The Town of Berryville is taking a close look at several public works issues this summer. Both fire hydrant water use and town street maintenance will see changes over the coming twelve months. While the water usage changes are being driven by cost and safety concerns, transfer of road maintenance from VDOT to Berryville is part of a mandatory requirement based on the town’s significant population increase over the last decade.
According to the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Demographics & Workforce Group, which produces the official estimates of total population used by localities throughout the Commonwealth for decision making and funding allocation, Berryville’s population grew from 2,963 in April, 2000 to 4,185 in 2010.
The 1,222 new people, a 41.2% population increase, means not only that there are more people for the town’s government to serve, but the increase also places added pressure on town planners to more closely manage Berryville’s public works infrastructure.
According to Town Manager Keith Dalton, Berryville’s population growth, to above the 3,500 census mark, means that responsibility for managing the town’s roads will soon transfer to town officials from VDOT. Although VDOT-provided funding for roads doesn’t change, road maintenance, repair and planning responsibilities now reside locally.
Dalton said that even though town road funding from VDOT is based on “lane miles” certain voluntary aspects of transfer may not make economic sense from Berryville to take on under any condition.
“A big issue will be whether we accept responsibility for the primary roads or not” Dalton said at a recent Streets and Utilities committee meeting. “I recommend that we do not do it.”
The VDOT change-over, which will become effective in July 2012, means that Berryville will also be responsible for most functions currently being performed by VDOT including purchasing salt for winter road treatment and clearing side streets of snow in the winter. In addition, Berryville snow plowing crews will no longer be paid by VDOT on an hourly basis to clear its streets, rather, the town will receive a fixed payment for snow removal.
Similarly, pot-hole repair will be managed by Berryville’s public works department.
“We can do some minor pot-hole repair with our crews but beyond that we’ll be using contractors” Dalton said. “I don’t see us getting into the pot-hole repair business.”
Dalton said that the town could have a difficult time reaching the same overall cost efficiencies achieved by VDOT and should prepare for the financial challenges associated with taking over the road maintenance.
“Whatever we get from VDOT will not cover the full costs” Dalton warned.
In addition to the VDOT road maintenance transfer, town officials are also tightening restrictions on fire hydrant usage.
“The primary purpose of the water system is to provide safe, reliable water and fire protection” Dalton said. “Everything else is further down the list.”
Under a revised “hydrant use policy” approved by the Streets and Utilities committee in May, water haulers and other private contractors would be required to have a hydrant water permit as well as pay the town water and sewer rate for water removed from the system.
Water haulers would also be required, in most cases, to fill up at the town’s public works facility on Whitacre Circle where water removal operations can be supervised by public works employees. Water haulers would have cost responsible for repair of damage to the water system if the public works director determined that the hauler’s actions caused damage.
Although in most cases water haulers will be required to fill their tanks on Whitacre Lane, Dalton said that in some cases pre-approved haulers will be allowed to fill from locations like Hermitage Lane where end-of-line chlorine accumulations sometimes require that water in the line be released into the sewer system.
“If we can sell the water rather than dumping it then I’m going to sell it every time” Dalton said.
The town’s hydrant use policy along with a revised drought water use policy is expected to be submitted for consideration by the Berryville Town Council on June 22.