Fluvanna Review

Lake Monticello resident George Kuhlow has played Santa for 56 years. Photo by Lisa HurdleAfter 56 years of bringing Santa Claus to life for underprivileged children, Lake Monticello resident George Kuhlow doesn’t plan on quitting any time soon.
Kuhlow, 77, keeps so busy as Santa that during the month of December he has three or four gigs daily. He starts the week before Thanksgiving and keeps going till after Christmas, when he plays Tired Santa at various churches around the community. “I speak a little more slowly,” he laughed.
Without Kuhlow as Santa Claus, many of the children he visits wouldn’t have much of a Christmas. He shows up at 48 different organizations, including the Shelter for Help in Emergency, daycares, and Head Start, and always brings his pack of toys. At night he visits families. “Most of these families are families in need, and when I say in need – they don’t even have a Christmas tree,” Kuhlow said. “They have absolutely nothing.”
The toys are donations from various organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, of which Kuhlow is an avid member, and Happy Face.
But Santa isn’t just for children. Kuhlow visits the elderly as well at senior centers and assisted living facilities. On these occasions Santa’s pack is stuffed with toiletries, books, and calendars.
“I have no bounds,” Kuhlow said. He’ll drive as far as Richmond and Farmville, and regularly covers Fluvanna, Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Orange.
Kuhlow first got his start 56 years ago playing Santa for his four daughters and “the little ones” in his neighborhood in New York. It wasn’t long before his sister, a nun who was the head of a migrant worker daycare, asked him to stop by and visit the 220 children in her program. Kuhlow was hooked.
“I got into volunteerism with my sister,” he said. “She and I would get old toys and spend all summer fixing them up. I did this for 21 years with her. Well, after six or seven years, truckloads of toys were pulling up, brand new toys, not only for the kids at Christmas but for the ones they had during the year. The kids she had during the summer wouldn’t be there in the winter, because they were migrants.”
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Two Central Elementary School students were safely recovered after they left school property early in the morning on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
The seven-year-olds had finished breakfast, and instead of going to their classroom, walked out a rear door of the building. They were found by a neighbor on her property, and recovered by staff at the middle school.
“When the teachers were taking attendance - somewhere in that time span - there was the recognition that there were students who didn’t report to class but had been seen at breakfast,” said Superintendent of Schools Gena Keller. “Very quickly and appropriately the principal of Central gathered the assistance of the principal of West Central, and staff members searched the building and grounds very quickly, and called the children’s parents and the sheriff’s office.”
Keller has estimated that the boys were missing for about 45 minutes.
Lt. David Wells of the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office managed the law enforcement response. “We directed all available resources to the area to conduct a scene search,” Wells said. “There were state police troopers and a bloodhound en route to the scene when the children were located.”
“Our school resource officers responded as well as deputies,” Wells added. We were very fortunate that we had units available and got there quickly - even our animal control officers were there. Wells applauded the cooperation between the school system and law enforcement. “Once the school notified the sheriff’s office, deputies and school staff worked hand in hand in an attempt to locate the children as quickly as possible.”
“Tuesday was the worst day of my life,” said Jennifer Brown, whose child was one of the two missing children. “There are no words to describe the fear I felt when Principal Davies called me and told me my child was missing and 911 had been called.
“I want to say Central and the sheriff’s office did a great job reacting to the situation and finding my baby quickly. The situation is a parent’s worst nightmare. Add a comment

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Mayor John Hammond, council members Kerry Murphy-Hammond and Ben and Cathy Saunders. Photo by Tricia JohnsonColumbia’s Town Council held its final meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Residents of Virginia’s smallest incorporated town voted in November to dissolve the town’s charter, paving the way for the community to become a part of the county of Fluvanna in Jan. 2016.
Few people were in attendance; six council members and a handful of others, several of whom were former council members, sat quietly through the brief meeting. A few final points were covered with Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols – largely about the pending FEMA grant which will fund the demolition of derelict buildings and the creation of green space, especially along St. James Street – the town’s main thoroughfare. Then talk turned to the historic significance of this last meeting of the council.
“It is sort of a sad time,” said Mayor John Hammond. “I don’t think it was a failure, that we weren’t able to keep it going. I think this outcome is for the best,” he asserted.  “Everyone in this room has done a great job, and there are some people who are not here that I would like to thank as well.”
Former council member Jerry Kidd had kind words for the town’s current leadership.  “I think you have done a wonderful job,” he said.
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Close to midnight on Nov. 18, after the public and media had left for the evening, supervisors came out of closed session and voted 2-1 to approve an addendum to the interjurisdictional agreement for the James River water project. The vote was not on the agenda. Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch was absent and Supervisor Mike Sheridan left when the topic arose, as he had recused himself from discussing or voting on a special use permit associated with the water project.
Ullenbruch expressed anger upon his return that the vote had been held without him. Though the addendum had originally been on the agenda for that evening, it had been removed. He said he had been assured the topic would not be discussed that evening.
If Ullenbruch had been present and if he had voted against the addendum, the vote would have tied at 2-2 and would have failed.
Supervisor Tony O’Brien stated that information discussed in closed session the evening of Nov. 18 prompted his decision to vote on the addendum immediately. Having the addendum in place before the upcoming votes on the related special use permits was crucial to Fluvanna’s wellbeing, he said.
Another sticking point in the Nov. 18 vote had to do with the fact that no one seconded O’Brien’s motion to pass the addendum, yet the vote was still held. Usually motions without seconds die on the floor. County Attorney Fred Payne has explained that the chairperson of the Board can call a vote even without a second if she chooses, and on Dec. 2 another vote was taken in this manner.
Because of the controversy swarming over the vote, supervisors decided to place on the Dec. 16 agenda and ratify in open session the addendum approved Nov. 18. Ullenbruch was present. Sheridan was absent for health reasons.
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Board honors Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch at final meeting. Photo courtesy of Bob UllenbruchThe Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors plunged ahead with water at Zion Crossroads at its meeting Wednesday night (Dec. 16) by reversing a vote from two weeks earlier that put the project on hold.
The water project will draw up to 75,000 gallons per day of treated water from the Department of Corrections (DOC) facility on Rt. 250 and pipe it to the intersection of Rt. 250 and Rt. 15 at Zion Crossroads. It will also take between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons per day of sewage back to the DOC to be treated.
A seemingly routine matter - the approval of an aerial survey of Zion Crossroads necessary for system design – hit a surprise roadblock at the Dec. 2 meeting when the vote to authorize the survey’s cost of $34,560 failed 2-2. County Administrator Steve Nichols had to put a stop order on the system design because it couldn’t proceed without the survey.
Supervisors Bob Ullenbruch and Don Weaver voted against the survey. Supervisor Mike Sheridan was absent for health reasons on Dec. 2 and Dec. 16.
But on Dec. 16 the matter was back on the agenda, and without any discussion whatsoever supervisors approved the survey unanimously.
When asked to explain why he changed his mind, Ullenbruch said, “After some discussion we decided to bring that back. I’ve always been in favor of the DOC option. We’ve already invested the funds so it made sense to bring it back.”
Why then did Ullenbruch vote no two weeks ago? “It was brought up at the wrong time with the two special use permits,” he said, referencing the two permits from the James River water project that were killed amidst a swarm of controversy on Dec. 2.
Weaver, in turn, said that the two weeks gave him more time to think. “Plus, I think you should crawl before you walk, and that’s really what this system is all about,” he said, meaning that the DOC option is on a more modest scale that the James River water project. “We already have prepared water and a waste treatment plant [from the DOC], the water will be cheap – I think that’s where we should have started. I think two systems at the same time is the wrong approach. Sometimes I like to rethink things.”
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