Supervisors support borrowing $8 million for Zion Crossroads water project

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors moved through a relatively light agenda during its Wednesday afternoon (June 7) meeting, focusing mainly on staffing and investments.

Finance Director Eric Dahl presented several financing options for the Zion Crossroads water and sewer project. He illustrated several funding tiers at different interest rates and loan durations and asked supervisors for "a general sense" of how they would like to fund it before county finance officials developed a formal plan. 

Wayne Stephens, director of public works, encouraged supervisors to look at the project not as an expense but as a revenue generator. "You build it, businesses hook up to it, use it, and start generating business taxes, sales taxes, and so on,” he said.

“You should think of this as an investment,” Supervisor Tony O’Brien agreed.

After some debate, supervisors said they could support an $8 million loan for a 20-year period at a maximum of 4 percent interest. A formal resolution will be presented to them later this year.

Management analyst Martin Brookhart asked for approval of a $500 transfer from a contingency fund to the Fluvanna Arts Council. The Council usually receives a $5,000 grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, but this year the grant program was reduced to $4,500. The $500 transfer would keep the council at its current funding level.  

Supervisor Don Weaver questioned why it was the responsibility of the county to make up shortfalls in state funding, but Supervisors Mozell Booker and O’Brien both praised the Fluvanna Arts Council for its work and signaled their support for the transfer. The motion passed 3-2 (Supervisors Trish Eager and Weaver dissenting).

Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Haislip requested approval for a temporary intern with a stipend of $2,000 taken from the Drug Forfeiture Account, a fund created from assets seized in drug-related cases. 

Haislip explained that the intern had worked for his office while in high school and had "caught the bug." He is now a third-year law student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington. Haislip said he thought "$50 a day for his services is more than fair." The request was approved.

With three upcoming vacancies in the public works department, Stephens said it was a good time to modify current job titles and pay bands.  

"We're going to have both a specialist and a technician when we get everyone hired," he told supervisors. The changes in titles and job descriptions will allow opportunities to promote staff if they gain new skills. Under the new pay bands, payroll expenses will also drop about $15,000.

Supervisors passed the motion 5-0.

One of the more complicated items on the agenda was the proposal to modify the county's contract with Raymond James Public Finance Investment Strategies to provide bidding agent services for procurement of an escrow float contract for the proceeds of the Virginia Public School Authority's Series 2012 D Bonds.

Dahl discussed the merits and drawbacks a half a dozen different options. The primary benefit of using a bidding agent is the potential for higher net savings, since the agent would monitor the market for the best moment to act. However, the service comes with a $25,000 fee, and this was a point of concern for Eager and O'Brien.    

After a short debate, supervisors ended the discussion by tabling the motion until next spring or summer.