The governing body of the Albemarle County Service Authority has sent a letter to the Charlottesville City Council explaining why it is not going to sign the memorandum of understanding that was written to summarize the consensus reached at a four-party meeting last November.

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The four boards with jurisdiction over the community’s water supply system

met on November 25, 2008

to respond to the

Charlottesville City Council’s concerns

over the direction of the community water supply plan. Conclusions reached at the meeting were written in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to give written directions on how to proceed to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA).

Since then, Council and the other three boards have not yet signed the memorandum of understanding.

On December 15, 2008

, Council amended the MOU to request additional information.

Later that week, the ACSA met to further discuss the issue

, but did not reach a conclusion on how to proceed.

On January 6, 2009, the RWSA issued a new revision of the MOU and sought feedback from all four boards. The ACSA did not take action at their regular meeting on January 15. At their meeting on January 26, the RWSA Board of Directors did not vote because they had not received word from the ACSA as to whether they would accept.

ACSA Chair Don Wagner (Rio)

On January 30, 2009, the Albemarle County Service Authority’s Board of Directors met in a special meeting to consider the MOU. ACSA Chair Don Wagner (Rio) said the special meeting was held because the RWSA needed a response from the ACSA Board before work could proceed. He added that negotiations were going back and forth too many times.

“I’m concerned that I don’t want to get into a circular firing squad situation here with the other agencies involved in this thing,” Wagner said. At the beginning of the meeting, he suggested that the ACSA adopt the MOU but add some conditions of its own.

Instead, Liz Palmer (Samuel Miller) suggested writing a letter to Council to explain why they could not support Council’s amendments to the MOU. For instance, she suggested the letter could ask Council why it wants to see a study of whether a bigger pipeline would translate into a smaller dam at Ragged Mountain. Wagner said he didn’t object to including a study of the size of the pipeline, as long as the addition did not cause the study to exceed the $25,000 allocated by the RWSA per direction of the four boards.

The Board also decided they could not take an official position on the

task force’s report

until they officially received the report. Palmer claimed that Council deleted a portion of the original MOU that stated that the task force’s recommendations would have to be approved by the four boards before they would be implemented. Council had sought to amend the MOU so that the four boards would be bound by whatever the task force recommended.

“We don’t need to get into a situation where people can argue this,” Palmer said. “There are going to be people that politically try to bind us if we sign this the way it is,” she added later in the meeting.

New ACSA Board member Richard Carter (Jack Jouett)

Richard Carter (Jack Jouett), who joined the ACSA Board in January, said an MOU typically “memorializes the understandings at meetings that were held” and asked if it was meant to be a contract. ACSA legal counsel Jim Bowling said that the MOU is meant to reflect the consensus of the four boards. He repeated his suggestion from December that the ACSA simply send a copy of the transcript to the City Council. The ACSA has already adopted the minutes of the meeting as transcribed by the RWSA. Carter said he was concerned that simply signing the minutes could open up more avenues for misinterpretation of consensus.

John Martin (White Hall) went a step further and suggested that “events have overtaken the need to have” an MOU.

“The expert study is going forward, the RFP has been issue, they’re interviewing candidates,” Martin said. “RWSA is prepared to do the extra study on the size of the pipeline. The task force has now come in with a report not recommending a feasibility study.”

Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) said he agreed with Martin’s approach. He added that the letter should address the ACSA’s willingness to conduct the dam review, the conservation study, and the pipeline study as outlined in the RWSA’s minutes.

“The whole reason this started was because the City took it upon themselves to write a letter of what needed to get done,” Colbaugh said. “That prompted us to go to a four-party meeting and discuss those issues that they wanted done. We’re doing three of them…. The fourth one [a dredging study] has yet to be seen.”

The ACSA opted to direct Executive Director Gary Fern to write a letter summarizing the Board’s wishes.

Assuming that Council agrees to proceed in the absence of a signed MOU, the pipeline study will come before the RWSA Board at their meeting in February.

Sean Tubbs


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