Fluvanna Water Discussions Headed to Public Hearing

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — It might just be a way to get the public input, but the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to put the Aqua deal to a public hearing.aqua-america-logo_thumb.jpg

This now releases all documents of the negotiations of an unsolicited Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA) proposal. All of the documents, including staff notes, now will be released as required by law.  These documents can be found by clicking here

“We need economic development and we have a gold opportunity to do it right,” said chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District).

The proposal, in generic form because the latest documents have not been made public yet, includes payments of approximately $1 million a year for 20 years. That allows Fluvanna to have an allotment of water each year for a Zion Crossroads water line along the Route 250 corridor. Anything above the allotment is available at a wholesale price.

As part of the deal, Fluvanna would control the service area meaning all payments from customers would go to the county. The proposal includes requiring anyone within 2,500 feet of the pipeline to connect unless grandfathered in with a current well and septic system. No new wells would be allowed in the service area.

From discussions with staff, it appears at the completion of the 20-year agreement, Fluvanna could then buy the system at a discounted rate or walkaway reverting the system to full Aqua control. Essentially, like leasing a car.

Donald Weaver (Cunningham District) had issues with current Aqua customers paying a water bill to maintain the Aqua plant then having to pay taxes that would go towards paying for the Aqua plant also. Aqua would be selling Fluvanna water for the Zion Crossroads area from currently unused permitted allotment. Aqua would not be expanding the current withdrawal permit.

The proposal that will go forward to a public hearing does not have the recommendation of Steve Nichols, county administrator, and Fred Payne, county attorney.

Nichols and staff recommended not proceeding with the proposal at all. He raised concerns of costs over the 20-year term, risk to the county throughout the term and issues within the proposal itself that had not been addressed to Nichols’ satisfaction.

Payne raised concerns of state constitutional law in regards to what Aqua would require and what Fluvanna legally could do. He had other concerns including if issues arise what court would the dispute be heard in. Payne insists that all contracts require Fluvanna County Circuit Court as the setting. Aqua desires federal court.

Both Payne and Nichols underscored Aqua has been very easy to deal with but in terms of the agreement, Payne said, “This is not a charitable endeavor for [Aqua].” He noted it is a corporation looking to make money.

The latest iteration of Aqua’s proposal was received on July 2. That one will be used for the public hearing.

The most recent changes include requiring 10 percent escrow on top of each year’s payment of approximately $900,000. Also, 45 days after the agreement is signed, Fluvanna would pay one year’s payment as a deposit. Both the extra escrow payments each year and the deposit would be used at the end of the term to save payments the final years.

The supervisors did approve a deal with the Department of Corrections for 75,000 gallons of water per day and 125,000 gallons of sewer per day. This deal can begin after July 1, 2014 and is required for any deal with Aqua. Aqua’s proposal includes sewer treatment at the Fluvanna Correctional Facility for Women.

The public hearing will be August 7 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at Fluvanna County High School’s auditorium.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

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