Monterey Town Council Holds Special Meeting Regarding Consultant

The Monterey Town Council voted Monday to retain the services of a karst hydrologist in it’s fight to protect the town water supply from potential damage, but the decision did not come lightly, or without debate.

During the Council’s regular April meeting, town resident and local cave expert Rick Lambert had presented on the potential dangers to the water supply that could be caused by construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He had recommended the Council contact  Bill Jones, a renowned karst hydrologist from Bath County. Lambert said that Jones had offered to give an initial assessment at no charge, and if further efforts were undertaken, a price would be negotiated, and the Council voted to do so.

Lambert was at the special meeting to report that Jones had travelled to Highland for the assessment, and was of the opinion that Dominion could not absolutely state that the construction would not affect the town water supply, and would write a letter to this affect to be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a fee of $500. Lambert felt that, at this stage, raising a level of doubt with F.E.R.C. would be sufficient, and that Dominion should be ordered by the Commission to conduct tracers tests, at their own cost, to verify or disprove any danger to the water. Lambert also reported that the Virginia Cave Council, which is appointed by the Governor, will be filing a letter with similar concerns with F.E.R.C.

Council member Cody Cohen made a motion to move forward with hiring Mr. Jones to write his letter, and discussion ensued. Council member Jack Killgallen questioned the need for paying for the service and the letter, if the Cave Council filing would  essentially be saying the same thing. Lambert responded that Mr. Jones’ opinion would carry much more weight with the Commission, due to his education and reputation. Killgallen also wondered if Jones could potentially be hired by Dominion to conduct the tracer tests if the company was ordered to do so – Lambert felt this was unlikely, as it would be a conflict of interest if Jones was writing his letter expressing doubt on Dominion’s assertion no damage would be caused.

Mayor Rich Holman felt strongly that the action should be taken. He pointed out the number of meetings he had attended to raise his concerns and try to receive answers, and ultimately was told Dominion would do nothing more than what F.E.R.C. ordered them to do if problems eventually arose. He expressed doubt about Dominion’s record of dealing with issues in previous projects, and noted that even before the project has been officially approved, the company is requesting a waiver to lengthen the amount of trench it could have open at any one time, a procedure that could cause sediment issues if heavy rains fell before the trench was closed. He felt so strongly on the need to have the Council’s opinion on record, bolstered by an expert, that he said if the Council did not approve, he would likely personally hire Mr. Jones for this purpose himself.

Council member Ronald Wimer expressed reservations with the action, noting that he had expected more detailed analysis and reporting to be done as part of the services the consultant would provide for his fee.

Ultimately, the Council voted in favor of retaining Mr. Jones to write and file his letter, with Mayor Holman, Mr. Killgallen and Ms. Cohen voting to approve the motion, and Mr. Wimer abstaining.

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Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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