by James C. Sherlock
While all of the attention in the state press has been on Petersburg’s proposed casino, the estimable Bill Atkinson of the Petersburg Progress-Index provided insight into other Petersburg requests to the General Assembly for budget amendments.
Badly needed infrastructure projects and a tourism initiative are each tied to the health of both the Appomattox River and the citizens of Petersburg.
Public Utilities, Poverty and Public Health. The most important bills, to me, are wastewater projects that offer to improve Petersburg’s worst-in-the-state public health.
Petersburg is, as a practical matter, incapable of raising the money on its own.
Many of its citizens don’t pay their utility bills because they cannot. In 2020 the city was owed about $3.25 million in back fees for water.
That is a big number for Petersburg Public Utilities, which budgeted to receive $15 million in total utility payments during the fiscal year that began July 1 2020.
Petersburg is a member of the Appomattox River Water Authority, delivering six million gallons of drinking water a day to the City. It has been plagued by past- due bills and water main breaks.
The RTD reported in May of 2020 that the city cut off a large number of users for non-payment just before COVID struck. The state ordered them turned back on.
That same story reported:
Collections have been a consistent problem for the municipality; the city four years earlier teetered on the brink of insolvency after the flawed rollout of a new utility billing system.
The Petersburg Public Utilities Department collects approximately 15 million gallons of wastewater per day. It serves the city and provides wholesale delivery and collection of wastewater from neighboring jurisdictions (Prince George County, Dinwiddie County, Chesterfield County, and Fort Lee).
Wastewater treatment, like drinking water, is tied directly to the health of the Appomattox River.
One of the bills is for continued improvements to the beleaguered Poor Creek Wastewater Pump Station.
Increasing the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of the Poor Creek station is critical both to the health of the river and to the new pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster on the river, which is Petersburg’s most important industrial development.
Another bill is for completion of an engineering report for a new wastewater treatment site on Rohoic Creek in Petersburg. Rohoic Creek flows past Central State Hospital into, as you might guess, the Appomattox River.
Those bills are bipartisan, with Del. Kim Taylor, R-Dinwiddie County joining Sen. Morrissey in sponsorship.
I hope they get the money.
Given the direct ties of those projects to public health in that very poor city and surrounding areas, I cannot imagine they will not.
Tourism. There are also two projects tied to tourism. One is linked to the river.
They include the Army Museums at Ft. Lee and an extension of the Appomattox River Trail.
I’m including these to make a pitch for visitors to see three of Virginia’s excellent Army museums.
Morrissey and Del. Mike Cherry, R-Colonial Heights are asking for money for an enclave to add direct public access to the Army Quartermaster Museum (exhibits) and the Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee (exhibits).
You can go there now and I strongly recommend the visit. Fort Lee has open gates for museum access that you can drive right through.
But the direct access enclave will make it a little easier and feature the museums for the public. I hope they get the money.
All three museums are terrific.
Appomattox River Trail. That river again.
The current 2.6-mile Appomattox River trail has a good reputation on online trail guides. Taylor is asking for $6.4 million to extend it to Hopewell to improve ecotourism.
Hopefully with a cleaner river to enjoy.