Sharing wastewater

Published 9:50 am Friday, June 27, 2014

FRANKLIN—The City of Franklin-Southampton County Utility Study Management Team received nine proposals from engineering firms to do a feasibility study regarding shared hook-ups for wastewater, said Franklin City Manager Randy Martin.

The two entities got the ball rolling on this in January 2013 when they submitted a letter of interest to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. That was followed up with a planning grant application in May. And during September, the county and city had public meetings and put together the management team.

At the end of the process, VDHCD had earmarked $40,000 in state funds for the feasibility study. The money was made available during the first part of 2014.

Now the team is getting ready to make its recommendation to the Franklin City Council and the Southampton County Board of Supervisors during the two organizations’ July meetings. Franklin and Southampton will both meet on Monday, July 14 at their respective locations.

Out of the nine proposals, the management team interviewed six of them.

“I thought they went real well,” Martin said about the interviews. “We heard some very good presentations, and it was a difficult decision. I hope that the management team is able to meet this upcoming week to officially finalize our recommendation.”

Merging the utilities in regards to wastewater has been called a win-win for both the county and the city. Southampton County will be able to provide tax relief to its citizens, and Franklin will not have to build a new plant. It also helps both entities attract industry, as they will have the wastewater capacity to support it.

The county cut the ribbon on its approximately $15.5 million plant in 2010. The plant has the potential to process 1.25 million gallons of wastewater each day, with the potential to upgrade to 2.5 million gallons per day. The plant has a budget of $3.75 million annually, with the county subsidizing $2.6 million annually through taxes.

The city’s plant was built in the 1950s and was last upgraded in 1983, with some equipment being replaced following the floods of 1999 and 2006. It sustained no damage due to Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

To build a new plant could cost up to $30 million and take more than 10 years to have a plant planned out, completed and running, Martin told The Tidewater News in September.

The feasibility study would consist of a review of physical inventory of assets, how to interconnect, cost to interconnect, how much money each locality could save and compare interconnection with what business would be like if there had been no collaboration. The next part would be a financial study, which would consider the financial impact for taxpayers. The study would also consider impact on serving citizens, how to implement the system and governance of the shared facility.

In other city news, Franklin unanimously appointed Donald S. Spengeman to its beautification commission 5-0, with Donald Blythe and Greg McLemore absent. He is fulfilling the unexpired term of Ann Parker, who resigned. The term will last until Dec. 21, 2015.