Purcellville Eyes ARPA Funds for Utility Management System Upgrade

The Town Council last week continued to debate how best to use its anticipated $10.5 million award through the federal America Rescue Plan Act, agreeing to allocate $500,000 to replace the town’s two-decade-old utility management system.

The Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system monitors the distribution and treatment function of the town’s water and wastewater systems.

Last month, the council earmarked $750,000 of the first allocation of the ARPA money—half of the total allocation has been distributed and the other half is expected next year—to reduce inflow and infiltration of the town’s wastewater pipes to reduce the amount of stormwater running to the treatment plant. 

During the Sept. 14 meeting, Town Manager David A. Mekarski recommended a pivot to take $500,000 from that plan to instead purchase a new SCADA system. That came on the recommendation of Wastewater Superintendent Barry Defibaugh, who said the current system, installed in 2001, has been deemed obsolete by the manufacturer. In addition to missing many of the capabilities of modern systems, the outdated equipment also leaves the town vulnerable to hacking attacks, the staff members said. Additionally, Mekarski said it would be difficult for the town to complete $750,000 worth of I&I corrections within the federal deadline to use the funds.

The council approved the switch, although Mayor Kwasi Fraser openly questioned the staff’s recommendation and reasoning. “I’m not buying what you’re selling,” he said.

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