In a stunning turn of events, Greene County has been given unanimous consent April 13 by Orange and Madison boards of supervisors to leave the Rapidan Service Authority (RSA).
RSA was created by the three counties in 1969 to provide water and sewer service.
Greene has been asking to be released from the authority since last August after the RSA Board of Members voted 4-2 in July to end the facility fee billing to Greene customers that was being used to pay for bonds related to water and sewer and the water treatment and impoundment project.
Both Madison and Orange boards of supervisors voted at that time against a resolution to allow Greene to leave.
Supervisors in Madison, which has the least number of customers in RSA, made it clear in the recent resolution that they didn’t feel like they had any choice but to approve it, noting the board will “reluctantly grant its consent so that Greene County can pursue its own water and sewer authority.”
“Madison County has been advised that the Orange County and Greene County representatives of Rapidan Service Authority would likely vote to dissolve the Rapidan Service Authority unless Madison County consents to Greene County’s withdrawal,” the resolution the Madison supervisors approved states.
Madison’s resolution also notes that Orange will not dissolve RSA for at least five years.
Orange County Supervisor and Vice Chair Mark Johnson said at Orange’s regular meeting April 13 that it appeared to him that RSA had “to a degree kind of outlived its usefulness” as the Greene County Board of Supervisors had requested to leave, as well as filed suit against the two counties and RSA for breach of contract last summer.
“I don’t believe that we should hold Greene County hostage,” Johnson said.
All five supervisors in Orange asked that the resolution include a contingency that Madison and Orange counties would have to agree on the makeup of the new RSA Board of Members, with Orange having the majority due to its considerably larger customer base. Orange has more than 5,000 customers and Madison has less than 200.
“Clearly this is not a delay of the motion and this is simply a reality that once we vote to allow Greene to leave, it is not the end of the process; it’s the beginning of a very long process that is going to play out for months,” Johnson added.
Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Martin, Stanardsville, said Greene County is ready to establish its own water and sewer service.
“I am hopeful that the two resolutions unanimously supported by the boards of supervisors of Madison County and Orange County are a major step toward providing the independence that Greene County has sought from RSA,” Martin said. “RSA’s stewardship of Greene County’s water and sewer infrastructure has been poor and there has been no comprehensive vision that matches Greene’s projected needs. We will build the water supply project as our comprehensive plan guides us and as the commonwealth of Virginia has mandated with our 50-year water supply plan.”
In September, the Greene Board of Supervisors filed a lawsuit against RSA for breach of contract and in January asked Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, to legislate the release through a bill on the floor of the General Assembly. It died in committee.
Earlier this year, a judge allowed Greene to add Madison and Orange counties as defendants to the lawsuit. Both were served last week.
At an April 1 RSA Board of Members special meeting, RSA attorney Terry Lynn said the bondholders are the next to have a say in whether Greene may leave the service authority. After that, she said, it goes to the RSA Board of Members to vote and then public hearings will be held.
“There has been great resolve by multiple Greene County boards of supervisors over the past couple of decades,” Martin said. “The current board has carried forward the vision of past boards in understanding the critical necessity of a sustainable water supply to meet the growth that has been coming at us for some time now. I greatly appreciate that each of my colleagues on the current board of supervisors has remained steadfastly united during this difficult negotiation with RSA. We pledge to continue to do our best to forge a new path forward to realize the vision that years of planning and the hard work of previous boards have provided us.”
The next court date for the lawsuit is scheduled for 11 a.m. on May 24 in Greene County Circuit Court. It is unknown at this time if the lawsuit will continue.