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Carolyn Liberto approached the medical staff at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW) complaining of chest pains on July 21. The 70 year old had a history of hypertension and congestive heart failure, but the medical staff allegedly told her that her vitals were normal and to return to her cell. During the night, she began to have trouble breathing. She died hours later.

Four days later, 38-year-old Deanna Niece complained of chest pain and shortness of breath so severe she fell to the ground. As with Liberto, she was not referred for evaluation. That night, she went into convulsions and began to vomit blood. An inmate said she “died on the floor” just three weeks shy of release. The coroner ruled cause of death as pulmonary embolism.

Details of the July deaths were among multiple allegations of medical mismanagement included in a 48-page contempt motion filed in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville on Wednesday (Sept. 6).

Lawyers for a group of prisoners say the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) has failed to meet the requirements laid out in a 2016 settlement agreement to improve care at FCCW. That settlement came after years of complaints and a class-action suit arguing that the prison’s medical services were so substandard that they potentially violated prisoners’ Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

FCCW “was built with an eye towards having the best medical care, and if this is the best medical care, I’d hate to see what it’s like in all the other prisons,” said Brenda Casteñada, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville.

Instead, the medical facility has become mired in what the contempt filing calls “an institutional culture of indifference,” with inadequate staffing and a lack of leadership at the top translating into substandard care for the prison’s 1,200 inmates. Add a comment

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School Board candidate will not appear on ballot

Linda Staiger’s name won’t be on the ballot for Columbia District School Board, the state electoral board decided Friday (Sept. 8).

Staiger said she will be running as a write-in candidate.

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Bike pathLocal bicycle and walking enthusiasts are in luck: the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) is soliciting their input into what bike and pedestrian paths to develop.

The TJPDC has set up an interactive map online in which participants can earmark suggested bike and pedestrian plans and include comments. Though most of the current suggestions focus on Charlottesville and Albemarle, the TJPDC wants to hear specifically from Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson and Greene residents.

“The goal for this plan is to engage the public,” said Zach Herman, TJPDC regional planner and project lead.

TJPDC is in the process of updating the 2004 Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan. As a part of this project, it wants to hear from local bicycle and walking fans as to what sort of projects they would like to see developed in their counties.

The updated plan will be integrated into the region’s long range framework to “better prepare and equip the region and its member governments to select and fund bike and pedestrian improvements,” according to TJPDC.

“For each county we hope to have a list of bike and pedestrian projects,” said Herman. “Those lists will be prioritized based on safety, connectivity, feasibility and cost. We’ll have a list of prioritized projects for each county.”

Herman hopes that interested Fluvanna residents will hop on their computers and send in their feedback during the months of September and October. Add a comment

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Supervisors defer Planning Commission appointment

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday (Sept. 6) deferred the selection of a new member for the county’s Planning Commission after two nominations failed to find support for a vote.

Seven candidates applied for the Rivanna District vacancy.

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Project volunteers on a Wednesday in August: Linda Thurston Collins, Gloria Johnson Gilmore, Robin Patton, Mark Shumake, Lisa Bailey and Linda Austin.Every other week, a group of volunteers of both African American and Caucasian descent gather around a long table at the Louisa County Historical Society’s Sargeant Museum and set up their laptops, in what has developed into a “sewing circle with computers,” as member Robin Patton put it.

The volunteers are part of a research project called “Will the Stones Whisper their Names,” which is documenting the burial sites of African Americans, many of whom were enslaved. Because so many of the enslaved grave markers may be simple unmarked stones or a pile of rocks, the committee hopes that learning more about who owned the property will provide “whispers of names.”

The volunteers are also researching county birth and death records, typically beginning with the 1860 slave schedules, and the records and wills of slave owners. The project also takes input from the community about the location of burial sites through a downloadable app called ArcGIS GeoForms, and places them on maps.

But the project is more than record-keeping and documentation. It is about personal family searches, oral histories, and sharing stories and findings with each other. The conversation and sharing is similar to sewing circles, in which members stitched stories into the fabric of their lives as they worked on projects.

Gloria Johnson Gilmore, Linda Austin, and Linda Thurston Collins are among the project’s volunteers. Though they have strong local ties, they have major gaps in information about their family trees. Gilmore said she began her family search 40 years ago and still enjoys the journey. She has genealogy resources to trace back to 1870, but then said she “hit a brick wall” as she searched for kin. Along the way, as she worked with the Louisa County Historical Society, she said she “found four generations of free black women who were very independent.”

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