PSA Moves Ahead with Sewer Plans Despite Public Outcry

County Board Room was nearly full Monday night; "usually only about five people show up," observed Supervisor Larry LeMond. (Wave photo)

File photo of September 23 public hearing, after which Northampton Supervisors voted to table any further action on the PSA. Public opposition to a special sewer tax district was almost unanimous.

Cape Charles Wave

December 20, 2013

“County Halts Support of PSA Highway Sewer Project,” read the Wave headline last September 24. “After hearing an hour of public opposition Monday night to creating a special sewer tax district, Northampton County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to table the issue. ‘We heard you, we listened, there will be no action on this plan until we get a better understanding of what to do,’ announced BOS Chairman Willie Randall.” (Click for story.)

Three months later, with November elections out of the way, it’s back to business for the PSA (Eastern Shore of Virginia Public Service Authority). At its December 17 meeting the PSA approved a memo to the County Supervisors that belies any awareness of being put “on hold.”

The only reference in the memo to the September public hearing is that “comments were received that spoke against being included in the district.” The memo then lists 12 “Parcels to be Excluded” as well as four “Parcels to be Included” as modifications to the proposed special tax district.

The memo also flags two parcels owned by Northampton Mini Storage that are included in the tax district. “While we have not heard from the property owners relative to their positions on this project, the Board may wish to consider removing these two parcels since they have nominal wastewater usage today and are fully developed in their respective business capacity,” the memo states.

Before the September public hearing, the Board of Supervisors budgeted to pay 25 percent of the proposed sewer project, with property owners in the affected area responsible for the remaining 75 percent.  The PSA memo advises that excluding additional parcels “will result in a higher [tax] burden on the remaining parcels.”


The PSA has completed a revised financial analysis of costs to property owners and to the County at the 75/25 percent cost sharing as well as at a 50/50 percent cost sharing.  The 50/50 ratio means that all County taxpayers (including property owners in Cape Charles and all other towns) would bear half the cost of the sewer project in the special district. “The PSA is supportive of either funding ratio that the Board may wish to employ,” the memo states.

The memo concludes by noting “we are still awaiting receipt of information requested from the Town of Cape Charles.” That information is on how much the Town would charge to accept sewage from the County, and whether hookup fees would be required. The Town has taken no action after the Cape Charles Business Association asked Mayor Dora Sullivan “to put the matter on hold.” (Click for story)

This is not the first time the PSA has seemingly ignored the public’s wishes.  At a September 16 information meeting at the Cheriton Fire Hall, a standing-room audience expressed vehement opposition to the sewer tax district. (Click for story) But immediately following the meeting, PSA members voted unanimously to award a $70,000 contract to the firm of Hurt & Proffitt for surveying and engineering services. Despite Chairman Randall’s declaration that the project is “on hold,” Hurt & Proffitt continues to be seen conducting engineering surveys.

During public comments at the December 17 PSA meeting, David Boyd asked who was going to pay the cost of the engineering that has already begun. He wondered why the engineering plan does not include the Town of Cheriton and questioned the validity of the survey of property owners which assumes “interest” by property owners who did not respond to the survey. He suggested a non-response should more appropriately assume no interest.

PSA Chairman Bob Panek cut Boyd off before he completed his remarks, but Boyd provided a copy to the Wave. “It appears that when roughly 150 people turned out at the Cheriton PSA public comment session, and another 100 or so turned out to tell the Board of Supervisors what they thought (well over 90 percent of them were opposed to this project), that it made little difference to you what their opinions were,” Boyd said.

“Since then, a general election ousted the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in favor of someone inclined to think more reasonably on issues like this. I believe the election results were largely because of this sewer project. What is it going to take to convince you that the residents of Northampton County are VERY much opposed to this sewer pipe?” Boyd asked.

Former PSA member Robert Meyers spoke next, reminding PSA members that the goals of the PSA were to provide services to County residents, not to real estate speculators. He noted an urgent need for services to continue to four facilities: Fresenia Dialysis Center, the Community Services Board, a Family Practice Office, and Heritage Hall. All of them will be affected by the closure of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital. “Arrangements for continued services for them need to begin now,” Meyers said.

PSA member J.T. Holland reported that he had not been contacted by Riverside.



2 Responses to “PSA Moves Ahead with Sewer Plans Despite Public Outcry”

  1. Wayne Creed on December 20th, 2013 3:21 pm

    “The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”–C. S. Lewis

    The ultimate path of the PSA is paved with good intentions, yet I wake up in a cold sweat worrying about where it will be leading us. Odd to see this shoved in right before the holidays–as usual, the real concerns of the ordinary people are being buried like so many of John Wayne Gacy’s acquaintances.

    Before moving forward, the County and Town of Cape Charles need to let us know just what their real intentions are. If it is only to promote commercial development on 13 with industries that increase sprawl, pollution, destroy rural character, and may even hurt business in Town, then this needs to stop.

    Also, putting the cost of construction on taxpayers without first exhausting every grant or loan from federal agencies is just wrong.

    There are points of service that offer financial and technical assistance to help small communities plan, design, and build water and waste water systems– programs like the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Grants for Public Works and Development Facilities, and the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program are just a few.

    I’m generally in favor of the PSA, but until we start seeing some specifics, we should pump the brakes and just ask, “what you talkin bout willis?”

  2. Bobby Roberts on December 20th, 2013 9:06 pm

    Everybody who lives anywhere near that sewer line around Route 13 better wake up and smell the coffee. No matter what you’ve been told, once that sewer district is in place, it only takes three votes of the Supervisors to make that district bigger. And if that means dragging in higher priced homeowners to help pay the price of the sewer line, that’s what could happen. That law went into effect in 2013. What a coincidence.