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BonusNo bonus yet.

At Wednesday’s meeting (Feb. 14) the Fluvanna School Board voted to table the decision on employee bonuses until it presents its fiscal year 2019 budget request to the Board of Supervisors Feb. 21.
That budget request is $40,924,708.

That’s just shy of $1 million more than last year’s budget.

In discussing the bonus, Andrew Pullen (Columbia) suggested it would not look good for the Board to approve $390,000 in bonuses just one week before going to the county asking for almost $1 million more.
Pullen said if they wait, they could get the requested budget amount and still give the bonuses in the spring. “I’m not against giving the bonuses, but let’s have something to negotiate with,” he said.

Superintendent Chuck Winkler said fiscal budgets don’t carry over from year to year.

Winkler recommended a 1.5 percent bonus with no employee getting less than $700.

Brenda Gilliam, executive director of curriculum, instruction and finance, said if the School Board approved the bonus, the checks would be cut Feb. 28.

“This [FY18] budget was built including this [bonus],” she said. “This isn’t new to the Board of Supervisors or to our staff. It greatly worries me about the trust we have with them.”

Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) asked if the money will be available in June. Winkler said yes, but he wouldn’t wait past May to vote on it.

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) said Pullen had a valid point but she’s concerned about the message to staff. “Staff needs to be remunerated,” Stewart said. “I’d be willing to vote for the bonus sooner rather than later.”

Brenda Pace (Palmyra) said it was important to “make it up” to staff who suffered during the recession. “We haven’t had a lot of opportunities and I don’t know when we’ll get the opportunity again,” Pace said.

Johnson said she was willing to wait until the Board achieved consensus.

Winkler presented his proposed 2018-19 school year calendar which already drew criticism on social media for the number of half days built into it.

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Walter Hussey and Ida SwensonOn a rainy Saturday afternoon (Feb. 10) Ida Swenson, a Virginia master naturalist of the Rivanna chapter, presented a program to interested nature lovers and potential master naturalists on identifying animals, as morbid as it sounds, by their remains.

The program, called Skulls and Scat, teaches how to identify wild animals by the bits and pieces found along nature trails in the woods and other areas. Swenson laid on a table a box of interesting artifacts, including a mummified worm snake, bones, the skull of a young deer, black bear fur and scat, or animal excrement, preserved in jars.

A retired science teacher, Swenson has been educating the public about nature for some time and her presentation was intriguing and uncomplicated. She began by discussing collecting items – an undertaking not as simple as picking up something in the woods and taking it home. She cautioned that anyone interested in collecting items, even roadkill, from the natural environment has to have a collection or scavenger or salvage permit from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

“All natural things belong to the state of Virginia, therefore collectors have to have permits to collect dead animals,” she said. “You cannot collect any animal until it is dead.” A Virginia permit is required for educational purposes, but additional permits from the federal government are needed for birds, since some are either endangered or protected. Collecting anything related to birds, native or migrating, including nests and feathers, requires a permit. “There are some things that are illegal to collect, including fresh water mussel shells and eagle feathers,” she said.

She told the story of a box turtle she found at Scheier Natural Area, which appeared to be injured.

“If the shell of a turtle is damaged, it can paralyze it,” Swenson said. She illustrated her point with a couple of turtle shells, tracing the backbone in the underside of the shell to show where the spinal cord was found. She went back another time and the turtle had not moved from the same spot and this told her it was most likely paralyzed. The turtle eventually died and with permission, Swenson took possession of it. Add a comment

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Jennings with banjoNearly 20 handmade instruments, including some beautiful banjos, will be on display at the Art Center of Orange beginning Feb. 1 with a meet and greet by the artist and maybe a song or two. The public is invited to see the craft, to hear the music and to learn the history of these amazing and attractive instruments.

The craft of banjos lies in their beauty and design. These handmade works of art by Orange physician Dena Jennings will be displayed at the center’s Morin Gallery which will be open to the public for viewing. Some of these organic instruments look like the banjos with which we are familiar. Some have long, graceful necks. Colors vary: greens and browns and yellows glow in full spectrum.

When one thinks of banjos, though, one generally thinks of music, and these handmade instruments truly sound amazing.

Banjos are “as much a percussive instrument as a stringed instrument,” because of the instrument’s drone string – a string shorter than the others on the instrument, explained Jennings. It offers a percussion tone, a “bumdiddy, bumdiddy, bumdiddy, bum” not offered by a traditional stringed instrument. Used in folk music, the instrument gives the song a “lot more expression,” she said.

But the true beauty of these instruments lies in their history. The craft of making gourd banjos dates back to before the 17th century, and they came to America with enslaved Africans. The akonting, which according to banjohistory.com is still played by the Jola tribe in Gambia, is a banjo made with three strings – two long and a drone – and that type of banjo is still played extensively in Appalachian music. The akonting is a precursor to the banjo, Jennings explained.

Jennings’ mother, Virginia, was born on Christmas Day in 1941 in a hollow in Kentucky. Jennings’ family –and their music – moved from those mountains in Kentucky to Akron, Ohio, before she was born. They were a part of the Great Migration north to find jobs in the rubber and car factories there.

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Scottsville mapAlmost every locality has what is known as a comprehensive plan. Scottsville is no different and in Virginia, a locality’s comprehensive plan must be reviewed and updated every five years. Since Scottsville’s plan was last reviewed in 2013, this is the year for review and it is the job of the Planning Commission to undertake that review.
In order to help the Planning Commission do its job and present to the public the most accurate information, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission helps by providing the latest in statistical information so the future of the community may be viewed in light of the past.

But sometimes the past doesn’t always accurately forecast the future!

At a recent Planning Commission meeting, Town Clerk Amy Moyer presented members with copies of a planning document that was developed for the town in 1978. This document, produced by the firm Balzer and Associates Consulting Planners, looked at the history of the town and forecast the town’s future based on its past. The forecast was most interesting.

The 1978 study determined the population of Scottsville, including the Albemarle and Fluvanna portions of the town, at 225. The 2013 document, using the latest available statistics from 2011, showed the population at 575. Of course the 1994 boundary adjustment helped with the increase. The 1978 study showed a continued decline in the growth of Scottsville while the 2013 document speculated an increase in the population of the Scottsville area to between 800 and 1,000.
While both studies cite the importance of the historical nature of the area, tourism was, and still is, a primary incentive for attracting visitors. Since the 1978 study, the Van Clief Nature Area has been established and is today part of the current comprehensive plan. While the 1978 study called for the development of the riverfront, the town has learned that access to the river is a limiting factor in realizing that goal. Add a comment

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flooding 2Tremendous amounts of rain fell on Fluvanna over the weekend, causing flooding across the county. A Palmyra weather station monitored by Weather Underground recorded that a total of 4.09 inches of rain fell from Saturday (Feb. 10) at 12:01 a.m. to Monday (Feb. 12) at 9 a.m.altflooding

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