By Leslie Yevak
In a break with custom, Rockbridge County’s Public Service Authority will offer water and sewer services for Washington and Lee University’s new upper-division housing and indoor swimming facility.
The university will begin requiring third-year students to live on campus in September 2016. So it is planning more than 300 new housing units on the back campus, near Route 60 West (West Nelson Street) and West Denny Circle. The university also plans to build an indoor swimming facility at the site. The projected cost of both projects is nearly $37 million.
In the past, Lexington has always provided water and sewer services to the university, even when a project was built on county land. The city had sought to provide the service to the new construction as well.
But an agreement between the city and county signed in 2007 said Lexington must request permission from the county Public Service Authority before providing water and wastewater services to a county customer. The county recently denied the city’s request.
Lexington Public Works Director Mike Kennedy said the city will no longer be involved in any of the water and wastewater plans for the university’s project.
“We felt in the interest of getting the Washington and Lee project to be able to move forward, that we would not press the issue any further,” Kennedy said.
The county PSA’s decision did not slow plans to begin construction on the upper-division housing. Executive Director of University Facilities John Hoogakker said the project will begin about March 1.
“The plans are very well advanced, and this is one of the last pieces to fit into place,” Hoogakker said.
Existing buildings on the W&L campus that sit on county property but receive water and sewer services from the city include the Duchossois Tennis Center, the Student Activities Pavilion, and some playing fields.
Kennedy said the city could offer a more efficient arrangement needed to provide water services to those buildings.
How it works
The Maury Service Authority, the Lexington Public Works Department and the county PSA all work together to provide water and wastewater services to Lexington and Rockbridge County.
The Maury Service Authority operates a water treatment plant and a wastewater treatment plant. It sells filtered water to the city and the county, and receives their wastewater to treat it before discharged into the Maury River.
The Lexington Public Works Department provides water and wastewater services to customers within the city as well as a few nearby county customers.
The Public Service Authority offers services to other county customers in areas adjacent to the city.
Rockbridge County Supervisor Rusty Ford said nearly all of W&L’s 200-acre building site lies in the county. The exception is the swimming facility, or natatorium, which will require a big part of the water supply necessary for the new development.
Kennedy said W&L sent him a request in September, asking the city to provide water and wastewater services for the new student housing, including the natatorium.
“So we followed that provision in the agreement and notified the Rockbridge County Public Service Authority that we were in a position to be able to serve those new buildings from the existing infrastructure on campus,” Kennedy said.
County Administrator Spencer Suter agrees with the PSA’s decision to turn down the city’s request.
“I’ve met with the [Lexington] city manager, the public works director, and the PSA director, and we’re trying to do what local government should do, and work together to make sure that this is a seamless project,” Suter said. “We agreed right from the get-go…that we definitely don’t want to hold this project up.”
PSA Director Melissa Alexander said she didn’t know yet whether the university’s project will require additional water and sewer infrastructure in the county.