It’s only a matter of time before a future set of Worcester County Commissioners rues this week’s 4-3 vote to allow an out-of-state business to connect to a municipal treatment system.
The issue appeared to be settled last November then again in January, but it returned for another discussion this week. This week’s meeting had a bit of everything including scare tactics, misrepresentations and disrespect.
The matter at hand is a Royal Farms convenience store built in Accomack County in Virginia. The business’s septic system is reportedly failing. Pocomoke City would like to extend sewer service to the store to help the private business owner address a serious problem as well as the town’s finances with new connection fees. Currently, due to closer proximity than Onley’s treatment plant, Royal Farms ships its waste to the Pocomoke wastewater treatment plant and pays the municipality a fee. Allowing the store to connect to Pocomoke’s pipe, which was extended from the town years ago through a state-to-state agreement to Virginia’s welcome center years ago, would bring in needed funding to allow Pocomoke to improve its wastewater facility.
The key difference between the visitor center connection 12 years ago and the Royal Farms deal is it was two governments partnering. This proposed agreement is between a municipality and a private company. It’s not government’s job to bail out a poor decision by a private operator. The due diligence period should have shown Royal Farms the danger of using septic for a store whose vary success is based on customer volume. The private company should have built the store across the state line in Maryland.
Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino was right when he said last November, “This is Accomack County’s problem. Royal Farms decided to build in Virginia, not Maryland. The fact it has concerns with its waste should have been explored prior to deciding building where public sewer was not available in the home county. It’s poor planning.”
For Pocomoke, the move has financial benefits. It’s not inconsequential for a town that needs revenue. We recognize the positive fiscal impact of connecting the store to the pipe, but this is a dangerous precedent for a government to set.
By granting the connection nine months after a 3-3 vote seemingly ended the situation, the majority of the commissioners opted to save a private business owner in another state while helping the neighboring county, which continues to receive the property tax revenue. This decision will be referred to in the future when other development opportunities arise along Route 13 in Virginia.