County slashes charge to food pantry

Fluvanna County has slashed the amount it plans to charge the food pantry for its land lease from $600 to $180 per year, the Board of Supervisors learned Wednesday (Aug. 2).

Fluvanna Christian Service Society (FCSS), which operates Fluvanna’s food pantry on county-owned land, plans to buy two shed-style buildings and move its existing shed from its current location behind the public works building at the Carysbrook complex to a spot about 200 feet away.

Members of FCSS showed up at a July 5 Board meeting to protest the proposed $600 charge.

“We’re a small organization,” FCSS member Susan Hughes said at the time. “We have no money. Even a couple hundred dollars in a hardship on us, because all the money we take in we put back into the community.”

But Virginia code prevents counties from donating to religious organizations. County Administrator Steve Nichols told supervisors that they had no choice but to charge rent on the land’s fair market value. “If it were legal I’d be advocating for you to” let FCSS use the land for free, he said at the time. “I just don’t know a way to do it other than [charging] fair market value.”

Nichols told supervisors Wednesday that the county plans to lower the charge to $180 per year after discussion with Commissioner of Revenue Mel Sheridan about the value of the small amount of land on which the sheds will sit.

Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the matter Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. in the county courthouse. Nichols noted that legal advertisements for the hearing still list the original rent price of $600.

Earlier in the meeting supervisors presented a certificate of commendation to John Thompson, who worked as Fluvanna’s extension agent starting in 2005. In May he was promoted to a regional leadership role with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

“The best part of his leaving is that we still get to use him, because he’s now the supervisor covering our area,” said Nichols.

“During his tenure John Thompson was widely respected for his leadership and extensive knowledge,” Nichols said during the presentation. He called Thompson “a great friend and champion of the Fluvanna farming community.”

“I wouldn’t have been successful if it hadn’t been for the personalities, people and departments in Fluvanna County,” said Thompson as he accepted his certificate. “I don’t deserve all that praise – that belongs to the whole county.”

In other matters:

  • Alan Saunders, resident engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation, said he expects the roundabout at Routes 15 and 53 to be complete by Aug. 23. Several streets in Columbia are scheduled for hard surfacing in September.
  • Cheryl Elliott, emergency services coordinator, said that testing of the county’s new radio system will begin Aug. 14. The county plans to switch over to the new system Aug. 29.