Vote on new town-county water deal expected next month

Published 6:21 pm Thursday, October 26, 2023

Smithfield’s Town Council expects to vote next month on exiting a deal that would otherwise obligate the town to begin purchasing water this year from Isle of Wight County.

Getting out of the 2018 arrangement would entail the town making two half-million-dollar payments to the county, one in 2024 and the other in 2025, according to an updated agreement Town Manager Michael Stallings presented to council members at their Oct. 23 committee meetings.

The $1 million in total is intended to equal the payments the town would have made to the county over five years under the 2018 deal.

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Smithfield supplies roughly 114,500 gallons annually to county water customers in the Gatling Pointe neighborhood, located just outside the town limits on Battery Park Road. Five years ago, Smithfield agreed to switch an equivalent number of town customers in the Benns Church Boulevard area to county water by mid-2023.

The county currently pays the town roughly $200,000 per year for the water it resells to Gatling Pointe. The town would have paid the same to the county for Benns Church Boulevard.

According to Stallings, complying with the original agreement would have entailed spending $2 million to $3 million on infrastructure to address a problem that would have been created by the town’s and county’s differing water treatment methods.

Smithfield uses chlorine at its reverse osmosis plant to disinfect the water from its municipal wells. The Western Tidewater Water Authority, formed from Isle of Wight and Suffolk, treats its water using a blend of chlorine and ammonia known as chloramine. 

Smithfield Public Works Director Jack Reed told the council in August that mixing the two disinfectants would create a “rotten egg” smell.

Per the terms of the draft 2023 agreement, the town would continue to provide water and sewer service to Gatling Pointe, and upon the completion of a county-funded water main extension to the new Hardy Elementary, will begin providing water to the school and surrounding Thomas Park, Tormentors Creek and Days Point neighborhoods. The agreement would cap the amount of water allocated to Hardy and the surrounding areas at 50,000 gallons per day. The county is to pay the town

Another provision of the draft agreement would give the county the right to supply water and sewer to a proposed mixed-use development that would add 262 homes and five commercial parcels along the Benns Church Boulevard corridor.

“They already have the line and infrastructure,” Stallings said.

Charlottesville-based Greenwood Homes submitted plans on Aug. 31 for what’s been dubbed “The Promontory.” The development would occupy roughly 133 acres behind and adjacent to the Smithfield Tractor Supply at the site of a sand mining operation or “borrow pit.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Greenwood Homes as a Williamsburg-based firm. The company is headquartered in Charlottesville, though a Williamsburg address was listed for Greenwood on the submitted plans.