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Board approves changes in water, sewer rates

The Halifax County Service Authority Board of Directors approved changes in the water and sewer rates that include a .56 percent increase in water rates and 1.4 percent increase in sewer rates for those living in the urban planning area along with a 15 percent decrease in water rates and 6.3 percent increase in sewer rates for those living in the Clover area.

Approval came following a public hearing where two Halifax County residents spoke against raising the rates.

 “These changes are driven by the equalization requirement,” Authority Executive Director Willie Jones explained. 

The proposed rates will go into effect Jan. 1.

During the public hearing, South Boston resident Cynthia Hall spoke about her concerns with the proposed rate changes.

Hall began her plea reading from the authority water quality report, which states the goal of the authority is to provide affordable and dependable drinking water.

“Well dependable, it’s not so dependable. When I turn on the faucet, go to wash my clothes, or flush the toilet, I never know what’s going to come out,” Hall said as she pulled out samples of contaminated water from her home near Hodges Street.

Hall said the problem has been ongoing for years dating back to when the Town of South Boston was in charge of providing her water.

Jones explained the contaminated water is due to an old cast iron pipeline in that area.

“Bottom line is until we find out why my water is contaminated, I don’t think you should go up on my rates. I mean I’m paying too much already for this,” Hall said as she held up one of the samples.

The board agreed to look into Hall’s situation and see what they can do to rectify it.

Another South Boston resident, Stanley Clark, also spoke during the public hearing Thursday night.

Clark said it was his understanding the creation of the service authority would lower water and sewer rates, and he couldn’t understand why no matter how much he tried to conserve water, his bill still remains the same, and the authority continues to raise rates.

Board member Coleman Speece explained to Clark that was a misconception, and when the authority was created they inherited several sets of rates from the different localities. 

The South Boston in-town rates were half of what the South Boston out-of-town rates were, and Halifax rates were also higher, Speece said.  

According to Speece, one of the basic premises of the creation of the authority was that over a period of 10 years there would be an equalization of the rates among the users, and everyone would pay the same rates meaning South Boston out-of-town rates would gradually lower, and in-town rates would gradually go up, Speece said. According to Speece, the authority is half way to equalization now.

At the close of the public hearing, Steve Salley, a resident living near the Cowford Road area, complained about a problem with a pipeline near his property leaking some of the sewage that flows though it causing a stench.

The board told Salley they were working on rectifying the situation.

In other business Thursday night, the board adopted the proposed addition of a process for extending new water and sewer mains for private development to the authority’s policies.

The process requires all new water and sewer line facility construction to be reviewed and approved by the authority and its designated agents, and the design and construction of these items must comply with all procedures and regulations of the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Environmental Equality and all applicable state and federal environmental regulations, Jones said.

Also adopted was a proposal Thursday night to offer deposit refunds to home-owning customers with three years of good payment history and tenants with five years of good payment history as an addition to their deposit refund policy. 

The changes will go into effect June 1.

Jones said a group of accounts paid a fee at the time service was applied for in the Town of South Boston, and this fee was never treated as a deposit nor was any cash reserved for the individual customer’s benefit as is done with traditional deposit. 

According to Jones, customers who paid this fee nevertheless are eligible to receive a limited credit on their final bill up to the original amount of the fee. If the final bill is less than the original amount paid no refund of the excess is made, Jones said. The fees are to only be credited at the time the final bill is prepared.

Pay and promotion plan modifications also were adopted during the Thursday night meeting.

Modifications included a revised career path plan for the major classes of employees to provide uniformity and equity in pay rates.

Another modification to the pay and promotions plan included ways an employee can be eligible to move to a higher pay rate. According to the modifications, an employee can move to a higher pay rate if he or she qualifies for higher grade through experience and training, moves to a vacant position for which they are qualified, the board raises pay ranges to account for increases in cost of living or to keep pay competitive or the employee qualifies for a merit increase, and increases are funded as part of the budget.

The last modification was the addition of promotion requirements. For an employee to receive a promotion, the employee’s supervisor shall identify eligible employees, recommend and include the request for an increase during the budget preparation, the board of directors must approve the pending increases as part of the budget preparation process, and the employee must have received a satisfactory performance evaluation for the most recent review period.  

Other items of discussion Thursday night included the Maple Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant Project and the Leigh Street Project. 

According to Jones, significant progress has been made at the Maple Avenue Plant and project design is nearly finished for the Leigh Street Project.

Also Thursday, the board decided to table discussion of the new strategic plan developed during its retreat until January.

Following the meeting, the board went into closed session to discuss a personnel issue relating to a specific individual and the acquisition of real property for a public purpose where the discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position of the public body.

No action was taken.