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RadioDozens of first responders met at the Fluvanna Library on Thursday (Aug 24) to learn the ins and out of their new radio system as the county prepares to switch on the new E911 towers on August 31.

“We are very excited,” Emergency Manager Cheryl Elliott told the crowd. “As you know, this was 20 years in coming.”

Coverage testing was completed on Tuesday. Out of 11,000 half-mile squares in the coverage area, only five failed.

“There are still some issues along Bremo and the river,” Elliott said, but it was more than good to set the date for the “cut-over” to the new system.

The Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office will be the first to switch over. At 10 a.m., on Aug 31, dispatchers will alert all units to turn on their new radios, followed by a roll call to make sure everyone is on the system. At 10:30, each of the fire stations will switch over, with their own roll calls. By afternoon, all county emergency services will be broadcasting over the new towers. Add a comment

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The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors has approved the purchase of a new computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system to replace the county’s aging 911 service.

The current system, DaPro, is now about 14 years old and is reaching the end of its useful life, said Michael Grandstaff, director of communications at the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office.

It still gets the job done, but DaPro no longer provides software updates and was bought out by another company in 2015. Even if it was still supported, “old software just doesn’t work with new stuff,” he explained.

With Fluvanna County emergency services about to shift to a new radio system, the moment was right for a upgrade.

The county put out a request for proposals in November 2016. After several months of interviews and negotiations, they decided on Spillman Technologies of Salt Lake City.  A subsidiary of Motorola, Spillman provides public safety software for more than 1,700 customers across 44 states.

The $459,981 system will be funded out of the county’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) budget and includes new equipment, software, support, and 40 hours of training for each of the staff of 15 dispatchers. After the first year, the annual operating budget for the system will be about $45,000 a year.

Grandstaff said the new system will remove one of DaPro’s more time-consuming aspects: dispatchers currently must manually look up and assign the appropriate police or fire unit when they receive an emergency call. The Spillman system will do that automatically and “that will save us a lot in processing time.” 

The department received a total of 6,127 emergency 911 calls in the fiscal year that ended in July 2017. With the volume of calls increasing each year, the need for “reliable, faster dispatch” will only grow, he notes.

Other upgrades include mobile capability and integration with other statewide public safety centers. The robust data storage system will allow officials to streamline information-gathering and automatically run reports, which should in turn help departments optimize their daily operations.   

If all goes according to schedule, the dispatch center should be up and running in July of 2018.

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Watching the eclipseMy friend burst into peals of laughter when she saw the DVD screen hanging in my car, suspended from multiple bungie cords.

My son had hung it in anticipation of the many hours we’d spend on the road during our solar eclipse vacation. Frankly, I was impressed he had gotten it to stay put.

“That’s how we roll,” I told her.

That DVD player came in handy as we sat in stop-and-go traffic after the eclipse. The doleful predictions of traffic disaster proved all too true. After three hours had elapsed I checked the odometer. We’d gone 85 miles.

“On the bright side,” I said to my mother in the passenger seat, “We don’t need to get gas.”

By the end of the night my mom was plying me with questions about every controversial subject she could think of, from statues in Charlottesville to transgender military policy, in a much-appreciated attempt to keep me from falling asleep behind the wheel. Four non-stop days of eclipse fun had worn us out. In the backseat the DVD player had fallen silent and the kids were sleeping. The littlest one whimpered, uncomfortable in her booster seat.

When I finally closed my eyes in my own bed, I saw an endless stream of brake lights on a dark ribbon of road.

The trip was worth the pain it took to get back. I knew I’d have to have something up my sleeve in addition to the eclipse in case the sky clouded over. So we visited a water park, an amusement park, and, best of all, spent a morning ziplining through the Smoky Mountains. Add a comment

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Amy ShawleyAmy Shawley, a member of the Fluvanna Art Association and an artist representative for Golden Products, spoke recently to the FAA members about creative ways to make prints and collages.

Shawley discussed various products that can be used along with acrylic paints to create mixed media pieces. Gloss mediums are often used in mixed media collage and often blended with acrylic paint. Shawley demonstrated using it as an adhesive to build a collage. One member asked about diluting white glue and using it in place of the gloss medium. She did not recommend it.

Shawley proceeded to mix the gloss medium with a yellow ochre acrylic paint. She also used a teal color as well. She used a heavy gel gloss which is less fluid and has more body, adding it to the paint and painting the color onto a board. She then proceeded to add a piece of cheesecloth, pressing the paint harder into the cloth, giving the collage an interesting woven texture blended into the paint and gel medium.

Several audience members asked if it’s possible to go back and work on a piece later, considering that acrylic paints dry quickly. Add a comment

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Local EatsMembers of the county business community, government, and a bunch of hungry Fluvannans turned out on Thursday (Aug. 24) to celebrate the official opening of Local Eats on Joshua Lane in Palmyra.

Owner Amy Myers said she got the idea for the micro-restaurant and grocery after visiting The Store in Staunton last February. Opened in 2012 by John and Stella Matheny, the farm-to-table cafe/grocery has become a popular spot for Staunton foodies, and Myers soon found herself asking the Mathenys about the nuts and bolts of their business.

“Finally I decided, why not do it?” said Myers. “Sink or swim.”

Working with the support of the Fluvanna business development community and the Small Business Development Center, she got underway earlier this year in the space formerly occupied by the Christian Outreach Thrift Shop. Add a comment

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