The system will pump up to 75,000 gallons per day of water from the Department of Corrections facility on Rt. 250 to Zion Crossroads, ending slightly down Rt. 15 south.  It will include water and sewer lines, a sewage pump station, and an elevated water storage tank.

The entire cost of the project is estimated to be about $7.1 million.

Not all supervisors are on board with the project.  Supervisors Don Weaver and Bob Ullenbruch voted against the agreement.

Bringing water to Zion Crossroads could stimulate business development in the area, which could in turn lessen the tax burden on homeowners by increasing the business tax base.  But not everyone thinks water at Zion Crossroads is a good investment.  “[Just] because we put a pipe in the ground, 18 months from now, it doesn’t mean the tax rate’s going to drop,” said Ullenbruch.

Though Weaver said he prefers this water project to another that would pipe water out of the James River, he expressed reluctance to take on more debt.  “We have limited our ability by the debt that we have taken on in the past,” he said.  “In other words, you take on so much debt that you can’t do something on down the road that you might want to do more.  I am extremely reserved about this whole thing… When are all those customers going to come?  That’s what I want to know… This is speculation.”

Ullenbruch said he fears that the water system would prompt future supervisors, faced with high tax rates and tough budgets, to grab at a quick fix by approving a subdivision on Rt. 250 similar to Louisa’s Spring Creek in order to provide enough water use.  But then the sheriff’s office would have to add deputies and the county would need to build a new school to accommodate additional residents, he said.  “I don’t have faith in future Boards to make the right call,” he stated.

“So the answer is simply to condemn this county to higher tax rates because we build no economic engine,” replied Supervisor Tony O’Brien.  “Maybe we should take this money and build a fence instead so that people don’t move into our county… If you actually want to create an opportunity to bring the tax rate down, or stabilize it, you better make this investment.”

Replying to Weaver’s concerns, O’Brien continued, “You know why we’re in debt?  We’re in debt because the county consistently had too low of a tax rate, didn’t deal with its CIP [capital improvement] needs –”

“Made some bad decisions,” interjected Weaver.

“Maybe they overspent,” acknowledged O’Brien.  But if the county doesn’t factor things like depreciation and building deterioration into its budget, it will take on debt, he stated.  “And oh, by the way, if you don’t want to take on debt then you might as well start saving the money now,” he said.  “So let’s raise the taxes to save the money so that we can actually pay cash.  Because that’s really the only alternative to not having debt.”

The water and sewer system’s design ought to be complete by next August, said County Administrator Steve Nichols.

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