Thanks to a collaboration between the City of Washington Court House, Fayette County and other local agencies, residents of the Culpepper area will now be provided with high quality water following a decade-long project.
“We had a small water system out in the Culpepper area that served the Leslie Trace subdivision,” Fayette County Engineer Steve Luebbe said. “The original idea was to expand that to serve Miami Trace because they wanted to get off of their water system. This was probably 2006 or 2007. We wanted to expand the system and through Dave Hobson, who was our Congressman at the time, and eventually Steve Austria, we got an earmark grant through the Army Corp of Engineers, a section 594 grant it’s called.”
The Fayette County Engineer’s Office and other agencies got to work immediately, Luebbe said. The idea was to complete this work before the construction crews finished on the new elementary school coming to the Miami Trace campus. Luebbe said despite their best efforts they could not get design plans approved quickly enough through the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers. This led to the decision to pull out some of the water equipment and seek permission to build water lines directly to the Miami Trace campus from the Leslie Trace subdivision.
“Years ago when we had a bad drought year, the city decided to put lines in all the way to Leslie Trace ,” Luebbe said. “They were pumping water back from the wells in that community. So we did some line work, the schools did some line work and the city stepped up and said they would serve the schools until a time that this new water system would be in place. It was a great agreement between the three of us – the city, county and schools, to get Miami Trace what they needed. It was truly a great example of local government working together.”
After finishing the work on water lines around the time the school was finished, the engineer’s office continued work on the new water treatment system and expanding/replacing all of the water lines in the Leslie Trace area. Luebbe said this was the time that the EPA began to bog them down. Nearing completion of the design for the new water treatment system, the EPA told the county such a facility was not going to be built.
“They switched gears on us, at least I feel like they switched gears on us, and said, ‘No you cannot do that kind of a treatment system,’” Luebbe said. “They said you cannot do ‘A,’ you have to do ‘B.’ Well ‘B’ was too expensive to build and it was too expensive to operate this small of a system. We continued to try and make the original idea work and we never could. We could not do what they wanted to do, we weren’t going to. It would’ve cost money in the long run and could not be run cost-effective. We were not going to build something we could not maintain. So we sat on the project for four or five years.”
Luebbe said over those years discussions about the project never died, and they would continually discuss the idea of placing a large tank in the area that both the city and county can work off of while the city sold bulk water to the county. Finally, after many years of discussions, the Fayette County Commissioners and the City of Washington Court House reached an agreement they both felt would be a win-win for the whole community, an elevated water storage tank to serve the area.
“We abandoned the whole idea of a water treatment system, we are going to buy bulk water from the city,” Luebbe said. “The elevated tank we decided on goes on the city’s system. That was part of the agreement as well, is how the tank will be treated as we go down the road. It really is a relationship with the city and the county to get all of this done. I think it is an agreement that we are all going to benefit from and it really is a great example of two communities working together to provide a better service to its constituents.”
Besides providing a higher quality of water to the area, the tank adds to the infrastructure of the city, provides more consistent water pressures to the people in the county and increases access to water in the event of a fire. Luebbe said while they offered residents in the area to tie-on to the water line for a reduced fee, only about half of the eligible residents decided to take advantage of the reduced fees. No need to worry though, as Luebbe said residents who are eligible to tie-on can still do so, but the prices will return to their normal rates and the homeowners will have more work to do on their end. Those interested need to call the Fayette County Engineer’s Office at (740) 335-1541.
The project is in its final days of completion and can be seen from State Route 41 north next to the Marathon. The new tank sports a large “Washington Court House” on its side and, when full, will weigh around three million pounds, thanks to work from Mid Atlantic Storage Systems, Inc.
James Baughn, the elevated tank project manager with Mid Atlantic Storage, said the crews were excited to work on this project, as most of the time they travel out of town for their work and loved the chance to work right in their backyard.
“When I started in the office at Mid Atlantic they said to me that I was going to start on this tank project in town the next month,” Baughn said. “About five years went by and it finally took off. The project was mainly smooth, especially in the engineering parts, metal process and any of the coordination we did with the city. We had a few suppliers drag their feet, but that was nobody’s fault. The tank on the top is a little over 300,000 gallon tank. We can’t say it is maintenance-free, but it is extremely low maintenance.”
Washington C.H. City Manager Joe Denen commented on the project, saying it was very well handled and the tank solved a practical problem in the area. He said the collaboration was done in a way that is beneficial to the citizens, the city and the county.
“We are very happy with that,” Denen said. “Another way to look at it is we are buying this new tower with bulk water instead of cash. In terms of rates, it has no impact on the short-term and in the very long-term, the more customers you have typically the better off you are. We are very happy with the county commissioners, very pleased with Steve Luebbe and I was glad it was Mid Atlantic doing the work.”
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy