25 August 2016
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors clashed over the definition of good stewardship as it examined $29,000 in additional money for county staff pay Wednesday night (Aug. 17). Some supported stewarding funds by keeping an eye on dollars spent while others championed stewarding people by looking out for county workers.
During budget negotiations last spring, supervisors approved a pay plan that would provide a minimum raise of 2 percent to all county workers except County Administrator Steve Nichols and those hired or promoted in fiscal year 2017. But that plan was contingent upon the state forwarding $28,874 to help fund state-mandated raises for social services workers and constitutional officers’ staff. Given recent state budget projections, Nichols advised the Board to make a plan in the event that state money did not materialize. Supervisors could either transfer $29,000 from their contingency fund to cover the state shortfall or choose to cut all raises to county staff by 0.75 percent.
Supervisor Mozell Booker took issue with the idea of backtracking on a contingently agreed-upon raise for county staff, citing the new pay plan’s goal of bringing county workers underpaid by market standards up to a higher salary level. “$28,000 to give people a raise so that they can catch up with the market value,” she said. “That is not a lot of money. $28,000. What is our budget, $78 million? And we’re quarreling over $28,000? To pay our own people?”
Supervisor Don Weaver responded by pointing out what he saw as a cavalier attitude toward spending unplanned money. “You know, that’s amazing,” he said. “$28,000 here, half a million there. It’s always something, and they say, well, we can take it out of contingency… That’s what’s wrong with government right there.”
Supervisor Tony O’Brien favored spending the extra money. “You’ve got to take the approach at some point in time that you’re going to be competitive in terms of your salary ranges,” he said. “We’re nickel and diming over $28,000 on a pay plan that is designed to be competitive with the surrounding counties… If the philosophy is that we want to hire people for the least amount possible and we don’t really care about the quality of their service and we don’t care whether they leave and then we have to spend money training them…then absolutely, let’s cut the salaries.”
“I’m certainly not going to approve of a $29,000 shortfall,” responded Weaver.
Chairman Mike Sheridan and Supervisor Trish Eager didn’t stake out positions, but Sheridan suggested deferring the matter to give him more time to question staff and “check on things.” When Eager formally suggested a deferral, the motion passed 4-1 (Booker dissenting).
Next under the microscope was a waiver of site plan review fees for the Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) pipeline. Fluvanna has joined with Louisa to create a short pipeline and pumping station to bring water out of the James River. The LCWA will then run the water northeast through Fluvanna to the Louisa County border, then on to Zion Crossroads. It will purify the water, selling it back to Fluvanna for use at Zion Crossroads by the end of 2018.
Eager took issue with waiving site plan review fees, which would total about $5,500 for the first year, given that the pipeline is “their [Louisa’s] project.”
Booker and O’Brien disagreed. “We’re in partnership with them – they’re our partners,” said Booker.
Nichols said that if Aqua Virginia, a major water provider in the county, approached him with a project idea for the county, he wouldn’t recommend waiving requisite fees. “I wouldn’t even consider it,” he said. But because Fluvanna and Louisa have a signed agreement to create a water pipeline, he said he saw the matter as different. “This is a joint-use water pipeline because we have a written agreement that says we’ll transport our water through that same pipeline,” he said.
County Attorney Fred Payne reminded supervisors that they had previously waived the fee for a special use permit for the project.
Supervisors voted to waive the fees 4-1 (Eager dissenting).
Alan Saunders, the new Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) residency administrator for Fluvanna, said that the speed limit on Rt. 53 will soon be reduced. The part of Rt. 53 that passes Lake Monticello, from the roundabout at the intersection of Rt. 53 and South Boston Rd. (Rt. 600) to Rt. 53’s intersection with Lake Monticello Rd. (Rt. 618), will soon be reduced to 45 miles per hour (mph) rather than the current 55 mph. Signs denoting the change will be installed “as soon as possible,” Saunders said.
Saunders also stated that the roundabout planned for the intersection of Rt. 53 and Rt. 618 will be advertised for bids on Nov. 19.
O’Brien brought up safety concerns at Lake Monticello’s Monish Gate on Rt. 53, calling it “a very dangerous intersection even with reduced speeds,” and asked for flashing lights or “at least more signage.” Saunders said he would look into the matter.
On Aug. 4 the members of Fluvanna County Rescue Squad voted to turn the Palmyra rescue building over to the county. Supervisors considered whether to accept that request, which comes with a price tag of over $100,000 in needed maintenance.
Nichols reminded supervisors that regardless of ownership of the building, the county has “always been paying” for needed maintenance on Fluvanna Rescue buildings. “We’re funding fire and rescue squad activities in this county,” he said.
Supervisors considered the proposal but did not take any action.
The county hosted a slew of public hearings.
• Supervisors voted unanimously to allow Silver Lining Flowers, near Haden Martin Rd. in the Fork Union district, to operate a commercial greenhouse. They approved the greenhouse’s request to host a yearly hydrangea festival. No one spoke at the public hearing.
• Supervisors unanimously approved a tweak to Nahor Village, a subdivision off of Rt. 53 near Food Lion. Nahor Village sought to convert some townhouse-style attached single family units to detached single family homes, reducing its overall unit count from 103 to 78. No members of the public spoke at the hearing.
• Sycamore Square, near CVS by Lake Monticello, requested a special use permit to operate an assisted living facility providing “an independent living environment with optional services.” No one spoke at the hearing. Supervisors approved the request unanimously.
The Board also bestowed upon Fluvanna resident Rudy Garcia its first community service awards resolution, recognizing Garcia for “breathtaking” leadership in the county that “invariably makes significant accomplishments in all the organizations that he leads,” according to the resolution.
The Board honored Garcia, who volunteers on the Fluvanna County Finance Board, the Economic Development, Tourism and Advisory Council, the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program, and other organizations. “It would be hard to imagine an event in the county that Mr. Garcia isn’t involved in,” said Nichols as he presented the award.