By Terry Harris
When the Town of Waverly received word on Friday that the Virginia State Corporation Commission had approved the sale of the town’s water system to Virginia American Water, the reactions of both Mayor Angela McPhaul and Town Council President Franklin Cox were unequivocal.
“This is the biggest thing that’s happened in Waverly in a long time,” exclaimed Cox.
“I am just so excited and happy for the town,” said McPhaul.
Their elation stemmed from much more than the princely sum of $2.2 million the town stands to collect in total, as the state’s approval was just the latest and near-final step in a process on which the two, along with a water committee comprised of Waverly citizens, had been working for years, as Cox explained.
“We started the process about three years ago, and had a lot of steps to go through,” he began. “The most problems we have had were with groundwater, as we have been dealing with a very old system we cannot afford to upgrade.”
“Anyone who lives in Waverly can tell you of the problems we have had with water throughout the town,” he continued. “It’s been killing our Public Works people dealing with constant leaks. And for us to even try to replace this antique system would have cost many millions, which the town just does not have.”
“This step of the state’s approval to sell to American Water paves the way for so many positive things for Waverly,” Cox said. “The service is going to get better, rates will hold steady for several years, the town is going to realize a gain of more than $2 million immediately, and the American Water people have made it clear from the beginning that they are already making plans for things to solve situations with leaks, the filtrations system, minerals – things we have not been able to afford to do ourselves. This is in addition to the money they are paying up front. They are going to start investing millions in our system to begin to upgrade it immediately.”
“They already have GPS mapped every single person’s water meter in town, and they will replace all of them with state of the art technology,” added McPhaul. “And they have committed contractually not to raise water prices at all for two years, and even then, any increases will be gradual.”
McPhaul also expressed satisfaction with knowing that after years of the Public Works Department having to spend so much time fixing leaks, no longer having to maintain the old, dilapidated water system will free them to maintain the cemetery, the streets, and perform numerous other important jobs that were being constantly interrupted for water leak emergencies.
“No one will be losing jobs over this,” she confirmed. “We have a great Public Works team, and this will free them to actually be able to do their jobs – much for the betterment of their working conditions and for the town.”
McPhaul also commented on the corporate citizenship that American Water has displayed while the last three years of negotiations have been ongoing.
“For example, they came out as volunteers to help with the SCYMAC overhaul during the LOWES 100 project,” she said, “They have been generous sponsors of our last two 5K runs, and an important aspect of the negotiations to make this all happen was their commitment to keeping water rates low. They are buying the wells, the towers, everything – which means we will be out of the water business, thereby releasing funds, manpower, mental energy, and time which can be devoted to improvements in other areas of our continued effort to make and keep Waverly a place we all can enjoy – and of which we all can be proud.”
With the only remaining step in the process being for the council to formally accept the agreement with American Water, Cox said that a second public hearing will be held within the next few weeks which he urges everyone to watch for and attend.
“We’re not required to hold this one,” said Cox. “We already had a public hearing on the sale of the water system in 2020. But besides the fact that we feel like it’s important to be perfectly transparent with our citizens, this will give everyone a chance to ask any questions they might have, and us an opportunity to present details about what’s finally happening to improve what has long been an oppressive water situation. Citizen response to doing this was so overwhelmingly positive at the first, official public hearing, we moved forward, worked though the contract, just finally got approval through the state, and now we’re going to have one more final public hearing basically to finalize the deal and spread the good news.”
“Bottom line,” he said, “The current system is SO old and difficult to maintain, that we are looking forward to having a company with deep pockets and so much expertise – with 171 years in the business they know what they’re doing – coming in to finally fix our water system here in Waverly – make it right. This is an enormous win for the citizens of Waverly, and, quite frankly, I am overjoyed.”