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EDITORIAL: Should other county leaders decide our fate?

EDITORIAL: Should other county leaders decide our fate?

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In 1969, the counties of Madison, Greene and Orange got together to create a regional water and sewer partnership: Rapidan Service Authority (RSA). This made sense, financially, considering the populations at that time. Greene had roughly 5,248 residents, Madison had 8,638 residents and Orange had 13,792 residents. Today, Greene is sitting at nearly 20,000 residents, Madison at 13,261 and Orange at 37,000.

Each of the three counties operates independently with their own boards of supervisors deciding what’s best for their own counties. The residents of Madison and Orange elect their leaders the same way we do in Greene. The supervisors in each county answer to the residents in that county without influence or interference from supervisors of other counties, until now.

Each county has two supervisor-appointed representatives on the RSA Board of Members, which oversees RSA. While those representatives do not have to be supervisors, three of them are: Jim Crozier and Lee Frame are both Orange County supervisors and Bill Martin is a Greene County supervisor. Greene’s other representative on the board is Ron Williams, a planning commissioner. Madison County representatives are Troy Coppage, president of E.A. Clore Furniture and fire chief of Madison County Volunteer Fire Company, and Steve Hoffman, a former Madison supervisor.

In July, the RSA board voted 4-2 (with Greene representatives voting against) to fundamentally change the way Greene structured financing for the Greene County Water Treatment and Reservoir Project, and placing RSA in charge of the planning and control of it which was nearly ready to break ground.

RSA and Greene County were in agreement for years on the need for and direction of the project, but somewhere that changed. All the engineering drawings are finished and awaiting RSA signature, land purchased by the county for the reservoir and bonds purchased by Greene for streambank credits. Greene County has spent more than $11 million on this project.

And now leaders from other counties have ended that project for Greene County.

Why? That’s the million (literally) dollar question right now. Something has happened between 2018 when we sat down with the general manager of RSA, who agreed that the project was a necessity, and today. We don’t know what and, unfortunately, with the contentious atmosphere between the Greene County Board of Supervisors and the management and board of RSA, we’re not getting an answer to that question.

The Greene County Board of Supervisors has countered with a threat of a lawsuit against RSA, as well.

Everyone should have been on the same page going into the meetings this summer as the county requested final signatures and increases on the facility fee to fund the project. That’s been the funding plan since 2017. Yet, the representatives of other counties have killed the project and plan that Greene developed across two decades with input—and not always kind input—from residents of Greene County. This project has no impact on either Madison or Orange counties or their residents. All work is paid for by the users of the water system in Greene and a portion of the real estate taxes from all residents in the county.

Can you imagine how the two Orange County supervisors would feel if Greene and Madison halted projects inside their county? The authority was not established so neighboring counties could influence the choices made by leaders elected by their own constituents. This essentially silences the voice of the people of a particular county. We elected our supervisors, we are the ones impacted by their decisions and we are the ones they answer to, not to anyone in Madison or Orange counties.

We don’t know if getting out of RSA is in the best interest of Greene County, but it feels like remaining in the partnership isn’t in the best interest of Greene County residents.

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