Hello Middleburg! This article’s purpose is to address your questions, get more people involved and to address periodic issues concerning Middleburg and its community. I will do my best to address any Town questions you send to the Eccentric.
My last article was an appeal for people to run in the upcoming May 3 election for three council seats and to look at opportunities to get involved on one of Middleburg’s committees. I am delighted to report that J. Kevin Daly, Trowbridge M. Littleton, Phillip M. Miller and Toby C. Pearce registered as council candidates, along with Betsy Davis for Mayor.
As I await reader’s questions, I will address Middleburg’s water utility. Middleburg has run this utility for many decades. It currently has fewer than 500 customers. Customers will slowly increase, but not for new out of town customers, as that would entice suburban sprawl, with questionable economic benefit.
In the 1990’s I became concerned about water. We faced so many issues, including concerns about water quality – mostly sediment-discoloration and quantity. We faced increasing State regulatory requirements with an aging system. Expensive new Virginia regulations included treating the water from our wells for naturally occurring radionuclides and increasingly stringent mandates for our wastewater treatment plant. We faced significant water loss in distribution and inflow and infiltration (I&I) problems with the sanitary sewer system. We employed a small utility staff. I ran for council determined to improve this while aiming to make our utility sustainable.
I spent my first term learning the issues facing our water utility. The small customer-base provided limited options. We made progress when council agreed to fund an engineering study that produced a Utility Master Plan in 2003. This provided a wealth of information on existing conditions along with needed improvements.
Funding improvements proved difficult. When Salamander asked Middleburg to connect to our water, we reached agreement that in lieu of the Inn paying an availability fee, they would build new wastewater treatment and water treatment plants as specified by the Town.
The utility operates as an enterprise, meaning it is supposed to pay its own way. Thus, we entered a period of painful rate increases to fund operations and maintenance. Just as Salamander completed these new plants, the recession hit and the Inn delayed opening. We took over the plants, but they cost more to operate. Rate increases continued.
In 2012, council awarded a contract to M&SFG, producing a professional rate model. Salamander opened in 2013, becoming our largest customer. The rate model now includes Salamander revenues. It also includes operations, maintenance and replacement costs. It helps tremendously each year as we update it to establish the utility budget.
When operations and maintenance overwhelmed a small utility staff, we entered an operational agreement with the county in about 2005. We were disappointed with their services when we encountered serious problem with our original water treatment plant on the Plains Road that forced us to shut it down for a year, prompting a search for new operator. In 2014, we awarded a contract to Inboden Environmental Services (IES) to operate and maintain water production and waste water systems. I am pleased to report that IES is doing an excellent job!
We are finally at the point of introducing real improvements. We replaced old water lines on Washington Street with a new 12-inch water main. We are connecting customers now and expect to complete this spring. We also extended a new water main into the east end of Town (beyond Jay Street) to replace old lines with poor quality and flow – this is also due to complete very soon. We have more improvements in the pipeline that we expect to address, while keeping rates as stable as possible.