Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A new group calling itself the Charlottesville Open Government Alliance said a lawsuit will be filed Friday against the

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

and others seeking to stop construction of a new earthen dam at the

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

The lawsuit will argue that the

City Council

broke Virginia law when it voted 3-2 on Jan. 17 on a final approval of the plan.

Ragged Mountain dam

scheme … sells public property and the rights to our water works without the benefit of a referendum or supermajority vote as the City Charter or Code and Virginia Constitution require,” reads a news release issued Wednesday by former City Council candidate

Bob Fenwick

Joanna Salidis has registered the organization’s new website at

. Both Fenwick and Salidis also worked with

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

in its five-year battle against the dam.
On Tuesday, when the RWSA announced the contract for the dam’s construction had been awarded, that group’s chair, Rebecca Quinn, said it would not be filing a lawsuit.
Calls to contact members of the new organization were not returned Wednesday.
Section 28 of the Charlottesville city code requires a referendum on the sale of public utilities. Section 9 of the Virginia Constitution requires a supermajority for the sale of public utilities.
Councilors took three actions related to the

community water supply plan

on Jan. 17. They agreed to build the earthen dam in one phase rather than two; approved a cost-share allocation agreement with the

Albemarle County Service Authority

; and approved an agreement that outlines the terms under which the RWSA will build the dam on city-owned land.
The agreement, which is an update of the four-party agreement that created the RWSA, does not use the word “sell.” Instead, the city agrees to continue leasing the reservoir to the RWSA for the purposes of water storage for the duration of the agreement.
The new agreement also authorizes the RWSA to dredge the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

. The RWSA has set aside $3.5 million for this purpose and a request for proposals was issued earlier this year for a partial dredging of the reservoir. Those proposals are due at the end of April.
The Open Government Alliance’s website states that a Charlottesville attorney will donate time to prepare and argue the case, but does not identify the person.
The group has also named the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the

Albemarle County Service Authority

in the suit.
The alliance’s website says the water plan is unfair to city ratepayers because, as the group alleges, the city loses its rights to existing water, loses control of three reservoirs maintained by the RWSA and loses the right to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.
The group is also seeking a temporary injunction to stop construction from starting later this spring. The RWSA formally awarded a contract to Thalle Construction on Tuesday. A spokesman for the company said construction could begin in April.

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