By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Greene County’s Board of Supervisors (BOS) have been discussing the cost for initiating public water and sewer service (also called “hook up fees”) for well over two years. Most recently on August 27th, Vice Chairman Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) initiated a committee to more formally study what changes should be made to the Water and Sewer Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) policy to incentivize development.
Greene County Administrator John Barkley heads up the work group that includes County Planner/Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda, County Consulting Engineer (from WW Associates) Herb White and Supervisor Lamb. The stated goal of this work group is to reduce barriers to development in Greene County. The BOS has identified the EDU fee as a detriment to projects moving forward.
In the September 24th meeting of the Board, Barkley presented an interim report.
The Rapidan Wastewater System Purchase Policy (2004) and Ruckersville Water System Purchase Policy (2006) each provide a current foundation for the County’s EDU process and costs. These would need to be amended if a different payment schedule is to be adopted including a meter based connection system.
Barkley outlined the assumptions the committee were given:
- The Board wants to incent economic growth in Greene County
- The Board believes the current fee structure limits growth
- EDU’s (Equivalent Dwelling Unit) currently are purchased at the time of issuing of a building permit
- The General Fund is paying for water and sewer costs
- Ideally, Reserve Funds should only be utilized for emergency or capital needs
- The has been no increase in the water and sewer connection fees since January, 2007
- Fee structures should be reviewed annually in synch with the budget process
Barkley then went on to outline payment and process options. The benefit to an incremental payment schedule would make it easier for smaller customers to afford starting up. Delaying the payment of EDU’s to the time of occupancy would ease the burden for customers. The risk is that if payment is not made timely then more collection effort would be required.
Meter based connection fees were then discussed – using meter size (from 5/8 inch to 10 inch) and usage as a basis. This would allow flexibility in fee schedules and limits could be set for monthly usage – as allowed by state law.
The next steps for the committee will be to research how other localities receive payments. The committee will consult with legal counsel regarding legal and process issues. Benchmarking vs. other neighboring localities fee structures for meter based connections is to be reviewed. The hope is to make recommendations to coincide with FY 2015 Budget, Tax Rate and Fee approval process. The committee will update the BOS monthly on October 22nd, November 12th and December 10th.
Supervisor Clarence “Buggs” Peyton (Stanardsville) spoke to thank Davis Lamb for initiating this process and then thanked Mr. Barkley for reducing the plan to writing. He believes it is critical since the current EDU policy doesn’t fit with today’s economy. The current connection fees deter growth in Greene County and therefore don’t allow growth in sales tax revenue.
According to Peyton, Greene needs growth, especially in the Gateway Center in Ruckersville. It was never the intent to have residents subsidize the sewer rates, but that is effectively what is happening. We need to act quickly to get in place a new policy before the Reserve Fund is spent. Small contractors need help and a meter based system seems to be a good fit. Peyton’s final comment was that he doubted that the economy would get much better.
Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) believes this report is a good first step and that the hiring of Barkley as County Administrator is a good start in revising the system. Frydl recommended two things be done. First, would be to change the payment schedule and defer payment from the issuing of a permit to the issuance of the certificate of occupancy. Second, is to review the current system. The volume of fees collected today is not paying the total cost being incurred by Greene County.
When asked after the meeting if the committee would have a recommendation by the December 10th meeting, Barkley was not sure if the study would be completed by that time.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.