County sewer authority considering special rate district for new pump station

By Sean Tubbs & Tarpley Ashworth

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) is considering a special rate district so that new development will help pay for a $11.3 million sewer pump station to be located in the county’s northern growth areas.

The North Fork Regional Pump Station

will replace the

Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant

which does not have the capacity to meet future demand.  Wastewater will be pumped south to the

Moores Creek facility

in Charlottesville for treatment.

“Initially the overall plan was to have the developers [pay] up front the money for this overall project,” said Gary Fern, the ACSA’s Executive Director. “Unfortunately with the economy and all, the developers are saying they don’t have the money to do that.”

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The Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant will be decommissioned once the North Fork Regional Pump Station is operational

However, in a new plan shared with the water authority’s board earlier this month, the ACSA announced it is considering paying for the project through the sale of bonds which will be paid back through future connection fees. Fern is proposing two special districts, one serving the affected areas north and one serving the affected areas south of the North Fork of the Rivanna River. Properties in the north will be assessed more because two pumping facilities will be required to move their wastewater through the ACSA system.

According to a fee schedule proposed by Fern, each new residential, commercial, and industrial connection requested in the northern district would pay a $1,310 connection fee, and new connections in the south would pay the $1,012 fee. Developers will pay the fees based upon the number of “equivalent residential connections,” a formula which varies by the type of development.

The fees would be levied on top of those that would normally apply for a new connection.  The

ACSA raised its existing connection fees on September 1, 2009

. At a meeting in August, developers lobbied successfully to postpone an even greater fee increase until March of next year.

Jay Willer of the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association told Charlottesville Tomorrow that he preferred the pay-as-you-go system that Fern is recommending.

“The development community understands paying our share of the costs,” Willer said. “We  prefer approaches that let us put our money on the table as we have it to put on the table.”

Major developments in the area include the University of Virginia North Fork Research Park, the Rivanna Station military facilities, and

North Pointe

.  The nine-hundred home North Pointe development was approved in 2006 but has been delayed, in part, because of the

absence of sewer capacity


Click for a map of the rate district

Fern estimates that the ACSA will raise approximately $ million by imposing these connection fees. The projections are based on the 14,782 estimated new equivalent residential connections the ACSA expects to add over the next twenty years in this area alone. Fern said that if the actual number of new residential connections exceeds this total then the charges would be adjusted accordingly.

Fern also said the ACSA might need to keep the fees in place longer than twenty years if the number of new residential connections falls short of projections.

ACSA board member Jim Colbaugh suggested to Fern that the fee schedule should also include a 25% contingency charge to cover for additional land, construction, engineering, and inspection costs that could be imposed during the planning and construction process of the new pump station.

“My honest suggestion is not to surprise anybody at the tail end,” said Colbaugh. He warned that if this contingency charge is not built into the plan, then these hidden fees could disrupt the financial planning of the project. Fern said the fees could rise once the design for pump stations is complete.

The ACSA board will hold a public hearing later this year to vote on the proposed connection fees and rate districts. The pump station is expected to be complete in late summer of 2011, after which the Camelot Waste Water Treatment Plant will be decommissioned.