Simpson Explains 'No' Vote

Published 5:28 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2013

FARMVILLE – Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors member Howard Simpson stressed his support on Monday for the Town of Farmville withdrawing water from Mottley Lake and said he plans to reintroduce the issue next month.

Supervisors voted 5-2 last week to approve the Town's request for a two-year extension of the approval granted by the County last August, which ran through the end of 2012.

State law requires the County's permission, and subsequent DEQ approval, before the Town can release water from Mottley Lake into the Appomattox River in times of drought.

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Simpson voted No to the permit-extending motion and a perplexed Town Council last week authorized an equally mystified Town Manager Gerald Spates to write Simpson seeking an explanation.

Simpson's concern is that the Board of Supervisors' vote last week is technically flawed and, if not corrected, could actually hamper the Town's ability to quickly access the Mottley Lake water if needed this coming summer.

The Board, Simpson pointed out, voted to grant an extension to permission that had already expired.

“The Town asked for an extension. The permit that we gave them last year ran out December 31,” Simpson told The Herald, “and the way that I see it when a permit runs out it's nothing left to put an extension to.

“So my feeling is that at our next meeting we need to issue a new permit, withdrawal permit, for the Town to withdraw the water out of Mottley Lake until December 31 of this year,” Simpson said.

And Supervisors must schedule action at their December meeting in 10 months to grant permission for the Town to withdraw water from Mottley Lake, if needed, during 2014.

“In December, let the County have it on the agenda for the Board meeting to come back and give them (permission) to withdraw the water for next year, a new permit. That was my reasoning,” Simpson said of his No vote last Tuesday, “because I felt that if we give an extension on it the extension wouldn't be any good.”

A technicality, perhaps, but one Simpson fears could prove troublesome for the Town.

“If this summer they needed the water and they contacted DEQ and said 'We have an extension from the County' then the extension, to me, would be no good. They (the Town) would have to come back and start over, getting a permit from the County to withdraw the water and would take more time in doing that.”

Simpson was adamant in declaring his support for the Town using water from Mottley Lake, noting that minutes from the Board of Supervisors' meeting at which withdrawal permission was granted through the end of 2012 shows that he was the one who made the motion.

“There's no way that I would ever vote for not letting the Town have water if we need it for the people in the Town of Farmville and Prince Edward County. I've been on the Board for years and I've always supported the Town of Farmville and I will continue to do that,” Simpson said. “And I'll look after the people in my district and the people in the county because I represent everybody, not just my district. I represent the whole county and the town.”

The letter to Simpson from Town Council was suggested by Spates, who told Town Council last week “one thing kind of bothered me about what happened last night was that our representative, Mr. Simpson, voted against us getting the two-year extension on the water. And I think it would be good for this body to instruct me to write him a letter to find out what his reasons were behind voting against allowing us to withdraw water out of Mottley Lake. I just can't understand what the reasoning would be.”

State Code section 15.2-5122 states, “No locality or authority shall construct, provide or operate outside its boundaries any water supply impoundment system without first obtaining the consent of the governing body of the locality in which such system is located.”

Mottley Lake, purchased by the Town as a drought relief water supply, is in Prince Edward County, several miles west of the Town's corporate limits. Some water runs from the lake into the Appomattox River year-round but a special siphon system would be used in times of severe drought to provide Farmville with enough water, Town officials believe, to effectively counteract the drought effect. The Town has also upgraded the well system at its water treatment plant as an additional insurance policy against the impact of a severe drought.

Prince Edward County's Board of Supervisors had taken proactive action in August, granting approval-on Simpson's motion-for the release of water from Mottley Lake, without the Town seeking it, at a time when the Appomattox River had seen its lowest July 31 level in 86 years. In 86 years, the river had never seen such a low flow on any of those other July 31sts.

The August 2012 letter from the Board Chairman Fore to Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr. and Town Council members cited the State Code permission requirement and granted the Board of Supervisors' permission to use the water of Mottley Lake “as a temporary emergency water supply for the Town of Farmville from August 1, 2012 until December 31, 2012.

“Such action is being taken to ensure an adequate water supply exists to allow the Town to meet water supply demands at a time of extremely low flow in the Appomattox River,” the letter explained. “The Board of Supervisors is acting now to allow adequate time for the Town to obtain all necessary permits prior to the opening of the Prince Edward Public Schools, Fuqua School, and Longwood University which will increase the water demands on the Appomattox River.”