The following statement from is from Loraine Huchler, P.E., CMC®, FIMC. These questions were submitted at the March 17th Town Council Meeting.
I have some questions.
My first question is about the preparation of the FY2023 budget. At the last town council meeting, I learned that the timeline for the current phase of the PPEA process would likely last for several months. Regardless of which option is chosen, the decision will impact the FY2023 budget. Is the town council going to create two budgets; one based on keeping the plants and one based on the selling the plants and receiving a large amount of revenue?
My second question is about the compelling reasons to sell the plants. The town has indicated that the reduction in rates and better-quality water, and “economies of scale” are compelling reasons to sell the plants. But there’s a problem – saving money is the main issue for ratepayers – but the only rate projections we have seen are from the PPEA consultant, NewGen – they’re not accurate – they’re an unvalidated estimate aka a “guess.” The town won’t release the budget forecast information used by NewGen to show the 10-year projection of rates to give stakeholders confidence about the accuracy of this analysis. NewGen does not set the rates; VAW doesn’t set the rates; the SCC and the law requiring rate consolidation set the rates. VAW gave a vague assurance that several years after purchasing the plant, rate consolidation would reduce the rates – by an unnamed amount. But VAW has a request at the SCC for a whopping 28% increase in rates. Why won’t the town release the data and calculations for the NewGen rate projections for the status quo and sale of the plant cases? Does the Freedom of Information Act restrict the release? NewGen had to use town budget data – that’s allowed to be release without restriction.
My last few questions are about the ARPA funding – the American Rescue Plan Act – Covid funding. The town has already received funds. Some funds have been spent for “essential” workers, although the workers at the water and wastewater plants were not included, even though other municipalities like Hampton Roads included public works employees. Does the town know that the Federal Government allows this money to be spent on water and sewer infrastructure. Were these funds included in NewGen’s 10-year budget projections for rate increases? If not, why wasn’t this scenario included to reduce the increase in rates for the status quo case? How much money is available and when are public discussions scheduled to discuss the use of these funds?
Thank you for listening.