Fluvanna Review

Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) has taken a position in opposition to the application by Aqua Virginia to increase its water and sewer rates. In November 2011, Aqua Virginia filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) for a statewide increase averaging 9.9%. The increase for Lake Monticello residents would be more than 13% for water and more than 11% for sewer. The application comes just months after Aqua Virginia attempted to impose ownership of grinder pumps onto homeowners. Aqua Virginia‘s last rate increase was approved in October 2010.

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Good deeds often go unrecognized. But it doesn’t have to be that way, said County Administrator Steve Nichols. Sometimes an unsung hero deserves a little song.
To that end, the county created two recognition programs – one for community members and one for county staff – that will give kudos to people who go above and beyond in service to Fluvanna.
Community service awards program
“I want to have the County of Fluvanna formally recognize things that we value in our community – things that make us a better community,” said Nichols. “This system does this at almost no cost, but can be a very strong formal recognition of someone’s efforts and energies.”
The Board of Supervisors approved the community service awards program on April 6. Its stated purpose is “to formally recognize individuals or groups who, by their personal actions, volunteer efforts, and civic or community activities, have made a noteworthy and positive impact in Fluvanna County.”
Anyone can nominate a person or a group for the award based upon criteria such as heroic or lifesaving acts, civic responsibility, community leadership, or volunteering.
A review committee, comprised of Nichols and the five constitutional officers – Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip, Sheriff Eric Hess, Treasurer Linda Lenherr, Commissioner of the Revenue Mel Sheridan, and Clerk of the Circuit Court Tristana Treadway – will discuss the nominations and make recommendations to supervisors as to who should receive the award.
The Board of Supervisors will give a letter of recognition to each nominee. Those selected for the award will also receive a community service resolution and public recognition at a Board meeting and online.
P.R.I.D.E. in public service award
A facet of the county’s new employee appreciation and recognition program, the P.R.I.D.E. in public service award will showcase a county employee or group of employees at the annual county picnic. P.R.I.D.E. stands for people first, respect, integrity, deliver, and excel.
“We had no formal mechanisms for recognizing our county employees for the many good deeds and out-of-the-ordinary things they do all the time,” said Nichols, who emphasized that the award will be reserved for folks who go above and beyond their normal job duties.
Any community member, not just government employees, can nominate county workers for the award, which will focus on employees who make substantial contributions, improve relations with the public or within government, or act in other exceptional ways. The award selection committee, which is comprised of 13 county government workers, will review the nominees and decide upon the annual winner.
Winners will be announced at the annual county picnic and will receive recognition on a plaque in the county administration building, a certificate of commendation from the Board of Supervisors, public recognition at a Board meeting, and a bonus of $500, which will be divided if a group wins the prize.
The process of establishing the employee appreciation and recognition program, which was approved last July, was not without bumps in the road. Former Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch took issue with the idea that people “these days” need recognition for what he considered to be regular work functions, and said that county employees should just “do [their] damn job.”
“While some Board members had a little angst about this, it certainly is the right thing to do to recognize behaviors you value and want repeated,” said Nichols. “Now we have a formal way to do that.”
According to the program description, “recognizing the accomplishments of employees contributes to a supportive work environment and enhances the attraction and retention of committed and engaged employees.”
The county is currently accepting nominations for both awards and encourages the participation of Fluvanna residents. Nominations may be made through the Fluvanna County website (www.fluvannacounty.org) or by email or letter. Details can be found at the Fluvanna County website

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Leslie, Christy and George Cushnie enjoy their new tasting room. Photo by O.T. Holen.Fluvanna’s only winery is growing more than grapes.

Thistle Gate owners George and Leslie Cushnie have opened a tasting room, though the official grand opening is scheduled for early October.

 

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Wayne Cain of bremo bluff holds his protest sign aloft. Photo by Tricia JohnsonDominion Virginia’s Bremo Bluff Power Plant began the release of treated coal-ash water into the James River on Wednesday, April 27. The day before that planned release, Tuesday, April 26, Dominion invited the media to Bremo to see the water treatment process for themselves. Cathy Taylor, Dominion’s director of Electric Environmental Services, and Jason Williams, an environmental manager for Dominion, spoke about the treatment process and Dominion’s commitment to protecting the James River.
On that Wednesday, more than a dozen protesters from the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition and the Knitting Nanas of Virginia assembled near the power station and held a mock funeral procession down Bremo’s main street towards the plant, carrying a fabric representation of the river and singing “Wade in the Water...Wade in the Water, Children...Wade in the Water...Dominion’s Gonna Trouble the Water.” They then returned to their gathering point, where the Knitting Nanas held a knit-in.
The power plant, built in 1931, burned coal to generate electricity until the plant was converted to a natural gas fired generation plant in 2014. Decades of ash, the by-product of coal combustion, had been in wet storage in ash ponds located at the plant.
The EPA implemented new requirements for the management of coal ash in 2015. One of the requirements was that power plants that have converted to burning natural gas come up with permanent solutions for the safe storage or use of coal ash residue.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality drafted an initial permit application for Dominion that was approved by the state Water Board in January. Opposition to the terms of the permit by the James River Association, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, convinced Dominion, after negotiations, to commit to stricter limits on the discharge of heavy metals and other chemicals.
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Land use suddenly became a hot topic in Fluvanna County last month, when Supervisor Tony O’Brien started pushing his fellow Board members to examine the program more closely.
Land use is a program adopted by the Board of Supervisors and administered by Commissioner of the Revenue Mel Sheridan. It encourages open space, agriculture and forestry by giving significant tax breaks to landowners who use their properties in those ways.
But the tax breaks from land use cost the county $2.7 million in 2015. O’Brien wants to take a closer look at land use, especially by gathering more data, to see if tweaks or an overhaul of the program are in order.
The key distinction between O’Brien and the other supervisors is that he is the only one without any property in land use. Whether his status as land use outsider helps or hinders his quest to probe into the program depends on who’s doing the talking.
Trish Eager
Supervisor Trish Eager far and away surpasses her colleagues on the Board in Fluvanna County land holdings with 829 acres. Though some of her parcels are residential and therefore don’t qualify for the program, other holdings are tucked away in land use. Land use saved Eager a whopping $28,515 in 2015 taxes.
But Eager noted that when she pulled six acres out of land use to sell them last winter, she paid $10,000 in rollback taxes to the county. When a parcel no longer qualifies for land use, the owner must pay the preceding five years’ worth of rollback taxes, or the difference between what she actually paid in taxes and what she would have paid if the land were not in land use.
“The reason we have land use is so that we can hold onto large parcels of land and not develop them,” said Eager. “Without that I’m afraid our county would look very different. Without this type of program, I wouldn’t be able to have the farm that I have. I think there are some misconceptions about land use. With rollback taxes – it’s not like the county doesn’t reclaim some of the money. And we pay taxes on any of our improvements [such as houses] just like anybody else does.”
Don Weaver
A distant second, Supervisor Don Weaver owns 80 acres in Fluvanna. Land use saved him $1,995 in 2015 taxes.
“Land use keeps Fluvanna rural,” Weaver said. “I don’t really understand why people have a problem with that. They moved here and I think they enjoy the farmland.”
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