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Stafford supervisors put off vote on contract

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The Stafford Board of Supervisors deferred a decision to award a $11.9 million contract to a Richmond-based company to construct the indoor recreation facility at Embrey Mill at its meeting Tuesday.

Supervisors Robert Thomas and Paul Milde shared concerns that building the facility before the county has had a chance to talk with the potential operators is putting the cart before the horse.

While the county is planning to construct the facility, it will be privately operated. Several bids have come in to operate the facility, and staff is still gathering information on those bids.

“We still don’t know exactly who is going to operate this,” Thomas said. “There are too many unknowns for me.”

Thomas added that he doesn’t want to build a facility that no one wants to operate.

Milde said that there should be a chance to talk with potential operators.

Supervisor Cord Sterling disagreed and argued that the county should pick an operator that wants to work with the planned facility.

“This is about building a facility for the community, not the operator,” Sterling said.

Supervisor Laura Sellers’ motion to defer the matter to the board’s second meeting in June passed unanimously.

The $11.9 million bid from Loughridge & Company LLC was the lowest out of six bids.

The 76,000-square-foot indoor facility will include three pools, one of which is a 50-meter deep water pool that is meant to attract regional swimming competitions. A shallower pool meant for family activities, a therapy pool, exercise rooms and lockers will also be part of the facility.

The indoor facility will be part of a 50-acre site with space for 11 rectangular fields that will also be capable of hosting regional tournaments.

The bids for the indoor facility construction brought the total cost estimate of the project up to $25.5 million, which is $2.5 million more than the original cost estimate. That estimate was based on four artificial turf fields and two grass fields at the rectangular field complex.

Staff said that retaining walls to provide for a runoff area between the rectangular fields; evaluation and design efforts for the indoor recreation center; and the decision to have artificial turf fields all contributed to the higher total cost estimate.

Two residents spoke during a public hearing on the matter.

“This is the worst case of project management that I have seen in 30 years of government work,” Dean Fetterolf said. “You’re already $2.5 million over your budget. … You don’t have a schedule.”

Paul Waldowski said that the county should look into the injuries that artificial turf fields have caused.

During their afternoon meeting, supervisors decided that the public will get a chance to weigh in on a proposal to implement stormwater-related fees along with the fees the county currently charges builders for development project applications and land disturbance permits.

Supervisors agreed to advertise a public hearing on the stormwater-related fees.

The fees will help offset the additional regulatory burden placed on Stafford’s stormwater program by the state.

The state mandate requires Stafford to merge the Virginia stormwater-management permit program with the county’s existing stormwater management program. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality did regulate the permit program.

The merger means additional responsibilities for the county, but will help streamline the process for developers by creating a one-stop shop for VSMP and land-disturbance permits. The mandate also requires that Stafford remit a portion of the fees to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Because of the additional responsibilities the merger creates, the state has allowed the county to charge fees for VSMP-related items.

The proposal for the VSMP fees is separate from the half-cent stormwater tax and stormwater utility fee that supervisors have previously discussed, but have not adopted. The revenue from a potential stormwater service district or stormwater utility fee will help the county bring Stafford’s existing development into compliance with state and federal mandates aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Those mandates require Stafford to reduce the county’s runoff into the bay. County staff will come back in June with information on a potential stormwater utility fee.

VSMP fees, on the other hand, would only be paid for by those filling out permit or development applications and ensure that new development complies with stormwater regulations.

According to staff, the new fees would not make much of a difference in the amount builders currently pay. For a family home on 1.5 disturbed acres, the fees would drop from $1,050 under the current regulations to $809.

The fees paid for a single-family home on less than 1 acre would go up slightly, from $800 to $809, a staff report states.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975