Sat11222014

Last updateMon, 27 Nov 2017 12am

   201411metrocastweb

January school fire reaffirms need for Town water and sewer upgrades

Colonial Beach Town Manager Val Foulds continues to work diligently on the town’s water and sewer infrastructure. But despite her best efforts, as well as those of town staff and town council, time was not on their side the first week of 2014, when fire struck the old two-story landmark school building at 315 Douglas Ave.

Although fire officials, at the time of the fire, said that a fire of that magnitude would put a strain on any infrastructure, after the fact, Colonial Beach Fire Chief David Robey did state in recent meetings that the infrastructure of the water lines around the campus needs to be addressed.

What may not be common knowledge is that the water lines surrounding the elementary school campus are just a part of a long list of problems being addressed by Foulds and town staff. Work on that section surrounding the campus has been in the works since last year. Replacing pipes in this area was added to a proposed project to replace a failing reservoir tank at the Robin Grove Lane facility, as well as to install meters throughout the town.

However, red tape, procedural steps and funding to undertake such a project take time - time that is out of the town’s control.

Currently, the town relies on several wells, water tanks and reservoir tanks to extract, hold and distribute the town’s water supply. Identifying problems with the town’s water and sewer infrastructure has been an ongoing project for many years.

The Robin Grove Lane facility contains pumps for extracting water and distributing it to homes, and two holding tanks. One tank has a capacity of 100,000 gallons and another has a capacity of 150,000 gallons. The larger holding tank has been isolated for some time, due to exfiltration water loss problems or problems associated with inadequate water pressure.

Although posing no health risks, the leaking tanks interfered with water pressure, making the delivery of water inefficient.

Foulds reviewed the matter and updated the Colonial Beach Town Council in a letter dated Jan. 14, stating, “The failing tank has reduced the town’s storage capacity by 21.4%.” Foulds also stated that several qualified vendors had investigated rehabilitation solutions, but none proved viable.  

The council has been made aware of the problems, as they have developed and been discovered. In March of 2013, the council passed a resolution authorizing the town manager to sign the required application to seek grant funding and other resources to address the critical water and sewer infrastructure needs. The resolution states, “These investments in water infrastructure improve water pressure, fire protection and service reliability.”  

Also in March, the town submitted an application to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) for any and all funding options, to include available grant funding.

However, on April 11, 2013, VDH advised the town that based on current guidelines, including an increase in the town’s median household income (reported at $45,739), the town would not qualify for grant funding for this project. VDH also stated that they do not provide funding to localities that do not meter all water usage, but indicated they would consider funding if the town included installation of water meters in the project, since the town was in great need of repairs.

Foulds’ Jan. 14 letter to council also states, “After consulting with the town council, staff proceeded to update the project cost and resubmitted an application on May 10, 2013 to VDH. The new application included the upgrade of undersized, old water lines, as well as the installation of 1,874 meters to all residential and business customers without meters.”

On June 25, 2013, VDH made an initial offer to the town for funding in the amount of $3,972,566 in the form of a 20-year loan. The following month, on July 11, the town council passed a resolution giving the town manager the authorization to accept the offer of initial funding.

Foulds’ Jan. 14 letter also indicates that during a meeting in August 2013 with VDH, the town added a back-up power generator and security cameras at the Robin Grove Lane location to the project application. VDH’s professionals advised that they would be willing to add the cost of these long-term security improvements to the funding package.

Town staff has been working on one of the major steps in the process, the selection and contracting of a consulting engineer firm to work with the town on this project. The project requires strict guidelines that must be followed exactly. Town staff interviewed five firms and has made their recommendations in the order of which companies scored highest to lowest.

Town council expects to choose a consulting engineering firm at the next work session, Thursday, Jan. 23. The next critical milestone for this project is to submit plans and specifications to the Virginia Office of Drinking Water, to be reviewed by February 2014.

—Linda Farneth

 

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