How Town Changed Its Story on Sewer Charges

New Town sewer plant was designed to double wastewater capacity, but when developers of Bay Creek refused to contribute to the cost, the capacity — but not the expense — was halved. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

September 30, 2013

The official Cape Charles Gazette printed a September 17 statement on sewer charges by Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek contradicting earlier Town policy. Panek wrote, “. . . there has been much public commentary asserting that the reason for [the sewer charge] increase is because the developer of Bay Creek Resort & Club did not pay the Town for their share of the cost of building the new plant as required by the Annexation Agreement. This is not accurate.”

He continued: “The agreement requires the developer to pay the cost of expansion to accommodate the additional treatment demands of the annexed property beyond the limits of the Town’s current permitted capacities. The capacity of our new plant is the same as our old plant, 250,000 gallons per day.”

Therefore, Panek concluded, “The requirement for the developer to pay for a share of expansion was not triggered.” (click here to read Panek’s complete “Wastewater Treatment” statement).

Panek now contends that Bay Creek developers are not required to pay a penny of the new $19 million wastewater plant, because it is the same size as the old plant. But earlier official correspondence by Panek obtained by the Wave reveals a different story.

Key to Panek’s statement is the word “triggered,” as in “The requirement . . . to pay . . . was not triggered.” But Panek earlier had insisted just the opposite. Following a December 1, 2008, closed meeting between Town officials and Bay Creek developer Richard “Dickie” Foster, Panek sent an email to Town Council contending that “Clearly, there is no firm ‘trigger’ of  ‘once the plant reaches design capacity’ as maintained by Bay Creek.”

Panek argued in the 2008 memo that “we must expend effort and resources sufficiently in advance of when the new plant must be operational.” Furthermore, he wrote Town Council, sewer expansion plans were based on Bay Creek’s own growth projections “personally approved by Mr. Foster.” [Read more…]


Town Council Mulls Fees for County Sewer Service

Cape Charles Wave

September 27, 2013

Two days after Northampton County Board of Supervisors voted to put on hold any plans for a sewer pipeline to Cape Charles, the Cape Charles Town Council convened a work session to discuss how much to charge County customers for services the County does not appear to want.

The work session originally was scheduled for September 5, but was postponed until September 25 to occur after two meetings were held in the County, where dozens of speakers vociferously voiced their opposition to a special sewer district that would almost double their taxes plus entail an unknown monthly sewer charge.

The Town Council work session might yet have a purpose, however, since some observers have noted that even though the Board of Supervisors tabled further consideration of a special sewer district, they can easily reverse their decision following the November election.

But even after Wednesday’s work session, it’s still unclear how much County customers might have to pay Cape Charles for sewer service.

Some clarity did emerge at the work session – most importantly, recognition that treating sewage from out of town might kill any remaining hope of getting the developers of Bay Creek to contribute to the cost of future sewer expansion.  Town staff was asked to seek a legal opinion on how a deal with the Public Service Authority might affect the Town’s Annexation Agreement with Bay Creek.

Councilman Mike Sullivan emphasized that he was certainly not willing to see the Town sacrifice $5 million [from Bay Creek] for plant expansion in order to get $80,000 a year from the PSA [for sewage treatment].

Among Council members, only Bay Creek resident Joan Natali was opposed to seeking legal advice on the question. “I don’t know why we need to make that decision now,” she said.

Councilman Frank Wendell suggested that the PSA should pay the cost of a legal opinion rather than the Town. [Read more…]


LETTER: Cape Charles DOES Care About Children

September 27, 2013


Please print my response to the vacationer’s comment in the “Anonymous” section [click here to read “Anonymous”]:

Thank you for choosing Cape Charles as your family vacation spot. Families like yours are a vital part of this town’s economy, and I know the local businesses appreciate you choosing Cape Charles.

I understand that the Old School issue has soured a lot of people; however, I would caution people from making statements such as “I’m sad to hear that they don’t believe in investing in their youth,” when referring to this town.

Yes, the basketball nets are down, but this town has done an extraordinary job of creating other opportunities for children. Please take note of the tennis courts, skate park, soccer goals in the park, the countless programs offered year ’round by the library, as well as numerous special events throughout the year such as the upcoming Trunk or Treat, the New Roots Youth Garden, Movie Night in the Park, and the many athletic programs offered throughout the summer. [Read more…]

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SATURDAY 10/12: Cape Charles Fall Festival Features, Food, Arts, Music & More

It’s fun for the whole family on Saturday, October 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cape Charles Fall Festival in downtown Cape Charles. This year’s festival celebrates the bounty of the Eastern Shore and includes a Farmer’s Market with seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farms, and a Waterman’s Market with fresh seafood right from the Chesapeake Bay. [Read more…]

Town Keeps Sewer Rates Secret in Violation of State Code


September 25, 2013

The Town of Cape Charles has withheld from advance public view a financial analysis of sewer costs to be discussed at a work session 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 25, at Town Hall.

The Wave has learned that a Cape Charles police officer was instructed by Town Manager Heather Arcos to deliver information packets containing the sewer rate analysis on Sunday, September 22, to Town Council members. But as of Tuesday night, the financial analysis had not been posted on the Town website, nor had the information packet been emailed to members of the public who have requested Town mailings.

Town Clerk Libby Hume on September 20 emailed a one-page agenda for the September 25 meeting to members on the Town mailing list. The agenda may be read by clicking here.

The September 25 work session was originally scheduled for September 5, in advance of a Public Service Authority informational meeting held September 16 and a County public hearing on a proposed PSA special tax district held September 23. The intent was that the public would be told what sewer rate the Town was proposing to charge County customers. But the Town postponed any discussion of a sewer rate until after both public meetings had been held.

If the financial analysis provided to Town Council members on Sunday had been available to the public, it would have been discussed at length at Monday’s public hearing by the Northampton County Board of Supervisors. [Read more…]


County Halts Support of PSA Highway Sewer Project

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

County Board Room was nearly full for Monday night’s public hearing. “Usually only about five people show up for County meetings,” observed Supervisor Larry LeMond. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

September 24, 2013

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.

Some 20 speakers addressed the Supervisors, only one of whom was in favor of the plan to tax and charge commercial property owners to pipe sewage to the Cape Charles treatment plant.

Randall also had a message for persons unhappy with Public Service Authority Chairman Bob Panek, who masterminded the sewer scheme. “The Board of Supervisors does not appoint town representatives to the PSA,” Randall clarified. “Folks not happy need to talk to their town council.”

Randall also stressed that the PSA is “an independent body – the only power we have over the PSA is funding, and they’re not going to be funded.”

Randall seemed unaware that the Board of Supervisors had already funded the PSA to the tune of $130,000. Informed of this by a reporter, he insisted that the money had come from a grant, not from the County budget. But when a reporter from the Eastern Shore News repeated the question, he turned to County Administrator Katie Nunez and asked, “That was grant money, right?”

“No,” Nunez responded – “that’s County money.”

As the Wave reported earlier, PSA members voted unanimously September 16 to approve a $70,000 contract with the engineering firm Hurt & Proffitt to begin surveying the sewer project. A Hurt & Proffitt survey team has been observed working in the vicinity this past week.

Among the speakers at the public hearing in Eastville was the new CEO for A&N Electric Cooperative Dodd Obenshain, who complained that two of the 68 properties included in the proposed special tax district belong to ANEC and are used for substations. “We have no need for water or sewer for a substation,” Obenshain said, requesting that the ANEC properties be exempted from the special district to avoid paying a higher tax. [Read more…]


Some New Bayshore Concrete Jobs Depend on Winning Bids


September 23, 2013

Following the Wave’s report September 21 that Bayshore Concrete Products would be hiring 300-400 workers, Bayshore treasurer John Chandler has requested a clarification. The 300-400 worker figure would be the total number of employees at Bayshore, and is dependent on winning bids.

Chandler said that Bayshore Concrete has won contracts for the Great Egg Harbor Bridge in New Jersey and the Bayonne Bridge between Bayonne, NJ, and Staten Island, NY. These contracts will bring 100 new jobs to the area, he said.

Chandler said that bids are still out for the Tappan Zee Bridge project. If Bayshore wins the contract to make spans for the Tapan Zee Bridge, 50-100 more workers could be hired.

Chandler clarified that gearing up for the Great Egg Harbor and Bayonne projects will be done through “trickle hiring of 10 to 20 people at a time” as the project progresses. Those projects are expected to keep employee levels up for two years.

Bayshore has requested permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to construct new piers to  accept larger barges, allowing Bayshore to bid jobs for larger concrete products. The request, made last May, has not yet been approved.

MONDAY: Public Hearing on Mandatory County Sewer Tax

Phil Richardson, who runs a tire service on South Bayside Road outside Cheriton, has threatened to close his business if the County doubles his taxes and charges a monthly sewer fee. (Wave photo)

Phil Richardson, who runs a tire service on South Bayside Road outside Cheriton, has threatened to close his business if the County doubles his taxes and charges a monthly sewer fee. (Wave photo)


September 23, 2013

Northampton County Board of Supervisors meets 7 p.m. Monday, September 23, at the County board room in Eastville to hear public comment on a special sewer tax district for commercial properties near the Cape Charles/Cheriton Route 13 traffic light.  (Click here to view a map of affected properties.)  Residents may take the floor to express their opinions on the issue.

As reported in the Wave last week (click here for story), people turned out in force at a September 16 informational meeting on the proposed sewer district held by the Eastern Shore Public Service Authority. Although every member of the public who spoke was opposed to the proposal, immediately following the meeting PSA members voted unanimously to approve a $70,000 contract with the engineering firm Hurt & Profitt to begin surveying the sewer project. A Hurt & Profitt survey team has been observed working in the vicinity this past week.

The PSA received $130,000 from the County this year before any public hearing was held. Members of the Northampton County Planning Commission have stated that they were not consulted and were not aware of what the PSA was doing.

The Board of Supervisors has already included 25 percent of the cost of the sewer project in this year’s County budget, which means that all County property owners will pay a share. That includes property owners in the Town of Cape Charles as well as Exmore and everywhere else. [Read more…]