Strasburg back under drought watch

The town of Strasburg is back under a drought watch after receiving updated information from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Town Manager Ryan Spitzer reported at Tuesday’s council meeting that the initial USGS readings the town was going off of to determine the drought levels were incorrect.

“A (Virginia Department of Environmental Quality) permit makes us watch the USGS flows through their drought monitor on the river,” Spitzer said. “For the past six weeks, they’ve been putting in erroneous data.”

Spitzer said the USGS changed “at least six weeks” worth of data on its website. He said the town was “probably in a drought watch” during the period in which the data stemmed from.

“Because we have to monitor that, we went down to 90 (cubic feet per second), and now we’re back up to 131,” Spitzer said.

The town’s water situation reached the level of emergency on Aug. 31, when it appeared levels dropped below the towns’ permitted river flow levels.

Residents were informed of mandatory measures that they were to follow in the wake of the emergency. With the town back under drought watch conditions, water restrictions are voluntary for Strasburg’s residents.

The voluntary restrictions include – among many things – reducing or eliminating outside water use, avoiding washing cars or vehicles, limiting the use of automatic dishwashers and minimizing the use of water disposals.

Jay McKinley, assistant town manager and director of public works, said, “Even when they said we were in an emergency drought condition, we still had a foot of water over top of our intakes.”

He added. “That’s really the biggest danger … if we expose those intakes, we can’t draw water in the water plant. We were never close to that.”

Also on Tuesday, Spitzer reported that the town has received two proposals from interested parties regarding an $8,000 line item that is labeled “Mayfest.”

The proposals are from Jorge Gutierrez, chief executive officer of Business Management and Operations Consulting Group in Woodstock and head of Veterans Community Resources in Strasburg, and the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce.

Six residents spoke up during the public comments portion of the meeting regarding the reallocated Mayfest donation, largely calling for the town to award the funding to the chamber or for the situation to be resolved.

Town resident Cindy Racey, who has been outspoken at recent meetings and on social media about the donation, addressed the council last night.

Referencing email and face-to-face correspondence she has had with council, Racey said, “Tell me what you want next to convince you that Mayfest needs to stay with the chamber, and I’ll get it for you. That’s my mission right now.”

The town is essentially following a rough timeline from the reallocation motion that Councilman Donald “Don” Le Vine made on May 12, which stated that the town would award the funding in late October – following a negotiation period.

Spitzer said, “Staff will be looking over those (proposals), I’ll be getting back to council on it.”

Also on Tuesday:

Town officials will be meeting with representatives from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development on Oct. 21 for a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant the town received in August.

Spitzer said, “That will be our initial kickoff meeting, where we can start then applying for money and start doing things that (are) associated with the grant.”

“It’s called a pre-negotiation meeting. What they’ll do is they’ll bring us in a list of everything we have to do,” he added. “They’ll basically just go through the list and talk to us about everything we have to do.”

In the meantime, Spitzer said the town will be looking over its original proposal for the grant and talking to business owners about façade improvements as well as Community Planning Partners, Inc. – a Richmond-based firm that applied for the grant on the behalf of the town.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com