Memory and smell go hand-in-hand. Just ask the residents of Woolen Mills, who followed their noses to last night’s City Council meeting, where they urged Council to reject a $37 million sewage pump expansion that could send a trench through residential yards and tarnish the neighborhood’s historical value.
Around 10pm, council voted unanimously for its representatives on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) board to reject the plan, and study additional options—including a plan to relocate the pump station to property owned by an Albemarle County business.
In April, the RWSA board voted to exclusively study the $37 million proposal—dubbed Concept C, selected from a list of four options—at a cost of $122,000. The vote momentarily tabled Concept D, a $34 million plan to move the pump station across the Rivanna River to property owned by State Farm Insurance. A State Farm representative said the company, which is located in Albemarle County, planned to expand its parking lot, and the pump station could negatively impact business operations.
The expanded pump station is one of a number of improvements mandated by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to address sewer overflows, and it would increase the peak wet weather capacity for the pump station to 53 million gallons per day, up from 25 million. RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick told Council that wastewater overflows topped DEQ’s list of environmental concerns. Locally, said Frederick, “the sewer overflows have been going on for decades.”
“It’s not a new problem,” said Frederick. “It’s a longstanding problem.”
At the time, City Manager Maurice Jones and public works director Judy Mueller, abstained from a vote. Councilor David Brown voted to study Concept C after a private meeting with RWSA officials and a few Woolen Mills residents.
Last night, however, Brown said he would “prefer to see a study of more, rather than fewer, options”—including the relocation of the pump to State Farm property. Mayor Dave Norris referred to Concept C as a “nonstarter,” and said his preference is to discuss the possibility of Concept D with State Farm representatives.
Several Woolen Mills residents expressed that Concept D was not perfect, but seemed the best among options that had been discussed. Local attorney and Woolen Mills resident Francis McQ. Lawrence said that he thought State Farm might be willing to house the pump station.
“I think State Farm has been a good neighbor,” said Lawrence.
Council also postponed a vote to approve increases to water and sewer rates after numerous local residents expressed concern that Albemarle County approved steady rates for Fiscal Year 2012. The county also increased sewer connection fees for developers.