown. This is the frontier of Rio Vista, with other new subdivisions scheduled to be built in the nearby fields.

"The area we're in right now will eventually be our core ridership," Lynd said.

For the price of $1.50 and a ride lasting 20 minutes, Trilogy residents can be standing amid the businesses of downtown Rio Vista and enjoying a view of the Sacramento River.

Rio Vista's in-town service has some small-town flourishes that can be afforded in a city with a population of about 6,000. People within three-quarters of a mile of the route can call and have the bus stop at their house. Or people can flag the bus down.

Then there are those buses that link Rio Vista with the larger world beyond.

A bus rumbles down Highway 12, making the 20-mile trip to the Suisun City train station, Westfield Solano mall and Fairfield Transportation Center. The one-way fare is $5. Another bus takes people to the small Delta city of Isleton for $1.50 and the fast-growing Contra Costa County city of Antioch for $5.

These links with the world beyond Rio Vista are only tenuous at best. For example, buses going to Fairfield leave downtown Rio Vista at 9:50 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. only.

"It's not really set up for a commuter-like transit system," Woodruff said.

But plans are afoot to set up a Highway 12 commuter bus service separate from the Rio Vista Delta Breeze. The Solano Transportation Authority and Napa County Transportation Planning Agency recently finished a transit study.

The service would come in phases. The Fairfield-Suisun-to-Napa run would come first, with the Fairfield-Suisun-to-Rio Vista run to follow.

Mass transit is never a money-maker and this proposed Highway 12 commuter bus service is no different. When fully implemented, it could cost $637,940 annually. The suggested one-way fares range from $2.50 to $3.50. A study estimates fares would pay $121,131 annually, about 19 percent of the cost.

The commuter buses would serve an estimated 238 passengers daily by 2030. Of these, about 46 would be traveling to and from Rio Vista. The trip between Fairfield-Suisun and Napa would generate far more riders.

Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls views the proposed Rio Vista commuter service as worthwhile, even if it wouldn't be the busiest bus run in Solano County. Every Solano County community should have access to mass transit, he said.

But the Highway 12 commuter bus service needs money to become reality. Halls said that money would likely have to come from a county transportation sales tax. A tax measure could be on the June 6 ballot.

For now, the only Highway 12 bus service is the new Rio Vista Delta Breeze. It may not be for commuters, but it can serve people who want to travel between Fairfield-Suisun and Rio Vista for day trips.

"I'm really pleased we've been able to start this," Woodruff said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sewer Plant Expansion Could Start in Summer

Sewer Plant Expansion Could Start in Summer
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - A three-year, $45 million expansion to the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Plant could get under way as soon as this summer.

Without the expansion, Fairfield and Suisun City will have trouble pursuing their growth plans.

First, the sewer district board at upcoming meetings must approve the environmental study. This study looks at the effects of creating a bigger sewer plant and collection system.

Building new basins, clarifiers, sewers and an outflow pipe into Suisun Marsh could affect nesting birds and habitat for the rare California tiger salamander. Work could cause traffic delays. Steps can be taken to alleviate such things, the report by Environmental Science Associates said.

But there's one "significant and unavoidable" impact, the study said. A bigger plant will allow Fairfield and Suisun City to grow and that growth will cause various environmental effects.

The district board could at some point vote that the benefits of the sewer plant expansion outweigh this potential drawback. The city councils of Fairfield and Suisun City comprise the district board.

The sewer district plant is located south of central Fairfield on Chadbourne Road, on the edge of Suisun Marsh.

Larry Bahr of the sewer district doesn't see the plant expansion as spurring runaway growth and development. Rather, he sees it as making possible the growth already planned by Suisun City and Fairfield.

"The plant expansion is responding directly to the approved general plans of the two cities," Bahr said.

The plant during dry weather currently handles 14.5 million gallons a day, Bahr said. It has a capacity of 17.5 million gallons.

"We're pushing it," Bahr said.

Ideally, the proposed expansion will begin this summer, Bahr said. When the three-year project is finished, the district should be able to handle 23.7 million gallons daily.

Money for the expansion is to come from connection fees. That is the fee paid by new homes and businesses to connect to the sewer system.

The district has gotten some public responses to the environmental report for the planned expansion. Most involve how the district handles treated sewage sludge, a district staff report said.

Handling of treated sewage sludge - also called biosolids - has become more controversial in recent years. The district sends its treated sludge to Potrero Hills to help cover trash.

Among the expansion projects:

- Building new equipment at the district plant to handle more sewage.

- Putting in larger pumps at certain locations. For example, the Cement Hill pump station would be expanded and relocated.

- Building a new pipe to release treated water into Ledgewood Creek in Suisun Marsh. The plant already has a pipe releasing treated water into Boynton Slough in the marsh.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

New Hotel Opens on Travis AFB

New Hotel Opens on Travis AFB
By Ian Thompson

TRAVIS AFB - Travis Air Force Base's top-of-the-line, 350-room Westwind Inn took in its first customers last week. The formal opening ceremony is slated for Thursday, the Travis Public Affairs Office said Friday.

The $40 million hotel with a spa, business center and restaurant will allow the base to accommodate more visiting military and government officials on base. It opens after almost 2.5 years of planning and construction and will lessen the base's dependence on off-base hotels.

Talks to build the Westwind Inn started in 1993. Those plans received a big boost in 2000 when the Air Force decided to make its hotels similar to mid-level accommodations found in nearby cities.

Previously, the base shipped large numbers of people to hotels in Fairfield and Vacaville, spending a considerable amount of government money on rooms, up to $10 million a year, said Doug Marchel, the base's lodging manager.

The Westwind's 350 rooms will add to 220 temporary rooms already on base.

This eliminates one worry regarding possible base closures - inadequate transient housing could jeopardize Travis' future.

This opening makes the Westwind one of only three such hotels in the Air Force with the other two located at Osan Air Base in Korea and at Nellis AFB in Nevada.

The decision to build Westwind, announced two years ago, startled local hotel owners. City officials responded by creating the Fairfield Hotel Association to put Fairfield into the itineraries of travel companies and tour groups.

The association also started an effort to put a California Welcome Center on land near the Fairfield Auto Mall.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Solano Deals in Advanced Addiction: Wind Energy

Solano Deals in Advanced Addiction: Wind Energy
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - At his State of the Union address Jan. 31, President Bush reiterated what columnists have penned for years: America is addicted to oil.

To help cure the country's addiction, Bush announced the Advanced Energy Initiative - a 22 percent increase in funding for clean-energy research such as wind power.

Solano County farmer Ian Anderson has only to look out his window at the giant wind turbines being erected to know wind energy is no pipe dream.

Anderson is a fourth-generation farmer in the hills near Bird's Landing.

He has 18 mammoth-sized wind turbines being erected on his 950-acre farm as part of the Shiloh I Wind Plant project, which is being built by Oregon-based PPM Energy.

"It's a very productive use of the land," Anderson said. "The land produces wool, meat and crops. And now it's also producing energy."

Solano joins the wind revolution

The Shiloh project will produce 150 megawatts of energy when running at full capacity.

That's enough energy to power about 45,000 households. The project is expected to be completed in March, according to PPM Energy.

Wind power is one of the most prominent sustainable energy sources in the country. It comes from an inexhaustible source: The wind. And maintenance on the turbines is limited to about 40 hours per year. The turbines have a lifespan of about 30 years. So once erected, they produce energy with few extra needs.

On Feb. 7, Solano County announced it was analyzing the environmental impacts of building additional wind turbines in Montezuma Hills. The new project, known as Shiloh II Wind Plant project, would add 114 wind turbines able to produce 171 megawatts, or another 51,300 households worth of energy. Palm Springs-based enXco Inc. would build Shiloh II if approved by the county.

Currently, California produces about 2,000 megawatts of wind energy.

So Solano County will account for more than 10 percent of the state's capacity if both Shiloh projects are completed.

Solano County is a great place for wind power, said Jan Johnson, a spokeswoman for PPM Energy.

"It's location between population centers, Sacramento and San Francisco, makes it a good choice for customers," Johnson said. "And there's plenty of wind."

The Shiloh I project has already sold all of its capacity to energy companies such as PG&E, she said.

The United States produces about 6,740 megawatts of wind energy. It's the third greatest producer in the world behind Germany and Spain, which produce 16,500 and 8,000 megawatts, respectively.

Helping the farmer

Wind power also provides additional revenue to help sustain farmers. Many land owners are finding they will make more money leasing their land for wind turbines than they make from farming or ranching.

"The income from the wind generator is greater than the income from the crops," Anderson said. "It was not a hard decision to sign on."

Overall, installing wind turbines requires less than 2 percent of the farm's land, according to the county. Farmers still make money from agriculture and livestock, and even more money from the wind turbines on top of that.

The land owners lease their land to the company building the turbines. In return, they get about 4 percent or 5 percent of the revenue. Typically, each farmer negotiates his or her own contract with the energy company, and signs a confidentiality clause preventing them from discussing the terms.

Anderson said he thinks it might be better if farmers could negotiate collectively because most farmers have limited experience in wind energy deals.

Other benefits and drawbacks

Besides income, wind turbines provide farmers and ranchers an ancillary benefit: Relief from developers.

"The farmers like it because once you get these wind mills in here it pretty much stops development," said Bill Blacklock, who has three turbines being built on his property in Montezuma Hills.

Some people don't like the looks of the turbines, Blacklock added.

"One of my neighbors said, 'I don't like the things, but if I were in your shoes I'd do the same thing,' " he said.

Blacklock created a Web site chronicling the construction of the turbines on his property. It can be accessed at www.bblacklock.dotphoto.com.

So far, construction work has been minimally invasive.

"They've been real good about correcting any problems," he said. "They've done an outstanding job."

The only significant problem with the construction was increased road traffic and problems with livestock getting out of gates that were left open, Blacklock and Anderson said.

From Anderson's standpoint, the drawbacks to having the wind turbines were few. It is now difficult, if not impossible to use airplanes to spray his crop, he said. The construction also has upset the livestock a bit.

"But the downsides don't come close to the positives," Anderson said.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 257 or nhalverson@dailyrepublic.net.

Wind Turbine Facts

Total height: 388.8 feet (equivalent to a 38-story building)
Blade diameter: 252 feet
Blade rotation: 10 to 20 rpm.
Generator: Rotates at 1440 rpm.
Lubricants: It holds 80 gallons of synthetic oil

Vacaville Welcomes BJ's Brewhouse

Vacaville Welcomes BJ's Brewhouse
By Christine Cube

From left, bartender Lauren Gonzales, general manager Julie Weinman, bartender Scott Moyle and manager Nicholas Walker make a toast. (Photo by Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)

VACAVILLE - They come in various forms: Red, blond - even a nutty brunette.

But while BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse offers everything from pale ales to a Russian Imperial Stout to a full list of Belgian beer, the facility packs more than fine, frothy brew. It's got a menu of more than 100 items, starting with its signature Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

In fact, the brewhouse doesn't actually even brew beer in Vacaville. The suds come from the BJ's Restaurant and Brewery in Roseville.

"It comes fresh from Roseville and we have delivery a couple times a week," said Julie Weinman, general manager of the BJ's in Vacaville. "We brew almost any style people could want . . . we also make our own handcrafted root beer."

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse opened Feb. 15.

The new Vacaville eatery - which falls somewhere between a Chili's Grill & Bar and a Cheesecake Factory - serves up to 300 diners at a time.

The restaurant carries a full slate of edible options, from hot and cold salads and sandwiches to loaded baked potatoes and entrees including salmon, pot roast, meatloaf and steak. The BJ's menu also features the famous Pizookie, a cookie run through the pizza oven and topped with vanilla ice cream.
The average menu item is $8.75 to $9.75; average check is about $11 a person.

The cost to eat ranges from $5.75 for a lunch special to BJ's most expensive item, the New York steak, which is priced at $18.95.

The day before its opening, managers and associates for the 15,000-square-foot restaurant held their kick-off meeting and topped it off with a sparkling cider toast. BJ's Restaurants chairman Paul Motenko participated in the festivities.

Weinman said the Huntington Beach-based BJ's Restaurants chose to open in Vacaville because it's a growing community that's not yet overcrowded with restaurants.

"It's the type of community we want to be in with lots of families, people new to the area and people who are coming that might be familiar with other BJ's restaurants," she said.

Weinman has been with the company for more than a year, opening the Roseville location in April 2005. Since then, she's worked in BJ's locations in Cupertino, Las Vegas and Folsom.

The company has an aggressive plan to open more new restaurants, including an Elk Grove location in May and Natomas restaurant in June, she said. The company plans to open between 10 to 15 locations a year, Weinman said.

The Vacaville location will have 240 employees. The restaurant began the hiring process around the holidays.

"We look for attitude over experience," Weinman said. "We figure we can train them to be busers or servers but we can't train someone to have a good attitude. You either have one or you don't."

BJ's Restaurants Inc. (NASDAQ: BJRI) owns and operates 44 casual dining restaurants under the BJ's Restaurant and Brewery, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, or BJ's Pizza & Grill brand names. The company's restaurants are located in California, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada.

Next month, the company plans to open a new restaurant in Desert Ridge, Ariz.

Reach Christine Cube at 427-6934 or ccube@dailyrepublic.net.

Solano County Announces Emergency Ride Home Program

Solano County Announces Emergency Ride Home Program
By Matthias Gafni/Times-Herald, Vallejo

You'd take the bus if you weren't concerned about how you'd get home in an emergency.

You'd vanpool to the office, if you didn't have to always work late overtime shifts.

These excuses won't cut it anymore in Solano County, as transportation officials announced last week a new program that will offer free emergency rides to consistent public transportation commuters.

The Emergency Ride Home Program provides commuters free vouchers for a cab ride or rental car to get home in the case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstances.

"It's new for Solano County, but not a new concept in general," said Elizabeth Richards, Solano Transportation Authority's director of transit and rideshare services. "We found this to be very accessible and it provides a safety net."

In polls in recent years, one of the biggest reasons commuters said they didn't take public transportation to work was, they would need their vehicle in case of emergency, Richards said.

Hopefully this will motivate new people who may have been held back, she said.

The year-long pilot program could continue for years if found to be popular, Richards said. The transportation agency, through its Solano Napa Commuter Information program, has allotted $5,000 annually for vouchers.

Only people who work in Solano County are eligible, although similar programs operate in Contra Costa, San Mateo and Alameda counties.

To participate, Solano employers must register, then individual employees can sign-up for the program. Participants must also regularly use alternative transportation. Vallejo and Benicia members will receive a voucher for a free taxi ride, including a 10 percent tip, for up to 100 miles.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Peeking through the glass ceiling - Study examines number of women executives in the workforce

Article Launched: 2/19/2006 07:52 AM

Peeking through the glass ceiling
Study examines number of women executives in the workforce
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Women control $14 trillion in wealth, represent nearly half of all investors, and comprise 46 percent of the nation's workforce, according to a recent study.
That study, released by the University of California, Davis, examined California's 200 largest publicly-traded companies and the number of women employed as executive officers or board directors. The findings were disappointing, said Dean Nicole Woolsey Biggart.

"We are clearly not leading the charge," she told The Reporter. "I was really surprised we weren't head and shoulders above everybody else."

California ranks sixth among cities and states in terms of its percentage of female executives; 8.2 percent hold executive officer positions, which is less than Georgia, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Wisconsin and Chicago. The state comes in second, behind Chicago, with 11.4 percent of board seats held by women.

Does Solano County and its array of organizations mirror those assessed by UC Davis? The Reporter surveyed a sampling of local businesswomen in high-ranking positions, and asked for their impressions.

"I see that more and more of my customers are female and own their own business," noted Eleanor Felbaum, owner of Vacaville's Pontiac, Buick, GMC dealership.

Felbaum explained that while many women entrepreneurs are beginning to tip the scales of what was once a indubitably male business community in the county, she herself is an anomaly in a male-dominated industry.

"General Motors has 7,000 dealerships throughout the country," she remarked, "and out of that we have about 235 female dealers."

She continued, "Since 1979, I've been in the car business, and I've never felt that because I'm a female it's been more challenging. I truly believe anybody - so long as they have the mindset - can accomplish anything in this country."

The owner and president of Fairfield-based Credit Bureau Associates, Kathy Parsons, agreed.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the individual," she explained. "If you want to be a victim as a woman, it'll happen - but if you want to get ahead, you're smart enough and you have the energy to do it, you can get ahead."

In Solano County, she said, the presence of women in business has decidedly "increased in the 25 years I've been here; there are a lot of small businesses in our area that are female-owned."

Parsons added, "I see a lot more women in corporate positions now than I did in the '70s."

Deborah Romer, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president/area manager for Napa and Solano, concurred.

"Looking back on my old days in business school, that was certainly a concern - getting more women in the boardrooms. I think it's improving," she said, "but we're just not yet where we need to be."

She did, however, feel that women are rather well-represented in Solano County, as did Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president and chief executive officer of Travis Credit Union.

"I see a lot of women in leadership positions - not necessarily in CEO positions - but I think the number is growing," Ouwerkerk noted.

Ouwerkerk was the recipient of the 2005 Athena award presented to exceptional businesswomen who serve as inspiration and mentors to other businesswomen in the community.

"I like to encourage women in businesses, but I encourage all people," she remarked.

Ouwerkerk explained with regards to her own 13-year history holding CEO positions, "I don't think being a woman has presented any unique challenges; I think that there are challenges that go along with being in a top position."

As does Gwen Reynolds, vice president of business services for First Northern Bank.

"I can only say hard work has rewarded me well," Reynolds said. She explained that was true for all the female department heads in her organization. "All the women are very professional and earned their titles."

Reynolds, too, felt Solano County businesswomen were increasing in numbers.

"When I look around, I think 'Wow! When was the last time we had a female president of the chamber?"' she remarked.

The president of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce, G. Leslie Fay, felt that though women have "broken the glass ceiling," it can still be tough to compete in a male-dominated society.

Sandy Person, vice president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., surmised, "Thankfully, women in the Solano County workforce continue to move up in position and authority - no doubt some wish the ascent were faster."

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

California's top 25 companies in gender diversity
Golden West Financial Corp.
Hot Topic Inc.
Westaff Inc.
Gymboree Corp.
Providian Financial Corp.
Autodesk Inc.
Calpine Corp.
Cost Plus Inc.
Jack In The Box Inc.
Knight Ridder Inc.
Mckesson Corp.
Wells Fargo & Co.
WFS Financial Inc.
Gap Inc.
Advanced Medical Optics Inc.
Guess Inc.
Hewlett Packard Co.
Molina Healthcare Inc.
Restoration Hardware Inc.
Ross Stores Inc.
Sharper Image Corp.
Catellus Development Corp.
Davita Inc.
Safeway Inc.
Williams-Sonoma Inc.
Source: UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders

Companies with no women directors include
Apple Computer Inc.
Brookfield Homes Corp.
Callaway Golf Corp.
Cheesecake Factory Inc.
Genentech Inc.
Google Inc.
Leapfrog Enterprises Inc.
Public Storage Inc.
Robert Half International Inc.
Smart & Final Inc.
Sun Healthcare Group
Symantec Corp.
Univision Communications Inc.
Wet Seal Inc.
Yahoo Inc.
Source: UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders

Friday, February 17, 2006

Capturing the Jobs

Capturing the Jobs
Cooperative Effort Vital to Ride Biotech Wave

Key business leaders and educators during a caucus Wednesday in Fairfield were treated to an upbeat, confident and auspicious outlook for the growth of jobs and the biotechnology industry in Solano County and Northern California.

An industry spokesman, a vice chancellor at the University of California, Davis, and the president of Solano Community College were hosted by Solano Economic Development Corp. And each painted a rosy picture of the potential that the region can tap.

But there are some hurdles that need to be cleared. It will take local leaders and local educators creating programs that keep the biotech industry healthy and blooming here.

Matt Gardner, who heads Bay Bio, an industry organization that represents nearly 275 biotech-related entities, pointed to the growth of Genentech's Vacaville facility into the world's largest biotech manufacturing plant. He said there are more jobs like the good ones coming in a $600 million expansion that will eventually add 790 jobs to the 1,150 that exist at 1000 New Horizons Way in the north city industrial park.

What is at stake?

Mr. Gardner forecasts 8,000 new jobs on the horizon over the next 12 months. For Vacaville and Solano County to capture them, there needs to be teamwork among local cities, the community college, local universities, state regulators and politicians.

It is clear we have several objectives to achieve:

• Local government must streamline approval processes to allow companies to get up and running as quickly as possible in a dynamic industry sector in which time is critical.

• State officials need to eliminate the perception that there are more "disincentives" than inducements to do business in California.

• Solano EDC must focus on promoting the available land, work force and quality of life that local communities have to offer.

• Solano Community College must forge ahead with its "Vision 2020" blueprint that calls for a biotech learning center on its new Vacaville campus, for more faculty in biology and life sciences, for new partnerships with four-year universities to train the highly skilled workers the industry seeks.

• The University of California, Davis, which graduates more students in bioscience than any other U.S. institution, must pursue even more partnerships with private industry to add not only skilled workers, but also to transfer technology to help life sciences come up with more cures for disease.

• And, there needs to be a transportation system solution to the growing congestion on our highways. New industries need a highway system that doesn't become jammed at Interstate 80 and I-680.

Northern California's biotech sector is twice the size of its nearest competitor, Boston. It can continue to grow if there is a cohesive, integrated approach shared by city leaders, educators, state lawmakers and economic development agencies.

It already has happened in Vacaville with Genentech. It can prosper and propagate to everyone's advantage.

Ball Corp. Acquires Aerosol Can Manufacturer

Ball Corp. Acquires Aerosol Can Manufacturer
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - Denver-based Ball Corp., which has manufacturing operations in Fairfield, acquired the largest manufacturer of aerosol cans in the United States.

Ball (NYSE: BLL) bought U.S. Can Corp.'s United States and Argentinean operations for about 1.1 million shares of Ball stock and the repayment of $550 million of U.S. Can's debt.

Ball's stock closed at $42.15 Wednesday, up about 10 percent, after the deal was announced late Tuesday. Trading volume of the shares almost tripled on Wednesday compared to daily averages.

Shareholders of U.S. Can will retain ownership of its European operations.

The transaction is expected to be finalized by the end of March, according to a Ball Corp. statement.

U.S. Can also manufactures paint cans, plastic containers and custom cans in 10 plants across the United States and two plants in Argentina. The company employs 2,300 people and had sales of about $600 million in 2004.

"U.S. Can will add to our portfolio of rigid packaging products and provide us a meaningful position in a sizable market," said R. David Hoover, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ball Corp., in a statement. "Further, we expect to realize certain cost reductions as a result of synergies between U.S. Can's operations and those of our existing packaging business, particularly our metal food container operations."

The Ball plant in Fairfield manufacturers metal beverage containers such as beer cans.

Dixon Leaders Paint 2006 as a Banner Year for the City

Dixon Leaders Paint 2006 as a Banner Year for the City
By Ian Thompson

DIXON - A confident City Hall leadership painted Dixon as a town on the way up with a host of incoming public and business projects bolstered by lower crime and successful open-space preservation efforts.

"We are thriving on all fronts," Dixon City Manager Warren Salmons told a Thursday morning gathering of Chamber of Commerce members. "Our residential growth management plan is working and we have a strong municipal budget."

Salmons lauded the city's strong property tax base and its equally robust sales tax base - which brings in $7,000 per resident, more than three times what neighboring Davis attracts.

Plans to build a truck stop on Pedrick Road are moving forward, Community Development Director Dave Dowsell said, with the project's environmental impact report expected out in early March.

Home Depot has also made it known that the national home improvement chain is considering coming to Dixon and is now in negotiations with a local property owner for land.

Dixon has three new housing developments in the works, all fitting within the city's growth limitations, Salmons said.

City Hall is also gearing up to start public hearings early this spring on the proposed Dixon Downs race track and entertainment center planned for the city's north side.

Copyright © 2005, 2006. Daily Republic

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Beckoning Biotech

Beckoning Biotech
Region Must Attract, Retain Firms
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Alan Bennett, of UC Davis, speaks Wednesday about the biotechnology industry and its regional importance. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

Creation of an alluring business environment and a talented workforce for the biotech industry were the key points presented Wednesday to 170 of the county's community and business leaders.

The Solano Economic Development Corporation's president, Michael Ammann, told the group gathered at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn that it needs to proactively think about the industry's future.

"The question is," he said, "will these companies stay put, come across the bridge, move out of the state, move inside the state, or actually leave the country?"

He continued, "What do we need to induce them to come to Solano County? What are the essential factors that make these companies successful and how can we remove any barriers?"

Local industry, research, and education experts addressed those questions.

Matt Gardner, president of Bay Bio - an organization representing approximately 275 biotechnology-related entities - noted the 240 products with Northern California origins currently treating patients, and the approximately 200 more in phase two or phase three clinical trials.

A triumph, Gardner explained, would be to encourage local manufacture of those products, and attract some of the 8,000 biotech jobs he predicted will be created regionally in the next year.

In order to do that, he said, local leaders need to work together to question and address what he dubbed "a basket of challenges."

Gardner explained, "As a state, we've earned a reputation of carrying a package of 'disincentives.' There are a whole range of issues about doing business in California from land entitlement to the tax environment."

He warned,"The cost that we all have to acknowledge that's real if we don't confront some of these issues, is that we will have spent 30 years building this industry and the gains from it will be captured elsewhere."

Biotech attraction and retention also depends upon regional education opportunities, and the alliances between educators and industry, said speakers Paulette Perfumo, president of Solano Community College, and Alan Bennett, associate vice chancellor for research at University of California, Davis' office of research, technology and industry alliance.

"UC Davis thinks it can play an important role in helping stimulate the biotechnology industry here; we clearly recognize that this is going to occur only if we're good partners with a variety of economic development groups, other educational institutions, and companies in the region," said Bennett, who noted the school awards more bachelors and masters degrees in life sciences than any other U.S. institution, and whose research funding exceeded $500 million last year.

Perfumo said SCC was "poised and ready" to provide a reliable, trained workforce via its "world-class faculty" and the biotechnology center planned for its new 60-acre Vacaville campus.

"We are growing our biotechnology and biology programs," she said, and stressed the school's desire to create specialized education and training programs through both public-private partnerships and alliances with other colleges or universities.

"We're looking for any partner that wants to become part of our consortium that is working to build this public-private partnership in biotechnology at our Vacaville campus," Perfumo noted.

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Plan for Tax Given Dixon, Vacaville OK

Plan for Tax Given Dixon, Vacaville OK
By Tom Hall and Jason Massad/Staff Writers

Vacaville and Dixon officials both approved the expenditure plan Tuesday night for a proposed countywide sales tax measure for transportation, putting the measure well on its way to the June ballot.

The Vacaville City Council approved the expenditure, 4-0, with Pauline

Clancy abstaining. Clancy, who has not supported previous half-cent sales tax measures to generate local transportation funds, said she will stay out of the way of the current effort.

"Let the voters decide what they want," she said.

It appears the voters will get to decide, as backers need only one of four remaining city councils in the county to approve the expenditure plan, along with county supervisors, to place the measure on the ballot for the attempt, tentatively dubbed Measure H, to come before voters in June.

The Rio Vista City Council will vote on the plan Thursday, and Benicia, Fairfield and Suisun City will vote Tuesday.

The transit tax, if successful in obtaining a two-thirds majority of voters in June, would pump nearly $100 million into Vacaville and $20 million into Dixon for street maintenance and coveted projects.

An estimated countywide total of nearly $1.6 billion would be created over 30 years, should the measure pass.

Tax funds would help pay for an initial study on Highway 113, a regional route Dixon leaders have long waited to relocate from downtown.

It would be a first step in a long process for rerouting the highway, but an important step, said Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville.

"I don't know if we'll see it in my lifetime," she said. "But if we don't do it now it will never, ever get done."

Vacaville leaders decried the state of Interstate 80 through Solano. Councilman Steve Hardy commented on a the bumpy trek to points east and west via the freeway.

"I can barely keep my teeth in my jaws," Hardy quipped.

The Dixon City Council, by a 4-1 vote, approved the plan, though not without trepidation. Councilman Steve Alexander voted against.

Councilman Gil Vega wondered what happens to state and federal funds even if the tax measure passes.

"Do we have a Plan B if Congress says we simply don't have the funds?" he asked.

Tom Hall can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com. Jason Massad can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

Plan Offers Regular Transit Riders an Emergency Lift Home

Plan Offers Regular Transit Riders an Emergency Lift Home
By MATTHIAS GAFNI, Times-Herald staff writer

You'd take the bus if you weren't concerned about how you'd get home in an emergency.

You'd vanpool to the office, if you didn't have to always work late overtime shifts.

These excuses won't cut it anymore in Solano County, as transportation officials announced Tuesday a new program that will offer free emergency rides to consistent public transportation commuters.

The Emergency Ride Home Program provides commuters free vouchers for a cab ride or rental car to get home in the case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstances.

"It's new for Solano County, but not a new concept in general," said Elizabeth Richards, Solano Transportation Authority's director of transit and rideshare services. "We found this to be very accessible and it provides a safety net."

In polls in recent years, one of the biggest reasons commuters said they didn't take public transportation to work was, "they would need their vehicle in case of emergency," Richards said.

"Hopefully this will motivate new people who may have been held back," she said.

The year-long pilot program could continue for years if found to be popular, Richards said. The transportation agency, through its Solano Napa Commuter Information program, has allotted $5,000 annually for vouchers.

Only people who work in Solano County are eligible, although similar programs operate in Contra Costa, San Mateo and Alameda counties.

To participate, Solano employers must register, then individual employees can sign-up for the program. Participants must also regularly use alternative transportation.

Vallejo and Benicia members will receive a voucher for a free taxi ride, including a 10 percent tip, for up to 100 miles.

The program has safeguards to keep participants from misusing vouchers and general guidelines members must follow.

At 20 percent, Solano County already has the Bay Area's highest carpooling rate, Richards said.

- E-mail Matthias Gafni at mgafni@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6825.

To join...

For commuters traveling to and from Solano County, transportation officials have information on Emergency Ride Home programs at 800-53-KMUTE or visit http://www.solanolinks.com/commuterinfo.

Information is also available for other counties in the Bay Area as well.

Monday, February 13, 2006

$27 Million Water Plant Upgrade

$27 Million Water Plant Upgrade
By Barry Eberling

A renovated Waterman treatment plant will be able to treat 30 million gallons of water daily, doubling current capacity. (Judith Sagami/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - The Waterman Water Treatment Plant just passed its 30th birthday and is ready for far more than a face lift.

No little nip-and-tuck job here. Fairfield is spending an estimated $27 million to change the plant's face altogether. Work under way on the operations building is only the start - the city wants a state-of-the-art plant that treats more water.

"The project has been planned for many years and we're going to do a first-class job of it," Assistant Public Works Director for Water Rick Wood said.

Residents won't see their water bills rise to pay for the improvements, Wood said. The existing fees will provide the money. Fairfield looks at needs for the upcoming 10 years when setting rates, he said.

The Waterman plant is located in northwest Fairfield, in hills behind a subdivision. It is named after Capt. Robert Waterman, who founded Fairfield about 150 years ago. This compound with buildings, tanks, basins and pipes is about a quarter-mile away from the house where Waterman once lived.

Lake Berryessa reservoir water arrives at the plant after journeying some 25 miles in a concrete canal. The plant makes the water fit to drink by removing impurities.

One goal of the renovation project is to provide Fairfield with more drinking water. The Waterman plant can, under ideal conditions, treat up to 22 million gallons daily, but the limit is often closer to 15 million gallons, Wood said. Meanwhile, Fairfield keeps growing.

"We're looking at the convergence of demand and our ability to treat water," Wood said. "It's getting close."

It's getting close enough that Wood wants to do these renovations soon. He would be nervous about waiting more than another year to get started, Wood said. He doesn't want to tell people to conserve water - a worthy goal in itself - simply because the city didn't build the needed facilities, he said.

A renovated Waterman treatment plant will be able to treat 30 million gallons daily, virtually doubling the normal day-to-day capacity. The city's other water plant, the North Bay plant near Travis Air Force Base, provides about 26.7 million gallons daily for Fairfield.

Changes will also be made in the way the Waterman plant cleans up the water. State-of-the-art technology in 1975 is behind the times in 2005. Even the upgrades made to the plant since then haven't kept pace.

The water that comes from Lake Berryessa reservoir contains sediments. The Waterman plant gets rid of them by adding chemicals and letting the sediments coalesce into larger particles and slowly settle out. The sediments go to a sludge pond and eventually get hauled off to the dump.

But the new technology is something Wood calls "sticky sand." This mixture of sand and a polymer causes sediments to stick to it. Then the "sticky sand" and sediments sink like a rock.

All of this can be done in a smaller basin. This space-saving effort will allow the plant to remove sediment before it treats the water with bacteria-killing ozone, rather than after. No longer will the plant waste ozone and energy treating sediments that later settle out.

The old way worked fine in the 20th century. It just isn't the optimal method for the 21st.

Another change is simply replacing parts. The various pipes and other parts at the Waterman plant aren't necessarily obsolete. They're just old.

City Council members at their Sept. 20, 2005 meeting praised the planned renovations.

"You certainly are meeting the needs of a growing population," Mayor Harry Price - then the vice mayor - told Wood.

City Councilwoman Marylin Farley worked for Fairfield in 1975. She attended the dedication of Waterman treatment plant. She remembers the plant being praised then as state-of-the-art, a claim that can no longer be made.

"It's prudent to be doing the remodeling," she said. "It's going to put us ahead of the game again."

Renovations could go on at the Waterman plant until 2008. Amid the construction and reconfigurations, it will keep providing water to Fairfield.

"That's one of the big challenges with that project - we have to keep that plant operating the entire time," Wood said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Council's OK Would Give Flood Protection

Council's OK Would Give Flood Protection
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Vacaville officials have reached a purchase agreement with landowners for a 60-acre chunk of land crucial for the city's flood protection plans.

The City Council is expected to authorize the purchase of the 60 acres west of city limits and south of Alamo Creek at its meeting Tuesday night.

Negotiations on the land have been in progress for about three years, said Rod Moresco, the city's deputy director of maintenance administration.

Because there were eight landowners involved, Van Kirk said the negotiations were complex and time-consuming.

He added that the New Year's Eve flood that caused an estimated $25 million in damage for Vacaville did not affect the speed of negotiations.

The city will pay $1.85 million over 10 years for the property, which puts the land's price around 70 cents per square-foot.

Van Kirk said the tab is based on an appraisal, and that he feels comfortable with the purchase price.

Moresco said the money to purchase the land and turn it into a detention basin will come from a number of sources, including a $250,000 state parks grant awarded to the city last year.

Development impact fees, collected for both drainage system improvement and open space acquisition, will also be used to fund the project, Moresco said.

Encinosa Creek cuts through the southern portion of the land. The project would work to reduce peak flows on that creek on its way from the Vaca Mountains to its confluence with Alamo Creek within city limits.

It would also capture overland run-off from the higher western elevations, Moresco said, helping protect the ability of drainage systems within the city to function properly during heavy rains.

A 1990 watershed study pointed to four areas where detention basins were needed to mitigate flood threats, the Pleasants Valley area, this project is slotted for, being one of them.

Basins reducing flows on Alamo, Ulatis and Laguna creeks are also planned. Van Kirk said the city will make every effort to get flood protection projects in place.

Moresco said the city is currently compiling a preliminary design report for the Pleasants Valley project. He said sections of the basin could hold up to eight feet of overflow water, while knolls and the like wouldn't be designed to capture any water.

Along with being used as a basin, the land will also serve as a passive open space park.

Moresco said it's not clear how more the project will cost in total, but said he did not expect the cost of improvements to exceed the $1.85 million land price tag.

Tom Hall can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

Building a Village

Building a Village
Huge Development Moves Forward Off Vaca Valley Parkway
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Construction workers frame a house under construction in the North Village development in Vacaville. (Brad Zweerink/The Reporter)

Ten years of planning and problem-solving are poised to pay off, as residents prepare to occupy the first phase of North Village homes being built off Vaca Valley Parkway.

"It was an area slated for urban development for years," confirmed Chris Gustin, assistant community development director.

The 880-acre project in northeast Vacaville - which encompasses more than 2,000 residential units, including apartments, and a 60-acre site that will be used to develop Solano Community College's Vacaville campus - was endorsed by the City Council more than a decade ago, though the project was halted in 2000 upon discovery of some 50-acres of vernal pools containing endangered fairy shrimp.

Development resumed four years later, following environmental approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That federal regulatory approval, Gustin explained, was contingent in part upon setting aside lands for natural habitats by the Concord-based developer, Albert D. Seeno Construction Co. That concession triggered Seeno to withdraw plans for approximately 300 homes that were originally approved.

Today, construction crews are fast at work on the 59 homes in The Estuary at North Village, the first section of the project to materialize, and its first residents are slated to move in in April.

The subdivision's grand opening was Dec. 17, and of the 27 homes released thus far, 25 have already been sold, confirmed its Community Sales Manager, Lisa Lipps.

"They're fantastic homes and it's a great setting," Lipps remarked. "We're right next to Kaiser and Genentech, so there's a huge need as those companies expand and grow."

The Estuary's six floor plans - each of which has three different exterior design possibilities - range in price from the high $500,000s to high $700,000s.

Various features include nine-foot volume ceilings on first floor living areas, gourmet kitchens with breakfast nooks, master bedroom suites with marble counter tops and oval soaking tubs, energy efficient water and heating systems, front yard landscaping and three-car garages.

"The Valley" floor plan numbers approximately 1,783 square feet, comprised of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an optional den, and an optional retreat all on a single story.

Also offering optional dens and retreats is the single-story, four-bedroom, two-bath "The Cavern" plan, which is approximately 1,981 square feet.

The development's two-story floor plans - "The Bayou," "The Chamber," "The Basin," and "The Vessel" - range in size from 2,461 square feet to 3,852 square feet. All contain five bedrooms and three bathrooms, though The Basin features a master retreat adjacent to the master bedroom suite. All four floor plans have add-on options; depending on the plan, those options include a fourth bathroom, a retreat, loft, den, media room, or deck.

The entire project - which, Gustin stressed, will have housing units that cater to a wide variety of residents - will likely be completed in 10 years.

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Edifices Set to be Available for Firms

Edifices Set to be Available for Firms
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Small business owners soon will have additional opportunities to rent and lease space neighboring some of the city's fastest growing enterprises, including Genentech, Kaiser and Alza.

Two complexes shortly will dot Cotting Lane and Aldrige Road with new industrial condos, offering local businesses space in a rapidly developing area of northeast Vacaville, located adjacent to the Interstate 505 and I-80 interchange.

Walls are due to be tilted up this week on the Aldridge business condos, being developed by MLM Properties.

Comprising four units, the 11,000-square-foot building will house small commercial contractors, according to one of the developing partners, Bob Morales.

"They're all local businesses," he confirmed. Only one 2,600-square-foot space is left for lease.

The industrial condos to be built on Cotting Lane, however, are for sale by Premier Commercial Real Estate.

Justin English, Premier Commercial agent, explained that the project is alluring for many business owners for the same reasons that buying a home may be more attractive as opposed to renting one.

"It's an opportunity to turn business cash flow into equity and real estate," he remarked. "With interest rates being low it makes sense because they can get in and pay the same amount on a lease that they would be paying on a mortgage."

Three buildings - which are still in the planning stage - will contain nine individual office and warehouse spaces totaling nearly 40,000 square feet.

Premier has already sold two condos to the project's developer, Cal Inc., and has two additional sales pending.

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Dixon Homes to be Unveiled

Dixon Homes to be Unveiled

The only new homes to be built in Dixon's Valley Glen community will be unveiled this weekend, and released for sale the following weekend.

The 44 homes at Wisteria at Valley Glen, built by Michigan-based Pulte Homes, are priced from the low $500,000s.

Four floor plans with three different elevations range in size from 1,606 square feet to 2,294 square feet. Amenities include energy saving features, General Electric appliances and Corian counter tops.

To visit Wisteria from Interstate 80 east, exit Midway Road and bear right; turn left on Highway 113 and follow signs to Valley Glen. From I-80 west, take the Highway 113 exit toward Dixon and continue on Currey Road; take the Highway 113 south ramp and follow signs to Valley Glen. Call 678-6088 for more information.

Business Group Endorses Tax

Business Group Endorses Tax
By Reporter Staff

Representatives of Vacaville's top businesses and manufacturers have endorsed a half-cent sales tax to improve transportation in Solano County.

By a unanimous vote, members of the Council of Major Employers, a collection of the city's largest private companies created by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, urged voters to make Solano a "self-help" county to qualify for state and federal money.

"The current condition of the Interstate 80 and I-680 interchange is just one example of the additional cost to business in the prompt delivery of goods and services," the group said in a prepared statement. "The business community also suffers from the increased exasperation of those employees who commute. In addition, the safety of the motoring public is in jeopardy due to increased delays and the inability of emergency personnel to reach stricken motorists."

The tax would raise nearly $1.6 billion over 30 years, according to projections.

The tax's proposed spending plan puts a lot of emphasis on improving key freeways in the county, such as the I-80 and I-680 corridors, but also provides millions of dollars for public transit, senior paratransit and city street and safety improvements.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors and the Vallejo City Council approved the tax plan Tuesday. The city of Vacaville and Dixon are scheduled to vote on it next week.

The supervisors and enough city councils to represent a majority of the county's population must approve the tax's spending plan for it to be placed on the June ballot.

Major Employer Council member John Nerland, CEO of Solano Bank, said, "We will never receive our (Solano) fair share of state and federal tax returns unless we can show our resolve to also help ourselves."

The council representatives also lauded a provision in the tax measure to dedicate 10 percent of the funding to cities to allow them to decide how to spend it on their streets.

Charles Shatzer of Solano Community College said, "Roads are a major factor in where business locates. Those businesses pay taxes that support our county and cities as well as provide jobs for our students."

Gary Passama, president and CEO of NorthBay Healthcare System, said, "Excellent health care, particularly excellent emergency health care, requires a modern transportation system including easily traveled highways. We now have an opportunity to bring outside funding to Solano County for a variety of transportation needs by passing this sales tax measure. It is the wise and healthy thing to do."

Things are looking up / Many Bay Area companies plan to hire workers

Things are looking up / Many Bay Area companies plan to hire workers: "

Things are looking up
Many Bay Area companies plan to hire workers

- Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Bay Area business leaders are increasingly confident about the local economy and a significant number plan to add jobs during the next six months, according to a survey to be released today by the Bay Area Council.

"The signs are about as bright as they've been for a long time," said Jim Wunderman, chief executive officer of the council, which represents hundreds of local companies employing more than 490,000 workers, one-sixth of the Bay Area private-sector workforce. "We've got the highest confidence in hiring that we've seen since we started doing the survey, with the biggest spread between employers planning to hire and those planning to diminish their workforce."

The group surveyed 549 CEOs and other top executives in January. Fifty-six percent of them said they think the Bay Area economy will improve in the next six months while 9 percent predicted worse conditions.

The local job outlook was strong, with 42 percent planning to increase their Bay Area workforces during the next six months and 5 percent planning reductions.

Anticipated job growth was strongest in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties, where 62 percent of executives said they will expand payrolls. San Mateo County brought up the rear with only 23 percent of executives planning increases, although in similarly tech-centric Santa Clara County, 42 percent anticipated expansion.

The leisure and hospitality industry showed the strongest projected job growth: 75 percent of respondents said they will increase their Bay Area workforce in the next six months. The advent of spring and summer tourism might account for some of that growth. Retail trade had the least projected job growth, with 25 percent of executives planning to add workers -- perhaps reflecting the seasonal slump after Christmas, Wunderman said.

Construction is strong

In construction and manufacturing, 59 percent of CEOs said they plan workforce increases.

"Our outlook as a construction company for the next two years is very, very positive," said Andy Ball, CEO of Webcor Builders in San Mateo. It employs about 1,000 union laborers, carpenters, cement masons and operating engineers, as well as 400 managers and engineers. Ball said the company plans to add a couple hundred workers -- a 14 percent increase -- in the coming six months. About 40 of those will be supervisory positions and the rest skilled trade jobs paying $40 to $70 an hour.

The company has broken ground on several major San Francisco construction projects, including the new Intercontinental Hotel at Moscone Center, a 60-story condominium at 301 Mission St., a 10-story office building, and a condominium complex at Spear and Folsom streets with two 40-story towers and two 10-story towers, as well as the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

Ball said last year was slow in terms of construction starts, although construction demand increased and his company signed several major agreements.

In the financial activities sector, 37 percent of executives said they plan increases. Deanna Berzins, a vice president at the Mechanics Bank, which is based in Richmond and has 29 branches in Northern California, said it plans to add 10 to 15 people to its workforce of 600.

"We are hiring more people on the retail side because we're opening new retail offices and also more on wealth-management -- trust officers, a senior estate planning consultant, a senior financial planner," she said. "For the greater Bay Area, we are seeing more hiring, so people are able to find higher-paying jobs, which helps our business."

At Craigslist, a popular online site for classified listings, CEO Jim Buckmaster said the number of Bay Area help-wanted ads in January was up 64 percent from last year. That number reflects both an improving economy and continued adoption of the Internet for classifieds. The strongest growth was in skilled trades, with a 110 percent increase; Internet jobs increased 97 percent; health care, 81 percent; engineering, 78 percent; and software, 72 percent.

Confidence grows

The Bay Area Business Confidence Index, which distills the overall sentiment of businesses in the region, rose to 61 on a scale of 100, up six points from last quarter. Wunderman said concern over the impact of Hurricane Katrina might have depressed the last quarter's results, but "it appears that was a momentary blip."

The surveyed executives expressed strong support for two initiatives being considered in Sacramento. Seventy-two percent said they support Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to increase the minimum wage from $6.75 an hour to $7.75, while 28 percent oppose it. The strongest opposition is in the manufacturing industry, where 59 percent of respondents are against the idea. The strongest support is among education and health-service companies, with 91 percent in favor. Support is stronger among large companies than small ones.

The governor's proposed infrastructure bond measures also won favor with the group. Seventy-eight percent said they support the bonds, while 61 percent are willing to support a statewide quarter-cent sales tax increase to help pay for them.

The full report is at www.bayareacouncil.org/bizcon.

Assessing confidence
Who: 549 local executives were surveyed.

Outlook: 56% said they expect the local economy to improve in the next 6 months; 9% predict worse conditions

Hiring: 42% plan to increase local workforces; 5 percent plan reductions

Source: Bay Area Council

E-mail Carolyn Said at csaid@sfchronicle.com.

Page C - 1
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/02/08/BUGGMH4HN31.DTL

©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

Adobe Mystery

Adobe Mystery -- Spanish-Era Mission, Pony Express Stop a Few of the Theories Behind Old Building
By Ian Thompson

Daphne Nixon and Jerry Bowen believe that the Green Valley Adobe that theyƕre standing in is one of Fairfield's oldest buildings. (Photo by Christine Baker)

FAIRFIELD - A small Green Valley adobe building may be the oldest building in upper Solano County.

It may have been a small satellite mission when the Spanish ran California.

"It is so interesting because it is still a mystery adobe," said Vacaville historian Jerry Bowen, who is still trying to plumb the building's mysterious past.

It has found a protector in the form of developer and Green Valley resident Joseph "Jose" McNeill, who is incorporating the venerable building into his plans for a business park at the site.

"We are preserving it as a focal point for the project," said McNeill. "It is one of the mysteries of history here. A lot of people have a lot of theories, and that is part of the fun of the area. It is a very interesting piece of work that no one is really sure how it got here and who built it."

Bowen's research supports the fact that it is one of the oldest buildings in the Fairfield area still standing, figuring it could have been built as early as the 1830s.

It is one of only three adobes still standing in upper Solano County - the others being the Pena Adobe in Lagoon Valley and the other being the Hastings Adobe near Collinsville.

Cordelia artist and historian Daphne Nixon noticed the old adobe while searching for some of the area's older buildings to use as subjects for her paintings.

"I was looking for a Victorian-era house I had seen before and was depressed when I discovered it was gone," Nixon said.

She was further saddened to find another of her subjects, a century-old winery, one of Solano County's first, was razed to make way for a housing development.

"Then I saw this little adobe with the tree leaning up against it," Nixon said.

Nixon called friend and Vacaville area historian Bowen because she didn't know anything about the building.

"It has long been hidden by all the other old buildings in the winery," Bowen said.

Headwaters Development, in which McNeill is a partner, wants to put up a 45,700-square-foot office complex which will be named Pony Express Business Park "and the adobe would be the centerpiece," Bowen said.

City of Fairfield planners required anyone interested in building on the land to keep the adobe; the Headwaters Development's plans show the structure is the centerpiece of the landscaping.

"We are excited because even though the site is being developed, the adobe will be maintained," said Fairfield Associate Planner Rick Hancock.

The plans for the proposed business park went before the Fairfield Planning Commission Wednesday night and it will now continue to the City Council for action. Work on the site could start later this year.

The adobe contains a rock-lined well which is covered by a steel plate and a large hole in one wall which helped show how the adobe was constructed with mud and stone.

"It looks like Cordelia rock. A quarry is not far away," Bowen said.

It is also the same material that was used to build an ancient Spanish-era well that local historian Rodney Rolufson found and excavated near Nelson Hill a couple of miles to the southeast.

A large, old oak tree has grown up along one side of the building, appearing to be leaning against it as its trunk curves over the adobe's roof.

"Look at the size of the girth of that tree and you know it is very old," Bowen said.

Bowen's own research has yielded a lot of interesting possibilities about the age and original uses of the old adobe, but few concrete answers.

The adobe shows up on an 1862 map drawn by Capt. Archibald Ritchie, a former shop captain who settled in the area and bought land.

Bowen also suspects that the adobe may even be part of the Spanish-era Eulalia Mission which was established by a Father Jose Altamira somewhere in the area in 1837.

"It may have been one of those side missions," Bowen said, which was supported by a larger more established mission in Sonoma or the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bancroft's History of California contends a mission was established in the area for the padres' visits to the Native Americans. The mission had a granary, a chapel, padre's house and several other wood structures.

The initial mission buildings were destroyed in the 1930s and replaced, according to the history.

Bowen's suspicions about the building's possible mission-related origin is linked to a stone baptismal font discovered in a nearby field by Rolufson in the late 1950s.

A May 1957 Solano Republican article stated Rolufson believed the font was used by the Yul Yul Indians who lived near present-day Rockville.

Church records examined by Rolufson stated a branch mission existed as far back as the early 1800s and Father Altamira worked as far east as Suisun to teach the Indians agriculture.

The building may also have been a stop for an alternate route used by the Pony Express in the 1860s as riders made their way to and from San Francisco. This idea inspired McNeill to name his project after the Pony Express.

"It could possibly have been a stage stop," said Bowen, adding it is a piece of history that Headwaters Development has grasped for its development plans.

There is still much about the adobe that is still unknown, according to Bowen.

"Was it a mission. Was it a structure over a well site?" McNeill said. "This is something that is not only intriguing and unique, but important as well."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Supes Approve Loan to Hospitals

Supes Approve Loan to Hospitals
By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

NorthBay Healthcare's hospitals in both Vacaville and Fairfield will upgrade their cardiology equipment, trauma centers and computer networks with an upcoming $12.5 million in financing.

Solano County supervisors approved Tuesday a low-interest loan between NorthBay Healthcare and the Association of Bay Area Governments, which would issue bonds through a financing company for the loan. The money will buy upgraded equipment for VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield.

The county board's approval, which was unanimous, was required for the financing arrangement.

"I'm glad we're in a position to help them," Chuck Lomeli, the county's treasurer-tax collector, told the board.

Art DeNio, NorthBay's chief financial officer, said that the governmental loan was a "tactic of financing."

Acquisitions of replacement equipment for the hospital systems normally are financed internally, DeNio noted, but such funds currently are tied up in other projects including the expansion of the emergency room at VacaValley Hospital and other developments undertaken this year.

ABAG is required to oversee that the use of the loan approved Tuesday is compliant with federal restrictions on the low-interest loans.

Solano's Got It!

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