August 4, 2008

Angler Deal Still on Table for BOS

By Nate Delesline Iii, Culpeper Star-Exponent, Va.

Aug. 4--With a preliminary agreement pending with the town to develop a regional water and sewer authority, county officials said they aren't sure if a private company's proposal to develop a water and sewer system will be a part of the anticipated joint agreement.

The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors is set, on Tuesday, to discuss the public-private proposal and last week's agreement with the town to form a joint authority in closed session.

Town Council and the Supervisors approved last Monday a "memorandum of understanding," a non legally binding agreement which endorses the concept of forming a regional sewer and water authority. The town would be allowed to expand its borders in exchange for relinquishing control of its sewer and water infrastructure to the authority.

Also before the county is an unsolicited proposal from Angler Development. The Warrenton-based company has proposed construction of a $100 million plus water and sewer system that would include a new sewage treatment plant, miles of water lines and two water storage tanks.

Introduced under a state statute that allows private companies to partner with public entities to build infrastructure the reaction to the Angler proposal has been mixed, with concerns about the project's financing and the county's long term liability expressed by officials and residents alike. No decision on which option the county will pursue is expected Tuesday, said Supervisor Sue Hansohn.

"Even though the MOU was approved, I'm just very cautiously optimistic," she said.

Hansohn, who also heads the county's Public Works Committee, said postponing the decision to September would still allow enough time to implement the proposal from Angler if the county chose to do so.

"We have that extra 30 days and it just gives us that little extra time to review what happened on Monday," she said. "We really have to look at all our options."

Hansohn stopped short of forecasting the possible impact of the MOU on Angler's proposal.

"Everything hinges on everything else -- you can't look at one piece without looking at the other," said Hansohn.

Supervisor Larry Aylor Agreed.

"The MOU in a way complicates the decision making process, but on the other hand is a good thing," he said. "I think it's the preferred option. I'm always in favor of that route, but we also have the DEQ timeline."

That timeline, set by Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality, is a Dec. 31, 2010 deadline by which the county must utilize the full wastewater treatment capacity afforded to it. County Administrator Frank Bossio said Friday that a request to extend the timeline was denied.

"We have the allocation but we didn't get the extension," Bossio said. "They turned it down," he added, explaining that the county's request to "fast track" the extension application was denied.

Supervisor Tom Underwood, who has sought several times over the past few months to bring discussions about sewer and water issues out of closed session, said he would try again Tuesday to bring the discussion before the public.

"I hope that as soon as possible -- certainly done with the proper diligence -- the MOU can become a contract," said Underwood.

"To me, I believe it is important for the county to have access to water and sewer that is not dependent on another political body," Underwood continued. "We need to take the politics out of it, and if that can be done with the town, that's the best possible solution."

Politics have flowed through the area's ongoing sewer and water concerns for years. As recently as February, a new drug store project on Bus. 29 was stalled for weeks, leaving the developer in the middle as the town and county worked through a three-way agreement to bring utility service to the property.

Nate Delesline III can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 110 or [email protected]


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