Pulaski County Sewerage Authority says it's out of money and considering a merger

Move could mean sewer rates in Fairlawn would rise by more than $20 in 5 years

FAIRLAWN, Va. – The Pulaski County Sewerage Authority (PCSA) says it's out of money. This is leading it to consider a merger with the county's Public Service Authority (PSA), but board members tabled the issue during a meeting after an overwhelming outcry from the community. Many are concerned about the probable rate increase it would put on their sewer bill.

Right now, people in Fairlawn enjoy the lowest sewage rates in the state at a flat rate of $23 a month. The county's PSA would raise that by more than $20 a month in the next five years if the merger occurs to bring it more in line with the rest of the county. Tuesday evening, dozens showed up to a public hearing at Riverlawn Elementary to voice their concern.

The PCSA has been in operation since 1965, and since then has only raised its rates a total of $17.

"This authority provided what Fairlawn needed at the cheapest rate in Virginia, and I don't see where we can be penalized because we have held the rates down for these people," said former PCSA board member Kyle Dehart.

But current board members fired back, saying the PCSA doesn't have a choice.

"They don't have any money," said County Supervisor and current PCSA board member Joe Guthrie. "If anybody has had to wait until the last day of the month to pay a bill, they know what it's like to be the PCSA right now, and that's where we are."

Guthrie says the authority got to this point after miscalculating how much a new sewer line would cost.

"A project that we thought would cost about 600 thousand dollars cost about a million dollars and drained most of the reserves unexpectedly and very quickly," said Guthrie.

But former PCSA board chair Ronnie Coake isn't buying it.

"It's not the only option, they're putting money in the kittie every month," said Coake.

Coake says when he was on the board, they budgeted for the sewer line that now extends from kroger north into Fairlawn, and says he's spoken to banks that will lend the authority money. He also says, there are other concerns with joining the county.

"Once you join the Pulaski County Public Service Authority, and you pay a bill here, it may go anywhere in Pulaski County that's served by the Pulaski County Public Service Authority," said Coake.

Guthrie says that concern can also be a positive.

"Do Fairlawn dollars go into Pulaski County? Yes, but do Pulaski County dollars come into Fairlawn? And the answer is yes," said Guthrie.

Guthrie says the board is going to consider all of the comments heard Tuesday before moving forward. To get approved, the merger would have to be voted on by the county Board of Supervisors and approved by the PSA board.