2024-05-21 6:14 PM

Snyder in Direct Appeal to Bulova, F.C. Council Moves Water System Sale

The Falls Church City Council voted unanimously, 5-0 (2 absent), to give preliminary approval to the sale of its water system, but not before a small rally of folks opposed to the privatization of public utilities was held on rainy City Hall steps and Vice Mayor David Snyder, chairing the meeting, made a dramatic, official on-the-record appeal to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova to break the county’s refusal to negotiate in good faith on the future of the Falls Church system, while offering nothing but “confrontation, litigation and confiscation.”

img 4904Opponents to the potential sale of the Falls Church water system rallied outside the F.C. City Hall tonight, opposed to the sale of the system into private hands. (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church City Council voted unanimously, 5-0 (2 absent), to give preliminary approval to the sale of its water system, but not before a small rally of folks opposed to the privatization of public utilities was held on rainy City Hall steps and Vice Mayor David Snyder, chairing the meeting, made a dramatic, official on-the-record appeal to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova to break the county’s refusal to negotiate in good faith on the future of the Falls Church system, while offering nothing but “confrontation, litigation and confiscation.”

“Our doors are open. I want to appeal to Chairman Bulova on the record before the TV camera. Make us a legitimate offer to meet halfway to lead to some sort of accommodation,” he said.

Snyder’s dramatic appeal came after it was pointed out by City Manager Wyatt Shields that while Fairfax had urged a merger of the two systems, it made no offer of compensation to the City.

Shields laid out how the City had been boxed in by the county, including by assuming control over its rate structure, such that if the county had its way, the City would be forced to lose $5 million or more annually the operation of the system. Thus, he said, the option to sell the system was being explored. He said the factors of legal and political obstacles, promising substantial fair market value, and expressions of interest from many parties in the acquisition of the system are reasons for the sale.

When a petitioner from one of two groups present to speak out against the sale — the Washington, D.C.-based Food and Water Watch and a local citizens group formed specifically in response to this issue, “For Local Ownership of Water” (FLOW) — noted that Falls Church “had its back against the wall” on the matter, F.C. Council member Ira Kaylin concurred. “Yes, we do have our backs against the wall,” he said, and asked the protestors if they’d been to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to ask them to acquire the system at a fair market price.

The Council’s preliminary OK tonight set the stage May 25, the deadline for receiving bids on the system. On that date, bids will be opened and a live bidding process will commence. Based on the high bidder then, the Council will consider a second reading of tonight’s ordinance to authorize the sale, needing a 75 percent majority to do so. The date for that vote is June 7.

Then the matter, if approved then, would go to Falls Church City voters for final approval in a referendum in the November general election.

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