Town OKs HRSD Surry offer

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

SURRY—With most of its conditions to be met by the county, minus annual payments of $200,000, the Surry Town Council voted to move forward with its decision to transfer its wastewater treatment systems to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

The Town Council had previously voted to deed its sewer systems to HRSD following a public hearing held in March, but with the prerequisite that the county keep several previously undisclosed agreements with the town.

The conditions were later revealed in a letter to the county to include cutting the town’s grass, emptying trash cans in “Oaks Park,” and annual payments of $200,000.

The Surry Board of Supervisors agreed earlier this month to comply with four of the town’s five conditions to deeding its systems, rejecting only its request for the annual payments.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The town’s two other requests were that the county handle meter reading and the billing of the town’s water customers, both of which are services that HRSD would provide.

The Board of Supervisors also agreed to pay off the town’s current debt on its wastewater system, in the amount of $160,000.

In the letter addressed to the county and signed by Surry Mayor Will Gwaltney, the town provided no explanation as to why it was requesting $200,000 annually, or what it would do with the money.

Following the Town Council meeting Tuesday, April 11, Council member Christopher Anderson said the town would have used the money to add upgrades to its water system.

“It’s not much different than what they have done for Dendron,” Anderson said when asked about the annual payments the town of Surry requested.

The county owns Dendron’s sewer and water systems. No payments are being made to the town from the county, according to Surry County Administrator Tyrone Franklin.

Surry County voted to transfer its sewer systems, which included the town of Dendron’s, to HRSD in February. The town of Claremont chose not to participate in the move.

The county will be fully funding a water line replacement in Dendron, which could end up costing up to $4.8 million.

“We’re going to have the same issues coming up when you’re shifting out 90 percent of your income,” Anderson said.

The small town relies on water and sewer for the vast majority of its revenue, the line item bringing in $250,000 of the town’s $348,000 of its yearly income.

However, management of the facilities is also the town’s largest expense.

When the town officially transfers its sewer systems to HRSD, it will still be responsible for water, which on its own cost roughly $27,000 in expenses last year and generated about $42,000 in revenue for the town.

Without ownership of its sewer systems, the town would be left with about $140,000 in annual revenue and $100,716 in annual expenses overall.

The town currently charges monthly fees of $47 for sewer and $3 for water in a combined bill. 

Surry’s wastewater bill is based on a minimum 4,000 gallons, charging $11.75 for every additional 1,000 gallons.

HRSD’s current rate structure is based on a minimum of 3,000 gallons per month for $34.11 and $11.37 for every additional 1,000, with potential yearly rate increases as high as 9 percent or as low as 2 percent.

Council member Robert Berryman recommended during the meeting that the town officially hand over the systems to HRSD at the beginning of the next fiscal year in July.

The Town Council will look at adjusting its water rates at its next budget work session, according to Anderson.

“We’re going to have to get creative,” he said.

The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Surry Town Hall.

 

Future of Edwards Virginia Smokehouse

The Town Council’s decision is another hurdle crossed for Edwards Virginia Ham, which burned down in a fire last year and is looking to rebuild.

In order to treat the 90-year old ham company’s wastewater in Surry County, HRSD General Manager Ted Henifin has said that it would require the additional wastewater flow generated by the town’s systems.

Thus, Edwards Virginia Ham owner Sam Edwards has said that his company’s future in the county is largely contingent upon the town’s acceptance of HRSD.

However, even with HRSD now approved in Surry with no other caveats, Edwards said it’s still not definite that Edwards Virginia Ham, one of the largest employers in the county, will remain.

The company is currently in the midst of a legal dispute with its insurance provider, Selective Way, from whom it is seeking $85 million, and is still awaiting a final settlement.

“We’re kind of getting the cart before the horse,” Edwards said of his business’s location. “The litigation is such a huge part of our decision.”

Edwards said that remaining in Surry is ultimately a family decision, but pending a favorable decision from the court, “I’m 99 percent certain we would.”

Edwards has said he has received offers from neighboring counties to relocate, including Isle of Wight.  {/mprestriction}