Paradox of selling water cheaply to Chesterfield

6/9/2017, 1:01 p.m.

Re: “Mayor seeks to lease part of park to Chesterfield for county drinking water,” June 1-3 edition:

Richmond Free Press staff writer Jeremy Lazarus deserves an award for his investigative reporting on the city’s plan to allow Chesterfield to build a water facility in a Richmond city park and charge Chesterfield a fifth of what Richmond customers must pay for a unit of water. 

This is a losing proposition for Richmond utility customers. Richmond’s Lewis G. Larus Park would suffer irreparable damage, with upward of a hundred huge trees to be removed in order to build a 2 million gallon storage tank facility exclusively for the use of Chesterfield County. 

Richmond utility customers would be on the hook for paying $1 million every five years to the city in lieu of federal income taxes on the sale of the additional 5 million gallons of water per day to Chesterfield County. 

The Niagara Bottling LLC, which consumes nearly a million gallons of water a day, recently chose Chesterfield County for a new bottling plant, citing the cheap availability of water.  

Perhaps Niagara chose the county over Richmond to locate their business because Richmond charges city customers five times the price for a unit of water than what it charges Chesterfield County. 

Ironically, Chesterfield now wants to build a water facility in a Richmond city park to meet this increased demand for cheap water that keeps Richmond businesses at a competitive disadvantage. This defies common sense.

It breaks my heart that Richmond, with a 40 percent poverty rate, continues to receive the short end of the stick from our city-owned utility. Is it unreasonable for Richmond utility customers to expect to reap some benefit from owning the utility? Is it unreasonable to expect that our utility will not damage a Richmond city park to provide cheap water to the county but instead will provide affordable water to Richmond customers? 

Let’s quit treating our Richmond-owned utility like the proverbial “cash cow” to be milked while our residents on Social Security struggle to pay one of the highest water bills in the state.