By Stefanie Jackson – Exmore’s town manager and council members reflected on the past and looked to the future at their May 6 meeting.
Town Manager Robert Duer said, “We’ve come a long way in five years,” referring to the fact that Exmore is financially sound, with nearly $3 million in the bank.
He joked the total would have already hit the $3 million mark if Town Clerk Ethel Parks “hadn’t paid the bills” yet this month.
Duer talked about more bills coming in, including one for $1,000 pledged to the Eastern Shore Spay Organization (ESSO), which the council agreed to pay in June. Next year’s ESSO donation is included in Exmore’s budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1.
With a new budget will come a new police officer, who will need a new police car. Duer agreed to order the car now so it will be ready when the officer is hired, but he will wait until July to pay for it so the funds come out of the FY 2020 budget.
The car will cost about $24,000, plus $6,000 to $7,000 to get the vehicle “road ready” for police duty.
A replacement for the town’s old pickup truck may be far less expensive. Duer suggested purchasing a Kawasaki Mule, a lightweight utility vehicle, similar in size and design to a golf cart, with a rear, open cargo area.
The vehicle would cost about $8,000, and the town would save $11,000 of the $19,000 budgeted for a pickup truck.
One potential drawback is the lightweight vehicle could not legally cross the highway, Duer said.
Exmore also needs a new garbage truck that will cost about $139,000. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offered a $50,000 grant and a $58,000 loan, meaning the town would need to make up the $31,000 difference in cash.
Duer suggested Exmore put money in the Virginia Investment Pool (VIP), a trust fund for the political subdivisions of the commonwealth. Its development was sponsored by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) and the Virginia Municipal League (VML).
The council passed a motion for Exmore to invest $100,000 with the AAA-rated company, with one “no” vote.
The company offers auditing services, which would be useful in October, when the town’s annual audit is due. Currently, Exmore’s audits often are not completed until February, Duer said.
VIP also offers loans, a feature Exmore may need when the time comes to build a new sewer system, he added.
Duer is still weighing all of Exmore’s sewage system options, which he termed “playing three or four bingo cards,” hoping for a winner.
At present, Duer appears to favor the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) taking over and connecting Exmore, Nassawadox, and Melfa to the Onancock wastewater facility, which has excess capacity.
One advantage of that scenario is HRSD would also take over billing customers.
Each customer would pay a monthly “base rate” and a “capital recovery charge,” Duer said. HRSD would get the base rate for providing sewer service and Exmore would get the capital recovery charge to recover its investment in the new sewer pipes.
The main disadvantage is time. It would take three years for HRSD to complete the project, but “we might not have that long,” Duer said.
Exmore will have to work closely with Northampton County to expedite the HRSD project if that’s the option the town council chooses.
It may be the most economical choice. If Exmore handles the sewer project, it will cost about $8 million. If HRSD takes over, the project will cost Exmore about $4 million, Duer said.
He feels that if Exmore can obtain grants and “if we can get our debt to about two and a half (million dollars), we can pull this off.”