Supervisors discuss debt while approving $8.5 million bond sale

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors delved into the issue of county debt Wednesday (July 5) while unanimously approving an $8.5 million bond sale to finance the Zion Crossroads water and sewer system.

Supervisor Don Weaver said he was bothered that Fluvanna’s debt continues to rise. 

Weaver cited the county’s debt management policy, which states that “the ratio of governmental fund debt services expenditures as a percent of total governmental fund operating revenues should not exceed 12 percent.” He pointed to data that shows the fiscal year 2017 (FY17) debt ratio is 16.5 percent. By FY19 it is projected to be 19.5 percent.

“The debt service ratio was over its limit as soon as the county took out the high school debt,” said Eric Dahl, director of finance and deputy county administrator. “And it has been ever since.”

The new Fluvanna County High School opened in 2012. Since then the county has both added and paid down debt. Dahl estimated that the county’s debt would land at around $105 million after the Zion Crossroads water and sewer system bond sale.

“That’s assuming we don’t take on any more debt,” said Weaver.

“And that’s probably not a very good assumption,” said County Administrator Steve Nichols.

“That’s right, that’s what concerns me too,” said Weaver.

“I think we’ve done a lot of large projects within the past two years that were needed,” Dahl said. “And some things that we were behind on.”

Part of why supervisors decided to debt finance the Zion Crossroads water and sewer system was so that they could use their cash to pay off debt with higher interest rates. 

“Whatever the Board’s opinion is on the debt, I think the county has done a good job in taking out smart, cheaper debt,” Dahl said. 

The bonds are tentatively set to be sold Aug. 2. They will have a 20-year term and a maximum interest rate of 4.25 percent.

The water and sewer system will connect the Zion Crossroads area with up to 75,000 gallons per day of treated water from the women’s prison on Route 250. It will also route between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons per day of sewage back to the prison for treatment.

The system will be constructed with the ability to connect to Louisa County’s water supply when the need arises. Louisa has pledged to provide 400,000 gallons of treated water to Fluvanna at Zion Crossroads by the end of 2018.

Supervisors unanimously approved the extension of the water line just west of the prison to Memory Lane – a move that will add about 4,425 feet of 12-inch waterline.

Currently the project is estimated to cost $11.9 million. That total does not include construction costs for the Memory Lane extension.

No one spoke during the public hearing on the issuance of the bonds.

Farm Heritage Museum

Supervisors heard an update about the Fluvanna Historical Society’s plans for a Farm Heritage Museum at Pleasant Grove.

The only submitted plan for design and construction came in at around $425,000 – an amount deemed too expensive. The project will go out for bid again with a goal of bringing the cost closer to $200,000 or $250,000.

The historical society currently has $189,000 set aside for the museum, said Marvin Moss, the society’s president. Moss pointed out that $118,000 of that total came straight from Fluvanna donors, while $70,000 has been obtained through grants. The county has contributed $15,000 toward the museum.

The outside of the museum may look like a barn with a porch. The inside “is going to be as simple as it gets,” said Cyndi Toler, purchasing officer, to allow room for the antique farm equipment.

The museum will sit across from the restrooms at Pleasant Grove and therefore will not have bathroom facilities or running water. It will have electricity.

Columbia

Supervisors accepted the charter of the Columbia Area Renewal Effort Task Force, which exists to “advise, assist, support and advocate for positive change and renewal efforts in the Columbia area,” according to a staff report. “The task force will prepare a report of proposed actions for consideration by the Board of Supervisors” by the end of the year.

The task force will consist of eight Columbia-area residents and business or property owners.

Supervisor Mozell Booker asked if the task force would look at the buildings in which residents live, several of which are in poor condition.

The task force won’t have authority to make changes to someone’s property, Nichols said, though the county might if the property is uninhabitable or not kept up to county standards. “It’s really outside the view of the task force to do individual enforcement,” he said. “That would come from county staff and ultimately the Board of Supervisors.” 

In other matters:


  • Supervisors unanimously approved a revision to the cost recovery program to allow the acceptance of money from the Virginia Victim’s Fund. When a victim of a crime needs an ambulance ride, the county bills the perpetrator’s insurance or the Virginia Victim’s Fund – not the victim, said Cheryl Elliott, emergency services coordinator. Currently three such cases are pending.
  • The Board unanimously approved an open container ordinance to prohibit open or opened containers of alcohol in designated public areas, including parks, playgrounds, public streets, and on sidewalks that adjoin public streets.
  • Supervisors unanimously approved a sheriff designation ordinance amendment that “allows a landowner to authorize the sheriff in writing to serve as his agent for prohibiting someone from coming and trespassing on his property,” said County Attorney Fred Payne.
  • Nichols informed supervisors that Fluvanna’s $50,000 surety bond for the roads in Taylor Ridge Estates has been released. The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed its one-year final inspection and the streets remain in good condition, he said. The residents of Taylor Ridge banded together to help bring their roads into the state system.
  • The Board presented Richard Payne with a Community Service Award in honor of his contributions to Fluvanna. Nichols read a resolution honoring Payne for his work in leading in a tax aide program, stimulating volunteerism, and assisting the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program.