Exmore Questions New Sewer System

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By Stefanie Jackson – Exmore citizens inundated the Town Council Monday night with questions on the new sewer system about to be established, including concerns about construction quality and service affordability.

During the public comment period, J.R. Bishop made several inquiries, including:

  • Will there be a dedicated project manager on the job site to ensure workers aren’t cutting corners? Bishop said the last time sewer lines were installed in his neighborhood, workers took shortcuts and ran the lines across yards instead of along the road. Councilman Chase Sturgis confirmed the upcoming sewer installation will have a project manager.
  • Will the monthly charges for sewer service be based on water usage, or will meters be used to differentiate between water and sewer service usage and promote fairness in billing?
  • Will people living in rental houses suffer the consequences of previous tenants who didn’t pay the sewer bill and had their service cut off?
  • Will the old sewer lines be abandoned? Town Manager Robert Duer said “yes.”
  • Will the town maintain the grinder pumps that process sewage into a slurry before transporting it through the pipes to the treatment plant?
  • Will measures be taken to address groundwater and stormwater infiltration, which dilutes  wastewater and causes issues with capacity and treatment? 

Brenda Bailey, another Exmore resident, said she currently has her own well and septic system at her home and is aware that she will be required to connect to the new sewer system.

Exmore’s project funding partners, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, offered grants and loans for the sewer project on the condition that every home and business in town will connect to the sewer system.

Bailey asked if she also will be required to use town water if her well water has been tested and is good quality. Duer said the town will address that issue when the time comes.

Both Bailey and Bishop were concerned about the affordability of the sewer connection and service fees.

Duer noted Exmore’s plan is for no current resident to pay to connect to the new system – “that’s why it’s $18 million,” he said of the sewer project.

He noted that the project has not yet gone to bid and new sewer rates have not been set, so he could not speak to the matter of rate affordability.

Duer made a recommendation to the Town Council on ordinance 223, which concerns water and sewer rates and trash fees. The ordinance sets reconnection fees for landowners whose properties are disconnected from water or sewer service for 30 days or more. 

The water reconnection fees will be identical to the fees for new water connections.

Duer asked the Town Council to pass the ordinance except one line that established a $10,000 sewer connection fee.

He didn’t want to send the wrong message and cause Exmore residents to panic, believing that they will need to pay $10,000 to connect to the new sewer system.

Duer clarified that the $10,000 connection fee would apply to someone moving to town and building a new house. Furthermore, the suggested sewer connection fee of $10,000 may not be high enough, he said.

A motion was made to accept the proposed amendments to the ordinance, and it passed unanimously.

During the second public comment period, Bishop cautioned town officials not to raise the sewer connection fee so high that it deters people from moving to Exmore, even if the town provides the sewer connection service at a loss.

Population growth will generate other forms of tax revenue to recover that loss, he said.

There must be an incentive for people to come to Exmore. 

Bishop said, “Cape Charles has the beach, and Onancock has the marina. … We need something to try to bring people here, so there’s new people and new growth.”

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