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Numbers Are Stable

PRINCE EDWARD – County and Town officials are engaging in the possibility of creating a water authority for shared public utilities. And, while that could well happen down the road-with both Council and the County Board voting to consider exploring the option-the price on the County's separate water project appears to be on hold.

Crowder Construction Company's Senior Project Manager Christopher Robards told County Supervisors at their June 14 meeting that “the pricing presented in February is still valid as of today.”

Crowder Construction, with the input of Draper Aden engineers, presented an unsolicited proposal to tap into the Sandy River Reservoir that-if built-would immerse the County in the water utility business.

While the board may yet choose another option, the proposed project factors the construction of an intake, water treatment facility and service lines extending to serve an area south of Farmville to Hampden-Sydney and east to Crewe. The intake structure factors eight million gallons (MGD) per day intake infrastructure capacity and there would be an expandable two MGD facility treatment facility (located about a half mile from the reservoir) that could be upgraded to four MGD.

The final estimate for the project presented to the board-factoring Crewe and Burkeville's participation-earlier this year stood at $24,879,000, though there were also estimated project indirect costs of $841,900. (The price was expected to be good through the end of May.)

“In our normal operations, our daily operations, we are in touch with our vendor community and our purchasing in the markets regarding the raw materials that are gonna go into this plant through projects that we're currently building and projects that we are estimating each and every week,” Robards detailed. “And what we've seen over the past few months-I'd say in the April-May timeframe-probably late March through early May-the market, the raw materials…increased quarterly.”

Over the past few weeks, Robards also cited, the market has stabilized; they've seen gas pricing, fuel pricing come down; rebar-re-enforcing steel pricing, has come down; piping, copper pricing has stabilized.

He noted that they're seeing the market has stabilized and that over the next few months, they don't anticipate any significant change in that.

Robards suggested that, if things continue to get better-if fuel continues to drop, if other commodities continue to drop and the pricing improves-that those costs would be shared with the County. It's something, he said, they have to keep a pulse on and that when, and if, the board is ready to move forward with the project then they would solidify those numbers at that time.

“Over the past year, year and a half, the project has developed significantly,” Robards said. “We've…put a lot of work into it and there's momentum.”

He also commented, “…What we'd just like to share with you is that we understand there's options available to you and this option remains open, the pricing remains firm and we're here to help assist in whatever way we can…as you guys move forward with the development of your project.”

Authority Update

Meanwhile, County and Farmville officials are also taking a look at an authority to operate both water and sewer utilities, which could mean the County would not get into the water business and the Town would get out of the water business.

The two entities met earlier this month, separately agreed to pursue the option, issued a joint statement on the effort and have continued to follow through. County Administrator Wade Bartlett presented an update on negotiations with the Town.

“We did meet yesterday with the representatives from Davenport-both the County's representative…and the Town's representative that work for Davenport-and went over much of the financial data,” Bartlett said.

While there is little more work to do, Bartlett added that “…it appears that the amount of cash flow from the utility system would support…$16-20 million of revenue bonds. But one thing that did come out during that is-and there's been talk that an evaluation of the Town's system would be done-the representatives from Davenport stated that would definitely have to be done before any bank would issue a revenue bond. That would be a requirement, they want to see the evaluation of the system and also the existing useful age of the system.”

The Town, Bartlett cited, had been in discussions with their engineer that knows most about their system. He reported that an evaluation would cost about $10,000. Supervisors-with it being a joint project-agreed to chip in $5,000 of the cost. Bartlett believed funds were available in the existing budget.

Other Updates

The Department of Health has approved the preliminary engineering report on the water project Crowder and Draper Aden have been studying for the County.

The approval, outlined in a June 13 letter, was given with some specific conditions-that there be additional bench scale testing (planned for later this summer); that the report in the testing must confirm that the proposed treatment system “will be capable of meeting Federal and State disinfection byproducts (DBP) regulations or provide revisions to the proposed treatment system supported by adequate data and testing to meet the…regulations;” that the county have an ordnance for a protective buffer zone around the raw water intake (a buoyed off area) prior to issuance of the operation permit; and that the filter design meet the requirement of the Waterworks Regulations Filtration.

The additional bench testing, Draper Aden Vice President Utilities Division Manager Fred Pribble explained, is where they take samples of the lake water in August or early September and doing a bench, lab tests instead of a full-blown pilot study.

“This test is mostly for operational purposes to determine how much chemical may be needed…during the warm months when there may be algae present,” Pribble detailed. “We don't see this having any impact at all on the proposed process or the proposed project that's been submitted.”

The tests can be completed this summer, he detailed, under the current interim agreement and were projected to cost about $8,000-$10,000. Funding is expected to come from unexpended funds. County Administrator Wade Bartlett cited that they have about $132,000 that they had anticipated would not be spent from the original contract.

Pribble also reported that “about 80 percent of what we've done to date-whether it be this bench test or all the work that we've done to date on the treatability of the water”-is going to be applicable to the raw water if it is pumped to Farmville.

Board members unanimously agreed to follow through with the bench test in August.

“…We need to do this while we are still in negotiations with the Town of Farmville in that the information can be used either way,” Chairman William “Buckie” Fore commented.

In other water news, Pribble cited that they were asked by the County to do a comparison of the recently-bid Buckingham water treatment plant and the Sandy River facility. (The issue arose in a recent public hearing on the proposal.)

He noted that they put together a detailed analysis with Crowder comparing the two facilities.

“…In looking at those two facilities, we feel like the Sandy River facility compared very favorably to the Buckingham facility when it comes to the features and components and the overall cost per gallon,” Pribble commented.