Franklin, Southampton approve utility study firms

Published 11:06 am Friday, July 18, 2014

FRANKLIN—Franklin City Council and the Southampton County Board of Supervisors have agreed upon a firm to do a study that could save each localities’ taxpayers money.

Timmons Group, along with two subcontractors, will lead the study to see if shared services in wastewater treatment between Franklin and Southampton County is viable.

If so, it could save Southampton County taxpayers, as the county is subsidizing its new treatment plant $2.6 million annually through taxes. Franklin’s wastewater treatment plant, built in the 1950s, is near capacity and will soon need to be replaced, which could cost taxpayers up to $30 million.

Based out of Richmond, the Timmons Group was awarded $40,000 in Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development funds. They will subcontract with Davenport & Company, a financial firm that already works with both Franklin and Southampton County with its office in Franklin, and McGuire Woods Consulting, of Washington, D.C., to handle the legal side of it.

“Part of the reason we selected them,” said Ward 2’s Benny Burgess, who served on the projects leadership team, “was because on our grid system this company came out well ahead of everybody else, on everybody’s ballot.”

Burgess said it helped Timmons that Davenport was part of the group because that company already has experience with the budget situation for both Franklin and Southampton County. McGuire Woods was also a good choice, he said, as they have a lot of experience with similar projects.

County Administrator Mike Johnson said he was happy with the selection.

“I think we are very well pleased with the qualifications of the firms, and the scope of work that they are prepared to do for the fee that they are going to charge,” he said.

The city approved the selection 5-1, with Ward 3’s Greg McLemore voting nay and Ward 6’s Frank Rabil being absent on a preplanned trip out of the country. Southampton County supervisors approved the selection 6-0, with Boykins district’s Carl Faison being absent.

The Timmons proposal scored 44 points on the management team’s ranking system, while the runner-up received 31 points. The project received nine proposals, and the team interviewed six firms.

The criteria was based on experience and qualifications, familiarity with community development block grant studies, methodology and plan, ability to incorporate into workload and price.

The first task that Timmons will set out on is the engineering analysis, which will include an inventory of utility assets; infrastructure evaluation; preliminary asset valuation; analysis under three scenarios — status quo, shared or contracted services, or regionalized; and then they will released the preliminary engineering report.

Task 2 consists of the financial analysis and utility rate study. Task three will look at governance and organization. They will evaluate potential organizational and governance structures; do a legal review; consider economic development; and seek to maximize public and stakeholder involvement.

Finally, the team will handle the implementation plan; including potential funding sources, timeline, the legal process and future capital costs.

The ball will get rolling on the study on July 31 with the kick-off meeting. In late September, the group will present preliminary findings to the management team. In early October, a presentation will be made to the Franklin and Southampton governments. In late November, the group will give preliminary recommendations and the study results to the management team. In the middle of December, the preliminary engineering report and implementation plan will be presented to the management team. In early February, the goal is to present the study findings to both governing bodies in a joint meeting.