Rooker rains on Frederick's parade
Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker made several statements that seemed to question Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority Director Tom Frederick, who was appearing at a high-level meeting at UVA today.
"Once you have a plan approved, it doesn't mean you have to do anything," Rooker told UVA chief operating officer Leonard Sandridge and other fellow members the Planning and Coordination Council, a multi-jurisdictional body that had invited Frederick to speak.
"Getting the permit approved," continued Rooker, referring to the $143 million reservoir/pipeline plan that has roiled the community in debate this year, "gives you the option to execute the plan, and that's a valuable thing, but it doesn't prevent your from getting a bid on maintenance dredging."
Frederick and his board have come under fire in recent weeks for acting solely on the advice of a firm that alleges that dredging the Rivanna Reservoir would cost as much as $225 million– more than a recent bid to dredge part of the Panama Canal– despite two unsolicited offers to dredge the water body for $21 million and $30 million.
Still, Frederick and his chief supporter on the Planning and Coordination Council, the many-hatted Gary O'Connell (he also serves on the Airport board, the Rivanna Authority board, and he's the City Manager) kept up the fight against dredging.
Frederick, for instance, noted that he has been given a November deadline to submit preliminary plans for a new 45-feet taller dam to replace the existing Ragged Mountain dams, which have been considered unsafe since 1978. Frederick noted that the state has issued a series of conditional permits by patient state regulators.
"This is like the last," interjected O'Connell. "From the tone of some of the letters," added Frederick, "that patience has begun to wear thin."
Rooker, whose Jack Jouett district includes the western reaches of the diminishing Reservoir, wasn't buying into the rush for a new $37 million dam that won't be able to fill without construction of a $56 million cross-county pipeline.
"Before we sign a contract on a 45-foot dam," said Rooker, "we have to get a bid on maintenance dredging."
One of the citizens who has been most vociferously pressing for a reconsideration of the official plan, Betty Mooney, attended today's meeting and afterward expressed enthusiasm for Rooker's stand. "I think this is big news," said Mooney, noting that Rooker becomes the first Albemarle supervisor to so strenuously question the plan.
left photo: file photo of Rooker by Jen Fariello
right photo: photo today of Frederick looking at Sandridge by Hawes Spencer