$27.7M sought for utility improvements

Published 8:51 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

Suffolk Public Works Director Al Moor presented a plan Wednesday for $27.7 million worth of upgrades and expansions to the water and sewer systems next year.

Moor joined a series of Suffolk department heads that have been presenting their individual 10-year capital improvement needs and wants to City Council over the past few weeks. The Planning Commission will review the document on Dec. 15 and Jan. 19, and City Council plans to adopt an amended version in February.

The majority of next year’s planned $27.7 million expenditure is allocated to water projects like treatment plant upgrades and transmission system expansion. The full amount will be funded with bonds issued earlier this fall. A large chunk of the money will be used to design the third phase of the expansion of the G. Robert House Jr. Water Treatment Plant, a critical element in the agreement to purchase water from Norfolk’s supplies to support the city’s anticipated growth. Most of the water purchased will be treated at the expanded facility.

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Also next year, the plan shows money to design dam improvements, construct a storage tank, pumping station and 16-inch transmission main on Route 460, and build a Wilroy Road water tank. Upgrades to fire hydrants, valves and meters also are planned.

However, the big amounts of money start flowing in fiscal year 2011-2012. Planned expenditures for that year top $123 million — about $89.8 million of which is associated with the Norfolk water agreement. An additional $12.6 million is needed for sewer system upgrades.

The Norfolk water agreement will provide for Isle of Wight County and Suffolk to purchase up to 15 million gallons of water per day from Norfolk’s Western Branch reservoir, located on Route 10 near Reid’s Ferry in Suffolk. The water starts flowing in 2014, but about $100 million worth of capital investment must be made in the interim.

Besides the upgrades needed for the Norfolk agreement, Moor called sewer system upgrades the second most important project in his capital improvements plan. The entire Hampton Roads region is under special order from the Virginia State Water Control Board, a division of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to make sewer repairs.

“The second (priority) is the effort we need to do on the sewer side,” Moor said. “The upgrade of our sewer systems is of the utmost importance.”

The total cost of upgrades that fall under the special order is about $9.1 million.

Several utilities projects, including water and sewer construction in Crittenden and Eclipse and sewer extensions in Lake Speight and Turlington Park, remain deferred until they can be paid for.

“New connections are down,” Moor said. “We had to make some tough decisions. We had to focus on the projects we needed to do to meet growth and regulatory requirements.”

But, he added, the deferred projects still are on the radar screen.

“These are important projects.”