The executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority told the Charlottesville City Council late Monday that the final legal barrier to the construction of a new dam at Ragged Mountain has been crossed.
In May, Judge Cheryl V. Higgins ruled against a claim by Madison attorney Stanton Braverman that the City Council unlawfully transferred land necessary to accommodate an expanded reservoir.
“The Virginia Supreme Court [has] dismissed an appeal that was made from within this community that was attempting to appeal a favorable ruling RWSA received from the [Albemarle] County Circuit Court,” Thomas L. Frederick Jr. said. “This means … revenue bonds for the project are moving forward.”
Frederick briefs the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on a quarterly basis, but this was the first time he had done so for the City Council. The conversation mostly centered around a $3.5 million plan to dredge a limited portion of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.
In February, the RWSA solicited dredging proposals under Virginia’s Public-Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act rather than the Public Procurement Act. The idea was to encourage bids from firms that had innovative solutions for dredging the reservoir rather than accept the bid with the lowest price.
The RWSA received three proposals by the April 30 deadline.
“Through our counsel, it was determined that two of the proposals received did not meet all of the basic requirements of the RFP and in accordance with our PPEA guidelines are not being further considered,” Frederick said.
A proposal from Blue Ridge Sand was eliminated from further consideration because it did not contain an audited financial statement.
A third proposal, from Orion Marine Construction Inc., is the only one being further evaluated by a five-member staff committee. Comments are being taken through the RWSA website and a public hearing will be held in September.
Councilor Dede Smith said the PPEA procedure was complicated and may have led to confusion on the part of would-be respondents.
“It took a long time, cost $117,000 to develop, and yet we now have only one proposal,” Smith said. “Could we now go back and do a simple RFP so that we can get more options?”
Frederick said he recommended waiting to see how the Orion proposal is evaluated before contemplating that action.
“I think it looks bad in the contractors’ market if an owner doesn’t go through that due diligence effort and take a proposal that it has solicited and give it a fair shake,” Frederick said.
Mitch King of Blue Ridge Sand asked councilors to direct the city’s representatives on the RWSA to ask that his company’s proposal be considered by the evaluation committee.
“[The] proposal evaluation plan explicitly said that proposals received by the deadline would be distributed by the chairman of the evaluation committee unopened and those proposals would be opened, numerically rated and any deficiencies noted on the evaluation form,” King said.
King alleged that the RWSA broke those rules because staff opened the proposals first and prematurely disqualified his company’s proposal.
Councilor Dave Norris wanted to know if the RWSA had the legal authority to advance the disqualified proposals forward.
“Our attorney’s discussion with the board of directors is privileged and confidential and unless my board releases me, I’m not allowed to talk about the details,” Frederick said. “I will simply say that it is along the line of enforcing the terms that were clearly presented to the bidders before the proposal submittal date.”
Water filtration update
Frederick also updated councilors on the RWSA’s efforts to comply with federal regulations for water quality. The use of chloramines was removed from consideration last month.
“We are moving forward with the granular-activated carbon technology as a way to meet stage 2 Environmental Protection Agency regulations for our drinking water,” Frederick said.
The firm Hazen and Sawyer originally had estimated that GAC would cost $18.3 million, but that price was based on an assumption that the system would be used 365 days a year.
Later this week, a new report from the company will be released. It will outline the range of costs for a hybrid option where GAC would not always be active.
“One of the decisions that will be facing our board in the coming months is [if] we want to produce the most outstanding drinking water we can at the highest cost, or do we want to scale it back and use it for regulatory compliance,” Frederick said.
The RWSA board will next meet Tuesday at the agency’s offices at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.