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Snyder Makes Direct, Public Appeal To Bulova to Negotiate Water Deal

F.C. Vice Mayor in Dramatic Outreach To Fairfax’s Chair

Vice Mayor David Snyder, chairing this Monday’s Falls Church City Council meeting, made a dramatic, on-the-camera appeal to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova to end the county’s refusal to negotiate in good faith on the future of the Falls Church water system. So far, he said, Fairfax has offered “nothing but confrontation, litigation and confiscation.”

 

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F.C. Vice Mayor in Dramatic Outreach To Fairfax’s Chair

Vice Mayor David Snyder, chairing this Monday’s Falls Church City Council meeting, made a dramatic, on-the-camera appeal to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova to end the county’s refusal to negotiate in good faith on the future of the Falls Church water system. So far, he said, Fairfax has offered “nothing but confrontation, litigation and confiscation.”

Snyder’s appeal, made while looking directly into the television camera telecasting the meeting live Monday, came just prior to the City Council’s unanimous vote 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.

“Our doors are open,” Snyder, filling in for Mayor Nader Baroukh, said. “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.”

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 passing an ordinance last December to assume 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 on the operation of the system.

Thus, he said, the Falls Church Council had moved earlier this year to explore options, including the sale of the system. He said the factors of legal and political obstacles, the promise of obtaining a substantial fair market value, and expressions of interest from many parties in the acquisition of the system contributed as reasons moving ahead toward a potential 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 “appeared to have 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 alleviate the pressure to sell the system, such as by its own acquisition of the system at a fair market price.

Asked by Kaylin, Shields said that while Fairfax County had received an request for expression of interest, “repeated efforts to engage with the county have not worked.”

Councilman Ron Peppe, who made the motion Monday, said that “the current situation is not sustainable. The current water rates won’t stay the same no matter what.”

He suggested that having an impartial, non-political entity like the State Corporation Commission set the water rates might be better for everybody than a “political entity” like the county’s Board of Supervisors. The SCC option would accrue if the sale was to a private entity.

Shields said the components of the sale include a one-year rate freeze, guaranteed employment for all currently employed operating the system for one year, uniform rates for City and county users, the availability of a loca lpayment location, and meetings two times a year with a local citizens advisory board.

The Council’s preliminary OK Monday set the stage for May 25, the deadline for receiving bids on the system. A bid minimum of $44 million was set, to include a 40 year easement on City property to operate 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 Monday’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.

Baroukh was absent from Monday’s meeting by virtue of his wedding in Maui, Hawaii, last week. Also absent was Council member Robin Gardner. With vacations and business travel complicating the schedules of the City’s seven Council members, June 7 was determined to be a date when all would be present, given the importance of the vote and the need for a 75 percent majority (six of seven members) to pass it.

The push for a timely vote is based on the time needed to have the matter vetted and approved for inclusion as a referendum on this November’s general election ballot, and also the desire to have the current City Council make the decision, and not the new Council that will be sworn in with two new members on July 2.

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