- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 November 2009 01:04
- Published on Wednesday, 04 November 2009 01:04
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“It’s been a long time coming, but we can now look forward to this project moving forward as expeditiously as it can. We’re almost there,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Darryl Fisher told this Monday night’s audience.
“Although we ran into obstacles, we have been committed to seeing the project through. Nobody gave up,” Fisher said of the project’s unexpected delays.
Placid Bay resident Jerry Gereau attended the Monday night briefing and early in the session presented a question he raised the first time he attended a Westmoreland Board of Supervisors meeting many years ago.
Gereau wanted to know when the sewage collection service would be made available to him. After decades of waiting, he was assured he be brought on line in 14 to 16 months. He smiled and sat back down.
“I want to say thank you to everybody who has been involved,” Phase 2 service area resident Larry Sprouse said. “It’s been a long time coming. I just thank you.”
Sprouse’s expression of gratitude was followed by a long round of applause.
Private citizens were given an opportunity to present questions related to the project and its financing. There were multiple queries about what would occur if the project became unable to support itself.
In every instance, the queries were met with official assurances that no county sewer projects fail and that the project will support itself without any help from county residents who live outside the project’s service area.
County Administrator Norm Risavi drew a distinction between the county’s successful Coles Point and Phase 1 Washington District sewer projects and the defaulted Montross/Westmoreland Sewer Authority.
“The county has never missed a payment. The revenue [collected from the county’s sewer systems] has always been sufficient to cover the cost. If costs increase, we increase the service fee,” he said.
That raised another question. A Phase 2 Washington District sewer customer sought assurance that the project’s monthly service fee would not become excessive. Phase 2’s initial monthly fee has been set at $40.
“No one can say it will remain at $40 forever,” Risavi said. “The Coles Point fee went up after four years. We tried to maintain the Coles Point Cost at $32 per month but had to increase the rate. We do the best we can to cover the cost.”
Risavi moved on to discussion of the project the county government inherited from the failed Montross/Westmoreland Sewer Authority. He said an economy of scale was realized when the authority was dissolved in 2008 and the system was taken over by the county government.
According to the rationale presented, the Phase 2 Washington District sewer will further enhance the county government’s economy of scale. Residents were additionally reminded that the $3,000 connection fee that was offered two years ago has risen to $6,800. Supervisor Russ Culver characterized the introductory rate as “a darned good deal.”
Board Chairman Fisher echoed Risavi’s assessment of problems the Montross/Westmoreland Sewer Authority encountered in its effort to fulfill its debt retirement obligations.
“That was the only [sewer] project that ever had a problem, and that project wasn’t one the county spearheaded. Instead, we took advice on that project from some other folk. The Coles Point sewer always had self-sufficient.
“The problem,” he repeated, “was with the project where we took advice from other folk. We have always worked to be sure the projects would be self-sufficient from beginning to end.
“We have a real good track record,” said Fisher of the county’s prior sewer projects. “Our Resource International engineers have worked hard to make sure the numbers they give to us are in line with what the actual pricing is going to be.”
District 4 Supervisor Woody Hynson remained quiet throughout most of the Nov. 2 discussion but took a moment to express his gratitude. The Phase 2 Washington District sewer service area resident recalled past efforts.
“I can remember the hot summer days we spent in Richmond working over the figures with RUS,” the Rural Development finance agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“There have been a lot of people who have spent many hours of many days working and sweating and crunching all the numbers. I was aiming for a monthly service of $36 instead of $40, but $40 was the best we could come up with,” the District 4 Supervisor told the Phase 2 sewer customers.
Larry Roberson praised the effort as a means of preserving the county’s rural character. “this is how you leave farm land alone,” he said of the collection system that allows sewage from outlying Westmoreland County subdivisions to be pumped to the Colonial Beach sewage plant for treatment.
Roberson noted the platted waterfront subdivision lots whose soils cannot support conventional septic drain fields.
“This is needed,” the Board of Supervisors representative from the Town of Colonial Beach told the Phase 2 Washington District sewer customers.
— Betsy Ficklin