Monterey Town Council Adopts Water Supply Plan Put Forth By James River Basin Planning Group
Monterey, VA – Monterey council held a public hearing and considered adoption of a water supply plan and ordinance during its regular meeting on February 2. Approximately 80 percent of Highland County lies in the James River watershed, but the northern tip of the county, including the Town of Monterey, lies in the Shenandoah/Potomac rivers watershed.
Nevertheless, in 2007, Monterey council voted to participate as a member of the James River Basin planning group, after the governor ordered statewide water supply planning. The town had a deadline of November 2, 2011 to adopt the water supply plan and drought ordinance developed by the James River Basin planning group, but some leeway was given to localities that were working toward adoption of their respective plans.
In December, officials from the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality briefed council on details of the plan, and agreed to make changes requested by council. The changes included using river gauges in the South Branch of the Potomac, rather than in the James River, to trigger Monterey’s drought ordinance – reconciling the plan and the ordinance with Monterey’s actual watershed.
The officials reminded council that he town could be fined if it did not adopt the plan and ordinance. Prior to the public hearing, Mayor Janice Warner said the CSPDC had made the requested changes to the plan. Just one town resident, Jay Garber, attended the meeting to voice his concerns. Garber said he was concerned the governor would issue a drought for the James River Basin, and include Monterey, unnecessarily.
“I’m opposed to Monterey being in the James River Basin, because we don’t contribute any water to it,” he said. “If there is a drought declared, us being on water rationing wouldn’t help alleviate the problem down there.”
Town attorney Melissa Ann Dowd responded that the governor does not declare droughts by watersheds.
“The governor declares drought designations by legal jurisdictions, not by James River Basin or any other descriptor” she said. “So, it will be Highland County, if there is a drought designation and, if the governor declares a drought, the town has no say in it whatsoever.”
Dowd tells council that it retains control during a drought, with one exception.
“Drought stages are drought watch, drought warning and drought emergency,” she said. “On notification to council that a drought stage exists, the council may issue a declaration of a drought stage and the council is in total charge of issuing any kind of declaration, under your own ordinance. The only exception is if the governor makes a declaration for Highland County, which would encompass the Town of Monterey.”
Councilmember Francis Fenn says council needs to act.
“The bottom line is – we must sign it or we will be fined, he said.”
Council voted 4-0 to adopt the water supply plan and drought ordinance. Councilmembers Ronald Weimer and Dale Hammer were not present.
Council reviewed a proposal from Natural Stone Signs of Picakaway, West Virginia for four stone welcome signs at a cost of $5,750. Highland County resident Donna Bedwell told council wooden signs would fit in better with the look of the community. Although not a town resident, Bedwell urges council to buy local.
“We’re going into West Virginia to have them made, at a time when we’re really trying to promote a lot of buy local and keep it local,” she said.
Warner told Bedwell that no local company makes stone signs and tells Bedwell that stone signs are more durable.
“One of the things that we thought about, Donna, is durability,” she said. “It seems like it’s no time at all before the wood ones need to be redone.”
Council voted 4-0 to approve the purchase from Natural Stone Signs.
Warner asked Dowd for a recommendation on the best way to make changes to the town charter, such as reducing the number of council seats from six to four and increasing town council terms from two years to four. Dowd advised council to provide ample opportunity for public input and submit a proposed new charter to the General Assembly. Dowd said a referendum is another method but that getting the issue on the ballot is a multi-step process and would incur significant legal fees for her assistance.
Council voted 4-0 to allow Warner to appoint a five-person committee to work on the charter change. The last town charter was approved in 1952.
In other business, Monterey council:
– voted 4-0 to donate $300 to the after-prom committee.
– voted 4-0 to donate $100 to the Highland Chamber of Commerce for child bicycle helmets, to be distributed free during Maple Festival.
– voted 4-0 to transfer $10,290 to accounts to cover maintenance, legal and advertising costs.
The next regular meeting of the Monterey council is scheduled for Thursday, March 1 at the Highland County Library.