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March 23, 2011

Bidding approach for dredging approved; Location of sewer pump station deferred

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DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
 
With the particulars of the first phase of an earthen dam to be built at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir recently finalized, the board of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority now finds itself confronted with expensive choices about dredging a major reservoir and building sewer system upgrades.

Some Charlottesville residents are advocating that the RWSA spend more on dredging and less on construction of a new dam. Other city residents are advocating for investments to protect the Woolen Mills neighborhood from being the site for a new sewer pump station.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the RWSA board, it was clear these regional projects will join the unfinished Meadow Creek Parkway and the controversial water plan as further tests to the cooperative spirit of Charlottesville and Albemarle officials.

“We’ve got to learn how to work better as a county and city, and I’m very much in favor of doing that,” said Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd. “But there has to be a give and take on both sides. It can’t all be the county giving in to the city, which is what people think a lot.”

“I agree completely we need to learn to work together, and learn to really look at the broad interests of the greater community, rather than looking at our own parochial interests,” City Councilor David Brown said in an interview. “What happens now is we both think we are always giving in, but sometimes the county does, and sometimes the city does, but Ken Boyd is fundamentally correct, we do need to work better together.”

20110322-RWSA (L to R) RWSA board members David Brown, Michael Gaffney, and Kenneth Boyd

After months of research, the board took action to lay the groundwork for a formal bidding process for future dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The reservoir has not been dredged since it was built in 1966. RWSA staff said they would need outside help to carefully develop the request for proposals for a dredging program.

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the RWSA’s executive director, recommended utilizing a new bidding approach aided by an engineering firm well-acquainted with this area’s dredging opportunities. HDR Engineering completed a dredging feasibility study in 2010.

“The board has asked us to seek from HDR their fee for developing a request for proposals under the Virginia Public-Private Partnership in Education and Infrastructure Act guidelines,” Frederick said in an interview. “Next month we will present the board with HDR’s fee to develop that RFP. If that’s authorized, then HDR will develop the RFP and we will bring it back to the board for approval.”

Dredging is being evaluated outside of the 50-year water supply plan. RWSA officials say the PPEA approach, approved by the board Tuesday, will give them flexibility to evaluate a wide variety of proposals as opposed to being constrained by a normal state procurement process with specific outcomes identified in advance.

Rebecca Quinn, who served on the original committee that selected HDR Engineering to consult on dredging, is a representative of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan.

“It’s taken a long time, but I am glad that we are at this point,” Quinn said in an interview. “I appreciated the interest in the board in taking what I call a performance-based approach [to dredging].”

Quinn says that a new RWSA study of the 50-year water supply demand and actual bids to conduct dredging will demonstrate that the new earthen dam is both unnecessary and not cost effective.

“We have not waivered,” Quinn added. “Our message is to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, protect Ragged Mountain from destruction that is unnecessary and make data-based decisions.”

The City Council plans to discuss at its next meeting whether to include a commitment to dredging in a new cost-sharing agreement currently being negotiated between the city and the Albemarle County Service Authority.

Meanwhile, Woolen Mills residents reiterated to the RWSA board their preference to have a new sewer pump station built outside their neighborhood rather than enlarged in place. The Rivanna Pump Station, built in 1981, needs to be upgraded to improve reliability and protect the environment.

“Like my neighbors, I have dealt personally with the smell and the sight of an industrial facility that never should have been in the neighborhood in the first place,” said Jennifer Ackerman, who has lived near the pump station for the past two decades. “You have a wonderful opportunity here to undo an egregious mistake rather than to amplify it.”

Earlier this month, the City Council sided with the neighbors and expressed its preference for a pump station site across the Rivanna River in Albemarle. That location may cost an additional $9 million and Boyd said he was concerned about the expense.

Brown clarified with the help of RWSA staff that the additional cost would amount to about 30 cents a month for each ratepayer.

“We are being asked here to try to make a good decision, not to make the cheapest decision,” Brown said. “Can you imagine a neighborhood in the county that would not object to having this placed in their neighborhood?”

Boyd said he would need to bring the matter before the Albemarle supervisors at their meeting April 6 before he could rule out the existing site in Woolen Mills. The RWSA will take up the matter again at its meeting in late April.

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