Town renews ESS contract

The Washington Town Council voted Monday night (Oct. 8) to renew its service contract with Environmental Systems Services (ESS), the Culpeper-based company that has managed the town’s wastewater treatment facility for several years.

The town’s original contract with ESS expired in July, and required ESS to submit a new offer for the town to consider. Mayor John Sullivan noted that ESS helped design the facility and, more important for the town, would not require an increase to continue operating it.

“They’re a very good and competent company,” said Sullivan. “And I trust them.”

Sullivan pointed out that Washington lacks the budget to maintain its own wastewater facility, and that the new ESS contract would remain at $95,000 for its services; the town still has to budget for emergency or overnight repairs that take place outside of the facility’s normal business hours. Sullivan said he believed the town could set aside the same amount as last year (roughly $28,000) for those repairs, though he did stress that the figure was just an estimate.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the contract renewal; members Patrick O’Connell and Daniel Spethmann were absent.

The council then discussed several other matters, including the possibility of offering emergency water supplies to county residents who lose power, as many did in the June derecho storm. Sullivan pointed out that the town’s power was back within 24 hours of that storm, but many residents in the region were without it for as long as a week after the storm.

Sullivan proposed setting up a system, with the county’s cooperation, for citizens to come and get water from the town (which comes from a central well and pumping station in Harris Hollow). No time frame or details have been set up, Sullivan said, but council members seemed pleased with the idea. “People here have a need for it, and there’s no cost for us to do it,” said Sullivan. “So why not do it?”

The town applied for a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Advisory Committee earlier this month (Oct. 1). The grant would allow the town to “provide habitat restoration and rehabilitation of native flora and fauna” in the region. According to the proposal, the grant would be used to build six mulch garden areas that would feature small trees, shrubs and wildflowers; plant native trees around the gardens; and install an 800-foot walking trail that would wind through the area. 

Mayor Sullivan thanked local Master Naturalists for their work in applying for the grant, and said that the outcome of the grant won’t be decided until spring of next year.

The council also commented on the repainting of the town’s fire hydrants – “I didn’t think they would be that green,” joked council member and town treasurer Jerry Goebel. Sullivan said that the the town received a bid from an unnamed outside company to refurbish the hydrants for about $3,000. According to Sullivan, the Washington Volunteer Fire and Rescue agreed to do the job for a donation (the exact amount of which will be determined at the council’s next meeting Nov. 12).