Santa Barbara’s Desalination Vote; Craigslist Founder’s New Jersey Community Toilet

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Also: Wisconsin’s expensive love affair with new overpasses and Sioux Falls’ big downtown redevelopment.

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SANTA BARBARA, California: There are many thirsty cities in California—too many in fact. But the city of Santa Barbara built an ocean water desalination plant in the 1990s that’s never been used but has been ready for reactivation during extreme drought conditons. With California experiencing extreme drought conditions, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday approved a $55 million plan to bring the desalination plant back online.

As the Santa Barbara Independent reports:

Most councilmembers acknowledged the strong possibility that the El Niño storm systems predicted for this winter could likely bring heaving rains. But given that the South Coast’s single most important source of water — Cachuma Lake — is so low that further deliveries are expected to cease this year, not one councilmember was willing to take that risk.

On average, Santa Barbara water customers will pay an extra $10 to $20 per month with the reactivation of the desalination plant. [City of Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara Independent]

MORRISTOWN, New Jersey: Craigslist founder Craig Newmark has donated $10,000 to a non-profit organization in his hometown for the construction of a composting toilet at a community garden across the street from where he grew up. “We can’t thank him enough for funding this much-needed restroom that will facilitate on-site community events and classes,” Abby Gallo, executive director of Grow It Green Morristown, told Morristown Green. The toilet will be named the Craig Newmark Memorial Latrine No. 2. [Morristown Green]

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota: City officials have come to a $27.3 million agreement with the BNSF Railway Company to relocate its downtown railyard, which would give South Dakota’s largest city 10 acres of prime land to redevelop. “This monumental achievement for our city certainly has been a long time in the making, but the effort by so many has now paid off in a huge way,” Mayor Mike Huether said, according to the Argus Leader. “With the agreement on the terms of the sale, we are a giant step closer to redeveloping that critical piece of our downtown.” [Argus Leader]

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin: The Badger State loves to build new overpasses for gigantic expanded highway interchanges. But is it neglecting to maintain its potholed local roads? Those are some of the key points in a new Politico feature. And then there’s the question of money:

Republican Gov. Scott Walker wanted to pay for his road-building program by borrowing money, so he could run for president without breaking his no-new-taxes pledge, but the pricetag got so big that leaders from his own party rejected his plan as fiscally irresponsible, leaving the state budget in limbo.

From 2009 to 2011, Wisconsin spent 39 percent of its highway funding on maintenance while spending 61 percent expanding highway capacity, which only increases the long-term maintenance burden. [Politico]

BOSTON, Massachusetts: Usually, an unexpected delay in bus service is not appreciated by passengers. But when a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus operator recently asked passengers whether anyone was interested to stop at a lemonade stand in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood, everyone said yes. Granted the location of the lemonade stand was at a point along the route when there weren’t that many passengers. “All the stars were aligned,” the bus driver said in an interview with Boston.com. “The conditions were just right. ... Ninety percent of the time, you can’t do that on the job.” [Boston.com]

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