By Hannah Denham
At least six businesses in the last 10 years decided against opening in the eastern part of Lexington because they could not connect to the sewage lines.
Melissa Alexander, executive director of the Rockbridge County Public Service Authority, said no new buildings, including residences, can connect to the current pump station on Campbell Lane because it has been at full capacity since 2007.
The authority has been working on a plan to fix the sewage system since November with a $2.4 million loan from the national BB&T bank. It will take about 1½ years to complete.
BB&T Bank’s financing for the project, if approved at the county Board of Supervisors meeting on March 12, will be official by the end of the month. Once the board has approved the funding it will set a date to begin construction.
The first phase of the plan includes building a new pump station near the Taco Bell located by the Route 60 interchange with Route 11.
A force main, a device that works against gravity to force sewage up pipes, also will be installed as part of phase one. It will run along Route 11, from Old Buena Vista Road to the proposed pump station near Taco Bell. The force main will divert the county’s sewage away from the station on Campbell Lane.
Alexander said the problem hasn’t been addressed before because of a lack of funding.
“We can’t financially afford to enter into a new sewage project,” she said. “We’ve got sewer lines here, but we can’t allow anyone to connect to it because the pump station is at capacity.”
Chuck Barger, a local developer and owner of the construction company Charles W. Barger & Son, owns 23 acres of land near the Route 60 East and I-81 interchange that hasn’t been developed because new sewage connections can’t be made with the current pump station.
“This is such a small area that it seems a shame we couldn’t work something out, but I’m glad the county is stepping up,” Barger said. “I’m ecstatic about that.”
Sam Crickenberger, Rockbridge County’s director of community development, said the area along Route 60 and its interchange with I-81 is a “business corridor.” He said businesses that turned away from the area include a hotel, an apartment complex, an auto parts store and a discount variety store.
The next phase of the sewage project would extend the area’s current sewage collection and water distribution system’s lines all the way out to I-81. This would cost an additional $9.6 million, which hasn’t been financed.
“Growth benefits everybody,” Alexander said. “We’re here as a service to the public, and when you can’t do that, it’s difficult.”
Barger said several businesses want to buy his land now that the sewage problem is being fixed.
“That will mean tax revenue and jobs, which people certainly seem to want,” he said.
Crickenberger said real estate taxes provide the biggest chunk of the county’s revenues.
“The more commercial development,” he said, “the more money in the tax base.”