Fairfax County, which needs $179 million to expand two large sewage treatment plants, may raise the money without seeking voter approval, a move that one county supervisor says is a favor to developers.
Fairfax officials have recommended that the county borrow the needed money through revenue bonds, which can be issued without referendums. The officials say some revenue bonds can be just as inexpensive as general obligation bonds, which in Fairfax must be approved by voters.
Supervisor Audrey Moore, a Democrat, charges that the county and developers do not want to take the chance that voters would reject the sewage projects and thereby slow building in Fairfax. She says that revenue bonds might evenutally prove more costly to the county if interest rates rise.
"This is a county that is in love with development, and they won't let anybody get in the way of it," said Moore. "They don't want to take the chance of voters rejecting the projects , and they're willing to have the financing cost more to do that."
County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert said, however, "I do not anticipate it being more expensive than a general obligation bond. This is the technically sound way to go." He said that other area jurisdictions do not generally go to referendum for utility projects.
Moore, frequently a critic of development plans, dismissed Lambert's explanation of the financing. "The whole purpose of this is so they can get around a referendum," she said. "I think that's kind of shabby." Moore said nonetheless that she would probably support the sewage bond if it went to referendum.
The county board is scheduled to consider the matter Monday, and Moore concedes that she is probably the only supervisor who will oppose the county staff's recommendation on the sewage projects.
Expansion of the two sewage treatment plants is critical to development in the county. One of the facilities, the Lower Potomac Pollution Control Plant, near Lorton off Rte. 1, would have its capacity increased by 50 percent at a cost of $143 million.
Fairfax officials say that if the county does not act to expand the plant, it will be ordered to do so by the Virginia courts.
The county also needs to borrow up to $36 million to pay for its share of the expansion of the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant in Southwest Washington. Under a tentative agreement with other Washington area jurisdictions that use the plant, Fairfax would almost double the volume of sewage it sends to Blue Plains.