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July 27, 2011

Water authority boss gets a raise, pump station sites get scrutiny

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DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board has approved a 3.18 percent raise for its executive director, Thomas L. Frederick, Jr.

Hired in 2004, Frederick will make an annual salary of $132,803, an increase from $128,710.

Frederick also oversees the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, and it was at a joint meeting of the two boards on Tuesday where his annual performance evaluation was completed and combined annual salary set.

The RWSA board also discussed where to place a sewer pump station upgrade near the Woolen Mills neighborhood.

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“The board felt that Tom did an exemplary job this year and deserved to be at the high end of the bonus range,” said Michael Gaffney, chairman of the RWSA and RSWA boards. “We have truly appreciated all of Tom’s hard work over the last eight years and we look forward to the next 10 years, if we can keep him that long.”

Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, the county’s elected official on both boards, made the motion to increase Frederick’s salary, which was approved unanimously.

“The salary range [increase for staff] … for this year is between 1.82 percent increase and a 3.18 percent increase, the first being for ‘meets expectations’ and the 3.18 percent for ‘top achievers,’” Boyd said.

A key issue discussed in the remainder the meeting related to the study of three sites for the location of a new sewer pump station. The capacity of the existing pump station in Woolen Mills is being increased to improve its reliability and protect the environment.

In May, the RWSA board was unable to narrow the list of sites under consideration, It approved further study of three locations. Hazen and Sawyer, an environmental engineering firm, was authorized to receive up to about $430,000 to study locations known as concepts A, D, and E.

Concept A is the pump station’s current location in the city’s Woolen Mills neighborhood. Concept D is a location across the Rivanna River in Albemarle on property owned in part by State Farm Insurance.

Concept E is a location on RWSA property suggested by residents of Woolen Mills, who have lobbied to remove the pump station from its location near existing homes and Riverview Park. It involves drilling a 2,000-foot-long tunnel to extend the sewer pipe to a point closer to the Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Janice R. Carroll, an engineer with Hazen and Sawyer, reported on her firm’s investigation of two questions raised about these sites: Was there enough room on land already owned by RWSA for concept A? And is there an alternative site on the State Farm Property for concept D.

“The upgrade cannot fit within the existing parcel,” said Carroll, describing the less than half-acre of land that is home to the existing pump station. “The further evaluation of concept A is proceeding, and it will encompass more area than just that parcel.”

Hazen and Sawyer also reviewed the feasibility and costs of placing the pump station for concept D at a location more acceptable to State Farm Insurance.

“We met with State Farm Insurance right after the board’s May decision,” Frederick said. “State Farm asked us to look at the opposite corner where the property faces the Rivanna River.”

The board was told Tuesday that State Farm “strongly opposes” any use of its property. However, Frederick asked the board if it could pick one location there for concept D.

“It turns out that the northwest corner does add $3 million to concept D,” Frederick added.

The original site has an estimated construction cost of $39 million whereas the site requested by State Farm would cost $42 million.

“You’ve answered one question for me as far as [concept] A, if we can’t keep it within the current footprint that’s there, the city says it will never approve a larger footprint there,” Boyd said. “Why waste any more money on that?”

The same occurs on the other side of the river in the case of State Farm,” Boyd added. “The Board of Supervisors is never going to give the necessary approvals to have option D implemented.”

The board acknowledged concept E would be the best solution from the community’s point of view, particularly in light of city and county opposition to the alternatives. However, Frederick argued for studying more options rather than less to ensure at least one plan could be approved before the end of the year.

“Based on what we know, I don’t blame anybody for wanting to be optimistic in hoping that [concept] E turns out to be something that is doable,” Frederick said. “If there is serious debate … and we have pushed ourselves into November getting the answers, there’s just not going to be enough time to get it done.”

“I understand how in this community sometimes we need to sit down and debate things,” Frederick added.

The RWSA board authorized Hazen and Sawyer to focus on the more expensive location for concept D.  Hazen and Sawyer will continue to evaluate all three concepts and present its cost estimates to the RWSA in late September with a final plan agreed to in December by city and county officials.

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