Tuesday, February 26, 2008

RWSA and rate hikes

CvilleTomorrow reports on today's RWSA meeting. At the meeting, the Board decided to increase the water and sewer rate again this year. RWSA has significant infrastructure projects on the table. RWSA has significant municipal debt as a result of past infrastructure projects. The rates will likely continue to go up.

Chris despises that after the City budget cycle is over in early April, Council votes to increase the water and sewer rates usually in May. He feels, and I concur after seeing the phenomena play out last year, the City's tax rate does not accurately reflect the actual burden that local government has on a household's budget, so both should be taken into account when considering the budget and tax rates generally.

The line that most sticks in my head "The two City representatives to the Board were not present at the February 25 meeting".
Here are the people on the board:
* Michael Gaffney, Chairman
• Mark B. Graham, P.E., Director of Community Development, Albemarle County
• Judith Mueller, Director of Public Works, City of Charlottesville
• Gary O'Connell, City Manager
• Robert Tucker, County Executive
I have learned researching this post that there is a Citizen Committee:
The Board is supported by a Citizens Advisory Committee consisting of 3 representatives from the City, 3 from the County, 2 from the University of Virginia, and a Chairperson selected by the City Council and Board of Supervisors.
Current Citizens Advisory Committee
• Kim Blatz, City of Charlottesville Representative
• Vacant, Joint City of Charlottesville / Albemarle County Representative, Chairman
• Jeffrey Greer, City of Charlottesville Representative
• Stephen Kirkup, Albemarle County Representative
• Vacant, University of Virginia Representative
• Todd Marshall, University of Virginia Representative
• Vacant, City of Charlottesville Representative
• Reed Muehlman, Albemarle County Representative
• Vacant, Albemarle County Representative

These are the members of that citizen board, which by my count has 5 members out of 9 possible members. If you know me at all, you know I want to be on this committee, HOWEVER I prefer to promote leadership in the community by asking someone else to step up and volunteer for this committee, someone who cares about tax rates, municipal debt and infrastructure issues (at first you may think this sounds dreadfully boring, but once you learn the impact you can have, it is not boring anymore). We have a responsibility, if an opportunity exists to have meaningful impact through this citizen's committee. One proposal I had was to add an elected official to the RWSA, but if there is a strong citizen committee (defined as active, participatory, questioning, advocating and otherwise making recommendations) then an elected may not be necessary.

Other interesting tidbits all from CvilleTomorrow's article (btw- big THANK YOU to Cville Tomorrow for the great work it does):
"On water, the RWSA is proposing to charge the City $2.285 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 2.65 percent over last year. The Albemarle County Service Authority would be charged $2.983 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 2.44 percent. These increased rates help cover the debt service required to pay for the expansion of Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
“That number is a less than what I think a number of people had anticipated,” said Tom Frederick, the executive director of the RWSA.
However, wastewater rates will increase more because the RWSA is planning on several capital upgrades to its sewer infrastructure. On wastewater, the RWSA is proposing to charge the City $2.466 per 1000 gallons, a 10.43% increase. The County’s proposed charge is $2.722 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 10.54%.
“We continue to be in an upward cycle for capital improvements, driven by a number of things including tighter regulations at the state and federal level, the need to rehabilitate many areas of our system that are wearing out, and the need to provide future planning for capacity needs,” Frederick said."

Confusing message on the homepage of the RWSA "the regular meeting scheduled for 2/25 has been cancelled" and yet this article? This could be the reason the City folks didnt attend (I will give the benefit of the doubt).


Brian Wheeler said...

Jennifer - Thank you very much for the nice remarks on our coverage of the recent RWSA meeting. One thing to note is that there are two different groups with very similar names and letterheads, the RWSA and the RSWA! This link takes you to both.

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority held their meeting Monday. The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority did not. Usually one meeting follows the other on the same day each month. They have different boards with some overlap in membership.

Also, Gary O'Connell and Judith Muller are pretty regularly at these meetings representing the City. One issue under discussion in the community is whether elected officials should be on both Boards instead of City/County staff. The Albemarle Supervisors have discussed this recently.

Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow

Jennifer said...

OK I feared that would be the problem, how are we supposed to keep all of this straight? Thank goodness for cvilletomorrow to help me. I hope most of my comments still stand and I wasnt too hard on anyone. Thanks Brian.

David Brown said...


Gary O'Connell is out of town and Judy Mueller had an emergency take her out of town. Aubrey Watts, Acting City manager, was there, to represent the City.

Gary and Judy are always there, I think.


Jennifer said...

Thanks for the info David and Brian.

I think a citizen committee to the RWSA would be helpful if no elected officials are going to be on the Board. I am a big fan of an active citizenery, especially since elected officials are on so many boards already, it may help to get some citizen advocacy on this particular board.
Thanks for the updates.