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CSX train crossing at Columbia. Photo by Tricia JohnsonA CSX train headed to Fluvanna County – hauling combustible crude oil – derailed in Lynchburg April 30, setting off an explosion and fire and raising questions about the safety of Fluvanna’s tiny river towns.
The train was traveling the CSX rail line that runs along the James River on the southern edge of Fluvanna, and passes through Scottsville, Bremo Bluff, and Columbia. The accident prompted Virginia’s governor to form a task force to consider ways of improving the safety of crude oil transportation by rail in Virginia.
The railways have traditionally been considered good neighbors by the communities in Virginia they pass through. For more than a century in the sleepy rail towns of Virginia, a derailment usually meant that the railroad had to bring equipment in to right the train and clean up the coal, loading it back into cargo vessels to head east. But since December 2013, when Bakken crude oil first appeared on Virginia’s tracks, a derailment can mean a devastating explosion and fire, and a community that must struggle to recover.
Crude oil drilled from the Bakken fields has a different, more combustible composition than traditional crude oil which means that during a derailment or other accident, if the tanker is breached, it is likely to explode. Media reports quote rail company officials as saying that U.S. freight railroads are likely to carry 650,000 carloads of crude oil in 2014, up from a mere 9,500 carloads in 2008 – a 6,742% increase in potentially explosive rail traffic. In the last year alone, there have been Bakken crude-oil-related train accidents in Alabama, North Dakota, and Alberta, Canada.
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Waverly Branch, the father of missing woman Janet Renee Field, told the Fluvanna Review today (July 28) that like Fluvanna County investigators and her husband, he has no clue as to where his daughter might be.
“I have no idea – none whatsoever” he said of his daughter who has been missing for almost one month. “But she isn’t here.”
Branch doesn’t know of any out-of-the-area friends that Field might be visiting. “She didn’t tell anyone she was going away,” he said. “She is an only child,” Branch added, “and that makes it even harder.”
Back in 1983, when she was still Renee Branch, Field graduated from Lexington High School. Some of her former classmates have been posting on Facebook pages to spread the word about her disappearance. Waverly and Irene Branch - Field’s mother - who live in Lexington, want that attention to continue.
“Keep running the story in the news,” he said several times. “Keep showing her picture. Maybe it will help.”
When Field finished high school, Branch said, she attended James Madison University. After graduating in 1987, she married Lewis Field and began work as a nurse. Branch said she held three or four different nursing positions before she stopped working.
The Fields bought property in Scottsville in 1997, and Branch said they have lived there for 15 years. They have no children, though Field is fond of her 23-year-old cat, he said.
Though she doesn’t work or belong to any churches or community groups, Field enjoys planting flowers, her father said.
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Fluvanna County spends thousands of dollars less per student than almost any of the counties surrounding it, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education.
In fiscal year 2012 – the most recent data available - Fluvanna County spent roughly $9,153 per student. By comparison, Charlottesville spent $15,807 per student; Albemarle County spent $12,251; Louisa County spent $11,646; and Buckingham spent $10,695.
Of 11 counties in the region, only Orange County spent less per pupil than Fluvanna.
The Fluvanna County school budget for fiscal year 2015 stands at $36.5 million. Of that amount, $15.2 million (42%) comes from local funding; $19.4 million (53%) from the state; $1 million (3%) from the federal government; and $760,500 (2%) from “other local funding” – largely money from grants and other sources.
Local funding from Fluvanna County’s coffers is largely comprised of money raised through real estate and property taxes. The Board of Supervisors this year agreed to contribute an additional $1.5 million over their contribution for fiscal year 2014. Much of this additional funding was to add positions back in to the schools, which had been previously cut, in order to bring the system into compliance with the Virginia Department of Education’s Standards of Quality.
Of the budgeted amount, 74% goes to instruction, 4% goes to administration, attendance, and health, 7% goes to pupil transportation, 11% goes to operation and maintenance, and 4% goes to technology.
The majority of school funding is earmarked, and must be spent as directed by the funding source.
“Some people think, just give (the budget) to me as a spread sheet and I will move the money around,” said Fluvanna County Schools Finance Director Ed Breslauer. “You cannot move it around – much of this money must be spent in specific ways. The most flexible funding we have is local government money, because they cannot specify where the money goes. The federal government only reimburses districts for money already spent, so if you are not spending the money on what they want you to spend it on, you don’t get reimbursed,” he added. Most state funds and “other local funds” also have to be spent in accordance with the source’s directives.
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Rachel Jones was named one of Allen & Allen’s hometown heroes. Photo courtesy of Rachel JonesZion Crossroads has its very own hero.
Rachel Jones, who lives in Zion Crossroads, was just named one of Allen & Allen’s hometown heroes.
The law firm accepted nominations from across the state for its hometown heroes award, which according to the firm’s website seeks to honor “Virginians who are responsible [for] generating positive change in the community or in the lives of others.” Jones, who was nominated by her coworker, Donna Bowman, was one of the lucky 50 chosen for the honor.
Keeping busy in the community is just part of life for Jones, who works for Zion United Methodist Church (ZUMC) and Zion Christian Children’s Center, a 90-student preschool and kindergarten at the church in Zion Crossroads.
“I kind of wear two hats at ZUMC,” Jones said. “As the community programs director I bring in lots of programs to the church – things like Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, karate, art classes, women’s self-defense, and Upward Sports. It’s tiring but rewarding, and it’s given me a platform to bring all these great programs into the community that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily be here.”
Upward Sports, said Jones, is actually a ministry in that it’s more about people than the sports themselves. “It’s a sports program based on faith and positive relationships with people,” Jones said. “It centers around equality and fairness. So in another sports program maybe only the best children would get to play, but in Upward all the children get to play.” Jones was instrumental in bringing the program to ZUMC in 2011.
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FAST swimmer Gus Jones.  Photo by Lisa HurdleFAST competed at the Jefferson Swim League (JSL) Championships on Friday (July 25). The morning’s events kicked off the JSL Championships that were held at the University of Virginia Aquatics Center – over 18 local swim teams competed over the course of the two-day event.
Coaches arrived at 9 a.m. to make sure the swimmers performed their warm ups and stretches, then the races began.
The meet started with the 6 and under swimmers competing in the 100 freestyle relay. FAST’s relay team was made up of Ivan Patchett, Daniel Maloney, Audrey Harlow, and Will Lambert, who collectively swam their hardest and placed tenth out of 20 teams. The meet continued with FAST swimmer Ivan Patchett placing eighth overall in the 25 yard freestyle with an impressive time of 24 seconds and Will Lambert placing 13th. Ivan Patchett went on to his next race with some encouragement from his coaches, and placed fourth overall in his 25 yard backstroke race, an amazing feat that won FAST points in the overall score.
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