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HCSA enacts water, sewer rate increases / February 17, 2009
Only five people addressed members of the Halifax Public Service Authority on Wednesday evening concerning the advertised increases in water and sewer rates for users. Of those five, three represented VIR where the rate increases are the highest, going up about $4 per 1,000 gallons. Following the public comment period members of the Authority with two members absent — Rick Harrell and Thomas Walton — voted to approve the increases as earlier advertised although they postponed the implementation of the increases for VIR for the next 90 days.

Those increases mean an average 11 percent increase for South Boston in-town customers with rates for the smallest water users going from $4.09 per 1,000 gallons to $4.20 and sewer rates going from $2.26 to $2.78. Out-of-town customers will average a slight decrease of some 0.2 percent in their charges with smaller users seeing their water rates dropping from $8.09 per 1,000 gallons to $6.95. Their sewer rates will climb slightly from the current rate of $4.95 per 1,000 gallons to $5.18. Riverdale rates for small residential customers will rise by one cent, from the current rate of $4.95 per 1,000 to $4.96 for both water and sewer users.

The only change from the advertised rates that Authority members approved was dropping the proposed non-payment fee from $50 to $40, which is an increase of $5 over the previous fee of $35.
Authority Chairman Doug Bowman readily conceded that VIR’s rates are by far the highest, because as he pointed out, at this time they don’t have enough customers to support the system.
However, Connie Nyholm, a partner in the VIR complex, noted they are working to create some efficiencies in the maintenance of their system. Nyholm had earlier told Authority members that an economic impact study is being done by Chmura Economics and Analytics. That report, she said, has been commissioned by Halifax County, Pittsylvania County, the City of Danville and VIR and should be out within the next month.

Halifax County Economic Development Director Mike Sexton, speaking on behalf of VIR, said he feels that once the Chmura report is out, it will impact of lot of what economic development will do. He suggested that the Authority wait to review the report before taking any action on the new water and sewer rates.

Member Dexter Gilliam pointed out that the Authority has no reserve funds to cover the expenses of VIR’s system and those need to be supported by revenues from the system. Several members agreed that customers of the urban planning area could not be expected to pay rates that would cover the costs of the outlying systems. And member Fred Mistal also pointed to the “lean margin” of operating expense that the Authority has with no back-up for emergency situations.

VIR General Manager Joseph Lief advised Authority members that he is working with the Authority’s Director Willie Jones to reduce the costs of trips that are being made to VIR relating to water and sewer operations, but the two have not yet completed their work. He asked that the new rates be postponed until that work is completed. Authority member Coleman Speece noted that Halifax County is already supplementing the costs for both the outlying systems in Clover and VIR and said it is to everyone’s best interest for the County to continue that support. After nearly an hour of discussion and comment, Authority member Leon Plaster moved for approval of the advertised rates with implementation of VIR rates to be delayed for 90 days.

Others speaking on Wednesday night were Elizabeth Overton of Halifax who objected to the increase in the flat rate sewer cost of $71 every two months, up from the current rate of $65. She told members she has her own water supply, but felt that the increase was too high. Also speaking to Authority members was C.P. Crute of South Boston who said he had no problem with the proposed increases in rates, but was worried about the quality of his water which he does not drink for fear of impurities.

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