Surry: HRSD OK … but

Published 12:49 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Town lays claim to unspecified county ‘promises’

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

SURRY—The Surry Town Council voted unanimously to transfer its wastewater treatment systems to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, provided the county follows through on agreements that town officials say were made at a previously undisclosed meeting with Surry County Administrator Tyrone Franklin.  

Franklin and town council members are unwilling to disclose exactly what those agreements were.

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Council member Christopher Anderson, who has repeatedly warned of significant financial hazards for town residents should the council decide to deed to its sewer systems to HRSD, made the motion to approve doing so, following a jam-packed public hearing Tuesday, March 14. His motion included the caveat that the undisclosed promises made at a Jan. 26 meeting with Franklin be kept by the county. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Surry District Supervisor John Seward, who spoke in favor of HRSD at the public hearing Tuesday, said that he was not made aware of any provision discussed with Franklin in January, and cautioned the council that whatever it was, it would still have to pass through the Surry County Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors had verbally agreed to pay off the town’s current debt on its wastewater plant in the amount of $160,000 should it join the county in transferring its systems to HRSD, according to Seward, but that is the only provision he was aware of.

Anderson did not disclose the details of the provision that he said the council had agreed upon with Franklin, instead suggesting Seward and the public speak with Franklin. Other council members indicated that they were also aware of the meeting and agreement.

“I’ll be honest with you, it was some talking points, but it wasn’t anything official,” Franklin said by phone regarding the contents of the January meeting.

Franklin said he cannot say what the talking points were about because they were not official.

In order to receive any provisions from the county, the town would have to make a formal request to the Board of Supervisors, which it has not done, according to Franklin.

“I’m a little confused by the motion in and of itself, because it’s not an official request from the town to the county,” said Franklin. “I can’t do anything. I don’t have the authority to say what’s going to happen to benefit the town of Surry.”
Franklin did say that the conversation, which he said was with two members of the town council, contained “nothing that would warrant anything to be concerned about.”

Regarding the town’s legal standpoint, Surry town attorney Clinton Faison’s secretary said Faison would not be commenting on any legal questions at this time.

Surry County opted to transfer its wastewater treatment systems, which include the town of Dendron’s, to HRSD in February. The town of Claremont opted out of any deal with HRSD.

The town’s public hearing Tuesday drew a large number of supporters for the transfer of the sewer systems to HRSD, with comments tending to focus on the need to attract more businesses to the small town.

Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, one of the largest employers in Surry, burned down in a fire last year and it is looking to rebuild.

According to HRSD General Manager Ted Henifin, the 90-year-old ham company would require the additional flow of the town’s system to treat its larger quantities of wastewater.

Sam Edwards, president of the company, has said the he and his family want to keep the business in Surry, but has had other offers from interested counties should the town reject HRSD and continue with plans to construct and manage a new wastewater plant itself.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Edwards, noting that he remained concerned about the caveat in the vote.

Currently, the town of Surry’s wastewater bill is $47 per month based on a minimum 4,000 gallons and $11.75 for every 1,000 gallons after that.

HRSD’s current rate structure is based on a minimum of 3,000 a month for $34.11, and $11.37 for every additional 1,000 gallons, with potential annual increases as high as 9 percent in the next five years or as low as 2 percent.  {/mprestriction}