Sanitary district pays off loan

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County created the Stoney Creek Sanitary District 30 years ago and the utility provider paid off its last loan Oct. 1.

Director of Public Utilities Rodney McClain told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the sanitary district made the final payment on $4 million in bond proceeds. The county incurred the debt to build the infrastructure needed to supply sewer and water to the area around Bryce Resort.

“So the sanitary district is debt-free and so it puts us in a great position now in case we have to borrow again,” McClain said, adding that the district still faces the challenge of upgrading its wastewater treatment plant approaching more than 40 years old.

The sanitary district issued three bonds through the Virginia Resources – $2 million in 1987, $1.48 million in 1990 and $4.05 million in 1993 that included the refinancing of a portion of previous bonds, McClain stated Tuesday by email. The county paid no money toward the bonds – the district made all payments. Stoney Creek and the Toms Brook-Maurertown sanitary districts operate separately and remain self-funded. The county has neither “bailed out” nor made payments to or on behalf of either district, McClain stated.

Supervisors at the time of the first bond issuance, McClain recalled, included John Neese, father of current District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese, Keith Zirkle, Tom Solenberger, Bill Ortz, Dennis Morris and George Mason.

The county had to put a referendum on the election ballot at the time to gauge support for issuing the bonds and borrowing the money to create the sanitary district, McClain explained. The director recalled that the county made a “pretty gutsy move” by pursuing the creation of the sanitary district. Prior to that, the county briefly operated a regional water system in Woodstock before turning over the facility to the town, McClain said.

Late attorney Don Litten told the board at the time that members had an obligation to county residents living in the area now covered by the district to provide the services, McClain recalled. Approximately 17 percent of the county tax base lived in the area, he added. Full-time residents of the Bryce Mountain area voted in the referendum that indicated the county might charge each property up to 55 cents per $100 of assessed value on top of the existing real estate tax, McClain said. Revenue would go to upgrade and improve the system. The referendum passed 84-2. The alternative would be to have many campsites without utilities. The county has been able to reduce the district levy over time, he added.

“I tip my hat to the past board members that had the guts to do what they had to do,” McClain said. “I think we were all a little nervous if it would work or not but thanks to the people making hard decisions and having vision, really having long-term vision not short-term.”

Vice Chairman Richard Walker credited McClain and others on his staff for taking to heart how the system would function and for making it work. Chairman Conrad Helsley echoed Walker’s remarks.

“Yes, (supervisors) had to make a tough decision but you all carried through and made sure the price stayed as low as it did and so, between you and your employees, you deserve a tremendous amount of credit,” Helsley said.

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