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HCSA budget comes with no more rate hikes / May 20, 2019
Halifax County Service Authority directors on Thursday approved a budget for the 2020 fiscal year that does not raise rates but does fund capital improvements to enhance HCSA operations.

Calling the budget “the elephant in the room,” HCSA Executive Director Mark Estes said the package will allow for the purchase of three new trucks, tablet devices and computer systems to run a cloud-based operating system for keeping track of the system’s water and sewer infrastructure. The budget also will allow the HCSA to replace a blower at the Maple Street wastewater treatment plant with a more reliable model.

The HCSA has applied for grant funding to add more powerful generators at the Clover treatment plant and water tower.

During their review of the past fiscal year, directors found that HCSA had come in slightly over budget. This was explained by the heavy rainfall that reduced demand for water for irrigation and other purposes. Also, newer, water efficient toilets have lowered usage as well.

Supplying VIR with water from a well system also is having a negative impact on the HCSA budget. Estes promised that he would look into how to reduce the cost of serving VIR, but said that HCSA had been lucky last year because a 10-year deal with Verizon had run out, forcing the network provider to begin paying rent for its antennae atop the VIR water tower. This windfall made up for the VIR operating loss.

Estes said the HCSA has struggled to come up with a way to control costs at VIR, where failing wells have left the track with little supply cushion in times of peak demand.

“I don’t see any way to do it that is affordable,” said Estes.

Other items brought up at the meeting included a notice that the Perrin Creek Sewage Lift Station had both pumps quit and needed more repairs, and discussion of a pipe replacement near Cowford Road to replace a line that had been exposed due to washout.

Estes asked the board to consider changing the name of the Maple Street Wastewater Treatment Plant to Maple Avenue Regional Reclamation Facility, and also said the HCSA was considering hiring a college-age intern to help calibrate cloud data for the HCSA.

“I’m really excited about the capabilities this gives us,” Estes said of the new system.

Board directors also recognized the Leigh Street water treatment plant for winning the Gold award from the Virginia Department of Health.

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