Bayview tries again to pass water bond

by Ralph Bartholdt
Staff Writer | May 21, 2020 1:00 AM

BAYVIEW — The more than 480 patrons of the Bayview Water and Sewer District are deciding whether to approve a $3.4 million bond to fix the district’s water system over the next decade.

It’s the third time patrons will go to the polls to decide how to deal with low pressure and leaking pipes in the district that are a result of an antiquated system.

The contentious issue may be gaining traction, however, board chairman Calvin Nolan said. But it’s still too close to call.

“I think it’s more popular than the last two bonds,” Nolan said.

A bond measure which sought to replace an ancient 25,000-plus gallon water tower that the district leases from the U.S. Navy was among the reasons for the recall last year of two board members. Most town members wanted the system repaired, while the board members sought a more permanent solution.

“They wanted a whole new system,” Nolan said.

Although the majority of residents want the district to make repairs and refurbish the World War II-vintage water tower, Nolan said, upgrades, in the long run, may be more costly.

If the measure passes, the latest proposal seeks to install a 12-inch water main around town that will help do away with low pressure in some areas, including along the north bay neighborhoods.

The next phase would go after leaks in the smaller transmission lines in town and the third phase would replace lines that go from the well pumps to the tower, and refurbish the tower which the district leases from the Navy.

Bayview resident Bill Somers — who led last year’s recall effort — agrees the system needs an upgrade, but said he is holding out for a second opinion before voting in favor of a $3.4 million bond measure.

“We still don’t know when we vote if it’s for a new water tank or to rehab our existing tank,” Somers said. “There are too many unanswered questions.”

The two previous measures failed for a reason, Somers said. He doesn’t have much faith in the latest proposal.

“How can you be expected to vote for something you don’t know what you’re voting for?” Somers said.

But Nolan said the need is pretty clear. If the system with its lead jointed pipes, its leaks and low pressure isn’t repaired soon, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality can downgrade the entire system, which would prevent fire departments from using the hydrants, lower property values and prevent banks from providing home loans on Bayview properties.

If the district doesn’t make repairs, Nolan said, the county at the behest of DEQ could step in and mandate upgrading the system.

“We’re kind of in a tough spot,” he said.

The vantage this year, though, is less strident than a year ago when board members Robyn Edwards and Sharon Meyer were voted off the board by a wide margin after they used taxpayer money to hire an attorney to help them resist the recall.

Somers led the recall petition against both former members who said a judge, not voters, should decide whether they should stay on the board.

Patrons wanted both women removed, according to court records, because “they failed and lost the public trust … engaged in reckless disregard for the concerns of patrons and voters … (their) leadership has resulted in the mismanagement of assets … engaged in what appear to be predetermined decisions and actions … treated patrons in a condescending manner … engaged in … abuse of authority of office,” according to court records.

Nolan said the latest bond measure, if it passes, carries an interest rate of 1.75%. It would require over a period of 30 years repayment of $4.4 million, which includes $3.4 million in principal and $973,000 in interest.

It also opens the door for a new, longer lease agreement for the Navy tower and could lead to the district owning a backup well and tower located in Farragut State Park.