The city has had to rethink installing a system that would heat the city's swimming pool using treated wastewater and will use the grant funding originally intended for that project to benefit the sewer plant.

City staff members will use about $400,000 in Proposition 50 money to install an upgraded screening system at the wastewater treatment plant, Public Works Director Eric Wier said. This will help prevent rocks, gravel and other debris getting into the plant's grinding unit and thus save money in maintenance costs.

The Crescent City Council last week unanimously approved the screening system at the wastewater plant and authorized City Manager Eugene Palazzo to sign a $19,900 contract with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to help procure the screening system. The Council also directed staff to issue a request for proposals for the screening equipment.

The city received $935,000 in Proposition 50 funding in 2007 and had originally planned to build a system that would irrigate Beachfront Park with reclaimed water from the sewer plant, Wier said. When the staff found that the cost of the project was more than the benefit to the city, it decided last January to allocate the grant toward a geothermal heating system for the swimming pool. But that project was not eligible to be funded with Proposition 50 money, he said.

"The city manager and myself took a trip to Sacramento to talk with the coordinators about the project and see what other options were out there," Wier said.

Wier said when he and Palazzo were in Sacramento they discovered that $533,000 in Proposition 50 money could be used for projects that have already been completed at the wastewater treatment plant. The city has invoiced the state and is currently waiting to hear back from coordinators, he said.

The screening project is part of the capital improvement plan for the sewer plant, Wier said. It was slated to be completed for the 2014-15 fiscal year. If not for the grant, it would have been funded by a loan.

"There will be no net impact to the city's budget," Wier said. "This is completely paid for with grant funds."

After a meeting spent discussing water rates, Councilman Rick Holley said he was excited about the news.

"I want to acknowledge how exciting this is," he said, "the first part of the conversation, $533,000 to go back into the sewer budget. I appreciate the advocacy in Sacramento. That's really what made that happen."

Proposition 50 provides grant money for water quality improvements and was approved by voters in 2002. When it passed, Proposition 50 money was used for water improvement projects throughout the North Coast.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at