By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, December 18, 2009

At a public hearing held Thursday, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority heard from three property owners who have not accepted offers for the purchase of easements needed to upgrade a major sewer line that passes through their properties. The

Meadowcreek Interceptor

, used by 40 percent of city and county urban ratepayers, is going to be upgraded from a 24-inch to a 36-inch sewer pipe at a cost of $19.2 million.

The neighbors said they wanted to continue negotiations before the authority made a final decision to start construction. The RWSA successfully negotiated easements on 49 other residential properties. The authority said they did not get positive responses from just five property owners, who were offered a total of $11,662 in compensation, largely for permanent easements for the sewer line.

Kathleen Sicard Kildoo

Kathleen Sicard Kildoo, who was offered $5,694 for an easement on her property, said she came to the public hearing in the hopes of avoiding condemnation proceedings.

“We are continuing to negotiate,” Kildoo said. “We haven’t refused your offer. We never made any … indication of refusal.”

Residents said that while they received the final offers from RWSA in September, there was no deadline to respond. Kildoo said the next communication from the RWSA was the notice they received last week for the public hearing indicating the authority was going to pursue condemnation to secure the easements.

“We have been working on this project for about three years,” said the RWSA’s executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr. “We’ve had multiple contacts with each of the property owners.”

“There are landscape plans, there are pipes that have been moved further from houses, there are pipes that are being buried 5 feet [deeper] than they were originally designed,” Frederick said. “All of those were attempts to accommodate the positive suggestions that we got, and I think that speaks for itself that we have made the effort to negotiate fairly.”

After the public hearing, the authority’s board authorized condemnation proceedings for the easements, but asked Frederick to not submit the paperwork to the court until Jan. 14, allowing the residents a window for further negotiations.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the compensation offered to each property owner would be held in escrow by the Charlottesville Circuit Court while the RWSA moves ahead with construction of the new sewer line. Property owners can challenge the appraisals in court or accept the compensation offered by the RWSA.

The RWSA also agreed to retain Metra Industries, based in New Jersey, which was the lowest of nine bidding companies for the construction work. Metra won a $10.8 million contract, an amount the officials said was well within their budget and almost 50 percent lower than expected. Engineers originally estimated the construction costs for this bid at $21 million.

“RWSA is very pleased that the bid prices are reflective of the current competitive bidding market,” said Jennifer Whitaker, the RWSA’s chief engineer, in her written report to the board.

Greeley and Hansen, with offices in Richmond, was retained for construction administration at an amount not to exceed about $1.8 million. According to Frederick, the overall cost of the interceptor project is now estimated at $19.2 million, including engineering, land acquisition, legal costs, landscaping and contingencies.

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Charlottesville Tomorrow

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