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Water Project Info Coming

PRINCE EDWARD – County residents interested in the details of a proposed public water project will have the opportunity to read about it in a pullout section of The Herald next Friday or in Tuesday's Free News.

Supervisors (on a voice vote, with Farmville District Supervisor Jim Wilck opposing) agreed to publish the information, compiled by County Administrator Wade Bartlett, in their Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Close behind the publication of the pullout section, community meetings will be scheduled in each of the County's districts with a single one to accommodate the three Farmville Districts.

It is expected to cost about $2,500.

“We need, as a board, to reach out to our public and let them know everything that we know and this is the only way I know to do it,” commented Board Chairman William “Buckie” Fore, who presented the proposal in the conference room following the school budget presentation.

Crowder Construction-with Draper Aden engineers-has worked on specifics of a water project as outlined in an interim agreement with Prince Edward tapping into the Sandy River Reservoir.

The County was presented an unsolicited proposal-under the PPEA, or Public Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, localities may receive unsolicited proposals from private firms-and supervisors continue to take a deeper look into the specifics of a water project as outlined in an interim agreement.

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 is penciled in with an eight million gallons (MGD) per day intake infrastructure capacity and there would be an easily 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 a $24,879,000, though there were also estimated project indirect costs of $841,900.

“We've been fooling with this thing for four years and a lot of information has been given to the board, given to the public through newspaper articles and conversations and meetings,” Fore said. “I thought it would be a good idea if we put together a compilation of all the information that has been given to this board and that we publish it so that every citizen in the county has the opportunity to read what has transpired-not in editorial form, but in fact, the way it has occurred chronologically and the information that has been gleaned from everything that has occurred in the last four years.”

Fore noted that Bartlett has put it together and that it is “pretty much a historical compilation of stuff that has occurred.” His instruction to the County Administrator, he also said, was to research it, and report the facts as given to them-not to editorialize that the board is going to build a water plant.

Fore suggested the meetings be held in quick succession after the publication. (As of publication, the date and times had not been finalized.)

He initially suggested that he call a meeting at each of the sites so that the entire board gets to hear citizen input from each of the districts. Fellow board members, however, looked to more individual meetings without necessarily having the full board present.

“It worries me that the same people are going to show up at every single meeting and go over the same things at every single meeting. And, in all honesty, I'd really like to hear from my constituents,” commented Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt.

Wilck, long critical of the project, thought it was “a wonderful idea” to have all these meetings and so forth, but said he would like to see what is in the paperwork and so forth.

“…Personally, I understand I'm in the minority, but if it's just gonna be the gospel according to Wade, I'm not really interested,” Wilck said. “In other words, you talk about the facts…Yeah, I wanna see facts, too. Not opinions, but facts. And so I'd like to see this 18 pages or whatever it is prior to it going out or have the opportunity to debunk the things that need to be debunked at the meetings. I mean, that's the only fair way to do it.”

Fore, later in the meeting responding to Wilck's comments, would assess that he can't solve it and that he didn't think they could solve it as a board.

“I think you are the only person on this board that has voiced opposition since you've sat on the board against this water project,” he said. “I don't think anybody else here that I have heard-maybe in private, but certainly not in public-voiced any opposition or…expressed themselves as being in support of this. I think the only thing this board can do in a for-and-against situation is present the facts as they were given to us. Let the people read those facts and ask the board questions and have that information verified in answer to the (questions).”

Still, clearly, there is some division over some of the assumptions of the project and the board, in publishing the project information, won't apparently go through their own revision to Bartlett's work but planned to include a disclaimer that they did not write it and may or may not disagree with its content, but it is published with their permission.

“If that's in there, then I'm OK with it,” said Gantt, who made the motion to move forward with the publication.

Wilck would say he couldn't vote before he read it (though in the discussion, they will apparently have an opportunity to do so). The board approved the measure on a voice vote, with Fore later clarifying that he did not vote, citing that he is an employee of The Herald, that it was his idea and he sold it.

Prince Edward may not have much time to make a decision on the project at the proposed price. The price holds through May 10.

“After that time, then it's a new price…up or down…,” Bartlett said.

He later added that they can't hold it forever. He cited the cost of gas since it was presented in February. That, he assessed, is going to affect the price of almost everything.

“If it's competitively bid, the price will drop significantly-maybe as much as 20 percent,” Wilck said.

Bartlett would note that “an engineer…talked to me and they didn't believe the price. They said, they can't do it for that. I said, well, that's the bid.”

Bartlett likened it to building a house that a contractor is not going to hold it forever.

“He's not telling you what to do, he's just telling you what he can do for that price,” he said.

Gantt would offer that he's holding out for a compromise.

“And that's where you're liable (to) get your hind end burnt, too,” Farmville District (101) Supervisor Howard Simpson commented.

Gantt would later suggest finishing the budget “take this thing a step at a time and do it right and then if it…passes, it passes. I don't think the price is (going to) change so significantly.”