Looking at 2019, refining Paradise

This coming year has to be better than the last one, right? I have to think so. As Paradise begins to rebuild, one of the biggest questions is going to be whether the town will finally be able to install a sewer system. That one seemingly small detail could well determine the new face of the Ridge.

What many Chicoans don’t quite understand is that the lack of a sewer system has stunted growth for Ridge communities. I’ve heard restaurant owners grumble about the limitations on staffing and customer capacity due to septic needs. Some even didn’t have public restrooms or used disposable dishes to cut back on water usage.

Just this past year, La Comida owner Michael Pavis was faced with the difficult decision of whether to keep his Paradise restaurant open. He cited the lack of a wastewater treatment system as one of the reasons for closing after 49 years on the Ridge. Walmart walked away from plans to build in Paradise because of lack of sewer (the idea of being welcomed to town by a big-box store always felt wrong to me anyway). And plans for a new Safeway on the Skyway—approved before the Camp Fire—had included an on-site wastewater treatment facility, which is cost-prohibitive for most small businesses.

Making matters worse, the cost of pumping a septic tank rose dramatically this past year due to the landfill running out of space.

Businesses are slowly reopening their doors, which is providing some hope for the future amid the gloom. But while some return and others rebuild, many will sadly not. I have a feeling the nature of the town will be dictated by whether or not there’s a sewer system. With so much work to be done, what better time than now?

Mayor Jody Jones has been working toward a plan to hook in to Chico’s sewer system for years; maybe in 2019 she’ll finally get her wish.

Cannabusiness Oroville has approved commercial cannabis as well as taxation for it. I suspect the tides will shift, however, with its new council this month. My sincere hope is that the new panel will be open to discussions about the matter rather than throwing all the past year’s work—and taxpayer money spent on consultants, a ballot measure, etc.—in the round file.

As for Chico, which will be taking up the matter at an upcoming council meeting, hopefully progress can be made in 2019 toward finding sensible ways to regulate and allow for this new industry. It’s an opportunity for growth that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Speak up The Chico Chamber of Commerce is surveying local businesses on the effects of the Camp Fire. The questions are simple and revolve around displaced employees, how many lost their homes and how many have left the area due to the fire. Put in your two cents here: tinyurl.com/chambercampfire.