Saturday Happenings

From Rev. Bailey:

Santa Breakfast this Saturday at St. Andrew’s School hosted by St. Andrew’s Church. Pancake and sausage breakfast, pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and Christmas shop. Breakfast is $3/person; $10 for immediate family. 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Come on over!

Keep in mind that the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade is happening and Broad Street will be closed.

Also, Water is Life Rally and Concert, in protest against the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines, is being held at the State Capital and then the National Theater. A state wide coalition of over 30 environmental organizations are collaborating to pull this event together.

Neighbor Brings Important Correction On Larus Park Water Deal To Fore

Pay attention, Laurel Street neighbor Charles Pool holding school.

Dear Honorable Members of Richmond City Council,
There is an important correction printed on page A4 of today’s Richmond Times Dispatch:
“CORRECTION: The city of Richmond could generate $4.1 million in gross revenue under a revised water agreement with Chesterfield County that, if approved, would permit the county to construct a water tank and pumping station in Larus Park. The figure was misstated in a story Nov. 22 on Page B2.” [The misstated figure was given as NET revenue rather than GROSS revenue in the Nov. 22 article.]
The O&R Request accompanying Ordinance 2017-209, which would allow the county to build a 2 million gallon water tank in Larus Park, deceptively states:
“REVENUE TO CITY: $4,103,000 five year total starting in 2021.” (Please see attachment.)
Now the city administration has acknowledged to the Times Dispatch that this projected revenue to the city from the Larus Park project is GROSS not NET revenue.
The $4.1 million in projected GROSS revenue from Ordinance 2017-209 includes all of the city’s high costs for providing up to five million gallons of additional water per day (or 9.1 BILLION additional gallons of treated water over five years) to Chesterfield County. The city’s costs for providing an additional 9.1 billion gallons of treated water to the county include salaries of employees, costs for running the electrical pumps, chemicals for purifying the water, etc.
Because the city would be contractually responsible for the 4,000 feet of supply water line to the proposed facility at a cost to the city of $1.7 million, the city would actually run a NET LOSS in the five years starting in 2021.
Ordinance 2017-209 would continue for another generation the agreement where the city makes only 5% over actual costs on water volume sold to the county, which comes to only 3.5 cents per ccf (hundred cubic feet) or about $85,000 per year. Capital cost reimbursement from the project is contractually limited to reimbursement for the ACTUAL COSTS the city incurs.
Selling water volume to the county at 5% over actual costs while selling water to Richmonder’s at 500% over actual costs puts city businesses at a serious competitive disadvantage. This cheap water provided by the city is fueling the county’s potential new MEGA SITE and new Niagara water bottling plant.
Even worse: if the county unilaterally decides not to renew the lease, Ordinance 2017-209 would contractually obligate the city to pay the county for the entire $7.5 million water tank and pumping station in Larus Park, less depreciation, even if the city does not need or want the water facility.
Why should Richmond sacrifice sacred city parkland in Larus Park in order to run a NET LOSS over the next five years with the county on this water deal that puts Richmond businesses at a serious competitive disadvantage?
Honorable Members of Council, please look closely at the terms of the proposed Ordinance 2017-209 in light of the revelation in today’s Times Dispatch that the administration is deceptively projecting GROSS rather than NET revenue from the project.
Thank you very much for closely examining this issue.
Sincerely,
Charles Pool

Questions For Utility “Cost of Service” Meetings

Tonight is the first of four meetings the City of Richmond Department of Utilities is holding. This one starts at 5:30 and is being held at the Byrd Park Roundhouse (700 S. Davis Avenue).

“Ratepayers are encouraged to attend one of the sessions to learn more . There will be opportunities to ask questions.”

Here are some sample questions:

No alternative site for Chesterfield’s 2 million gallon water tank was considered other than Richmond’s Larus Park. The Dept. of Public Utilities claimed that the site was chosen because of its high elevation, but topography maps indicate that the entire Huguenot corridor is at the same elevation or higher? Will a site outside of Larus Park be selected for Chesterfield’s water facility?

How does selling water to the County at 74 cents per ccf (748 gallons) promote conservation?

Does not selling water to the county at a fifth the rate that City residents must pay put City businesses at a competitive disadvantage? (County pays 74 cents per ccf, while City residents pay $4.04 per ccf.)

If Chesterfield’s proposed 2 million gallon water tank is located in the County instead of in the City’s Larus Park, would not the relieve the contract provision that the City must pay the County for the $10 million water facility if the County does not renew the lease?

According to the latest City filings with the Va. Dept. of Environmental Quality, it is anticipated that the demand for water in the region may outstrip supply in about five years. But the proposed contract with Chesterfield County would lock in the ridiculously low price of water at only 5% over the City’s actual costs (currently at 74 cents per ccf) until 2045. Is it not reckless to lock in such low rates when we have there is not an unlimited water supply from the James River?

Richmond customers must pay a minimum monthly water/sewer service charge of $32 even if no water is used. This is one of the highest minimum water/sewer service charges in the country that places a disproportionate burden on water customers who conserve water and use little water. When will the Dept. of Public Utilities lower the base service charge to offer a reasonable rate to those who conserve water?

The Richmond Dept. of Public Utilities charges Richmond customers a payment in lieu of federal income tax on the water bill that is put into the city’s general fund. No other locality in Va. charges a federal income tax surcharge on the water bill. Will DPU remove the federal income tax surcharge on the water bill?

Other localities encourage conservation by offering customers a discounted volume rate for those using 3 ccf or less. When will the Richmond Dept. of Public Utilities initiate rates that encourage conservation?

The public was excluded in the selection of Larus Park for Chesterfield’s water facility and the public is not involved in setting water rates. When will the Richmond Dept. of Public Utilities start involving the public in these important decisions?

The city residents own Richmond’s utility but are frustrated to see that the utility showers the counties with low rates while city residents pay high water rates. As a result, Richmond with high rates is surrounded by localities, which purchase water from Richmond, that have remarkably lower water rates. Richmond residents are tired of hearing the utility trying to explain this away by saying that Richmond has rusted water pipes. When will Richmond’s residents start seeing a benefit of owning the utility in lower rates from their utility?

Richmond has a much higher poverty rate than the surrounding counties, yet the city-owned utility sells water to the county at a fifth of what Richmond residents must pay for the necessity. When will the city initiate like Petersburg a base life-line rate so all residents who conserve water will have basic service at a low rate?

When will we see solar panels on utility facilities? What does the utility use now for backup power and disaster recovery?

How’s Your Utility Bill?

There’s been a lot of discussion over email, FaceBook, and the NextDoor social media about City utility bills, including water.

A lot of citizens, including Oregon Hill residents, seem surprised by the amounts on their bills, as well as late fees.

Some have already called in to the City’s Utility Department. From one neighbor:

So I called the utility department and they removed my late fee.
They might remove yours too.
Their number is 646-4646.

It’s hard to pin the problems down, and there is a lot of speculation about what is causing the high bills. Some have anecdotal reports about checking for leaks and looking for high usage. It’s also hard to say how much can be related to previous reform efforts. But there’s something to be said for keeping abreast of the situation, especially as the City government attempts to address Utility concerns. Also , don’t forget the Larus Park/Chesterfield selling issues.

Water Matters II

Following up on water matters

Times Dispatch picks up on the PILOT issue with an editorial that concludes:

City Councilman Parker Agelasto has proposed phasing out the PILOT charge over 10 years. That should give City Hall more than enough time to find a way to make up the difference. Let’s hope the substitute is less regressive and more rational.

While Style has published a ‘back page’ by Laurel Street neighbor Charles Poole on the Larus Park issue (It also touches on the PILOT):

This project has been under wraps since 2012 when it was conceived during Mayor Dwight Jones’ administration. I can understand how Jones might want to shower his parishioners in Chesterfield with low water rates, but why would Mayor Levar Stoney be the patron of this flawed ordinance? Stoney has a fortuitous opportunity to make good on his pledge to work for the people of Richmond. We can only hope that he will honor that pledge.

Water Matters

Councilperson Parker Agelasto is rightfully following up on citizens’ concerns about water utility billing. The Finance & Economic Development Standing Committee is meeting Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 5pm in the Council Chamber.

On the agenda, this paper:

RES. 2017-R049 To request that the Chief Administrative Officer cause the Department of Public Utilities to prepare and submit to the Council a plan to phase out Payments in Lieu of Taxes from the Department of Public Utilities over a ten year period.

Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for some background.

On anther matter, a proposed County of Chesterfield water facility in a Richmond City park, Councilperson Kristen N. Larsen supplied this update:

Update on Larus Park/Water tank issue: At my last district meeting on 6/29 I gave an update on this forthcoming legislation originally scheduled for the City Council Land Use meeting on 7/18. Because of ongoing discussions with the city administration on community concerns and the exploration of options, this legislation is being continued until the 9/19 Land Use meeting. I am still committed to holding another community meeting regarding this issue prior to it being considered by city council and will get back to the community with that information once I have updated information. Thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding this issue.

Citizens may want to join the FaceBook group “Protect Larus Park! and all of the other city parks, for that matter” to keep abreast on this issue.

Chesterfield County’s Water

Why is the Oregon Hill community news site posting about Chesterfield County’s water?

You probably still need to read this week’s Richmond Free Press. As with last week’s article on Monroe Park, reporter Jeremy Lazarus is supplying some valuable insight to how this area (dys)functions. For some mysterious reason, the following front-page article does not appear on the newspaper’s website, but here are photos of the printed version:

Please take the the time to read the second page, which includes hard-hitting quotes from former Sierra Club leader Dr. Charles Price on this attempted usurping of a public park as well as from Laurel Street neighbor Charles Pool on the City’s regressive water utility fees.

Although the Richmond Free Press article does not mention it, some neighbors are also speculating about how Chesterfield County might resell their ‘bargain’ on City water to Niagra Bottling LLC. Is City of Richmond not only forced to provide Chesterfield Co. water at a fifth the cost that Richmond customers must pay, but also subsidizing cheap water for the Niagara Bottling LLC? Are we really going to be damaging a Richmond city park to build a water facility so that Niagara Bottling Company can have cheap water?!

While Oregon Hill is not in Chesterfield County, our neighbors continue to keep an eye on local water issues and hope more media like the Richmond Free Press does the same.