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James City County became the final Historic Triangle locality to opt into a hybrid sewer plan that would allow James City Service Authority to maintain day-to-day control of sewer operations.
The JCSA Board of Directors, made up of the members of the county Board of Supervisors, voted 4-1 Tuesday to support a plan that allows Hampton Roads Sanitation District to take the lead on major improvements on the sewer systems throughout Hampton Roads.
HRSD, in an effort to adhere to state and federal orders to reduce sewer overflows, originally proposed taking over all sewer operations throughout Hampton Roads. HRSD pitched the plan based on a study that showed a regional cost savings of about $1 billion.
Several localities, including York and James City counties and the City of Williamsburg, showed skepticism about surrendering control. A hybrid plan emerged from the localities that addresses those concerns, which included whether the quality of customer service would decline under a regionalized plan. The hybrid plan makes HRSD responsible for meeting the state and federal orders.
“We’re getting the benefit of not having each of our 14 different systems do the same thing,” Supervisor John McGlennon (Roberts) said.
The hybrid plan first came before James City County’s Board of Supervisors at a work session in early February. The supervisors showed skepticism for the plan and were unsure what it could mean for county citizens. The same held true at Tuesday’s meeting.
JCSA Assistant Manager Stephanie Luton told the board Tuesday the hybrid plan would save JCSA customers $32 per year compared with the authority performing the work itself, though the decision to opt in will not decrease a customer’s bill. At the work session earlier this month, Luton told the board James City was facing $80 million in repairs over the next 20 to 25 years to meet the state and federal orders. HRSD will assume responsibility for performing repairs needed under the orders and will take on the responsibility of billing JCSA customers for that work.
Currently, and under the hybrid plan, a JCSA customer will still receive a two-part sewer bill, with one part going to JCSA and another to HRSD; the bill will also continue to include a water charge. The HRSD portion of the bill is expected to increase by an average of $9.17 per month in about 10 years. The bill will slowly increase in the time leading up to the 10-year peak.
The exact increase to a JCSA customer’s bill has not been provided; HRSD bases its fees on consumption, meaning localities that require more service pay more. The district serves about 460,000 customers with JCSA comprising about 22,000 of those.
In order for the hybrid plan to work, all 14 Hampton Roads localities had to opt in — a requirement Supervisor Mary Jones (Berkeley) said was “chilling to hear.”
Ultimately, she and Supervisor Michael Hipple (Powhatan) said their gut feelings were to say no to the plan, but Jones was the only negative vote Tuesday. The board voted 4-1 to join the hybrid system.
At the start of the JCSA meeting Tuesday, HRSD and 10 localities voted to join the plan. The cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake were also slated to consider the item Tuesday. Before the JCSA meeting adjourned, HRSD General Manager Ted Hinifin reported Portsmouth and Norfolk voted to opt in.