History group wants tools saved

Society claims it was snubbed during purchase
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Members of the Rocklin Historical Society are reeling after details of the city’s purchase of the Big Gun Quarry off Pacific Street were released. Prominent society member Gene Johnson led a delegation of three from the community group to voice a complaint to the Rocklin City Council at their Feb. 8 meeting. “I think it is reprehensible,” Johnson told the council. “The society has done so much and we were completely overlooked in this rather important step forward in the development of our city.” The city, through the Rocklin Redevelopment Agency, purchased the site in November from Sonco LLC, managed by Darron Epperson, for $1,000,000, according to the city. While the quarry sale is applauded by the society, the issue is what will become of equipment, which sits on the purchased land. The Big Gun Quarry, as it is now known, was also called the Capitol Quarry in the 1860’s when Rocklin granite was used to build the State Capitol in Sacramento. During the 1970’s, the quarry, which is right behind the city administration building that houses the council chambers, processed 6,000 tons of Bear River Quartz used to build the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. The large rock crusher used for the quartz resides on the property, according to Johnson. “There is quite a bit of equipment on the property that I think could be used in a hard rock interpretive center,” Johnson said. Johnson is upset that the city did not consult the historical society for the purchase. “It’s unbelievable to me,” Johnson said. “I don’ think there was any representative at the historical society that even helped or was asked to participate in the identification of the artifacts.” The original price was $1.3 million, but the city negotiated a reduction in price by allowing the seller to salvage equipment left on the site, according to city attorney Russell Hildebrand. “Whatever revenue was generated from the salvage items would go to Epperson and Sonco LLC,” Hildebrand said. “We actually have a list of all those items that would be salvaged property. What we agreed to with Epperson, however, is that he would have a first right of refusal so he could maximize his return on that through his connections in the mining business, rather than take what we would give him on it.” Rocklin Councilman Peter Hill said all of the council members toured the site and have seen the equipment left behind. “The idea was to protect the machinery,” Hill said at the meeting. “My understanding was the agreement we had with the property owner was that there were some machinery that had some value that was not historical. He was actually responsible or going to be the person who was going to decide that.” Hill said the property will be split into three parcels – one adjacent to Pacific Street could be used for development of the downtown and another, which includes the quarry pit, would be for historical purposes. “The point I want to make is, the important part is, that it was well thought out long in advance,” Hill said. “The pieces of equipment that seem to be salvageable and have some historical value have already been identified. We have control over them.” Johnson wants to know who came up with the list of historical items if the historical society wasn’t contacted. “I think our concern really rests on the definition of the artifacts and what might be saved,” Johnson said. Johnson has been trying to acquire a list of the equipment identified from the site to see if it matches-up with what the society knows about the history of the property. Epperson could not be reached for comment. After filing a California Open Records Act request for a list of salvageable and/or historical equipment identified at the property, The Placer Herald was given a list of salvageable items, but none of the items were designated historical. After Johnson saw the list provided to The Placer Herald, Johnson expressed concern about some historical items tagged for sale. “(The owner) has not yet placed value on items, but they will be available to essentially any buyer with the bucks,” Johnson said in an e-mail. “There are some significant items — the older wire saw built by Ruben Ruhkala, the saw shed and a portion of the cutting shed.” Since the meeting, Johnson has been invited to the Rocklin Redevelopment Advisory Committee meeting to discuss the project, but he said he hasn’t been given any historical list by the city just yet. It’s still unclear what impact if any Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to scrap redevelopment agencies statewide, including Rocklin’s, would have on the sale. According to the purchase agreement, the Redevelopment Agency of the city of Rocklin paid $600,000 up front for the sale. The rest being paid in annual installments of $133,529.28 (for five years) with an interest rate of 3.67 percent. The total interest to be paid is expected to be $67,646.42. Johnson is hopeful one day the quarry could be a destination for tourism. “It is wonderful to have an opportunity there,” Johnson said. “Clearly the quarry has the potential of being the regional destination point whether it be an amphitheater like Red Rock in Colorado or an underground art and culture center or even a hard rock mining interpretive center.” Johnson said the project would need a large donor to get the ball rolling.