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Op-Ed: Save RELAC, Vote No

by RestonNow.com — January 7, 2015 at 1:00 pm 13 Comments

Waterview Cluster/file photoThis is an Op-Ed by Waterview Cluster resident Dick Kennedy. Something on your mind? Write to us at [email protected] We reserve the right to edit submissions.

If Covenant 15 is revoked RELAC costs will go up and soon RELAC will end. Then…

1. Where do you put your new outside AC unit? Where will your neighbors put their unit ? Our communities were not architecturally designed to have outside AC units. We have no good options.

2. Despite advances all AC units make noise that is compounded when they are all running.

3. Be ready to spend about $5,000 to $10,000 or more to buy and install an outside unit.

4. The new [RELAC] owners have already improved service, many users say. They have a plan to reduce rates.

Why not give them a chance?

The RELAC referendum has been brought to us legitimately by the “Free from 15” group. Much has been said about real issues on whether to keep the covenant requirement. There are pros and cons on most issues, some argued fairly and many exaggerated out of context.

RELAC costs are high but the system is quiet. A few owners say they don’t get good service but most say they are happy and service is improving. There are questions about how to maintain the individual systems and whether it has been done. There are claims about RELAC infrastructure failing. But the same happens to water, sewer and gas infrastructure. Repairs must be made from time to time.

The term “monopoly” is used with a derogatory slant. But we have monopolies for electricity and gas and RELAC. All are supervised by the State Corporation Commission [SCC] which regulates public utilities, balancing the needs of users and the utility.

Some argue RELAC adversely affects home sales, but most units sell very quickly and prices are going up to pre-recession levels. So there is much to carefully consider. Clearly, owners’ financial interest is at stake on both sides —  including those who are already off the system and don’t want to return the RELAC system when they sell.

Freedom has been much celebrated by those who want to be free to get off RELAC. But please remember you will not be free to use RELAC for long if the covenant is removed.

Please VOTE.

  • Damien

    Well said Dick. Unfortunately the previous RELAC owners, Aqua America, did a terrible job of operating the system. The new RELAC owners. Reston RELAC, are doing a great job of improving the system, but if the covenant is revoked they don’t stand a chance.

  • mlbjunkee

    We should not be forced to support a system that does not work, even if others like it. New AC units are quiet and small. Lastly, RELAC has no incentive to improve or lower rates. They’ve made a bunch of promises, but nothing has been delivered. We deserve a choice on who we use.

    • Yes Vote

      When you purchased the home you were made aware of the covenant. Nobody forced you to purchase where you did.

  • Greg

    What proof, evidence, facts, or anything else do you have to support your assertion that …”soon RELAC will end.”

  • Dennis McDermitt

    Enough scaremongering, Dick. The specious argument that “RELAC costs will go up and soon RELAC will end” has been used far too long to bully people on this issue. How about we look at some objective evidence?

    RELAC’s financial statements are a matter of public record. In their last full year of operation, they made a net income of $155,560–a very healthy 28.7% net profit after taxes, salaries, depreciation, and operating expenses. Given that the average annual fee for 4 months of RELAC service is about $1,500, they could lose more than 100 homes (30% of cluster users) and still be in the black. Claims that RELAC will have to raise rates if they lose up to 10% of their customers are complete bunk. And let’s not forget the 258 Vantage Hill and LARCA units that will continue to use RELAC regardless of what happens with the referendum.

    There is nothing derogatory about the term “monopoly,” but it is well-established that monopolies often lead to poor service quality and and much higher prices for consumers–two things very evident in the case of RELAC. The differences between RELAC and other utility monopolies are too numerous (and I hope obvious) to list here.

    This referendum is not about whether to keep or abandon RELAC. RELAC isn’t going anywhere. This referendum is about whether the monopoly created by the RA covenants serves the interests of the people of Reston. Dick, as someone who has been very vocal about the exorbitant costs of RELAC, why would you not support the one thing that can be done to control those costs???

    • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

      I’m not sure if its true or not, but I heard months ago that Vantage Hill owners had been approached by a developer who wanted to buy them all out and redevelop the property. Did anyone else hear this? They are a true case of design obsolescense.

      • Adam Petersen

        If this is true they will need a 100% agreement from the owners if I remember correctly. If a developer bought Vantage Hill then according to RELAC that alone would put them out of business. Interesting if it is true.

  • Lisa

    Vote yes – give your neighbors (friends) a choice if they want to use RELAC or not.

    If RELAC works for your home, great, vote yes and then keep it.

    Why should your neighbors (who it doesn’t work for) suffer yet another summer with extreme heat? If RELAC can’t survive with less customers that is their fault for not providing an adequate product/cooling solution. If your product has problems you have to improve it or no one will continue to buy it. That is the way business works.

    A vote “NO” is an insult to your neighbors who can’t get their house cooled below 80.

    Vote Yes – give people a choice.

  • Waterview Cluster resident

    Just more fearmongering … please stop the fear tactics. Present some evidence. Present factual, research-based, objective information. I am a fellow RELAC user and neighbor. We all have to live together.

  • Adam Petersen

    You cannot compare the monopolies of electric and gas to RELAC. With electric and gas you still have the choice to use them or not. You can choose to not use gas at all. For electric you can choose no electric at all or solar or generators and so on.

  • karen thompson

    Many RELAC homes have space for units and they should not be forced to stay on RELAC. I could only hope the air unit would drown out the Baron Cameron road noise but no such luck, my next-door neighbor has a unit and I am hardly able to hear it (a $5,000 unit), even when entertaining in my back yard adjacent to it, and we entertain often. In addition to it being quiet the electric bills for the neighbor have gone down since leaving RELAC and their house is much cooler than our RELAC “cooled” home. In addition, another neighbor had two sales fall through on their home when the perspective buyers were informed about it being a RELAC home and rescinded. If RELAC is truthfully a good product then it should be able to survive even after the people are given the right to choose. My guess is if RELAC were truly an affordable and efficient option for all those involved, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

  • Yep. Totally. Who wants freedom anyway? Freedom is such a silly notion, can’t believe entire revolutions were fought on such concept. You are totally right, we should embrace an enforced monopoly, that serves to enrich a for-profit corporation that cleared a nice and tidy profit last year.

    And, as for quiet. Yep, you’re right. Its very quiet – except if you live in ear shot of the RELAC plant of course.

    But, still, I for one embrace a soviet-style command economies – worked out so well.

    No, wait. I like Freedom. And a free market. So, I’m going to vote YES

    And for the record, I installed my own A/C. Cost about $5K. After 3 years, I’ve already broken even – my electricity bill is LOWER. And, no toxic mold, so I’m healthier. And, the FREEDOM to decide the temperature in my own home.

  • I also don’t understand the argument that costs go up if people come off of the system. As demand goes down, costs go down.

    It is a uncontested fact that the system does not work well for everyone. So we need choice, so please think of your neighbors who may be living in unbearable conditions.

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