On January 25th I had the pleasure of discussing county and neighborhood issues with several dozen residents of the Stonegate neighborhood, a lovely web of streets to the west of Western Ridge in Crozet. After an update on the Streetscape project in Crozet, discussion followed about several issues.
One resident perceived that sewer and water fees for the Albemarle County Service Authority were higher than other communities and should be reduced.
There is a good reason for the level of rates in Albemarle. The Service Authority was created to separate water system operations, investment in capital projects, and maintenance of our facilities from political control. The board of directors members are appointed from each magisterial district by the Board of Supervisors, on the recommendation of the district Supervisor.
In January 2008, I appointed John Martin, a retired prosecutor and river advocate, to the post with the express guidance to make sure that the rate payers and the public, elected and non-elected, were to be kept informed of ACSA work and decisions. Also that he was to maintain vigilance about implementation of the water supply plan and its effects on the Moormans and Rivanna Rivers, mainstays to the ecology of our region. He performed his task admirably and continues to be involved in the water supply discussion as a private citizen. After three years of hard work, John resigned last fall and was followed in the post by Bill Kittrell, a Crozet resident and biologist/economist. He is already making effective contributions to the work of the Service Authority.
For protection of our streams and our environment, the Service Authority’s responsibility is to maintain intact and functioning distribution pipes for fresh water and solid and effective drain pipes for waste water. We cannot just look away from the constant need to rehab old facilities.
Fifty year old pipes tend to explode at the most inopportune moment, such as in a heavy rain. The potential to spill sewage into streams and neighborhoods is to be carefully avoided. We want our children and grandkids to play in the streams, to see crayfish and stoneflies, little fish and snakes. None of this would be possible with contamination due to neglect.
I applaud the Authority and the rates they have chosen to apply to their services. A percentage of all revenue is put aside for capital and maintenance projects, to permit a systematic and thorough rehabilitation program to be ongoing.
The Authority also has a water conservation program, with toilet and rainbarrel rebates, and a four-tier rate structure to encourage effective use of water. The rate doubles at each level, while the first 1500 gallons is sold at below wholesale price, to provide a basic level of water to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.
I encourage the Authority to more fully regulate irrigation consumption, to charge all irrigation water at the highest tier from the first gallon, rather than stepping through the three tiers before reaching the highest price. With over 15% of our summer water going to irrigation, we can no longer allow that much water to be used at minimal cost.
Questions were also asked about the revenue sharing agreement with the City and the Crozet Library. See other posts for those discussions.