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August 27, 2008

Albemarle County Service Authority prepares for joint meeting with County BOS

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20080821-ACSA On September 10, 2008, the Board of Directors for the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) will hold a rare joint meeting with the County Board of Supervisors. They’ll have one hour to discuss issues ranging from how to pay for the extension of sewer infrastructure inside the urban ring to the future of the North Fork Pump Station. The ACSA Board spent their monthly meeting on August 21, 2008, preparing for the meeting.

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NORTH FORK PUMPING STATION UPDATE

20080821-map
Don Wagner said the area along the North Fork of the Rivanna River could be opened to development in a "receiving area" underneath a TDR plan. The areas in white are currently in the County's rural area

During a discussion of the ACSA’s Capital Improvement Program, Executive Director Gary Fern updated the Board of Directors on the status of the North Fork Pump Station that the ACSA is planning in order to increase sewer capacity in the northern section of Albemarle’s urban ring. The Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant is nearing the end of its service life, and new capacity is needed before recently approved developments such as North Pointe are built.  The pump station would move sewage to the Powell Creek Interceptor, which is under the RWSA’s jurisdiction.

Fern said ACSA staff have been holding meetings every two weeks with the various developers with projects in the area to determine anticipated flow rates over the next several decades, with full build-out anticipated by 2060. The consultant designing the station is modeling three potential pumping scenarios.

“Time is the crucial element right now in that we’re looking to have Camelot abandoned within two to three years, so we’re looking at what arrangement of pumping stations will work, which will be most efficient in that period so [the North Fork pump station] can be constructed very quickly and put on line very quickly,”  Fern said. The preliminary engineering report is expected to be ready by the first of October.
“Our next step internally is to meet with each of the developers, go over the flows, and that in essence is going to be their percentage of what they’re paying for the project,” Fern said. 

John Martin (White Hall) said it would be useful to have a cost estimate for the project in advance of the joint meeting. The last figure he was aware of was a $38 million figure provided by engineering firm Greeley and Hansen in their technical report from this July, but he said that might not be valid.

“Greeley and Hansen is recommending one pump station, but as I understand it, our engineers may be recommending two pump stations,” Martin said. Fern said he could not provide an estimate until the report is ready.

Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) asked if there had ever been any discussion of routing a sewer line down the Rivanna River, which would allow gravity to move sewage to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. ACSA Chairman Don Wagner (Rio) said he had spoken with Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), and said that if that method were chosen it would allow that area to be developed, and that the land would be a “logical” receiving area in conjunction with Slutzky’s proposal for transferrable development rights or a TDR program.

“It is out of the watershed, and if you had a sewer line following the river it could open  the area close to the airport, close to NGIC, close to existing businesses on 29 North,” Wagner said.  

The National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) is now part of the U.S. Army’s growing Rivanna Station Military Base.  Between the base and Watts Passage Road, the northern bank of the North Fork Rivanna River runs for about 2.5 miles entirely in the County’s rural area on 500 acres of land owned by Wendell Wood’s Next Generation LLC.  Wood previously sold land to the Federal Government to allow the expansion of the base and requested expansions of the County’s Piney Mountain growth area.

20080821-Wagner
Don Wagner

The ACSA’s Wagner, who was involved in the nearby North Pointe project, said an increased growth area that was part of Slutzky’s TDR plan might call for different infrastructure.  “And if that was going to happen, we ought to be talking about a gravity line as opposed to a pump station.” However, Wagner added that he had talked to another Supervisor who was not very enthusiastic about the TDR plan. He said this would be a topic for the meeting on September 10.

Fern said those were the sorts of questions being discussed in the three scenarios. “In the short term, if we’re looking to get the Camelot plant abandoned, we’re going to need a pump station or two pump stations. Longer term, putting a gravity line to follow the river is where the Service Authority wants to be, preferably before 2060,” Fern said.

The capital costs for a gravity line would be considerably more expensive, but would have lower operating costs.  

Martin asked if the Powell Creek Interceptor would have the capacity to handle the growth. Fern said it would be able to, at least for the first few years, but that the RWSA and ACSA will need to determine at what point the Interceptor will need to be upgraded.

Wagner also said another unknown was what future members of the Board of Supervisors would do in terms of zoning in the North Fork area. “The lines are built to accommodate the zoning,” Wagner said. He said in the case of the Hollymead, the Board of Supervisors rezoned the area from Light Industrial to Neighborhood Model District without taking sewer capacity into account.

Colbaugh said that is why the ACSA is empowered to charge connection fees.

 “Our job is to serve and collect the money to build whatever it is that we need to build,” Colbaugh said.

BOARD APPROVES PHASE 4 OF NORTHFIELD SEWER PROJECT

The Board approved a plan to align Phase 4 of the Northfields Sewer Project underneath Huntington Road. The area is being connected to the Albemarle County Service Authority in part because septic fields in the development are failing. The other alternative was to route the sewer along one of the homeowner’s land, an action she had planned to oppose. VDOT granted a waiver to allow the alignment after Supervisor David Slutzky intervened on the ACSA’s behalf.

Robert Humphris (Jack Jouett) said he was concerned about the precedent the ACSA might be setting by putting the sewer line in the middle of the road. ACSA Counsel Jim Bowling  said he thought this was a one-time event, and that he suspected VDOT would not approve similar alignments in the future.  The ACSA estimates it will pay $36,000 to repave the road when the line is in place.

CAN THE COUNTY ASSESS ACSA CONNECTION FEES?

When existing homes need to be connected to sewer lines run by the Albemarle County Service Authority, they are subject to the full connection fee, which can cost up to $15,000. In a new home, that cost is built into the sale price. But, an existing homeowner would have to come up with the funds before service can be installed.  The ACSA is investigating what solutions can be found to lower the burden.

One possibility would be for Albemarle County to assess the connection charge, and then bill the customer on a monthly basis. This would be in the form of a County service district, which would require approval from 50 percent of the property owners in the area.

ACSA Attorney Jim Bowling said that service districts are not common in part because of the statutory framework that needs to be put in place.

“The Board of Supervisors would contract with the Service Authority to do the work, the Service Authority would put in a bid for the contract and collect the lump sum which would include hook up fees… they then would then and assess a levy on the property owners that were affected,” Bowling said.  

Jim Colbaugh was concerned that owners of vacant lots would be forced to pay for a connection they might not use until the property is developed.  The ACSA Board said they were hoping to address the issue at the September 10th  meeting with the Board of Supervisors.

ACSA DISCUSSES WATER RESTRICTIONS

The ACSA also discussed proposed changes to how the Authority will handle water restrictions in the future. Earlier this year, Gary Fern and Judy Mueller of the Charlottesville Public Works Department met with landscapers, irrigation contractors and members of the Mid-Atlantic Car Wash Association.  Now he is proposing changes.

  • During the “Drought Watch” stage, outdoor watering will be allowed from 8:00 PM to 10:00 AM
  • During the “Drought Warning” stage, cars can be washed at any licensed, certified vehicle wash facility
  • Buildings can be washed by a licensed commercial power washing company with written approval from the ACSA
  • The filling of swimming pools and wading pools will require ACSA approval
  • Hotels will be required to institute a policy limiting linens for customers during the “Drought Warning” stage. Previously, this was only required during the “Drought Emergency” stage.

The car-wash certification program will be created in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Carwash Association. Participating companies will be allowed to operate as long as they can prove they are recycling a percentage of their water. The percentage varies depending on the severity of the restrictions.

The City and County will both be asked to amend their ordinances to reflect these changes. Charlottesville City Council will hear a report on this matter in September.

The ACSA is also revising its drought management plan to change the way the public is notified about water restrictions. Fern did not have the draft ready by the time of the ACSA Board meeting.

ACSA LOSING WATER?

Water-flow-chart

During consideration of the ACSA’s financial report from July 2008, Clarence Roberts (Rivanna) was concerned about a discrepancy between the amount of water that the ACSA purchases from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) and the amount it sells to its customers. By his estimate, the ACSA has lost over 500 million gallons (MGD) over the last year.

“To lose 500 million gallons of water in a year, something is just not right,” Roberts said. He called on the Board to address the issue.

Gary Fern, the Executive Director of the ACSA, said the Authority is working with the City to expand leak detection and repair programs, and is also working to recalibrate RWSA meters to make sure that they are accurate.

ACSA Chairman Don Wagner (Rio) said that the City has the same issue as well.

“The real point is that the ratepayers in the long run are having to absorb the loss,” Roberts said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:15 - Discussion of whether ACSA or RWSA is losing water in the system
  • 10:50 - Update on the North Fork Pump Station
  • 22:40 - Discussion on changes to water restrictions
  • 47:00 - Discussion of alternative financing for existing homes that require connection to ACSA sewer lines

Sean Tubbs

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