How much does Urbanna water service actually cost?
by Tom Chillemi
The Town of Urbanna once provided its residents with sewer service, but turned that responsibility over to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in the late 1990s.
Since then, the most important function of the town office has been to provide drinking water. The job of figuring out how much the water system actually costs has been taken up by council member Joe Heyman.
The town council has been without a designated treasurer since Bob Calves resigned in March, 2013.
Although he is not the town treasurer, Heyman has been working with town staff in an attempt to create a monthly budget report. After months of scouring town financial line items, Heyman is trying to figure how much time the town staff devotes to water issues “so we can understand how much the water system really does cost us,” he told council members who were present at the January 16 council work session.
Heyman said it’s vital to figure where the town staff spends most of its time, so the town council can focus on that subject—be it zoning, water, or the Old Tobacco Warehouse. “We can’t really explain how much the water system costs us,” he said.
Heyman said that a town employee told him about a year ago that 60% of his time was devoted to the water system.
Town administrator Holly Gailey replied that one town employee spent 172 hours on the water system in the last six months. The town recently hired a part-time employee who spends part of her time working on water issues, Gailey added.
About every three weeks another water bill becomes delinquent and the staff has to work on collecting it, which is a lot of work, said Gailey. In addition, the staff has to deal with water leaks.
Heyman emphasized the need for each employee to break down how his or her time is spent. “The minute the town council understands all those hours is when you can finally say this is what the water system costs,” he said. This will give council “the big picture of what it takes to run the town.”
At the end of each day staff members should write down what they did and how much time was spent on each subject, said Heyman. This is “way more accurate” than thinking about it three months later, he noted.
Heyman said his employees have been doing this for 25 years in his construction, marina and hotel businesses.
The YMCA staff also breaks down its time, noted Heyman, who is a YMCA board member.
Town council attorney Andy Bury said time could be tracked on time cards.
Gailey, a salaried employee, said 60% of her time is spent working on the water system and 40% on administration.
Heyman said he hopes to have a format for a 12-month budget to present to council at its work session on Friday, February 14, at 3:30 p.m. The work session, in council chambers, is open to the public.