RWSA provides Gannett Fleming costs, takes heat at board meeting

RWSA provides Gannett Fleming costs, takes heat at board meeting

Last week, C-VILLE reported on what the local community has spent thus far to develop a much-scrutinized water supply plan. As a July 27 update on our website indicated, we received a key piece of information after the print deadline for the story had passed: the amount that the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) has been billed to date by Gannett Fleming, the recently fired consultancy firm largely responsible for developing the supply plan.

Gannett Fleming earned a total of $3,883,565 for its study of the water supply plan: $2,170,150 went to the development of the plan and $1,713,415 to the design of the dam.

According to RWSA director Tom Frederick, Gannett Fleming earned a total of $3,883,565 for its services. A document sent to C-VILLE by RWSA breaks this total into $2,170,150 for development of the plan and $1,713,415 for dam design.

(RWSA also provided an updated cost for the expert panel it hired earlier this year to review Gannett Fleming’s dam design work. That cost was $74,265, not $55,000 as C-VILLE had reported based on earlier information.)

The document anticipates a likely reaction to the $2.1 million development cost by the plan’s very vocal opponents when it acknowledges that, “It may…be easy to see the costs of such development as excessive,” then outlines the work performed by Gannett Fleming: developing 32 alternative supply plans, conducting studies on a number of aspects including water demand, environmental impact and historic resources, and supporting RWSA’s public interaction through the development process. “Federal and state agencies reviewing RWSA’s permit applications have stated that RWSA’s public involvement was the most extensive they have ever seen with respect to a permit for future community water supply,” says the document.

Fighting words

Extensive—and heated—public involvement continued July 28 at a meeting of the RWSA board, with members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan (CSWP) using the public comment period to level pointed accusations at Frederick. CSWP members Betty Mooney and Dede Smith both used the word “fraud” in their estimations of RWSA’s recent activities. Mooney opined that RWSA and Albemarle County are “in cahoots” against the city to ensure that a dredging cost and feasibility study (for which RWSA issued an RFP in May) will focus on dredging for maintenance only, rather than as a possible alternative to the new dam and pipeline that are the centerpieces of the permitted plan.
For her part, Smith focused on the figure for average water demand used by consultant firm HydroLogics when it produced a July 2 report for RWSA on possible pipeline sizes between the South Fork and Ragged Mountain reservoirs. Rather than 11 million gallons per day (mgd), Smith maintains, RWSA and its contractors should be figuring on 9.5 mgd. “We have to have a new demand analysis,” Smith said. “This report is wrong and they know it.” 

The comments prompted stonefaced responses from both Frederick and board chairman Michael Gaffney, who called the accusations “blatantly false.” Frederick answered Smith’s concern by saying that the 11 mgd figure was “just a starting point…there was absolutely nothing fraudulent done.”

At least one comment came in support of the plan. John Martin, a member of the Friends of the Moorman’s River and the Albemarle County Service Authority board, pointed to a recent EPA publication in which RWSA’s plan is favorably mentioned. “This is an indication that this community is doing things right, right now and in its planning,” he said.

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