Cape Charles Water and Wastewater Plants: Still Looking for Answers About Sale

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Dear Editor:

On Thursday, Feb. 18, the Cape Charles Town Council considered a request to advance the two conceptual proposals (AQUA and Virginia American Water) to the detailed stage of the town’s PPEA (Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act) guidelines. In my statement read into the record before this deliberation, I asked “Why haven’t these two conceptual proposals been available to the public on the town’s website?”

I thought that the planning commission would be responsible to bring this request to the Town Council. To my surprise, Mr. Panek, project manager, spoke, telling the council that the proposals were available by request. That’s not what the law requires: section V.B.5.a. of the local PPEA guidelines requires that solicited and unsolicited proposals shall be posted to the town’s website within 10 days of acceptance.

Following the PPEA guideline is not a suggestion; it’s the law (https://vacode.org/2016/56/22.1/), codified in Chapter 22.1 of the Code of Virginia, titled “The Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act Of 2002,” part of Title 56, “Public Service Companies.” My review of the meeting minutes shows that the planning commission has not discussed this project, even though this project meets the legislative intent (section 15.2-2200 of the Code of Virginia) “to encourage localities to improve the public health, safety, convenience, and welfare of their citizens and to plan for the future development of communities …” Why isn’t the planning commission involved in this project?

Indeed, I did request, and receive, electronic copies of the nonconfidential sections of the two conceptual proposals on Monday, Feb. 22. The accompanying email indicates that these proposals would be posted to the town’s website, as required by the law. As of Tuesday, Feb. 23, I could not find them on the town’s website.

What did I learn when I read the “nonconfidential” part of these conceptual proposals? Here’s a quick synopsis: these bidders are in full sales mode, touting who they are and how much they care about their customers, the community and their employees.

What’s most important and meaningful: recent Virginia law requires that the minimum purchase price be the AVERAGE Fair Market Value (FMV); the town needs to hire the best valuation consultant they can find to ensure that the average FMV is equal to or higher than the actual valuation of the Cape Charles assets.

Unfortunately, the public’s only opportunity to get answers about the impact of this action is the public hearing that must be held before the town can finalize any commitment. I urge every property owner and business operator in Cape Charles to understand the impact of this decision and voice your concerns about why the town wants to sell the water and wastewater plant.

Loraine Huchler, Cape Charles