Town council votes to not pay water bill

STEPHENS CITY — The Stephens City town council voted unanimously to withhold payments to the Frederick County Sanitation Authority for overcharges dating back to 2013 Tuesday evening.

Council voted to set aside money charged by the authority for a wastewater treatment plant that was erected in 1992. According to a 20-year contract, which expired in 2012, the town would not charge the authority for drawing the water from the town’s three quarries, its principal water supply.

Mike Majher, assistant town manager, said the town was being charged for the treatment of its water, in accordance with the partnership the town had with the authority as outlined in the contract. However, after the contract expired, the authority failed to pay the town for its water, Majher said.

Council decided to set aside money charged by the authority until the authority can “provide adequate documentation” for reasons behind the rate hikes. The money will not be paid to the authority until the town is satisfied, Majher said.

“We’re setting aside the money into an escrow account and we won’t touch it until this is resolved,” he said. “We don’t think this will adversely affect the citizens, but it will protect the citizens who are being overcharged.”

Council also passed a resolution to direct town attorney Dave Griffin to issue a cease and desist letter to the authority to discontinue operations of an “illegal well” that is 80 meters outside of town limits. However, the well is within the limits of the town’s “water source protection area,” Majher said.

As a part of the 20-year contract, the authority could only draw 3 million gallons of water a day. However, with the admission of the well by authority director Uwe Weindel in a letter dated Jan. 7, the town is arguing the well has put the authority 67 million gallons above its limits over the lifetime of the contract.

Also at the meeting, council did the following:

• Unanimously adopted an amendment to the town code establishing permitting and regulations for taxicabs in the town limits;

• Wrote off $45,343.66 in uncollected personal property taxes dating back to 2009, in accordance with Virginia state law. Personal property taxes cannot be collected after being default for five years, according to the law.

• Appointed Mike Majher as the town’s zoning administrator. Majher, who is a Frederick County native, has worked for the town since September 2014. He is slated to replace Mike Kehoe as town manager in July;

• Unanimously adopted an amendment to the town’s ordinances for landscaping of trees on public property. Under the ordinance, all alterations to the town’s trees by an outside party would need the blessings of the town manager, with the exception of watering the trees.

• The council performed a first reading of an amendment to change the town’s ordinance regarding utility meters at residences. Under the amendment, any new “dwelling”, whether it is a house or an apartment, would need to be built with a meter for each unit. Previously, the town allowed “master units” which would record the water and sewer usage for multiple living units, such as an apartment complex.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or