Town faces deadline on waterline project funds

FRONT ROYAL – The town could lose $3.5 million if it doesn’t act soon to upgrade its water lines in the U.S. 340-522 corridor.

Dominion plans to rescind its offer to help cover the cost of any project designed to improve the water distribution system serving the power plant if Front Royal does not move forward,  the Town Council learned at its work session Tuesday. Most council members agreed the town needs to move forward on the project.

Town Manager Joseph Waltz and a CHA Consulting, Inc. representative provided an update to the council on the project.

“We’re getting indications from Dominion that, if we don’t act, they’re gonna pull back that money that they were going to contribute,” Waltz said.

Steve Steele,  of  CHA, spoke to the council about the one option Dominion said it would help fund.

Dominion agreed to give the town up to $3.5 million, or 75 percent of the cost to help fund the construction of a project that would provide a redundancy in the event of a line break.

“They are a facility that absolutely cannot operate without water,” Steele said. “They internally decided it was worth $3.5 million to them.”

A line break could leave all users in the corridor without water after about three days when reserves dry up, Steele warned.

Mayor Hollis Tharpe reminded the council that Dominion agreed to the contribution when the town negotiated the water rates for the plant. Tharpe questioned whether or not the money could disappear given that Dominion agreed to provide the funding as part of its contract with the town.

The concept of installing a new, 12-inch waterline running parallel to the existing pipes along U.S. 340-522 replaced a  looping idea from consideration by the council. CHA evaluated the available options such as additional water tanks and parallel lines for increasing the reliability of the corridor water system. Town staff members concur with the CHA report, which recommends the parallel water line. Dominion also has indicated that only a new, parallel line meets its requirements.

The town would provide $2 million toward the estimated $5.5 million cost of the project.

CHA’s executive summary states that a parallel water line would significantly increase the reliability of the supply in the corridor. The additional line would provide the necessary water flow to all users in the corridor should the original line break. The three new sections of waterline total approximately 23,500 linear feet.

Vice Mayor Eugene Tewalt said he remains unconvinced that the parallel line would provide the needed redundancy. Tewalt suggested the town determine what size water lines exist along the corridor before he supports a project that would involve digging up the road to install more pipes.

Town officials started working on the looping project in 2013, seeking a way to ensure water service to the corridor would not cease or decrease in the event that a line break occurs. The council has heard several reports over the years from consultants whose concepts ultimately were eliminated. Virginia Electric and Power Company reimbursed the town $45,584 for the cost of the first loop study initiated in 2013, Finance Director B.J. Wilson said in an email Thursday.

The council is expected to vote at its meeting Monday to approve a $75,000 bid from CHA  for a water model project, which includes eight tasks. CHA would evaluate the hydraulic capabilities of the town’s water-distribution system over the next 30 years and make recommendations for improvements. The Department of Environmental Services fiscal 2018 budget includes the necessary funding.

Tewalt voiced concerns about the town’s ability to provide enough water to certain areas. Tharpe said the study would address that matter. The study could take a few months to complete, Waltz said.