Fire Flow Dispute Evaporates

School Board Chairperson Robina Bouffault’s alternate school fire flow proposal evaporated last night in a manner similar to many of Clarke County’s spring thunderstorms; it appeared out of nowhere, contained lots of thunder, but never produced any water.

Last night the Town of Berryville rejected both the alternate fire flow proposal as well as the School Board’s attempt to have the respective legal teams work out a compromise agreement. Instead, the Town responded with a revised cost sharing agreement reiterating its support for the PHR&A fire flow design. Assistant Town Manager, Christy Dunkle also provided a detailed list of items that still must be addressed by the School Board prior to release of the final site plan. The Town’s list of four items still outstanding from the October 2009 Conditions for Special Use Permit include a final site plan revision, easement specifications, site lighting plan, and the fire flow plan.

Clarke County School Board considers fire flow, May 5, 2010 - photo Edward Leonard

Clarke County School Board considers fire flow, May 5, 2010 - photo Edward Leonard

Jon Erikson, consulting engineer from Urban, told the School Board that all comments received by Chester Engineering, the Town of Berryville’s firm, had been incorporated into the final site plan and would be delivered to the Town by today [Thursday, May 6, 2010]. However, Virginia Department of Transportation’s final comments have yet to be received and there was some uncertainty among the engineering and school staff about when VDOT’s comments are actually due. Final agreement from VDOT is particularly important for finalization of the easements for the project. “The easement plat can only be completed once all comments have been received. If VDOT does make comments the easement plat will have to be revised.” Erikson said.

While the lighting plan requirement was not discussed last night, the School Board did appear to finally accept the Town’s PHR&A fire flow proposal as a necessary step for meeting the May 11th target for issuing the school construction request for proposals. The School Board  spent a portion of last night’s meeting fine tuning the wording contained in a draft Utility Construction and Cost Sharing Agreement delivered yesterday [Wednesday, May 5, 2010] 2010 by Berryville Town Manager Keith Dalton.

In an effort to resolve the differences between the Town and the School Board over adoption of the PHR&A solution, Town Manager, Keith Dalton contacted several School Board members independently according to School Board member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville). School Board member Emily Rhodes (Buckmarsh) also referred to a call that she had received about fire flow differences while nodding in the direction of Town Manager Keith Dalton and Assistant Town Manager Christy Dunkle both present in the audience last night.

“Keith Dalton and Christy Dunkle really worked hard behind the scenes to help get this solved,” according to Welliver.

Although several of the School Board’s members seemed pleased at the apparent resolution of the issue, School Board Chairman Bouffault expressed less enthusiasm about the outcome, “We’ve chosen to move the issue forward even though it’s costing us money. This is not the best decision for the school budget but we’re keeping our eye on the ball which is getting the school built.”

The School Board expects to have final agreement on Dalton’s Utility Construction and Cost Sharing Agreement by Monday in time for consideration by the Town Council at its next meeting.

Other Construction Business

Clarke County’s Stones

Clarke County has a lot of rock, so much rock that construction contracts typically itemize the rock removal as either “classified” (the contract gives the bidder exact estimates of the type and quantity of rock to be removed) or “unclassified” (the bidder has full responsibility for determining the cost of excavating   the construction site.) The Clarke County School site estimate includes 8,000 cubic yards of rock removal for the building’s foundation with another 2,000 cubic yards necessary for trenches. The School Board decided last night to keep its contractual rock removal “unclassified”.

Liquidated Damages

If your firm is selected to build Clarke County’s new high school be forewarned that failure to finish the building on time comes with a cost. Based on school operating cost estimates, the new school contract will penalize the builder $2K per day for move-in delays once the school is “substantially” finished and $500 per day for final completion delays once the building is occupied. The School Board did not specify any monetary penalties for delays (past or future) caused by the governmental committees of Clarke County.

Jury Trial

Jury trials are expensive according to School Board land use attorney, Joe Luchini. Based on Luchini’s advice, the School Board’s bid documents will require any contractor disputes resulting in involvement from the court system to be decided by a judge only.

100% Construction Documents

Crabtree-Rohrbaugh says that the construction documents are ready to go. School staff is working on the final details of room numbering and naming.

Final Bid Document Review

The School Board is planning a special meeting on Monday, May 10th to review the bid documents prior to issuance. Tentative time and place: 2:30pm, Government Center.


  1. Tony Parrott says:

    Glad to see Keith and Christy working behind the scenes to move this forward.
    Now maybe we can move forward and save our sanity.

  2. Debacle Watcher says:

    As Mr. Parrott stated in another post:
    “Then it will be storm water management or karsts rock formations or ancient Indian burial grounds. The point is it always seems to be something with the chair; the next BIG fight.”

    Question is, Will her two followers from Buckmarsh & Millwood/Pine Grove continue to vote with RRB and her disruptive antics, or have they finally seen the dark side of the force? We’ll have to wait and see.

    • Bond, James Bond says:

      It is not a character flaw to try to save the taxpayers some money on the fire flow system. When RBB realized she was talking to the deaf, after a shrug of disbelief, I guess the rest of the meeting went smoothly. As for your possible future problems, the storm water issues have already been resolved on the site plan. The karst features have already been mapped with bore holes. As for your hyperbole of Indian burial grounds, is it RBB’s fault then that Chief HorsesSouthEnd buried his relatives in a secret vault on the Ketoctin property? No, the ones who care little about throwing other people’s money down a sink hole are the tag team of Dalton and Dunkle.

      • Tony Parrott says:


      • I didn’t realize DALTON&DUNKLE had a vote. I thought it was the town council.

      • Lonnie Bishop says:

        Hmmm…the issues remains, Mr. Bond, that she led the board to purchase a set of plans that would require a certain amount of fire flow nearly 2 years ago. This issue, which – and here I agree with you – the town resolutely dug in its collective heels on and has manitained the “our way or the highway” mentality about it (ostensibly to protect their water system or whatever), should have been explored mor fully over the past 18 months, and apparently wasn’t.

        Now…should the recalcitrant Town overlords be more willing to consider the alternative? Sure. But…given RRB’s penchant for attempting to play both sides against the middle (either by word, or emails, or whatever), why should they do anything she asks? The problem is – the instances where she’s been less than honest in her dealings with folks, any sincere effort she brings forward thus tends to get received with a high dose of skepticism or outright rejection.

        I just hope that all parties – the elected board and council members, and the staff they oversee – can get over the past dustups, set aside whatever bruised egos there might be, and work together to get this thing done. Honestly…we are so dang close to turning some dirt…let’s make it happen.

        • Bond, James Bond says:

          Sorry Mr. Bishop, but fire flow requirements were not established two years ago with the purchase of design plans for the school. They were established decades ago by the town of Berryville. For the eighteen years previous to the design purchase, Berryville had absolutely no problem being out of compliance with its own ordinance. Is it a mere coincidence that, when a multimillion dollar school project comes around, the light bulb goes on in City Hall and fire flow becomes a super critical issue?

          It appears that some around the county have developed a tinge of Stockholm Syndrome where the hostage develops empathy for the hostage taker. It happened when Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the SLA in 1974. It is happening now with the various and sundry demands made by the town.

          Finally, on a general note, it appears that the rating system on this website has less to do about the merits of the comments and more to do with who is winning the “Miss Congeniality” contest.

          • Lonnie Bishop says:

            I agree, MR. Bond, that is is more than coincidence that the Town is attempting to take care of so much of its own derelict maintenance for its own water infrastructure. They’re probably still smartin’ from thaqt black eye the got on their own government building and the “Oops!” of a stormwater goof – and the extra money that cost out of contingency to cover it.

            However, spare us your overdramatic “Stockholm Syndrome” analogy, as there was nothing in my post where I am only on the Town’s side. My point is that, given the timing of all of this, the only choice available to get the building built is to go with what the Town has approved. I think it’s piratical of the Town to issue susch a stipulation – “our fire flow, with us picking up the ongoing costs, or jsut go it alone and delay everything.” What a Hobbsian choice that is. Typical for that bunch downtown.

          • Bond, James Bond says:

            Sorry again, Mr. Bishop, if you took the comments about the Stockholm syndrome personally. Note the new paragraph and the new train of thought. My point is that some of the people commenting on this website seem to say that anything that the town demands is OK because it moves the process forward. Should we abandon principles because of expediency? That kind of a blank check is wrong.

            The fact is that I have given many of your comments the “Thumbs Up” rating because I am in full agreement. The rest, we can respectfully disagree on.

          • Amen to that! My philosophy in Clarke County is, kick them all out and start over.
            What’s the worst that could happen compared to where we find ourselves now?

  3. Robina says:

    The Fire Flow Flap

    Given the amount of inaccurate information that has been swirling about concerning this issue, I would like to introduce a few facts:
    • Every locality that provides water to its residents, also provides fire flow, which is an integral part of their waterworks capabilities. In the specific case of Berryville, its current waterworks fire flow capability has for the last 20 years been insufficient to handle the town’s own ordinance requirement which specifies 2,000 gallons per minute for two hours – a requirement specified exclusively for schools.
    • The fire flow project in question is quite simple – it is essentially two water pumps, designed to each transfer 1,500 gpm from the 3 ml gallon ground reservoir up to the 250,000 elevated water tank. The current pumps are only 250 gpm. A standard up-grade.
    • The school board had located an alternate pre-engineered design, much more cost effective, that the VA Dept. of Health had confirmed was an option in accordance with our permit – with a cost estimate roughly half of that of the original PHR&A design, and a potential savings of up to $200,000.
    • This same pre-engineered system has been recently installed in two large waterworks in Martinsburg, with that city working with the town’s own engineers, Chester Engineers. Yet the town did not even check with Chester to inquire about their performance.
    • The only request being made by the school board was for the town to place the alternate design as an option in the bid documents the town would prepare for bidders to bid on the project. Including this option would have in no way slowed down the process, as completion of the pump installation would take less than a year, i.e. far earlier than completion of the high school.
    The school board has already acquiesced, without any Code of Virginia or ordinance requirements, to the town’s demands for the following town infrastructure improvements, all of which cost money to be taken out of the school building project:
    a) Easements: the Mosby right-of-way, a VDOT easement for a future 3d Main Street lane, an Early Street cul-de-sac with a fourth emergency vehicle access, a sewer easement and utilization of the new school’s sewer lines to accommodate the town’s waterworks and other future town sewer needs west of the school property — in total almost 6 acres of easements;
    b) Construction of a new water line to replace the obsolete line that the town’s own consultants Dewberry & Davis recommended replacing over 20 years ago, but never done by the town;
    c) Construction of an expensive storm water connection to the town’s storm water system on Main Street due to the town’s inadequate outfall drainage to the Town Run, that does not comply with DEQ requirements.
    • With a fixed school construction budget, can any parent be pleased if an additional $100,000 is taken from the classroom equipment budget because of an excessively expensive town water pump design?
    • Can any taxpayer be pleased if an additional $200,000 is spent on an expensive fire flow design, when more cost efficient alternatives were readily at hand?
    • And since when has trying to protect the students and taxpayers’ best interests become a condemnable offense?

    • Jim Gibson says:

      Those are very good questions, and it would be enlightening to hear the Town’s specific answers, instead of dismissive retorts. Another interesting question is why the Town has gotten away with such an inferior fire flow set up for nigh on two decades if it si so out of line with its own standards? Who enforces that compliance?

      It is indeed unfortunate that so much animosity, insults, condemnations, and judgment questioning has gone on for so long. What has resulted is a severely polarized relationship with the Town, and a huge amount of mistrust. Part of the blowback, I believe, is the timing of it all. Fire flow issues have been know for a while (up to 20 years, apparently), but only now came to a head as we are on the cusp of actually – as Lonnie put it – “turning some dirt.” The Town does have a perception of “our way or the highway” attitude towards most things; yet, they themselves bungled the stormwater management for the new town/county complex, so it’s clear they aren’t perfect.

      Yet, it is apparently easier to pile on the SB chair because of her actions and over the past several years. Dalton is an employee of the town, and until there is a sea change on the Town council, he will remain there. That’s the reality. Unfortunately, the most recent election in the town solidified the status quo for the next 4 years.

      There’s nothig wrong with trying to get this school built as cost-effectively as possible. Might the Flowtronex system be the better choice? Perhaps, and it is unfortunate that nobody is willing to explore it. It is also unfortunate that the town merely digs in its heels and insists that the SB play by its stipulations, or go it alone. That is not collegial.

    • Debacle Watcher says:

      To spend $2.4 million on a parcel of land, with no purchase contingencies on the site being approved for it’s intended use, was an absolute absurdity. No responsible custodian of the public trust (taxpayers’ dollars) would make such a foolhardy leap. What the SB is getting is what it could have offset with land purchase cost concessions from the seller, or an “out” from the land purchase, when these issues were raised by the town. Instead, the land was blindly purchased wth no regard to permitting and we (the taxpayers) are stuck with whatever the costs to comply may become. Blame the town all you want. You placed the taxpayers in this quagmire and you can’t escape the blame no matter how you twist it.

      • Right Winger says:

        I say the next chance we get, we elect a completely new Town Council, new School Board, and new Board of Supervisors. We all know that RRB was “the annointed one” by the BOS to monkey up things, heck, she’s got a worn path straight to Dunning’s house! The whole thing is a political mess, and EVERYONE is to blame.

        Dump the whole lot. Get people who can play nice together and have no agenda to take over.

  4. The town has won the battle of attrition and convinced people that they are the victims, a sad state of affairs indeed. When they know you want the school started at any cost, they know they have a free hand to write their own checks. Anything that gets in their way and they start a behind the scenes campaign. Dalton contacted school board members independently? Those would have interesting conversations to hear indeed. Divide and conquer is alive and well.
    Good luck Berryville, it seems the town council doesn’t live by its own regulations till a money train shows up, who knows when the next one will leave the station.