Water line project OK’d after staffer’s comment criticized

Published 12:50 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors unanimously approved moving ahead with plans for a water line south of Benn’s Church Thursday, but only after supervisors chastised a county staff member for comments about county taxpayers.

As he was discussing the proposed $3.5 – $4 million water line with the supervisors, Utilities Service Director Don Jennings said, “We’re going to have to pony up to have a sustainable water supply.” {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Jennings was seeking approval from the supervisors to issue a request for proposals to begin engineering work on a water line that would run about four miles from the Suffolk city line to the Benn’s Church intersection.

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 “We’re simply going to have to pony up to get these projects done to have a sustainable water supply,” said Jennings.

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty took issue with the term “pony up.” Residents are already tasked with the fifth highest debt load among counties in Virginia, he said.

The county needs to be careful about what it has to “pony up” for, McCarty said.

This was following a discussion on whether or not funding was already available for the water line.

Jennings initially said the project was already funded.

This gave Board Chairman Rex Alphin pause.

In actuality, there is funding pending approval of the fiscal 2017 capital improvement plan — is that correct?, asked Alphin.

Alphin said additional money may need to be borrowed, that is, more debt incurred.

Isle of Wight Director of Finance Michael Terry then stepped up to the podium and clarified the situation.

There are monies that were budgeted for other projects that the Board has put a hold on, and since they are in the same category, those funds can be moved to this project, Terry said. 

Alphin recalled that the discussion about a Route 10 water line was raised in a board retreat last year as a good idea, but that was as far as it went at the time.

Jennings then apologized for using the term “pony up.”

According to Jennings, the water line would provide a redundant conduit for water in emergencies, as well as be a back up for the water line now located under the Crittenden Bridge, that if it failed, could result in a long-term water outage.

Alphin said the water line could open up development along Route 10 on the road to Suffolk.

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice liked the idea because it could be considered part of a countywide comprehensive water program.  {/mprestriction}