Rockingham County working toward purchasing Massanutten water system

MASSANUTTEN, Va. (WHSV) – Rockingham County continues to work towards acquiring the Massanutten water and sewage system. The county hired a consultant to oversee the evaluation of the system and hopes that this will be completed within the next 30 days, at which time it would be able to provide a fair market bid for the system.

“What we want to do is determine that purchase price, and we need to take out a loan to pay for that purchase. If you factor in that borrowing and the cost of running the system, how does that compare when it comes to the rates that users have to pay up there and how does that compare to what they’re paying now?” said Stephen King, administrator of Rockingham County.

For years, residents of Massanutten have been paying significantly more on their monthly water and sanitation bills than those in the area. The main reason for this is that the water and sewage system is controlled by a private, for-profit company called Utlities Inc.

Rockingham County has been considering buying and taking control of the system for more than a year, but the process has been slow.

“The owners of the system don’t want to sell it so we need to make an offer that is fair market value and the board needs to decide if they move on to the next stage and possibly accept an offer that would adversely affect the inclusion of the facility.” So that’s really the reason for the delay,” King said.

King said that once the evaluation is complete, the county will decide if it can make an offer and afford to adopt the system and still offer lower rates to Massanutten customers. The district would have a number of advantages in operating the system, which would help to relieve customers.

“We are local, we will be accountable and accessible to the citizens who live up there. We have equipment, systems and people, and we already have accounts in place that we can integrate into this process. So we’re going to get some savings operationally,” King said.

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

“I appreciate your frustration, I understand, but this is really a unique situation when you are trying to acquire a private water and utility system from an owner who is unwilling to sell,” he said.

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

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