Since 2015, SERCAP has been providing Technical Assistance (TA) to the Town of Port Royal in Caroline County, VA, in order to provide both temporary assistance and a long-term solution, to transform the Town’s dilapidated and fiscally distressed water system, to one with new facilities and a management approach that promotes fiscal and operational sustainability. As part of the Town’s continuing transformation, SERCAP was asked by USDA Rural Development and the Town to perform a rate study. To ensure the financial sustainability of the Town and its water system, water rates were changed from a “flat rate” billing system (one in which everyone pays the same amount for water, no matter how much they use) to a metered, consumption-based system that charges each customer for water based on the actual usage of their home or business. The study was completed in the Spring of 2020, and the new rate structure provides funding for reserve accounts for debt service, operations, and a new capital projects/improvements account. Additionally, the Town updated its water policies to accompany the change in rate structure and the establishment of a capital improvements/reserve account, all of which were adopted by the Town at a public hearing in late June of 2020.
Throughout November and December 2020, SERCAP’s Housing Counseling Program has been delivering its Holiday Extravaganza Financial Education Workshops as an Online workshop series. Since becoming a HUD approved Local Housing Counseling Agency (LHCA) in 2012, SERCAP’s Housing Counseling Program has served over a thousand clients through a variety of Housing Counseling and Financial Literacy services. This year, SERCAP created and executed a series of Holiday focused Financial Literacy workshops, which have been providing participants with information, tools, and resources related to: Budgeting for Holiday Spending, Rental Education, and Predatory Lending and Scam Prevention.
Recently, SERCAP’s Housing Department assisted a low-income family of three (3) living in Louisa County, VA, to complete several necessary repairs and upgrades to their home. The family, a couple and their disabled adult son, has lived in their home since 2009, and recently began experiencing difficulty with their septic system. As it turned out, their septic system was failing, however, due to the family’s low-income status they were unable to afford the cost of replacing their septic system without causing severe financial hardship. Fortunately, an organization in the community referred them to SERCAP, and the agency was able to step-in and provide financial assistance to complete the project.
Recently, SERCAP’s Housing Department assisted a low-income couple living in the Town of Dillwyn in Buckingham County, VA, as part of the Dillwyn Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) project. The household, consisting of the low-income married couple, qualified for a Substantial Reconstruction of the home, due the structure’s extremely poor condition. A Substantial Reconstruction is when a household is too dilapidated to be rehabbed, and instead is demolished and a new house is built in its place. This happens when the expense of bringing a home up to HUD Housing Quality Standards (HQS) is equal to or more than the cost of new construction of a modest home.
On Tuesday, December 1, 2020, SERCAP hosted a virtual Q&A Session as part of its #GivingTuesday Awareness and Fundraising Campaign for 2020. The session focused on providing the participants and the general public with information on water/wastewater infrastructure challenges, critical rural community needs, and how SERCAP assists rural communities and low-to-moderate income (LMI) individuals through its programs and services. Twenty-five (25) participants attended the session live, asking questions in real-time about the biggest obstacles for rural communities, SERCAP’s programs and services, funding for infrastructure projects beyond roads and bridges, and more. Additionally, the Q&A session was
live-streamed to Facebook, receiving over 150 views via that platform. In fact, the session was so successful, and the feedback so positive, that SERCAP is intending to host additional Q&A sessions in the near future, in order to reach more potential clients (rural communities and LMI individuals), partners, funders, and supporters.
Recently, SERCAP’s Certified CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) Loan Fund Program assisted a low-income single woman in Nelson County, VA, to have the well at her home repaired, and her well-pump and filters replaced. The existing well had been struggling to maintain sufficient water pressure, and had even been losing pressure completely, leaving the client without reliable access to clean, safe drinking water in her home.
Currently, SERCAP is partnering with two school districts in Virginia, Westmoreland and Tazewell Counties, to pilot the Agua4All Program in the Commonwealth. Agua4All first launched in California in 2014 to address a critical need in local schools and community facilities, the provision of clean, safe drinking water. The Program raises awareness about the importance of safe drinking water, builds community partnerships to install safe water taps in schools and neighborhoods, and develops long-term solutions to rural water quality and access challenges. The Program’s success has led to opportunities to expand the program first into Texas, and now into Virginia, Missouri, and Montana.
Recently, SERCAP’s Essential & Critical Needs Program assisted a low-income family of four (4) in Russell County, VA, to install a new water meter and service-line at their home. The clients have been living in their home for 20 years, and recently began experiencing some difficulty with their water meter and water service-line. As it turns out, the water meter was faulty, and the service-line on their property had been damaged. However, due to their low-income status, the family was unable to afford the cost of replacing the meter and service-line without causing significant financial hardship.
Recently, SERCAP’s Housing Department was approved as one of the intermediaries to deliver the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development’s (DHCD) Lead Hazard Reduction Program. The Lead Hazard Reduction Program provides eligible households with technical and financial assistance to reduce lead paint hazards in their home. The Program focuses on Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) households with either a child under the age of six living in or spending a significant amount of time in the household, or households with a pregnant woman.
Currently, SERCAP’s Regional Department is assisting Richmond Cold Storage (RCS), a non-community water system, in Smithfield, VA, with the completion and submission of the system’s Groundwater Withdrawal Permit Renewal Application. RCS, a Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (NTNCWS), provides blast-freezing and cold storage services for the Smithfield Foods Plant, and is served by a single well within the confines of the facility’s property. Every 15 years, regulated water systems are required to submit and obtain a permit for the withdrawal of water from the source/s that serve them. It is a long, complex process to complete the application, and requires a level of knowledge and experience that neither the licensed operator nor the facility owners currently possess. In addition to the application itself, the permit application requires several components, including: the completed well-driller’s log and state well completion report, drawings of the system layout, geophysical logging information for the well, a water conservation and management plan (WCMP), a mitigation plan based on the aquifer from which the groundwater is withdrawn, and a form certifying compliance with all applicable local ordinances.
Recently, SERCAP’s Facilities Development Grant Program assisted The Town of Pamplin City, a small incorporated community straddling both Appomattox and Prince Edward Counties, with funds for an improvement to their Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). According to the most recent available data, 49.7% of Pamplin City’s 223 residents have an income below the poverty level, a remarkable 78.6% greater than the Commonwealth of Virginia’s 10.6% poverty level.
Over the past few years, SERCAP’s Regional Department has worked with the Town of Port Royal in Caroline County, VA, along with other community partners, to move their water system from a dilapidated, fiscally distressed state, to one with new facilities and a management approach that promotes fiscal and operational sustainability. As part of this system overhaul, in the Spring of 2020, SERCAP completed a Rate Study on behalf of the Town, in order to assist them in establishing a more sustainable financial model for their water system. Water rates have been changed from a “Flat Rate” billing system, to a metered, consumption-based system that charges each customer based on their actual water usage. The new rate structure, includes: reserve accounts for debt service, funding for operations, and a new capital improvements account. SERCAP also assisted the Town with developing updated water policies to accompany the change in rate structure, which was adopted at a public hearing in June 2020.
Currently, SERCAP’s Regional Department is working with the Hardy Road Trailer Park water system in Bedford County, VA, to bring them back into compliance with the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Drinking Water’s (ODW) regulations. The Hardy Road Trailer Park water system had been struggling with compliance issues for several years, and by the end of 2018 the system was considered to be a Significant Non-complier in Virginia. In mid-2019, the ODW recommended that the system reach-out to SERCAP for assistance. SERCAP took on the system as a Technical Assistance (TA) project and helped the system in securing a Small Systems Engineering Grant to procure a project engineer to design the necessary system improvements. However, throughout the course of the project, a new solution presented itself. Between the systems history of non-compliance, and the system-owners desire to leave the water business, one of SERCAP’s Technical Assistance Providers (TAPs) determined this would be the ideal time for a system consolidation with the Bedford Regional Water Authority (BRWA).
Recently, SERCAP’s Certified CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) Loan Fund assisted a low-income single woman in Rockingham County, VA, to have a new well drilled at her home. The client had been experiencing difficulties with her existing well, due to tree roots which had grown into the cistern tank, causing significant damage. Despite having the well pumped and the interior of the well completely redone, the well continued leaking, leaving her without adequate and reliable access to potable water in her home. However, due to the client’s low-income status, she was unable to afford the full cost of drilling a new well on her own, without causing serious financial hardship.
Currently, SERCAP’s Housing Department is assisting a low-income single woman living in Buckingham County, VA, to complete a substantial reconstruction of her home. The client has lived in her home for over 48 years, and the well and septic system are at least that old. Recently, she began experiencing difficulty with the septic system on the property. The local Health Department determined that the septic system was failing, and she was referred to SERCAP for assistance. Initially, she applied for assistance from SERCAP with her elderly, disabled father, however the father recently passed away. Fortunately, the daughter is also low-income, and was still able to qualify on her own for financial assistance through the Indoor Plumbing & Rehabilitation (IPR) Program, funded by the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development, allowing SERCAP to continue with the project.
Currently, SERCAP’s Regional Department is working with the Town of Hillsboro in Loudoun County, VA, to conduct an income survey that will potentially allow the Town to qualify for a specialized funding package from USDA’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) for its planned wastewater infrastructure improvement project. The Town is undertaking a large road improvement project, and has determined that pairing its planned water/wastewater infrastructure improvements with the road project, will save the Town money and be less disruptive than conducting a second stand-alone project in the future. The Town is looking to improve its water/wastewater infrastructure quality by completing several water and sewer line installations along the same road, undergoing construction for the road project.
Currently, SERCAP has partnered with the Floyd Initiative for Safe Housing (FISH), a grass-roots organization serving Floyd County, to provide funding for water/wastewater needs for seven (7) households as part of the Floyd County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) project. In February 2020, SERCAP’s Housing Department was selected as the Housing Rehabilitation Specialists for the Floyd County CDBG Planning Grant. The proposed $1.2 million+ scattered site project will provide housing rehabilitation services to 15 low-to-moderate income (LMI) households throughout the county, and was based off housing rehabilitation work initiated by FISH.
Currently, SERCAP is developing a Septic System Maintenance Education & Pump-Out Program that will promote water quality and local source water protection through public education and financial assistance, specifically focused in Franklin County, VA and Pittsylvania County, VA. The program will deliver several Septic System Maintenance Education workshops covering comprehensive information on septic systems, including: Types of Septic Systems, How your Septic System Works?, Why Maintain your Septic System?, How to Care for your Septic System, What to do if your Septic System Fails, and Budgeting for Future Septic System Maintenance. The program will also provide financial assistance to low-to-moderate income (LMI) participants for septic pump-outs. Once an LMI individual successfully completes a workshop, the program will pay for an initial septic system pump-out at a 100%, and in five-years will pay for 50% of a second septic system pump-out. SERCAP’s Regional Department is finalizing the workshop materials, and has begun scheduling its initial online Septic System Maintenance and Education workshops for Summer 2020.
Giles County, located in southwest Virginia, owns and operates nine (9) different small water systems serving nearly 2,500 people (1,400 connections) across 13 separate communities. The County, along with the five (5) municipalities located within the County, make up the Giles County Public Service Authority (PSA); a separate entity which produces and sells bulk drinking water to its six (6) members. Though the six (6) members of the PSA have managed to provide access to public water to the most populous, and even some of the more sparsely populated, areas, there remains approximately a one-mile developed stretch of US Route 460 (which transverses Giles County from east to west) which still lacks water infrastructure.
Currently, SERCAP is providing Housing Rehabilitation Specialist Services to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Construction Improvement Grant (CIG) Project for the East Atlantic Street Neighborhood in the City of Emporia, VA. SERCAP was selected as the Housing Rehabilitation Specialist for the project in late 2016, and has been diligently working to complete the rehabilitation of 16
investor-owned housing units and two owner-occupied housing units for the past three+ years.