Monthly Archives: September, 2010

Greene County Board Approves Private Community Water/Sewer System

By Pauline O. Hovey, Field Officer

The Greene County Board of Supervisors held a rather short and smooth-flowing meeting Tuesday night (9/28) despite an agenda that included a joint public hearing on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) application to fund capital school facilities projects and a request from a local developer concerning private water and septic systems. With a small crowd in attendance, the meeting lasted no more than a half hour, with no one signed up to speak either on the public hearing or on the general matters from the public.

The public hearing, held in conjunction with the Greene County Economic Development Authority, is a USDA requirement as the County moves forward in the loan application process to fund capital projects for the Greene County Public Schools. Four EDA representatives attended but did not speak on the matter.

Much public discussion and input on the project has already occurred, from standing room only crowds filling previous meetings over the summer months urging supervisors to at least move forward with the grant application process, to numerous residents providing input at open meetings with the project’s steering committee. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville), who serves on the steering committee, reported that he has emailed an updated rough estimate of the project to the other board members and noted the steering committee has determined the main priorities of those under consideration.

Mr. Steve Jones, chief operating officer representing Fried Companies, Inc., revisited an issue he presented two weeks ago asking the board to consider his company’s request for a certificate of convenience and necessity for private community water and septic systems for their proposed Monroe Heights Subdivision located at Celt Road in Stanardsville. No public water and sewer system is currently available at that location, but because the proposed subdivision is more than 50 lots and the County already has a public service authority in existence, the State Corporation Commission (SCC ) requires the County approve a certificate of convenience and necessity before Fried Companies can pursue the project with the SCC.

At the previous board meeting, Jones brought the company’s civil engineer and soil scientist along with a manufacturer of alternative drain field systems to explain to the supervisors the science, maintenance, and workings of such a system, providing as much information as possible. Jones later provided a follow-up letter of commitment to establish an escrow account for a reserve drain field. Jones’ presentation and the company’s financial commitment gave the supervisors enough details and reassurance to address any concerns that the County would be responsible for any future maintenance or provision of water and sewer to homeowners at the site.

Jones explained that Fried Companies will set up an escrow account for a 100-percent reserve drain field, dismissing the County from any responsibility for future water and sewer needs. The company has proposed depositing a specific amount into the escrow account upon the sale of the first 20 lots, to enable them to activate the reserve drain field, and this has been stated in their letter of commitment.

After County attorney Ray Clarke reported on the matter, noting that Fried Companies has legally covered everything it can on this project, Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) said he was satisfied that sufficient funds would be set aside to address future water and sewer needs. Aware of possibly addressing the issue of water and sewer systems in the future, Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) added, “We need to define the service area for the public authority (RSA), so that we avoid placing private systems where public infrastructure already exists.” The board then voted unanimously to pass a resolution approving the certificate, noting acceptance of Fried Company’s commitment to build an escrow account.

“We’re very excited that we got the County at the comfort level they needed to enable us to move forward with the SCC,” Jones said afterwards.

In other matters, Greene County Schools Superintendent David Jeck asked that technology reimbursement funds that mistakenly had not been transferred from last year’s school budget be added back into this year’s budget. He also requested the board vote to use a portion of Greene County’s allocation of monies from the Federal jobs bill to reinstate benefits that had been removed from employees last year. The board voted to adopt a proposal for the Federal jobs bill funding and postponed a final decision on the technology reimbursement until their next meeting (October 12) based on their rules of order regarding reallocation of funds.

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Albemarle County Service Authority Antes Up

By. Neil Williamson, President

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Board of Directors meeting yesterday (9/28) played out more like high stakes poker game than a cooperative utility assembly.  Charlottesville Tomorrow has the story in this morning’s Daily Progress

A motion was made by Ken Boyd from Albemarle County to have the RWSA fund the design of a new 42 foot Ragged Mountain dam ($869,000).  The board, made up of 3 Charlottesville representatives, 3 Albemarle representatives and 1 citizen representative, was deadlocked 3-3 (Albemarle for, Charlottesville opposed) on the motion.  Rather than casting the deciding vote, the citizen representative, Mike Gaffney, asked for additional discussion. 

In the additional discussion, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris suggested that he would be hard pressed to vote in opposition to the motion if City ratepayers were not paying for it.  Then the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) Executive Director Gary O’Connell indicated that he could authorize paying the full cost of the design work for the first 30 days (up to $50,000) and would ask his Board of Directors if they would approve paying the balance of the contract in their next regular meeting October 21st.  Based on the nods from the ACSA Board members present at the meeting and their previous public statements, it is assumed the ASCA Board will approve the request.

The original motion was retracted and the ACSA proposal passed unanimously.

The Free Enterprise Forum estimates that had the proposal gone forward under RWSA funding, the cost share for the dam design would have been 85% County, 15% City.  Thus, if approved by the ACSA Board of Directors the additional cost to ACSA would be $138,850.

While 138 thousand dollars is a good amount of money, it seems like this “upping the ante” provides the Ragged Mountain Dam project with momentum to continue forward on an aggressive schedule.

But in a larger sense, when should we start to question the construct of the RWSA? 

The City of Charlottesville, unhappy with the direction the approved community water supply plan funded additional studies to support a different approach, now Albemarle County (through the ACSA) is funding the design of a the approved water supply plan dam that the City has most recently only conditionally approved.

If the RWSA was created to coordinate local expenditures on water and wastewater and to accomplish this task the City and County find it necessary to use taxpayer/ratepayer dollars to fund studies and designs in an expensive game of poker, has the cooperative nature of the RWSA evaporated? 

If so, how should we proceed from here?  Should Albemarle County buy a reservoir from the City and build their own water treatment plant?  Should the City Public Works take on dredging as a core government function?

If RWSA is worth saving, who will stand up as its champion?

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Irreconcilable Differences at RWSA?

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President.

After sitting through many hours of public meetings this week (9/20) regarding the community water supply, I have come to a most uncomfortable question – should the RWSA divorce?

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) was created by the County of Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville to receive federal funds for water and wastewater treatment. According to www.Cvillepedia.org:

The RWSA was formed June 7, 1972 as a result of state and federal pressure for Charlottesville and Albemarle to work cooperatively on water and sewer services. After each locality separately filed applications for EPA grants for sewer infrastructure around 1971, the State Water Control Board held a public hearing June 14-15, 1971 and adopted a resolution “to the effect that no further Federal grant would be given either to the City of Charlottesville or the County of Albemarle until the two had formed some type of authority to administer the water and sewerage systems of both, since both were dependent on the Rivanna River for their source of potable water and the receiving stream of their wastewater effluent.”[5]

Negotiations between the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors led to the signing of the Four-Party Agreement dated June 12, 1973 by council, the board of supervisors, the Albemarle County Service Authority, and the RWSA.[6]

So this was a marriage of convenience to facilitate “free” federal infrastructure funding.

A great deal has changed since this partnership was formed.  If yesterday’s (9/21) meeting of the Four Boards (ACOB, ACSA, CCC, & RWSA) is any indication these four groups may no longer have shared goals.  In the meeting, at times they did not even have shared facts.

www.Buzzle.com lists these frequently cited reasons for causing divorce:

Lack of commitment to the union

Lack of communication between partners

Abandonment

Inability to manage or resolve conflict

Personality Differences or ‘irreconcilable differences’

Differences in personal and career goals

Financial problems

Cultural and lifestyle differences

On each of these counts an argument can be made that each of the partners may have not met their obligations under the partnership.

Whenever one is considering ending a long time partnership, the costs and benefits to the relationship must be weighed and important questions must be answered:

  • With so much public acrimony, can this partnership be salvaged?
  • Can trust between partners be restored? 
  • Does everyone really want to work toward that end?
  • If not, how will we divide the assets of the RWSA?  How will we as a community provide future water and sewer treatment?

Once again we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

City Council Reaffirms Support for 42 foot Dam, but …

From The City of Charlottesville Website:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIAAt their regular meeting last night [9/20], Charlottesville City Council conducted a public hearing on the community’s 50-year water supply plan following the results of additional studies conducted by the City and the RWSA. After hearing views from dozens of concerned citizens, City Council, in a 5-0 vote, reaffirmed their support of the 50-year water plan with several modifications to be moved forward to the wider Four Boards Meeting later today. These include:

A commitment to aggressive conservation measures that could limit the expansion of our water needs.

A commitment to build on the existing Ragged Mountain Dam or to build a new dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir of up to 42 feet, if needed, in phases. The first phase would include an expansion of 13 feet to the current dam or the building of a new dam up to 13 feet

To address the role of dredging of the South Fork Reservoir following the results of a Request for Proposal to be issued in the near future.

A commitment to providing adequate water flows to the Mormons and Rivanna Rivers.

A reevaluation of the supply plan in 10 year increments, using updated data on water usage and population growth.

A new 36 inch transmission pipeline would be built in the future but the existing pipe line would be kept in place to serve as a redundancy if there was a catastrophic failure in service to the new line.

That all components of the plan be subject to the approval of a cost allocation agreement between the City, the Albemarle County Service Authority and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

Free Enterprise Forum Calls on City to Act on Water with Vision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 20, 2010

Charlottesville, VA – The Free Enterprise Forum today calls on Charlottesville City Council to reaffirm their commitment to the Community Water Supply Plan they previously endorsed in 2006 and 2008. The approved and permitted Ragged Mountain solution meets the fifty year projected need, replaces the spillway safety issue, restores flow to the Moormans River and provides water from within our own local watershed.

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “While a vocal minority has generated significant attention as ‘armchair engineers’, the professional reports we have reviewed continue to support the Ragged Mountain fifty year solution.

“I believe Charlottesville City Council will hear a great deal tonight about the Community Water Supply Plan and will reaffirm its support for the most practical, least environmentally harmful water supply solution. While Mayor Norris does not share our perspective, I am convinced a majority on Council will act decisively with vision. To do anything less would be a disservice to future generations. Let’s not just kick this can down the road, make a decision and build it,” Williamson concluded.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded, public policy organization. More information about the Free Enterprise Forum can be found on its website www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

Fluvanna Selects New Administrator

 By. William Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

Mr. Jay Scudder of Patrick County, Virginia was named Fluvanna  County’s new county administrator at the Board of Supervisors meeting on September 15.

jayscudder Mr. Scudder, a native of Lynchburg, has been the Patrick County administrator since 2008.  According to the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce, his surprise resignation came out of a September 13th executive session of The Patrick County Board of Supervisors.  He expected to assume his Fluvanna position on November 1.

[Photo credit: Patrick County Chamber of Commerce]

Charlottesville Holds Up Critical North/South Bike Lane Connector – The Meadowcreek Parkway

By. Neil Williamson, President

This morning’s (9/10) Daily Progress included a Rachana Dixit article with the headline “Survey Finds Demand For More Bike Lanes”.  Despite the somewhat misleading headline, the well written story explained the priorities a survey of bicyclists found support for specific bike lanes. 

The 2010 Bike Ballot, administered by Bike Charlottesville and the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, had 586 respondents. When survey participants were asked to identify the three most important areas the cycling community should champion in the next few years, the largest percentage of votes, 82 percent, went to pushing for more bike lanes.

The article highlights the City of Charlottesville’s commitment to  bike lanes:

The city’s fiscal 2011 Capital Improvement Program has set aside $50,000 for bicycle infrastructure and $77,250 for trail and greenway development. Chris Gensic, city park and trails planner, said Charlottesville has about 2.5 miles of off-road, bikeable trails.

“I think the goal is like 10 to 15 miles, and that’s what I’m working on now,” he said in an interview.

Gensic said the city hopes to open 2 miles of new trails in the next year or so.

What if there was a project that would connect city bicyclists with Pen Park and other attractions on near Rio Road?  In reverse, it could bring County bicyclists safely into the Downtown area.

Such a project exists – The Meadowcreek Parkway.

When, and if,  the city builds its portion, the road will come with one of the most useful bike lanes for the community. This will form the major spine of the northern commuter trail.

One might ask why the city is stalling the creation of this important link in the community’s cycling infrastructure?

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Return from August Hiatus

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

fluvanna BOS 2010 Fluvanna’s supervisors returned from their August break with water and personnel very much on their mind. Both were discussed in a closed session after the September 1st meeting. According to information obtained by the Free Enterprise Forum, the Board of Supervisors can no longer count on a cooperative water venture with Louisa County.

Instead, if the Board wants to bring water to Zion Crossroads, it will have to do so unilaterally, or in a cooperative venture with the private sector. These options still are under active consideration.

Supervisors also need to select a new county administrator. Currently, the county has retained an interim administrator, Frank Pleva. Mr. Pleva and three other candidates are the finalists and will be interviewed on September 8th. A decision is expected this month, perhaps by the September 15th meeting.

In other business, the Board agreed to return some $417,000 in unspent FY2011 funds to the school administration. This unusual procedure was agreed to as part of negotiations for the FY 2011 budget. Supervisors declined to return an additional $109,000 to various other departments.Warner, Mark-020209-18425- 0011

Supervisor Gene Ott also announced that Senator Mark Warner will visit the county on September 9th and will meet residents at the county library at 3:00 pm.

Fluvanna – Louisa Water Partnership is Dead

By. William Des Roches

According to information obtained by the Free Enterprise Forum this evening (9/2), efforts to revive the Fluvanna – Louisa water partnership have ended.  Recently, Fluvanna officials presented alternative funding proposals to their Louisa counterparts, and those proposals were rejected earlier today.  This ends the discussions.  Fluvanna officials had been looking for creative ways to finance its share of the waterline, including a back-loaded payment structure to minimize the initial tax burden on county residents.

While the partnership may have dissolved, Fluvanna officials are looking at other ways to bring water to Zion Crossroads, including drawing initially from the Rivanna River, and then the James River when there is sufficient demand.  Officials have not ruled out working with the private sector to supply county needs.