Mont. Co. to join Blacksburg-Christiansburg-VPI Water Authority
CHRISTIANSBURG — The years-in-the-making plan to bring Montgomery County into the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-VPI Water Authority is moving closer to completion.
A July 23 public hearing before the county board of supervisors is the next step toward approval of a tentative deal crafted by a committee during the past year.
Blacksburg and Christiansburg have yet to set public hearings. Christiansburg hopes to coordinate with Blacksburg and hold its hearing at a time close to the other town’s session, Christiansburg Town Manager Barry Helms wrote in an email.
Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors also must hold a public hearing, water authority Executive Director Jerry Higgins said.
All the bodies must eventually vote to bring the county into the authority, but officials hope that will happen this summer.
It’s quite a turnaround from years past. Formed 55 years ago, the town and Tech authority was the first of its type in Virginia. County leaders did not want to join, seeing no need then to get into utility operations.
Decades later, as the county became less rural, discussions of bringing the county into the authority foundered on issues of cost and control.
The authority draws water from the New River at Peppers Ferry and pipes it to the towns and university, which manage their own sales to customers.
The county has developed a patchwork of much smaller water systems run by its Public Service Authority, many drawing from wells.
Some of the county systems are already supplied by the town-Tech authority, with the county authority buying water from one of the towns.
Finally, the towns told the county that if it created a comprehensive plan to guide development — and steer the utilities that would service it — they would consider allowing it into the town-Tech authority.
About three years ago, with a comprehensive plan adopted, the county approached the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-VPI authority again and discussions began again.
A joint working group set a buy-in price of $1.3 million for the county to join the authority, with the amount to be financed by the authority across 40 years at 2.5 percent interest.
Part of the agreement will be that the county use only money collected from its water customers, not funds collected from taxpayers countywide — a group that includes town residents — to pay for extending water lines.
At a June 25 supervisors meeting, Higgins said that if the county joins the authority, two new transmission mains will probably be built up Virginia 114 and then north and south into Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
But this won’t add expenses for the authority’s customers, Higgins said, because it will allow two previously planned projects to expand existing mains to be canceled.
County officials praised Higgins’ work with the effort, saying they doubted it would have gone so far without his guidance.
Craig Meadows said that while the agreement wouldn’t immediately bring better water to everyone, it would serve the long-term goal of having one unified water source for county residents.
Supervisor Mary Biggs, who for years has followed talks about the county joining the authority, said, “it’s good that it’s taken a long time in a way,” because towns, university and county have all had opportunities to work out concerns.
“I’m glad it’s coming to an end,” supervisors Chairman Jim Politis said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1669
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