Town Again Postpones Decision on County Sewage Rate

Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek has yet to convince Town Council to subsidize out-of-town sewage collection. (Wave photo)

Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek has yet to convince Town Council to subsidize out-of-town sewage collection. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

August 25, 2014

Despite Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek’s best efforts, Cape Charles Town Council once again has sidestepped any decision on how much to charge to accept sewage from out-of-town commercial properties on and near Route 13. Panek recommended providing the county with “updated cost estimates” to process sewage, but Town Council balked at their August 21 meeting, voting instead to hold a work session to further consider the matter.

The “update” would be to an earlier cost estimate that Panek provided the County Public Service Authority without authorization from Town Council. That was when Panek was also chairman of the PSA, a position he lost following complaints of conflict of interest. But he remains the town’s representative to the PSA.

Almost a year has passed since Town Council last wrestled with the question of how much to charge for sewage coming from the highway. Since then, one strong opponent of subsidizing out-of-town businesses – Mike Sullivan — has left the council. That leaves Frank Wendell as adamantly opposed, with Joan Natali and Chris Bannon on Panek’s side. Mayor George Proto and Councilman Steve Bennett also expressed reservations at last Thursday’s meeting, which prevented Panek from getting his wish.

Newly elected Councilman Sambo Brown said he believed the county simply wanted to know whether the town was willing to accept sewage, to which Panek responded “That’s right.” Panek did not explain to the new councilman that Town Council had already twice indicated a willingness to accept county sewage, first informally at a June 24, 2010, work session, and later, at Panek’s insistence, on August 9, 2012, with a formal motion. All council members approved that motion with the exception of Wendell.


Panek said he estimated that processing county sewage could generate $65,000 profit a year for the town, reducing the average town monthly sewer bill by about $4 a month. Councilman Brown emphasized that he was in favor of anything that would reduce water bills, but Proto said he wasn’t sure that $4 was significant.

Proto further noted that there had been no discussion of connection fees. “I think that discussion is premature,” Panek responded. Records show that Panek previously has opposed charging a connection fee to county users. But Wendell pointed out that the lion’s share of connection fees is to offset future costs to expand the sewer plant. If out-of-town users get a free ride, then all expansion costs will be borne by town residents.

A recent example is the veterinarian’s office originally planned in town, where a connection fee would cost almost $15,000. Instead, the vet opted to locate in the old video store in the Food Lion shopping center, and the county approved expanding the drainfield to accommodate him. Under Panek’s proposals, if the county subsequently requires the vet to hook up to the town sewer, he would pay no connection charge and likely pay a lower sewer bill than for the equivalent use in town.



3 Responses to “Town Again Postpones Decision on County Sewage Rate”

  1. Steve Downs on August 25th, 2014 9:00 am

    The new sewer treatment facility already stinks to high heaven. What’s it going to smell like if we add a few hundred users to it? I guess the whole town would smell bad. But then, maybe that’s appropriate.

  2. Roger L. Munz on August 25th, 2014 8:57 pm

    This whole thing stinks. Why should the hook-up be free, and the useage rate be cheaper than we pay here in town? Another issue is who will pay for the necessary infrastructure from the highway to the town sewer plant? I JUST DON’T GET IT.
    We need smaller government and to cut expenses. If any sewage comes into the town facility, they should pay our same rate, plus a surcharge for the cost of the delivery system. Why should we taxpayers subsidize someone’s grand plans?

  3. Wayne Creed on August 26th, 2014 1:47 pm

    “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”
    –Oliver Hardy

    Here we go again. The Panek-Sullivan Center for Volatilised Chemical Compounds (aka The Cape Charles Stinky Poo Station) was doomed from the start, and has certainly placed us in a quandary. The silly thing is 5 times too big and 7 times too expensive for such a small town, so the nagging question has always been, why would they do it like this? Town Council, in defensive mode, has offered a few clues, stating on occasion that “There is no way to build a $19 million plant and not raise taxes.” That begs the question, why not build a $5 million plant and expand it as needed? It doesn’t make sense until you recognize the optimal term, “raise taxes.” Let’s just drop the pretense and call it what it is: a gentrification project. Raising taxes and fees is a very effective tool to grease the entire process.

    As the comrade stated, “Improvements” of towns which accompany the increase of wealth, such as the demolition of badly built districts, the erection of palaces to house banks, warehouses, etc., the widening of streets for business traffic, for luxury carriages, for the introduction of tramways, obviously drive the poor away into even worse and more crowded corners.”
    — Karl Marx, Das Kapital

    Taken in this context, raising fees for “improvements” (water bills from $35 to $100), was meant to gently ratchet up the pressure, tightening the screws just enough to drive a portion of the population out, to make room for a, let us say, more desirable demographic. But as usual, they miscalculated and prematurely overshot the mark (so to say). Without the many dubious financial contortions, these fees could be triple threat. Now they have no choice but to pimp out the poo station, in hopes of generating an additional $65,000.

    At this point, how are we, the mobile vulgus, supposed to trust anything they say? During the last few years, they have hardly been forthcoming in any matter, have they? Take the Great Asbestos Lie (forgive me while I digress into a fit of kvetching) that was perpetrated about the Old School. The presence of asbestos was first used to close the Boys and Girls club. When it was deemed that there were still too many of those folks hanging about the basketball court, they used the myth of huge asbestos abatement costs (the estimates were anywhere from $500,000 to a $1 million to clean up the massive amount of asbestos) as an excuse as to why the town had to get rid of the school for only $10. With renovations currently taking place, the doors and windows are wide open, and as far as we can tell, absolutely no abatement is taking place. So — where’s all the asbestos? Probably down the same rabbit hole where we going to pull out the $65,000.

    The wastewater plant (optimal term here is “waste”) is a grotesque abomination that aims to devour us all, especially folks on fixed incomes. Too bad, because it’s too late to do much about it now; we can stab it with our steely knives but we’ll never kill that beast (or escape its malodorous presence). Learning to live with it will be tough too. The options are limited, and don’t be shocked when they eventually cannibalize Front Street to cover their bills. After they bury that exquisite corpse, what or who will they go after next?