The Greene County Board of Supervisors learned more about the design and funding of the water supply and treatment plan (previously called the White Run Reservoir Project) at a worksession last week.

Interim County Administrator Brenda Garton suggested the worksession and has established an advisory committee to help keep the project on track.

The project includes a new treatment facility, turning the current facility on U.S. Route 29 near the Rapidan River into a pump station to pump water to a reservoir near Watson, Dairy and Fredericksburg roads on land the county already owns.

Herb White, of WW Associates and the engineer of the project for the last 17 years, told the county the water treatment plant is nearing the end of its life, with its capacity of 1.15 million gallons per day of water but also from an infrastructure perspective.

“We’re knocking on the door of 2020 right now and projected 1.2 million gallons of water per day as an average demand,” White said, adding that estimate may be high because of the limited growth over the past eight years.

However, if the 725 equivalent dwelling units (EDUs) that have been sold but not yet connected to the water system were to come online, the county would begin to exceed the capacity of the plant, White said. An EDU is the reservation of water that is equivalent to a single-family structure.

The proposed reservoir will have a 1,460-foot-long, 75-foot high dam to cover 125 flooded acres, holding about 900 million gallons of water and allowing for a daily demand of up to 3.5 million gallons of water (projected by 2035). It also will minimize the impacts on the Rapidan River during dry weather.

“Once the reservoir is built, the permit will probably not let you draw water out of the river on a very dry day, thus projecting that river resource for fish and wildlife, as well as down-stream users,” White said. “The federal government doesn’t let you build dams on rivers anymore. Government encourages pump storage (reservoirs).”

White estimated the cost to complete engineering on the project and additional land acquisition will be about $2 million.

A preliminary engineering report was approved by the Virginia Department of Health in August, White said.

The Virginia Department of Health approved a preliminary engineering report in August, he said.

Another key element of the project is more financial than structural.

Rapidan Service Authority (RSA) General Manager Tim Clemons told the board he expects a public hearing on Oct. 25 on the proposed rate structure the supervisors requested Aug. 28. The county has asked RSA to begin to bill the monthly facility fee per EDU instead of by account, including those not yet hooked into the system. Users purchase EDUs based on the amount of water needed, and neighborhoods or commercial enterprises may purchase EDUs to reserve capacity in advance. A large commercial property with 10 EDUs currently pays $20 month for the facility fee, the same as a single EDU home, and future users are currently not charged the facility fee at all. The supervisors also asked RSA to increase the facility fee from $20 to $30 per EDU, effective July 2019 and Clemons said the public hearing will address that issue as well.

A vote by the RSA board would come in mid-November, Clemons told the supervisors.

A final cost of the project is expected fall 2019, but preliminary estimates suggest the entire project will cost between $45-65 million.

The first step in funding the project was a $9.4 million loan at 3.25 percent that will come due March 15, 2020, Davenport and Associates Senior Vice President Courtney Rogers told the board.

To be sure that payment is made, permanent long-term financing of the entire project needs to be achieved by the end of 2019, he said.

Davenport and Associates, the county’s financial consultants, recommend paying for the project using the real estate taxes, monthly facility fees and one-time impact fees for the purchase of EDUs. Approximately $1.43 million of real estate revenue will remain earmarked toward the water facility debt, Rogers said. Additionally, facility fees are expected to rise until they reach $50 a month in 2028. Impact fees will remain $10,000 per EDU for water connections and $10,000 per EDU for sewer hookups.

Rogers said the consultants assumed no decrease or increase in the real estate tax rate to maintain the funding.

“As you take this project on, more of it is the burden of the users of the system, which is why the facility fee is important,” Rogers said.

Garton asked if the facility fees could be lowered once the debt is expected to be paid off in 2061.

Rogers said that is a possibility, provided no other issues emerge. He also added he would hope the number of customers increase to delay facility fee increases.

“Part of the higher facility fee is not [users] paying market value for water for so many years and RSA not being able to keep up with improvements that had to be made,” board Chair Michelle Flynn said. “We’re trying to rectify years of underpaying for the service. Hopefully [the facility fee] will be able to decrease but we don’t know what else might come down the pike.”

Editor, Greene County Record

Terry Beigie is the Editor of the Greene County Record in Stanardsville. She can be reached at tbeigie@greene-news.com or (434) 985-2315.

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