The town of Montross is not the only spot that is in the process of overhauling aspects of its water system. Westmoreland County itself has been in the process of paying for the replacement of its water wells. 

The whole idea got started several years ago, when Vice Chairman Hynson, County Administrator Norm Risavi, and Montross Town Manager Patricia Lewis went to the Department of Environmental Quality in response to a state mandate that required everyone to replace their existing gravel-packed wells. 

While nothing was wrong with these wells, the call from up top now was for concrete-packed wells only. In the process of doing this, new wells would have to be drilled and the old ones capped off, along with a back-up well. If the town and county each did these, that would mean having to whip up another four wells, which would have been a rather expensive option.

It was the water needs of the new high school that presented a solution. Over the course of the last few years, it had come to light that the water needs of the town, which was being constructed in the corporate limits of Montross, were far too great for the system in Montross to handle. The option that was eventually agreed upon was for the county and town water systems to be interconnected in such a way that the county’s water would help pick up the slack, so to speak. With the water systems interconnected, this also opened up the possibility of both the town of Montross and the county rigging up joint wells, thus only having to have two wells drilled instead of four.

Back in November, Risavi had a report for the board containing estimates from Resource International on what it would cost to drill a 10-inch well 675 feet deep, coming in at just over $1 million. To assist the county with seeking a community development block grant, Risavi brought in Jerry Davis, the head of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission. These block grants would, in Risavi’s words, “lighten the load so that we wouldn’t have to borrow all of those funds.”

At December’s meeting, Davis was on hand to give an update to the board on how far the process involving the block grants had gotten.

“The Housing and Community Development program design for next year is still being finalized,” he explained. “The programs are construction-ready water and sewer fund within the block grant program.”

Normally, things would be opened up for grant applications on January 1, but since some programs are still being changed around, the tentative date for grant applications is now April 1.

“We’re continuing to work with the county and the DHCD to put the application together. It’s the sort of thing that, in order to access the funds, your project will have to be ready to go. That means you’ll need a lot of approvals done, and they (the DHCD) will require that the county do an environmental review.”

“So far,” Davis continued, “this project is part of an overall water system upgrade that the town is doing, and USDA is funding it. That did not require an environmental review, but the DHCD will. The Planning District Commission is going to get that started and finished by the time we get to the application deadline.”

Under the current guidelines, the county could be eligible for up to a $650,000 grant, and the program would require that at least 51% of the residents in the service area with low-to-moderate incomes benefit from the project, something Davis felt the county could easily show.

According to Risavi, if the county cannot secure this grant, they will have to raise the water rates over 100% to be able to pay the debt service, which would be a massive burden on a rather large portion of the county, so this particular step is absolutely critical. To get the pieces in place that night, two resolutions were adopted, with one allowing the county to adopt the numerous documents for the program, while the second was the authorization. With both unanimously approved, Davis and the NNPDC can get to work on taking care of the numerous hurdles and hoops that they need to jump through.