I attended the public hearing for the Rappahannock Water and Sewer Authority’s proposed rate increases last week. No matter what opinion anyone may have of the rate increases and whether or not they should have gone forward, you could not deny that the board members had done a lot of work thinking through the financial state of the authority and making sure that their approach was reasonable, sound and justifiable.
The board members are volunteers and uncompensated, taking on the management of the sewer system in their “free” time and performing tasks that a larger public utility would pay very good money to have done. And we, as Sperryville sewer users, are getting this oversight, research and strategy without paying staff. We are fortunate to have this caliber of board member, even if we don’t all see eye-to-eye on the decisions.
At the public hearing, several members of the audience had suggestions for how the authority could be more transparent in their operations. Putting meeting dates on bills, making the minutes more available and encouraging the Rappahannock News to attend meetings were all mentioned as possibilities. These are great suggestions and if it drives more citizen involvement, that only helps the board members to make better decisions for this public utility.
While there is always a possibility for more communication from any organization, there is also the responsibility of citizens to seek out the information. It is easy for a public board to stop communicating when no one is asking or responding, and it is our responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. We should attend meetings, ask helpful questions and offer to help on needed tasks.
In spite of this call for transparency, it was ironic that all but one member of the audience left right after the public hearing, opting out of the portion of the meeting where issues are raised and decisions are made. And the representative from the Rappahannock News left, too.