By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors public meeting on September 3rd went pretty smoothly. It was what happened afterwards that stirred the ire of some members. An unannounced briefing by the Timmons Group after a goals work session regarding the James River water pipeline surprised several members.
The meeting agenda noted that there would be a work session to discuss supervisor goals, but there was no indication that supervisors would also be updated on the rising costs of the pipeline. The regular public meeting ended at 5:00 pm and the Board reconvened at 6:00 pm for the goals briefing. The Timmons briefing was prescheduled to start at 7:00 pm, according to a briefing handout.
Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) is irate over what he perceives as an attempt to keep the public in the dark. “It is outrageous to push this [briefing] off to a work session when everyone had left and not discuss it as an agenda item in our meeting. It’s even worse when at least three of us weren’t told about it ahead of time.
“I hope the county stops this back door dealing with the public. This project has increased from $19 million to $30 million, to $42 million, and if this design is approved, from $58 to $63 million. [Ed. Note: The pipeline’s cost would be shared equally with Louisa County, apart from any connection to Fork Union]. The county needs to be more honest and open with the taxpayers of this county. This is not the way to run an open government”, he said.
Supervisor Charles Allbaugh (Rivanna) agreed that the briefing should have been more accessible to the public. “I wasn’t aware that Timmons was going to give a presentation last night. I think there was some miscommunication about that and it should have been given during a regular meeting. I hope in the future that any such presentations will be given proper public notice so that everyone has a chance to come see it.”
County Administrator G. Cabell Lawton IV acknowledged the concerns and said “In the future we need to be more careful about placing on the agenda who is appearing before the Board”.
The briefing outlined a pipeline scenario that supervisor Gene Ott (Rivanna) proposed originally. Mr. Ott, a member of the James River Water Committee, said that the $58 to $63 million cost would be if the pipeline were to service Fork Union. Faced with the higher price tag, Ott said: “it will cost too much to do it my way”.
Ott also expressed concern over the other options: “The way it is planned now, [it will cost the county] $22 million to help provide water to Louisa and a few customers at Zion Crossroads, plus the prison. The current plan will not benefit the Lake and it will not directly provide water to any household in the county. As it stands now it is a bad deal.”
Ott further stated his concerns over how the county expects to pay for the water line: “The idea is that we will generate enough economic development to pay for the water line. [But currently] all of the Zion Crossroads development in Louisa takes less than 200,000 gallons per day. For us to make the system pay for itself, we will need [economic development] in Fluvanna County many times larger that the current level in Louisa.”
Mr. Allbaugh was not yet ready to pass judgment: “I think it is very premature for me to make any decisions on what I will support regarding the pipeline. I don’t have all the information needed to make a good decision, but, any decision I make will be fiscally responsible and in the best interests of Fluvanna County residents”, he said.