SHORE THING: April Fools on July 4th

Cape Charles Wave

July 4, 2013

A little background music, please: Click here to enjoy the Tams while you read this (You can then select the SHORE THING window while the music plays.)

In case you’re sitting in the library, or your computer won’t play music, the song is “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am).”

You will want to play it while reading the Town’s July 4th edition of the official Cape Charles Gazette (click to read).

The three-page special edition of the Gazette is all about “allegations” related to water and wastewater and “preferential treatment of Bayshore Concrete Products and Bay Creek Resort & Club.”

After giving it a careful read, my conclusion is that April Fools Day came late this year.

My test for any claim is, if I find part of it that is patently false and ridiculous, then the rest is also suspect.

The Gazette, obviously written by Assistant Town Manager and wastewater consultant Bob Panek, is three pages of “facts and figures” attempting to justify the Town’s water and sewer policies which are resulting in minimum monthly utility bills of $108.

The Wave had pointed out that the Town’s biggest water user, Bayshore Concrete Products, isn’t hooked up to Town utilities.

Mr. Panek writes at length about why hooking up Bayshore Concrete would be a very bad idea, but he trips up when he claims “it would take almost 58 years” for the Town to recoup its cost to run a sewer line to Bayshore.

Is the music over? Play it again, Sam!


You don’t have to know anything about sewer systems to question why the same person who claims it’s not cost efficient to hook up a Town business within spitting distance of the sewer plant is lobbying hard to hook up commercial customers way out on Route 13.

The argument is so full of holes. For example: “Bayshore Concrete is about one half mile from the wastewater treatment plant.”

OK – but how far is Bayshore’s property line from the nearest Town sewer pipe? That’s the information we need. The Coast Guard station is next door, and the Wako building is down the road.

Regardless, the pipe’s a lot closer than McDonald’s out on the highway.

If you enjoy theater of the absurd, be sure to read the estimate of how much Town water Bayshore would require.

Assuming 180 employees, our wastewater consultant allows each of them three trips a day to the restroom, allotting 1.6 gallons per flush. He then generously gives each employee an extra gallon per day — maybe to wash their hands?

Now we understand why Mr. Panek told the Wave he did not think Bayshore Concrete uses very much water.

The whole Bayshore Concrete bathroom calculation is of course a straw man meant to distract from the larger issue. Ponder this sentence in the Gazette: “The vast majority of water used by Bayshore Concrete Products is for industrial processes (concrete manufacture and dust control) and does not result in wastewater.”

“Does not result in wastewater” means, I guess, that it’s not sewage. But it’s certainly a form of industrial waste that, on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, would seem to require some form of treatment.

Another claim that doesn’t pass the laugh test: For grant applicants, “USDA Rural Development requires that the minimum monthly user fee be 1.5% of median household income.” Our consultant then builds a case that the “typical customer” in Cape Charles pays less for water than the “guidelines” require!

All you need is common sense to know that Cape Charles water charges cannot possibly be lower than USDA requirements. It just doesn’t hold water.

I spent an hour on the Internet trying to see where Mr. Panek might have got that information, and the best I could find was a statement that the average family spends 1.5 percent of household income on water AND sewer – not just water.

Using the 1.5% MHI equation, the cost for 3,000 gallons of water and sewer use should be $47. But in Cape Charles it is $102 (garbage fee omitted).

That, Madame Mayor and Mr. Assistant Town Manager, is why all the fuss.

One quick thing about Bay Creek Resort: The Wave never reported anything about connection charges for the new Beach Club, but an informed reader did make a comment, which you can read here.

In response to that comment, the Gazette states that “The connection charges were not reduced. They were calculated based on projected maximum occupancy of the facility and consumption rates for the most similar type of facility found in the state waterworks regulation.”

So my question is, if there’s no reason for anyone to get upset, why didn’t the Gazette just come out and say how much the Town is charging Bay Creek to hook up the Beach Club?

But don’t worry – we’ll ask.



2 Responses to “SHORE THING: April Fools on July 4th”

  1. Daniel Burke on July 4th, 2013 8:59 am

    Hilarious! News with musical background drama. Oh wait a minute, I just got my water bill. It doesn ‘t seem so funny now :-(

  2. Deborah Bender on July 4th, 2013 9:55 pm

    Love the background music! Now let’s get down to business:

    Somewhere I read a saying that goes something like this: If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with [baloney].

    I, for one, would not believe a word that comes out of our town office. I would also like to know right now: what did Bay Creek’s newest enterprise pay to hook up to water and sewer?

    This is getting ridiculous! It is difficult, at best, to live in a town where the people running it cannot be trusted to tell anyone the truth.