Well, it’s about time.
Or maybe long past time. No one knows.
The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has voted to eliminate a surcharge to customers that collected money for a reservoir that was never built.
Other agencies and jurisdictions must agree to the change.
The money did buy the land, near Free Union, where the impoundment would have been constructed. But a federally endangered species was discovered in the watershed; since construction would have put the James spinymussel further at risk under federal law, the reservoir never was built.
Starting in 1983, the surcharge was collected by Charlottesville and Albemarle County on new water connections, and the proceeds went to the RWSA.
We know from RWSA officials that through fiscal year 2018, $3.975 million in revenue was generated. We know that the cost of the 1,313-acre site was $6.65 million. We know from officials that the surcharge revenue went to pay off bonds borrowed to help finance the purchase.
But we don’t know when the bonds actually were paid off. And without knowing that, we don’t know how long the surcharge continued to survive after it no longer was needed.
Kurt Krueger, RWSA counsel, said that the way the bonds originally were financed makes the repayment schedule difficult to trace. (That poor record-keeping was prior to the tenure of the current director of finance, Lonnie Wood.)
“We all know that it’s been paid, but we couldn’t say, ‘It was paid on this date or that date,’” he said.
That lack of documentation is highly regrettable, because it means that water customers will never know if they were overcharged for connections — that is, made to pay the surcharge when the goal for collecting the surcharge already had been met.
At this late date, though, that’s apparently water over the dam.
But the RWSA with its partners — Charlottesville City Council, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and the Albemarle County Service Authority board — can make things right from here forward by ending the surcharge.