Rockingham County working toward purchasing Massanutten water system

Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 4:55 PM EDT
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MASSANUTTEN, Va. (WHSV) - Rockingham County is continuing to work toward purchasing the Massanutten Water and Sewer system. The county hired a consultant to oversee the system’s appraisal and hopes to have that complete in the next 30 days at which point it would be in a position to make a fair-market offer on the system.

“What we want to do is identify what that purchase price is and we’re going to have to have some borrowing to pay for that purchase. When you include that borrowing and the cost of operating the system what does that look like when it comes to rates users will have to pay up there and how does that compare to what they’re paying now?” said Rockingham County Administrator Stephen King.

For years Massanutten residents have been paying significantly more on their monthly water and sewer bills than people in surrounding areas. The main reason for this is that the water and sewer system is controlled by a private for-profit company called Utlities Inc.

Rockingham County has been looking into purchasing and taking control of the system for more than a year but the process has been slow.

“The owners of the system aren’t eager to sell it so we have to go in with an offer that’s a fair market value offer and the board will have to decide if they’re going to proceed to the next level and potentially take an adverse take of the facility. So that’s really what has caused the delay,” said King.

King said that after the appraisal is complete the county will determine if it can make an offer and afford to take over the system and still offer lower rates for customers in Massanutten. The county would have a number of advantages when operating the system that would help reduce the burden on customers.

“We’re local, we’re going to be accountable and approachable to the citizens who live up there. We have equipment, systems, and employees, and we have billing already set up that we can absorb into that process. So we’ll have some savings operationally when it comes to that,” said King.

According to the county, there were around 3,015 water customers and 2,942 sewer customers in Massanutten in 2021. King asked for patience from Massanutten residents as the county continues to do what it can to purchase the system.

“I appreciate their frustration, I understand that but this is really a unique situation when you’re trying to acquire a privately owned water and utility system from an owner who isn’t eager to sell,” he said.

King said there is no set timetable for how long the negotiation process will last.