Monday, January 03, 2011

City to take over 2006 water plan

Charlottesville, Va.—At their next meeting, City Council will vote whether to hire engineering firm Black & Veatch to proceed with final design for the city’s “compromise” plan, the 2010 water plan.

Black & Veatch delivered its first study to Council July 19, the most optimistic of all the studies and critiques dating back to 1912. The latest plan is to build a 13-foot addition atop the 1908 Ragged Mountain Dam.

Company rep Greg Zamensky said it would take only 3 to 4 months to get within 50 to 60% design process where the 2006 earthen dam is now. The mayor asked the spokesman to place a warranty on the compromise dam, 30 to 40 years or longer? He wouldn’t specify a number and said dam failures are rare in the U.S. and depends on many variables such as flood or earthquake. As a result the infrastructure is often neglected.

Black & Veatch sent the right spokesman—combination of athletic presence and confidence talking numbers and scientific jargon. Zamensky was feeling it himself when he described a dam spillway design as not as “sophisticated and sexy” as the other two designs. The line was accompanied by a potent smile.

After two hours—heated public comment, report that PHA wants to “take” 24 rental houses for affordable housing, lease city-“owned” 608 Ridge St to Local Energy Alliance Program, and lengthy questioning by Council of the dam study report—the drama reached a fevered climax.

Councilor Satyendra Huja, city’s urban renewal planner 1973-2003, got in the face of RWSA executive director since 2004 Tom Frederick and called Frederick out to speak for County Supervisors. Frederick has been demonized by the Citizens for Sustainable Water Supply, who packed the Council meeting.

Frederick came to the podium and replied: “What’s your end goal? Take over and run the project?” A few other remarks, then Frederick sat back down. A few councilors spoke.

Councilor Kristin Szakos ridiculed Frederick sitting in the front row by asking: How could anyone be “upset” if someone found a cheaper plan, “saving money largely for the county.” Characteristically, audience members laughed.

But Frederick came back to the podium and called Szakos out on her insolent remarks. Frederick said the city and county are “in different places right now” as he threw up his arms. The city and county need to talk to each other. Frederick is caught in the middle.

Szakos questioned why Frederick used terminology like “take over the project.”

In the last few sentences before the intermission, Mayor Dave Norris made clear the take-over threat:

— As owners of the dam, we have a responsibility to maintain assets. We are moving forward with the compromise plan.

After the intermission Voter Registrar Sheri Iachetta was at it again—trying to get Council to update the election precincts. Council has refused at least four times this decade to make the improvements. A 2004 commission on Council representation, 2006 commission of School Board Elections, a subsequent request from Iachetta and the Electoral Board were all ignored by City Council.

Jan. 3, 2011 City Council Meeting

Streaming Media Archive Page for Charlottesville City.

“Why city & county can’t coopreate on water plan”, Dec. 14, 2010

“Public Hearing on 125-year-old Water Plan”, Sep. 19, 2010. Includes links to stories by this author on this topic since 2001.

"City to revisit election precincts", Sep. 23, 2008


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