Water Authority not ready for pipeline talk

Rivanna Authority director Tom Frederick and board members Judy Mueller, Gary O'Connell, and chair Mike Gaffney listen as Betty Mooney lists officials who want pipeline costs.

Despite several recent calls to fully estimate all costs in its now-struggling Community Water Supply Project and despite a tantalizing hint from the chair last month, the board of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority chose at its Monday, October 27 meeting to skip any discussion of the proposed 9.5-mile pipeline, which appears essential to making the Project work.

"You have new information now," longtime Authority critic Betty Mooney told the board. "This is a turning point."

She read names and quotations from several elected officials, including Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker and Charlottesville mayor Dave Norris, along with Norris' fellow City Councilors Satyendra Huja and Julian Taliaferro–- all of whom have in recent weeks begun ramping up the volume of their concerns with the Project.

Already under fire for requiring a 180-acre clear-cut of mature forest in a sensitive natural area, the Project nearly imploded in August after officials discovered that its dam would cost, not $37 million as long predicted, but a sum that could approach or even exceed $100 million. The dam was only supposed to account for 26 percent of the overall cost.

"Things have changed," said Councilor Huja at a recent meeting. "We need to have further review of the plan."

On Monday, the board heard from Authority director Tom Frederick who said that his staff were in the final stages of preparing a Request for Proposals to create an engineering review board to advise on ways of shrinking the dam's cost.

Supporters of an alternate plan were buoyed a month ago when even Authority board chair Mike Gaffney suggested that Monday's meeting might be the one to start exploring the costs of the pipeline, which Authority-hired experts contend is essential for filling the planned reservoir.

“I would rather discuss that at the next meeting,” said Gaffney on September 22. Monday, however, there was no such discussion.

Asked afterwards why not, Gaffney replied, "There wasn't anything on the agenda, so I guess there wasn't anything to discuss."

–last updated 9:34am, October 28


The look on all board members' faces is "very telling".

Mayor Norris and Chairman Boyd----calling all Rivanna Board Members---hello hello hello anyone home---

time to wake up we've changed the channel---your bank accounts are on hold ---no more blank checks---GET TO WORK1

At the last Council meeting on Oct 6th Mayor Norris gave the following statement.

Mr. Norris: ââ?¬Å?What’s become clear is that we need better information and better numbers on all the components of the water supply both the adopted plan and the alternative plan and my belief and hope is that this process to bring outside neutral third party experts to review the dam can be broadened to be a comprehensive assessment of all components of the proposed and alternative water supply scenarios and help us determine what the best plan, best strategy for meeting our goals and most cost effective and in an environmentally friendly manner would be."

Now it appears that Mr. Boyd agrees, but the true test of leadership will be if they can actually get their employees to follow through. This is critical and will tell us a great deal about what kind of leaders these two men are. They are to be commended for stepping forward last night at the task force meeting, but now we'll see if their words are are just that, or if they will finally bring some business sense and responsibility to the rate payers into what has become a nonsensical water plan with no firm costs or designs, and a complete unwillingness to get the necessary information about dredging.

Wishful thinking, Betty Mooney.
Asked afterwards why not, Gaffney replied, ââ?¬Å?There wasn’t anything on the agenda, so I guess there wasn’t anything to discuss.”
Obviously, who sets the agenda, determines the discourse.

CvilleEye, I may be naieve but this time I think given the financial reality we're facing and the dam trippling in price, the pipeline with no route, cost or design, and the fact that dredging is both feasible and affordable, our politicans will look very foolish not to get detailed costs of both the dam pipeline and dredging. The City Councilors sent a clear signal at the last meeting that they want to see this done. I believe Mayor Norris is very sincere in his comments which were echoed by the other Councilors. Now that Mr. Boyd who is a businessman has joined Mayor Norris in calling for all costs to be looked at by a neutral independent third party I'll bet you'll see the other Supervisors join in. It's difficult to argue with huge deficits in both the City and the County and advocate throwing away what you have to spend over $200 million on new infrastructure and get re-elected by the rate payers. I believe that sometimes common sense does win out in the end.

Sally Thomas, as chair of the Task Force, controls the agenda and the discourse allowed by its members (to date). Mike Gaffney, as chair of RWSA, by his quote, does not.
Make no mistake about it, if it weren't for the energetic and persistent actions of your organization the frequent articles in the Hook revealing what information is known and obviously even more importantly what information is not known, despite any current economic hardtimes, that proposal would be moving further along without a second thought. If these actions had not been taken, nobody would have known how foolish this proposal is until they ask the State to donation that $47M track of land and find out that VDOT wants the money for other road projects. Of course, that would occur AFTER the Ragged Mountain bathtub would have been built. This community owes your organization a standing ovation.
All is needed is for one other supervisor to join Slutzsky and Thomas to vote against a re-evaluation to keep the county representatives from supporting another look and it may not happen. At least, this time around, the city gets to appoint the citizen represemtative (what an inane procedure) and they can appoint someone who agrees to support the majority of council's opinion.

Betty, I fear the other sups and O'Connell can't be counted upon to go pro dredging unless they also garner a dam. I'm very convinced, those who have been "embarrassed" will move to choose consultants and advisors who will declare dredging an incomplete fix. For example, I can't see Thomas moving to your side. I believe she wants the dam to happen.

Dredge First ----Dam Later

Watch it, Betty Mooney.

Cville Eye what should I be watching. This seems like a perfectly logical slogan. RWSA has the money in the bank to dredge the entire Reservoir without borrowing right now, and that would give us decades of water for the entire community. The permit to build the dam does not require the dam to be built now or anytime soon. The permit is good for at least 15 years and can be renewed. By then we would have a much more accurate number for the population and the amount of water needed. We also know that DEQ has said that dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir could be permitted. And don't forget the airport is looking for $40 million dollars of fill and it is right down the road from the Reservoir.

I was making a joke about your use of "dam."

Sorry in blogs I sometimes miss the humor, but we certainly need it! Thank you for all the important information and insight you provide into so many issues.

Quite frankly, I see no change in the positions held by Ambassador Norris and Ken Boyd. "October 28, 2008: Reservoir task force receives public input" (http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2008/10/task...)

Betty, I believe now is the time you should stand firm and really put your foot down. You are certainly correct, but remember, the city and county officials are not your friends "YET".