Town-to-town water options discussed

STEPHENS CITY – The town of Stephens City welcomed new staff and updated the community on current issues at its first 2016 meeting on Tuesday.

Town council members unanimously approved the appointment of Stephen Rickards as the new town treasurer and Adelia Williams to the Historic Preservation Committee, as well as town fire department officers. Rickards replaces Tina Wyatt after she left the position in November and Williams replaces Ben Cooley after he resigned for health reasons.

Rickards was present at the Tuesday meeting and came before the council for his appointment. He said he had moved to Stephens City in October from Fort Lauderdale and was previously an accountant with ETI Financial Corporation. This will be the first time he said he’ll be working for a town.

Jason Nauman, chair of the Water and Sewer Committee, reported that despite four out of five counts upheld in Frederick County Sanitation Authority’s demurrer to complaints in the town’s lawsuit against the authority, the town is proceeding further in the case. He said the next step for the town is to organize documentation that further supports their case and provides the details needed to refile the pleadings, but the timeline for that refiling is uncertain.

“Ironically … the one count that was dismissed for the demurrer and … the town’s complaint that was upheld was the breach of contract, which was probably the most severe count,” he said after the meeting.

Further, he proposed that Stephens City contact Middletown about the possibility of collaborating to look into creating a southern Frederick sanitation authority and work with the other town to fill both their needs. The motion was passed unanimously. When asked by other council members about the costs involved, Town Manager Mike Majher said, “We’ll see what we’ll get.”

“This will give us an idea of whether it’s feasible or not to even look at it,” Nauman added.

Another option Nauman presented involved meeting with the city of Winchester to discuss the possibility of reciprocal water service between the city and the town that could be used in case of emergencies. The council mentioned that the pipes and infrastructure exist from previous years before a past agreement expired or dissolved.

“This did exist at one time; right now it’s literally a matter of turning on a valve,” said Mayor Mike Grim. “Somewhere over the years this just went away, and what we’re trying to do is maybe regenerate this. It’s beneficial to both.”

“We certainly should have a plan in place to take advantage of that if either the town or city needs it,” Nauman said after the meeting.

Because of the ongoing refusal of either the town or the authority to pay the bills demanded of either of them, Majher said water bills from residents have gone into the town’s utility fund.

“The town, for the last couple of years, has been trying to insulate them from this negotiation by not increasing rates, and now … we’re just taking that money, setting it aside and keeping it designated for the utility fund,” he said.

In light of a “rumor mill” that suggested the mayor met with the former sheriff to discuss dissolving the local police force, Nauman also made an extra effort at the end of the meeting to dispel those rumors. Grim said the meeting was simply social and the two discussed reactivation of the substation near the town.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com