By Brian Wheeler Charlottesville Tomorrow Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Albemarle County leaders came to this week’s meeting of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority with two big things on their mind to share with the public and representatives from the city of Charlottesville.
First, they want the public to know that bigger utility bills in the future are due largely to unfunded federal mandates and new sewer infrastructure, not new water supply dams. Second, they still believe the city is flushing $13 million down the drain on plans for a new sewer pump station.
“For the five-year period for wastewater, we are looking at over a 35 percent increase for our customers,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority. “Whereas for water in the city, it is a reduction of 10.7 percent, and 2 percent or so [reduction] in the county.”
(L to R) Albemarle Supervisor Ken Boyd, Albemarle County Executive Tom Foley, and ACSA director Gary O'Connell
On Tuesday, the RWSA approved a five-year capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2012-2016 with projected new expenditures of $129 million. The budget is about 9 percent less than the plan adopted last year.
Judy Mueller, the city’s director of public works, said she shared O’Connell’s concern and added that RWSA’s budget does not include other infrastructure upgrades budgeted separately by the city and ACSA, the RWSA’s two wholesale customers.
“We are looking at 35-38 percent increases on our customers, and we have not done the job that we probably should have to communicate to our customers why we are having to do that,” Mueller said. “We need to go on a massive public education campaign.”
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Thursday, December 29, 2011
Albemarle County and Charlottesville’s representatives on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board disagreed Wednesday over the location for a replacement for the Rivanna regional pump station.
Source: RWSA and Hazen & Sawyer
The RWSA board voted 4-3 to choose an option that would build a new facility at the site of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
This alternative, known as Option E, would include drilling a 2,000-foot tunnel to extend an existing sewer pipe that runs along the Rivanna River. The firm Hazen & Sawyer estimated this option would cost between $38 million and $40 million.
The county’s representatives on the board argued that replacing the station at its existing location adjacent to the city’s Riverview Park would be more affordable. Hazen & Sawyer estimated that Option A would cost between $25 million and $27 million.
“The direction I’ve gotten from our board is that they there’s a more cost-effective alternative that is $13 million cheaper,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority.
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Thursday, December 29, 2011
The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority voted Wednesday to authorize its executive director to sign a $21.5 million contract to build a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, pending resolution of several loose ends.
“The board authorized me to issue a ‘notice of award’ to Thalle Construction when the contingent items are completed,” Frederick said.
These include ratification of a cost-share agreement between the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County; approval by the City Council of a land-use agreement allowing the RWSA to build the dam on land owned by the city; and for the Virginia Department of Transportation to complete a review of changes needed to an embankment where the reservoir meets Interstate 64.
The RWSA must also finalize two property acquisitions on adjacent properties.
In December, the city and the Albemarle County Service Authority announced details of an agreement in which the county would pay for 85 percent of the dam construction costs.
The council will not hold a public hearing on the cost-share agreement until Jan. 17, according to City Manager Maurice Jones. The Albemarle County Service Authority will consider the agreement at its meeting in mid-January.
O’Connell noted that the increase for ACSA customers could be as much as 40 percent over five years for sewer service. However, he said an initial analysis shows water rates may decrease by as much as 7 percent over the same period.
The RWSA’s last CIP was adopted in September 2010 and included $171.6 million in both water and sewer projects, most of which will also be included into the new five-year plan.
"The CIP includes all costs for all the projects listed in the program including money that has already been spent,” said Thomas L. Frederick, executive director of the RWSA. “There is not $200 million in new spending proposed.”
The RWSA has been evaluating three options to replace the Rivanna pump station, which currently does not have enough capacity to handle wastewater after heavy rainfall.The agency entered into a consent decree with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality requiring it to select one of the options by Dec. 31.
“The goal is to control sanitary sewer overflows, which is a very important environmental goal,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the RWSA.
"Some of these areas have readily available water and sewer services, while for others it would be difficult and likely very expensive to get service to the proposed development area," O'Connell said.
ACSA board member Jim Colbaugh asked who would be responsible for paying to connect to the system.
"Most of the ones they are talking about now, if it's not adjacent to [the system], it would likely be at the developer's expense," O'Connell said. "There are a couple places where it could be an exception to that."
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s board of directors has decided to keep all three options for the replacement of the Rivanna Sewer Pump Station on the table, despite learning Tuesday that one of the concepts is significantly more expensive.
All three concepts will be shown to the public at a meeting Oct. 20.
“I can appreciate the board wanting to allow public comment, but after the public meeting the staff will be pushing you to narrow alternatives,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the RWSA.
The station is being replaced with a facility that can process 53 million gallons of sewage a day. The existing station is not capable of handling large amounts of stormwater that infiltrates the sewer system after heavy rainfall, leading to some raw sewage flooding into Moores Creek and the Rivanna River.
Janice R. Carroll, an engineer with Hazen and Sawyer, presented details to members of the board Tuesday.
Option A would replace the existing station in place at a cost between $25 million and $27 million. This option has been opposed by residents of the Woolen Mills neighborhood, but Hazen and Sawyer said it could be designed to fit in with the architecture of the community.
Option D would build a new pump station across the Rivanna River down the hill from State Farm Insurance’s regional headquarters at a cost of around $55 million. State Farm has previously expressed its opposition.
Carroll said Option D is more expensive because initial drilling has revealed fractured hard rock masses that could be problematic to remove.
“‘D’ as in ‘difficult,’” Carroll said. “One of the difficulties or risks is that in trying to do the excavation for the pump station there would be a risk of creating rock slides on that slope.”
Option E would extend the existing Rivanna Interceptor by about 2,000 feet by drilling a tunnel at a cost of between $38 million and $40 million. The pump station would then be built on the grounds of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Each option has potential risks. Option E would require more geotechnical work in order to determine how the tunnel would be drilled, and would also require coordinating with the CSX Railroad.
Option A would require a future City Council to approve a special-use permit for construction after it has been designed.
Option D would require permits from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as a critical slopes waiver from Albemarle County.
Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said he was prepared to remove Option D at the State Farm site immediately.
“It’s almost embarrassing to go forward with a $55 million project that is clearly identified to be something that is going to be difficult to do,” Boyd said.
City Councilor David Brown was equally prepared to remove Option A.
“It seems like concept A would require city approval twice,” Brown said “It would require city approval now, and now there is unanimous City Council opposed.”
Brown said even if the council changes its mind after the October meeting, a future council would have to approve the special-use permit.
“That’s a tremendous amount of political uncertainty to navigate,” Brown said.
The RWSA reached consensus that all three concepts be taken to the public meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Albemarle County Office Building-McIntire.
In his opening statement, Democratic incumbent Satyendra Huja, 69, pointed to news that a major website recently ranked Charlottesville as one of the best places to live in the country.
“This is no accident, and I have played a role,” Huja said. He cited his work in developing the Downtown Mall, creating a tree commission and volunteer work with Meals on Wheels.
Brandon Collins, 38, is a lifelong resident who has worked as a socialist activist at the state and national level.
“We hear a lot of talk about how great our city is, but Charlottesville, for many of our residents, remains a difficult place to live and a difficult place just to get by,” Collins said. He added that if elected, he would be an independent voice on the council.
Kathy Galvin, 55, said she was qualified for the council because of her experience as both an architect and as a current member of the school board.
“I can make a unique contribution if elected,” said Galvin, who is running as a Democrat.
Independent Bob Fenwick said one of the biggest threats to the city is the need to invest in capital projects while citizens are facing the potential of a double-dip recession.
“The city is poised to commit $300 million to huge public items like a new dam, a new pump station, the replacement of Belmont Bridge and replacement of sewer infrastructure,” Fenwick said. “I am poised to bring to City Council a look at these expenditures and help [Council] make the best decision.”
Dede Smith, 55 and a former member of the school board, said Charlottesville has been a great place to raise two children and that voting for herself and the rest of the Democratic ticket is the best way to keep it that way.
“I think you would see we would bring a wealth of experience, decision making and proven leadership to council,” Smith said.
Andrew Williams, 25, the only African-American in the council race, said he is running as an independent so he can bring a nonpartisan voice to the council.
“To become a world class city, shouldn’t we have a diverse representation on council?” Williams asked. He said his experience as a claims adjuster for State Farm showed he had the inquisitiveness and ingenuity to serve.
After opening statements, candidates were asked to give quick responses to three questions.
Collins, Fenwick, Smith and Williams said they would favor dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and water conservation as a first step to increase the community water supply plan before building on the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
Galvin indicated a new or taller dam should be the first step, though Huja said he would be open to studying dredging as a component of the water supply plan.
On the Meadow Creek Parkway, Huja and Galvin said they supported construction while the rest of the candidates said they were opposed.
The candidates were also asked if they would support a switch to how councilors are elected. Currently all councilors are elected at-large.
Collins and Williams both expressed their “cautious support” for ward-based elections. Fenwick said he was a “strong supporter” of the idea. Huja said he would support a combined system of both ward-based and at-large councilors. Smith and Galvin said the public should be asked what they think about the idea.
Smith said the report offered an opportunity for the community to find a new identity for employees and employers.
“The biomedical industry meshes well but there are others,” Smith said. “We have a large university that is a major attractant to certain industries. We [also] need to retool our education system to produce a workforce that can be employed.”
Williams said that money spent on public housing could perhaps better be spent on vocational training.
“Educated people will go out and create jobs,” Williams said. “We should provide training in locations that need it. We should scrutinize the budget and make sure we are spending money where the needs are.
Huja said the city should help small businesses locate here because that is where most job creation can be done.
“I have suggested a very ambitious plan for guaranteed employment,” Collins said. “This is not something that can happen overnight but there are steps that can take us there.”
Fenwick said that he would favor council actions that would create jobs and not simply create more opportunities for workforce development.
“What good does workforce development do if we don’t have jobs?” Fenwick asked. “We talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk.”
The two candidates with experience on the school board had divergent views on whether the school system should reconfigure itself by moving 5th- and 6th-grade students to an expanded Buford Middle School.
“I do support the reconfiguration,” Galvin said. She said the capital expenditure would pay for itself over 20 years by helping to reduce operational costs.
However, Smith said she did not support the idea, but would like to hear more information.
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Friday, September 16, 2011
The agency that provides water and sewer service to Albemarle County’s urban area will take a position on the regional water supply plan being prepared by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, even though state regulations do not require it to do so.
“The [Albemarle County Service Authority] plans for future water [and] has half the customers who are going to be impacted by the plan,and we’re paying for it,” said Jim Colbaugh, a member of the ACSA’s board of directors.
Under state law, every locality is responsible for crafting a water supply plan that outlines how it will manage supply during droughts. Charlottesville and Albemarle opted to prepare a regional plan, and the RWSA was tasked with doing so with assistance from the firm AECOM.
The City Council and Board of Supervisors must vote to approve a regional water plan by Nov. 2. The ACSA does not have a formal role in the process, but Colbaugh said their input should be made anyway.
“We’re part of the plan and we ought to take it up and approve it or disapprove it,” Colbaugh said.
Earlier this week, the ACSA was in attendance for a meeting of the “four boards” to hear officials from the firm AECOM explain how water demand numbers were calculated for 2060.
ACSA Executive Director Gary O'Connell (file photo)
Gary O’Connell, executive director of the ACSA, said the regional water planning process should not be confused with the RWSA’s efforts to build a new dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
“The regional water supply plan we discussed this week is a planning process that is apart and different,” O’Connell said.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing on Sept. 29 to take comment on modifications to the permit granted to the RWSA in February 2008 that allowed for construction of a concrete dam. The DEQ is considering a permit modification to allow for an earthen dam instead.
At a meeting Thursday, ACSA Chair Clarence Roberts suggested the agency hold a meeting on the same day as the DEQ meeting to take a position on the regional water plan.
“My concern is that by dealing with those two together, we run the risk of adding to confusion by conflating the two,” Thomas said. “Obviously they address the same issues but technically and legally they don’t have anything to do with each other.”
Instead, the ACSA agreed to schedule a special meeting on Oct. 6 to take up the regional water supply plan.
The new dam will not be advertised for construction bids until Charlottesville and Albemarle County agree on a cost-share allocation. Negotiations have been going on for several months.
“We're continuing to have discussions almost every day,” O’Connell said in an interview. He said he is hopeful agreement can be reached with Charlottesville in time to put the project out for construction bids by Nov. 1.
In an email, City Manager Maurice Jones said there was nothing new he could report.
In other news, the firm A.G. Dillard has been awarded a $729,870 contract to extend sewer service to the Oak Hill neighborhood in Albemarle County. The ACSA received a Community Development Block Grant for the project, which allowed the agency to waive connection fees for the low to middle income residents.
“Some of the properties have failed and some are failing and an opportunity came along for the grant to put a public sewer system into the community,” O’Connell said.