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Posted February 21, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

RSW jail panel talks town utilities issue

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Wrangling continues between the town and regional jail officials over treatment of the facility's wastewater.

Members of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority board's finance committee met with engineers Thursday to discuss Front Royal's suggestions on how to cut costs with smaller pipe sizes.

However, the panel left much of the discussion to closed session talks with legal counsel Bill Hefty over the construction contract, Front Royal's appeal of the entity's state-issued permit to discharge wastewater from the jail, and the town's refusal to let the facility connect to its water system but not the sewer network.

The authority board on Jan. 24 opted to move forward with the construction of an on-site plant that would treat the facility's wastewater as well as rain collected in a cistern and used for laundry. The jail board took the step in response to the town's decision not to treat the laundry water because of the added cost to Front Royal.

Town officials say the jail board's decision to opt for an on-site plant for wastewater went against a previous agreement that called for the facility to connect to Front Royal's sewer and water services.

Whether the town plans to take legal action remains unknown.

John McCarthy, county administrator for Rappahannock County, moved the panel into closed session to speak to Hefty, via telephone, and representatives of the firms designing and engineering the jail.

Douglas Walker, county administrator for Shenandoah County, sought to keep some of the discussion in the open.

"For the benefit of the committee, I really would like to talk about as much of this as possible in open session so that we can flesh this out as much as we can before we have the regional jail authority meeting next week," Walker said. "These are important business decisions we have to make."

Authority board Chairman Douglas Stanley, also county administrator for Warren County, asked Hefty if he thought the panel could discuss some aspects of the issue in open session.

"You just can't share what we talked about in closed session," Hefty advised.

However, once the panel resumed its open session 45 minutes later, members opted not to talk. After the meeting, Stanley would not comment on the closed-session discussion.

Front Royal officials sent information to the authority suggesting the entity could save money by using 4-inch lines for water and sewer rather than the 6-inch lines in the design.

The out-of-town rate for a 4-inch water line is $150,000 compared to $300,000 for a 6-inch water line, Stanley said. Sewer costs are approximately $410,000 and $815,000 for 4-inch and 6-inch lines, respectively, Stanley said.

However, reducing the pipe sizes may not be an option.

Representatives from two firms involved in the design and engineering of the jail presented information on water and sewer pipe sizes. Carrie Henaghan, of Moseley Architects, reported that the engineering shows the jail needs 6-inch lines for both water and sewer.

"I can see why the town would have said you can go to a 4-inch because a lot of buildings that size with our output could do 4-inch for water and sewer," Henaghan said.

But Henaghan explained that jails are unique in that they contain many plumbing fixtures and the town has not dealt with such a facility of this size. The gallons of water used per minute peak with that many fixtures, Henaghan said. The jail's sewer would use a vacuum to pump wastewater to pre-treatment tanks rather than a gravity system that requires less flow, Henaghan said.

Engineers also considered future use and growth of the jail when they looked at the size of the water and sewer pipes, Henaghan added.

A 4-inch water meter could work on a 6-inch line from an engineering perspective, Henaghan said. Some localities base connection charges on the water and sewer meters installed, she noted. However, Front Royal bases its charges on the pipe sizes.

Ron Mislowski, of Pennoni Associates, said in his experience that more localities charge based on meter size. Mislowski advised that 6-inch meters are already on site.

Stanley said the town's suggestion about the pipes was a "good, constructive comment" and an "exercise that we need to go through to look at can we get the costs down and does that impact the models we're going to look at. Then we come back with the answer that really it doesn't work. Financially, it's not going to alter the difference."

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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