Friday, March 5, 2010

RELAC Rate Increase Mtg 3/22/10

Letter concerning the discussion & scheduled meeting re: RELAC rate hike:

Dear All,
I have had several conversations with Mr. Steve Sinclair, Chief – Public Utilities Branch (Fairfax County Department of Cable Communications & Consumer Protection), about the plans for Fairfax County to intervene in the proposed rate increase for RELAC as requested by Aqua Virginia. Attorneys from the County attorney’s Office and Mr. Sinclair have asked for RA’s assistance in arranging an initial information gathering session with users of the RELAC System. The session has been scheduled for Monday, 22 March @7:00 p.m. in RA’s Main Conference Room.

It is my understanding that Mr. Sinclair and others would like to hear your concerns and issues regarding the proposed rate increase, as well as your service related issues with the RELAC System. Additionally, they plan to explain the County’s role in the rate case; outline how the State Corporation Commission procedures are set up for the case; and walk you through the public witness process, which allows customers to provide comments at the public hearing on the rate case.

Mr. Sinclair and the others from the County are looking forward to meeting with as many of the RELAC users who can attend the session. Please reach out to others and inform them of the session.

Milton W. Matthews
Chief Executive Officer
Reston Association
RA Vision: Leading the model community where all can live, work, and play.


  1. On June 2, 2009, the RELAC cluster presidents and residents met. Discussion about whether RELAC will still be a viable entity and a proposed rate increase of about $160. Assume this is still the proposed increase? This is 2010. Residents should be able to choose their own cooling system within reasonable acceptable guidelines.

  2. We all signed the covenant. RELAC was not a mystery going in.

    Go on a tour to other neighborhoods in the summer. What will you hear? Not birdsong. It is a cacophony of condensers.

    What will a retrofit cost?

    RELAC might need some work, but it can still be a viable cooling system.

    It is good to see the county is on board and will hopefully be representing our interests at the rate hike commission.

  3. RELAC is dying. The service is not up to standard.

  4. A covenant may be construed as un-enforceable if promised service falls below an acceptable level.

  5. If it is to be viewed unenforceable, that is a matter for the courts to decide. However, what is the acceptable level that RELAC needs to meet?

    65 degrees while it is 99 outside?

    RELAC needs a major organizational overhaul and reinvestment in its infrastructure.

    However, the system is not beyond repair or irredeemable. There may be solutions available beyond killing it entirely and a very costly retrofit for all of the homes on the system.

  6. Agree, there are many questions.

  7. Dear Anonymouses-
    Please identify yourself by either using the pulldown menu (ex. Google Account) or putting your name at the end of your comment. This will help people know who and how many people are commenting.

  8. Clearly there are a lot of issues and concerns. AQUA concluded some time ago that A/C service was not their core business and as RELAC was not making money (was in fact losing money) they began looking for a buyer in early 2009. There has been some interest from one or two geothermal companies but I don't know where things stand at this point. I believe the proposed rate increase is mainly a "holding action" to recover some of the losses but does not necessarily indicate long-term commitment from AQUA to maintain and improve RELAC service.

    Another factor has been the legal battle over the golf course's right to unlimited use of the lake water, which impacts RELAC when conditions are hot and dry. AQUA told us last year that although RA lost the court case on that issue, AQUA was requesting Virgina Dept. of Env. Quality to intervene -- we have no recent information on where that stands, or whether the outcome might influence AQUA's ability to find a buyer at a reasonable price.

    For some households the RELAC service seems to work well, for others it has been failing for many years and is likely to get worse unless AQUA invests significant capital -- but why would they invest if this is not their core business and corporate management is hoping to sell?

    The upcoming meeting is important not just because of the immediate issue of the requested rate increase, but because of the chance to air the larger questions about the long-term viability of the service. A lot of ideas have been floated (run RELAC as a cooperative, allow demonstration projects to test viability of alternatives, identify a geothermal company looking for a site to showcase the latest technology... ) but until now we have not had a suitable forum to express these ideas in front of public officials who could be helpful in moving the process forward.

    - Fred Swartzendruber

  9. Fred,
    Thanks for keeping everything in perspective with your fair and balanced reporting. --jim livingood

  10. Could Fred or Michael or any of the others who were there provide a good summary of the meting?


    (Who was there but arrived late and did not take great notes.)


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