Town of Chincoteague accepts real-estate donation for sewage treatment

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BY CAROL VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post

The Chincoteague Town Council on Jan. 3 approved a resolution authorizing the acceptance of a real-estate donation from Chincoteague Sunsets LLC of sewage treatment facilities.

The town in November 2020 began negotiations with Bluewater Development Corporation and Sunset Bay Utilities, the owners at the time, to acquire the facilities, including two package treatment plants, a limited collection system, and operating permits, according to Town Manager Mike Tolbert.

The Town Council in February 2022 announced its intended acquistion of the facilities. The acquisition was completed as of Dec. 30, Tolbert said.

The facilities were acquired through donation by the developer, who will lease and operate the plant for up to one year.

“Ownership of this plant provides several advantages for the town, not the least of which is the additional capacity provided by an approved and unused 37,500-gallon-per-day permit,” Tolbert said.

The additional capacity can be used to offer service to commercial customers who currently have few or no sewage options, he said.

Addtionally, Hampton Roads Sanitation District has agreed to take ownership of the facility from the town to service the existing customers and to develop the additional capacity as permitted.

The developer’s lease will cease when HRSD assumes ownership, Tolbert said.

HRSD will operate the facility as part of its service area, with the town retaining the right to approve new customer connections.

The town agreed to make improvements to the facility upon transfer to HRSD, using a portion of federal funds that came to Chincoteague as result of the American Rescue Plan Act.

“While this is a first step towards public sewage treatment on the island, we recognize that it is not a comprehensive solution. The town therefore has committed to working with HRSD and the appropriate state and federal agencies to develop additional treatment capacity within the corporate limits,” Tolbert said.

Mayor J. Arthur Leonard said “this has been Mike’s big item over the past year,” acknowledging the “countless hours” of effort expended by Tolbert resulting in the donation.

Federal funding to relocate Chincoteague’s town wells away from NASA Wallops Flight Facilty was not included in Congress’ omnibus spending bill passed in late December.

Tolbert said he worked with the offices of U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and with NASA’s legislative liaison in December to get language included in the legislation that would have addressed the funding, but he said negotiations were rushed as legislators worked to get the bill passed before the end of the congressional term.

“It happened mostly all in one day. To make a long story short, what we were offered in the morning I said no to, and at the end of the day we were back to what was originally offered five years ago. For a five-year-old estimate, I didn’t think that that amount of money would have a chance of doing what we need to do, so I said, no, we’ll just wait until next year,” he said.

NASA has offered to help the town prepare a new estimate to submit to Congress for funding next year, Tolbert said.

Tolbert said work is set to begin Jan. 16 on the Memorial Park boat ramp reconstruction, after the Town Council awarded a contract to Fisher Marine Construction in December. The work is to be completed by May 1, according to the contract.

Chincoteague’s meals and transient occupancy taxes in December continued to compare favorably with last year, according to Tolbert.

Transient occupancy taxes were up 14% over December 2021. The total collected was $97,938, nearly $40,000 more than the three-year average for the same month.

The town collected $59,747 in meals taxes in December, which is $7,374 more than the three-year average, although it is slightly less than last year’s December collection, $64,478.

The Town Council voted for Chris Bott to serve as vice mayor in 2023.

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