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

17 comments

Per page 3 of thr RW&SA Capital improvement Plan dated Jan 8th, 2008

Cost could literally double before the projectr is completed.

"Note that in the very earliest stages of concept development, the actual final costs may exceed
the estimate by up to 100%, or they may fall below the estimate by as much as 50%. These
potential inaccuracies decrease throughout the project life. The true cost of a project is not
known with complete accuracy until a project is actually built, and all the bills have been paid.
The estimated costs presented within the CIP should be considered in the light of this graphic."

Good for Dennis Rooker! It remains to be seen whether the City Council will be as wise as Mr Rooker. They need to do right by the citizens, not Gary O'Connell. We are owed an explanation.

The engineering firm that's been sucking us dry needs to be kicked to the curb.

Dennis Rooker always seems like a good guy.

Dennis Rooker has always been one of the more intelligent and rational people in local government. I've been waiting for this for a long time ... and I am very grateful that he has come out in public with this stand. I'm sure he's been watching things and considering the best direction.

If you care about this subject, come to the public meeting Monday night at the Cityscape space (old Social Security office, mall side of the Market Street Parking Garage, second floor). A dredging management firm and two local dredgers will give their views and answer questions from the public.

Though Mr. Rooker may be concerned about how he and the local government will pay for the new dam and pipeline and rightfully so(I suspect higher water bills and property taxes) he has not been a friend to the landowner in his previous decisions as a supervisor.

"The true cost of a project is not known with complete accuracy until a project is actually built, and all the bills have been paid." This is clearly the voice of Overrun O'Connell (recent overrun - 100% on 34d St. NE bricking project). Has anyone noticed this is not the operational philosophy of our surrounding counties that have build and remodeled schools and courthouses?

Why did it take Rooker so long to make up his mind? Funny he just recently started taking a stand here. Wouldn't it have made more sense for Rooker and others to have come forward many months ago? Interesting how the politicians finally jump when the mob makes noise.

What am I missing here? Out of 5 councilors and 6 supervisors one has taken a public stand and comes under criticism. Are we to infer that Jane is in favor of the current plan of having I-64 straddle a substantial portion of the only reservoir we will have in the future?

Jane, as the news stories in The Hook have correctly reported, many of the facts regarding dredging were purposely kept hidden from both City Council and the Board of Supervisors. That means they were kept hidden from YOU and ME as well.

We were all operating under the assumption that there was a level playing field here and that everyone involved had every bit of information necessary to make a decision on Ragged Mountain dam vs dredging.

Mr Rooker could have acted like your garden variety politician and just gone along with this charade anyway. Instead, he acted with integrity. He realized, after looking at ALL the data, that dredging should be looked into as a viable option.

Now, do you have a problem with that?

Water User
Rooker is on the BOS. As an elected official, representing folks, he should have made it his business to check the facts much earlier. Sure he is speaking up now. It took too long though.
The folks who deserve the most credit, are the citizens who made it their job to look deep and check facts before elected officials bothered to do so. The Sierra Club also deserves a pat on the back.
Yes, I have a problem with foot dragging when it affects others.

Aren't there some county members on the Rivanna board, including Robert Tucker? Seems Rooker and others(BOS) should have gathered the real facts from county members?
O'Connell is not responsible for the lack of sharing information, Albemarle BOS.

Jane, actually you and I are in agreement here. However, my assumption was that Rooker had only recently heard some of what went on behind the scenes and is now reacting to this new information. Could be wrong about that though.

I think what's at the crux of the matter is who knew what, and when did they know it? If any RWSA Board members-- be they county or city-affiliated-- chose not to divulge all the facts re the bidding process, dredging feasibility, etc, then we have a serious problem here.

It's my understanding that many of these details were only uncovered via FOIA by private citizens, and weren't necessarily shared with the municipalities involved until the citizens brought it all to light. Perhaps I'm wrong, but that's my understanding.

Grateful,
You are on to something. Yes, I realize Rooker is surely "reacting" now. My guess, he has been embarrassed into reacting, at this point in time.
Doesn't the RWSA keep notes? If not, the authority should do so. Are the the minutes FOIAable?-Not Sure?
Seems sad to me, that busy and trusting taxpayers/citizens, are forced to spend their own valuable time, checking up/submitting such FOIA's. Look at the monies wasted on such bogus/or one-sided studies or proposals.
Rooker also shares the blame for this shameful dilemma. He was wise to finally speak up.

Good question. The Board meeting minutes are available to all. But they sometimes discuss things in closed session. Those discussions might not be FOIA-able. Anyone out there know? Hawes?

It's my understanding that the real story emerges through correspondence, emails, etc. If the Council and BOS weren't given everything they needed to make informed decisions-- if information was actively withheld from them-- then, at the very least, an investigation is in order.

I would encourage everyone to attend the work session tomorrow.

Yes, demands now should be made for an investigation. This is no time to protect any who neglected to do a job. There is obvious and serious floundering here.

"Seems sad to me, that busy and trusting taxpayers/citizens, are forced to spend their own valuable time, checking up/submitting such FOIA's. Look at the monies wasted on such bogus/or one-sided studies or proposals." It seems to me that's an important part of living in a strong democracy rather than communist China.

Just got an email that this topic will be discussed on 1070 WINA's The Schilling Show, Friday, May 9, at 1:00.

Jeff Werner (Piedmont Environmental Council) and Hawes Spencer will be taking on the water supply issue, head to head.