By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
On November 20th the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to support moving forward in a public private partnership with Aqua Virginia [click here for Free Enterprise Forum story]. The three supervisors who voted for the Aqua deal each had different aspects to discuss immediately following the Nov. 20 meeting.
The motion was made at approximately 8:20 p.m. by Joe Chesser (Rivanna District) and seconded by Mozell Booker (Fork Union District). After about 20 minutes of discussion, the supervisors voted to pass the public-private partnership with chairman Shaun Kenney joining Chesser and Booker.
Don Weaver (Cunningham District) was very upset on the procedure of how the vote took place. Before the meeting was adjourned, Weaver said, “I’m appalled that this board would tarnish this board at the end of the meeting.”
The vote occurred after the majority of agenda items were completed but the meeting still had over another hour of items discussed that were not included on the agenda. The Aqua vote and one other required funds being spent. The second, appropriating money for signs in Columbia came in at $5,000.
The Aqua vote happened during the unfinished business section of the meeting. The section of the meeting did not have any pre-announced items. The unsolicited PPEA involving Aqua to provide water to Zion Crossroads and sewer lines back to the Department of Corrections had a public hearing in September.
While negotiations over the deal broke off in October, the supervisors never officially rejected the deal leaving it always open to action either in favor or against. The only state requirement is a vote for approval cannot occur until after 30 days from the public hearing.
The vote to approve included four amendments that changed language regarding venue of a possible lawsuit for both the water and sewer contracts from specifically identifying the Western District Court of the federal court system to “as permissible by law”.
The reasoning being if it was a state issue it would be argued in Fluvanna Circuit Court. It was debated if a lawsuit happened, would there be a case specifically to determine venue because the language was not specific to the circuit court.
The other two amendments lengthen the deposit period from 45 days after signing to 75 days for two contracts.
The final portion of the amendment instructed the county administrator to pay $500,000 and $50,000 for part of the initial deposit no later than noon on December 1st.
Fluvanna County already has already accepted an offer with the Department of Corrections to use up to 75,000 gallons of water per day of extra capacity from the Fluvanna Correctional Facility. the county would have to build, maintain and service the water and sewer lines if it only used the DOC option.
“When we talk about 75,000 gallons, all that does it takes care of one or two organizations coming in.” In the post meeting interview Chesser continued, “75,000 gallons takes care of 200 to 300 homes plus a few commercial — like a strip mall. That’s not the type of economic development we need.”
She had been looking over the Aqua documents for quite some time as well. Booker said after the meeting, “I just couldn’t see how this one little legal issue is going to keep us from moving forward. There’s been one stalling after another.
“We’ve had public hearing, we’ve been talking about this, Aqua Virginia is in our community. It is a water company in our community. Why can’t we be partners with them and be successful?”
The ‘one legal issue’ still hasn’t be cleared by the county legal adviser and attorney Fred Payne. He said he had a number of concerns previously and could not discuss them at the Nov. 20 meeting because he had not looked at the file in almost two months. He could not say with certainty if the change of language cleared his legal concern.
He also added he had other concerns but would have to look at the contract the supervisors approved and his notes.
Questions regarding where the contract is as of Nov. 25 were directed to county administration. Steve Nichols, county administrator, declined to comment.
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