Rigby presents sewage plan to SPOC
David Rigby, professional engineer and president of Waste Water Management, Inc., presented his design for a Snowshoe-area sewage system at the Snowshoe Property Owners Council (SPOC) meeting on August 14 at Snowshoe.
Rigby presented a preliminary design to the Pocahontas County Public Service District (PSD) in April and has refined his design with additional information, but his cost estimate has remained unchanged. Rigby, who has designed more than 100 sewage treatment plants, said his system would solve the area's sewage problem, leave room for growth and cost less than $14 million.
Rigby said the PSD's plan to build a new plant on Snowshoe Drive, when existing plants are operating nowhere near their permit capacity, doesn't make sense.
The Snowshoe sewage plant has an average daily flow (ADF) of 118,000 gallons and a permit capacity of 550,000 gallons. The Silver Creek sewage plant has an ADF of 31,000 gallons and a permit capacity of 100,000 gallons. In Big Spring Valley, six package plants have an ADF of 14,027 gallons and a total permit capacity of 65,700.
"We've got more than four times the capacity in the existing permits than we have average daily flow, so something seems squirrelly as far as logic goes," he said.
The engineer proposes to rebuild the Snowshoe Village sewage treatment plant, upgrade the Silver Creek plant and conduct a comprehensive study to determine a solution for Big Spring Valley, including Linwood.
"Snowshoe is the top priority because there's a lot of problems with the effluent now and it's under a consent order," he said. "That problem has been existing for a long time, so I say, 'let's fix that problem now.'"
Rigby would rebuild the existing Snowshoe plant to reach its permit capacity of 550,000 gpd. The existing three million gallon equalization tank would be converted into an enclosure for three sequencing batch reactors and the existing lagoon would become an equalization reservoir.
At the Silver Creek plant, Rigby would upgrade technology, make repairs and add equalization capacity, if necessary, to bring the plant up to its permit capacity of 100,000 gpd.
The need for a new treatment plant to serve Big Spring Valley has not been fully established, according to Rigby. He recommends a comprehensive study with full community involvement to determine the service area and implementation plan.
Rigby said a sewage system for Big Spring Valley would cost no more than $5 million, bringing his maximum cost estimate for the entire project to just under $14 million.
Rigby said his plan would stop water discharge violations in a timely manner; eliminate the need for a risky pipeline down the mountain from Snowshoe; retain the value of existing assets; trim excess fat from the budget; provide capacity for future development and allow for smart development of Big Spring Valley.
The engineer proposed a funding solution that he said would allow the project to proceed quickly to construction.
Rigby said that Utility Holdings, LLC, had offered a letter of intent to the PSD to acquire the Snowshoe and Silver Creek plants and complete the repairs and upgrades for $8,995,000, with financing through private equity bonds. An at-par bond repurchase provision would be included in the bond agreement.
Repurchase agreements (repos) are widely used as a source of financing by banking firms, institutional investors and other businesses. A repo involves an agreement between a seller and a buyer, involving various types of assets. The seller "sells" the assets to the buyer, with a simultaneous agreement to repurchase the assets at an agreed upon price at a future point in time.ﾠ
Utility Holdings also would offer the option to operate the plants under contract to the PSD.
The sewage system debate pits many Snowshoe homeowners against Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and five landowners in the area.
SPOC, representing approximately half of the property owners at Snowshoe, supports Rigby's alternative and say Thrasher's plant is too big, too expensive and a danger to the environment. SPOC argues that Site 7 unfairly places the cost of future development on current ratepayers.
Thrasher Engineering, under contract with the PSD, designed a 1.5 million gpd plant with a capacity nearly three times the maximum flow of all PSD customers. Thrasher's cost estimate for the plant is $25.5 million. The design is under review at the Department of Environmental Protection.
A total of $27.382 million has been approved for the project through state agencies.
The base sewage rate for Snowshoe is projected to rise from the current $99 per quarter to $227 per quarter when Thrasher's plant is completed. SPOC members say the rate hike is oppressive and will chill property sales at the resort.
Snowshoe Mountain, Inc. and five area landowners support Thrasher's plan and have taken legal action to push the plan forward.
On August 16, lawyers for Snowshoe Mountain, Inc. and five Snowshoe-area landowners filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission (PSC), alleging that the PSD had failed to complete the sewage project in a timely manner, jeopardized project funding and adversely affected the complainants.
The complainants request that the PSC order the PSD to "timely complete the project" or turn the matter over to a receiver authorized to complete the project.
A notice on the SPOC website states:
"So these six people are pushing to have us pay for their development at the bottom of the mountain at a cost of $12 million more than the Rigby plan calls for.ﾠ One of these five complainants is Snowshoe Mountain, which sold this flawed plant to the PSD, got their accrued fines due to mismanagement dismissed in the process, and now wants the ratepayers to pay for their future expansion."