By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: January 2, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – While much of 2018 for the Prince George Board of Supervisors was spent discussing the proposal to build at least one new elementary school in the county, county leaders were also active in their efforts to chart Prince George’s economic future by looking ahead at what the county needs to draw business and industry to the area.
During 2018, county leaders looked at a number of ideas to help support their economic efforts, including the idea of building a wastewater treatment plant to help support key industrial centers, such as Southpoint Business Park and future growth across the county.
In August, supervisors gathered for a work session at the Central Wellness Center where, among other topics, a concept of what a wastewater treatment plant in the county could look like.
At that time, county utilities and engineering director Frank Haltom showed designs of how a plant could be configured on the site located at a piece of county-owned land known as the Yancey Tract, located along Quaker Road and Prince George Drive.
Resting just outside the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the site is seen as an advantageous location for a wastewater treatment plant, should the county ever decide to pursue building their own facility.
During his presentation, Haltom explained the concept would be consistent with the county’s master plan for the area, which sees water and sewer infrastructure being installed in the areas of Route 156 and U.S. Route 460 to support current and future businesses and create long-term stability for the county going forward.
According to county officials, while building the facility would be significant, there would be savings across the life cycle of the facility’s operations as construction estimates for the plant total $42 million.
When life cycle estimates are evaluated, when compared to the cost of disposal in Hopewell to a regional force main, at a rate of 1.5 million gallons per day over the course of 20 years, a county-owned plant would cost $55 million, while having the wastewater sent to the regional wastewater plant through Hopewell would cost nearly double that over the same time at $90 million.
The facility could be constructed in such a way that would allow for 2 million gallons per day to be treated, with the option to upgrade to 4 and 6 million gallons in the future, should it be needed. According to the county’s contracted engineers Dewberry, Southpoint Business Park could utilize up to 2 million gallons per day of capacity at a local treatment facility.
While the treatment plant concept has been talked about, according to Haltom, it could take up to five years to permit, design, and construct the facility, as the county would need to apply for a Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit through the state environmental office before they can move forward with the site selection and design for the site.
For some supervisors, such as T.J. Webb, building the treatment plant at the Yancey Tract far outweighs a now-rejected proposal to use that land to build an elementary school in the county.
“I said I would support a school, but I will not support anything that hurts Prince George County over the long term,” Supervisor T.J. Webb said regarding his steadfast opposition to the school being placed on the Yancey property. “We don’t have industry in this county but we better damn well get some or get some revenue from something else because we don’t have what Chesterfield and Colonial Heights has got.”
The topic of infrastructure has been one that Webb has spoken frankly about during the course of his time on the board and during 2018, reiterating the need to tackle some pressing issues, including water and wastewater capacity.
“We have to do something about utilities overall because this is a big countywide issue,” he said in July when voting to reject the school division’s proposal to fund building a school on the Yancey property. “We can’t keep kicking this can down the road.”
Webb continued, “My concern is, if we don’t do anything about utilities over the next five to ten years, we are going to be putting everything on the taxpayers to carry the burden. We have got to get utilities here so we can get some industry. We don’t have to grow like Chesterfield [County], but we are way behind the curve.”
On the opposite end of the county, leaders also looked at constructing its own independent water treatment plant, allowing for the county to manage its own water assets.
With the goals to reduce the reliance on groundwater and service the Southpoint Business Park with up to 2 million gallons of water per day while bringing stability and further execution of the county’s utility master plan, Haltom’s presentation looked at both intermediate and long-term water solutions.
With the two short-term projects serving to meet Southpoint Business Park, the county has also eyed intaking water from the Appomattox River and treating it at a plant in the county. The site being considered for this plant is located just north of Riverside Regional Jail off River Road for this proposed intake system and water treatment plant.
In a similar vein to the wastewater treatment plant, the initial construction cost would surpass those of the county paying for a majority supply of water from the Appomattox River Water Authority or Virginia American Water, the two providers in the area who service Prince George County.
According to county documents, ARWA majority supply would cost an estimated $30 million while Virginia American Water majority would total an estimated $35 million.
The water treatment plant for the county is estimated at $59 million, nearly double that of the ARWA majority supply.
Unlike the wastewater treatment plant where savings could be had through the construction of it as opposed to sending the material through Hopewell, looking at a 3 million gallon per day total over 20 years, while ARWA majority supply would cost $69 million, both the county-owned and Virginia American Water majority supply option carry similar price tags at $76 million and $74 million respectively.
The intangible for Prince George County would be the county’s ability to control its water future. In 2018, Chesterfield County, a member of ARWA, reportedly made a proposal to purchase the water authority outright, which would convert the other member localities, which includes Prince George into customers of the county, as opposed to voting members. That proposal failed to gain traction as any matter of that scale would require a unanimous vote of support from the ARWA board and the member localities’ governing bodies but it did start a conversation among communities like Prince George about the implications of such a transaction.
“I think that would be a real dicey thing,” Prince George Supervisor T.J. Webb said during the July work session where the purchase proposal by Chesterfield was brought up by county leaders.
“[Chesterfield] would control economic development in the region,” Haltom said.
With 2019 on the horizon, it is expected that discussions surrounding county infrastructure will continue as the county continues to position itself as an asset for business prospects to consider in the region – a region that has seen significant growth over the course of 2018 as businesses large and small opened across Southside Virginia.
That work will begin on January 8 during the first meeting of 2019 for the Prince George Board of Supervisors beginning at 7 p.m.