Water study


Fluvanna County forked over $6,700 for a new ROI from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) in order to best analyze the various options for bringing water to Zion Crossroads.  According to county staff, however, the ROI is riddled with errors to the point of being unusable in its current form.

Despite repeated attempts by County Administrator Steve Nichols to work with TJPDC to correct the errors, TJPDC refused, denying the existence of more than trifling mistakes and endorsing its study as accurate.

But when Fluvanna citizen David Harris spent his weekend voluntarily analyzing the ROI, he discovered significant errors that turned out to be the same as those uncovered by county staff.  “There are millions of dollars of errors, mathematical errors,” he told the Board, stressing that he spoke of purely factual errors, not unshared assumptions in how growth may play out over the years.

p>On the other hand, Dennis Holder took issue with just those assumptions, referencing the study’s “ridiculous growth projections” and calling them “completely unrealistic.”  He also noted that many placeholders in the ROI’s equations have been left unchanged, leading to faulty conclusions.  “I’d like to see real numbers,” he declared.

Once supervisors began talking, the debate heated up.  Supervisor Shaun Kenney, who initially spoke dismissively of the study’s “so-called ‘errors’” in a string of e-mails published by the Fluvanna Review, now called into question why those errors weren’t brought to TJPDC by county staff more quickly, citing a supposed three-month lag time.  Nichols replied by stating that the April version of the ROI was simply a draft, and that the actual, completed ROI, which contained “a significant change,” was delivered on July 15.  “Staff…has been working since then to identify [errors] and inspect it,” Nichols continued.  “I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours away from work trying to make sure we did this right and had the numbers correct.”  Perusal of the aforementioned e-mails shows that a flurry of analysis began after July 15, culminating a week and a half later in the first of several attempts to meet with TJPDC to correct discovered errors.

Picking up on a theme from public comments, Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch remarked that the Board has set a public hearing, now rescheduled to Sept. 18, on Aqua Virginia’s water proposal without a completed, accurate ROI.  “We’re working with incorrect information to make one of the largest decisions that can be made for this town,” he lamented.  “[We]’re going to have hundreds of folks asking questions about things that we don’t even know about – how would we expect them to know?”

In response, Supervisor Mozell Booker asked, “Can we get the right information out to the public and will it be in time for them to go through it [before the hearing]?”

A fleshed-out answer came later in the debate as Ullenbruch clarified Kenney’s claims, asserting, “So what you’re saying is: By three weeks we should have this out to the public, to give them a couple weeks to absorb it [before the hearing].”

“Absolutely,” Kenney stated.

Spreading his hands and looking at the audience, Ullenbruch said, “You heard it.”

After the county attorney and supervisors discussed the possibility of the public being misled by so many incorrect documents, Booker took a moment to issue an apology on behalf of the Board of Supervisors: “We apologize to the public.  We are trying to get this straight.  We have to – we must get this straight… This is the most important tough decision we have to reach, and you are a part of that.  And we are very sorry, and we hear you.”

During the second round of public comments, citizen David Harris again addressed the Board, this time with a warning.  “Be aware, we’re going to be watching.  The public is engaged with this decision…so keep everything above board.”

In less controversial matters, supervisors voted unanimously to approve the voluntary contributions plan that has been in the works all year.  Less staff time, the cost of the program is estimated at $2,800 per year if flyers are included in all real and personal property tax bills in both tax cycles, and $450 per year if flyers go out only once in personal property tax bills alone.  Noting the reduced cost from previous estimates, Ullenbruch said, “I want to thank the treasurer’s office for working with us and bringing the numbers down.”

Treasurer Linda Lenherr suggested that the Board think of this fall’s budget cycle as a trial run.  Once the county can determine how much the program cost and how much it brought in, the Board can revisit the matter at its first February meeting.  Whether the supervisors passed the program with this plan in mind was unclear.

Sheriff Ryant Washington briefed the Board on the status of the E911 project to improve radio communications throughout the county.  Narrowbanding, as required by law, was completed this past fiscal year.  The next step, Washington said, is to have the forthcoming contract with Motorola approved.  Once that is in place, engineers will be able to pinpoint exact locations for necessary radio antennae.

Using a map of the county, Washington drew the Board’s attention to the fact that the vast majority of Fluvanna’s towers are concentrated in the north and northwest portions of the county.  “That’s why there’s so much dead space in the county,” he explained, adding that five weak areas around the county will need to be bolstered.  Washington expects to have full radio coverage 12 to 18 months after the contract is signed, with some pieces falling into place sooner.

In other matters:

Jay Lindsey, planner, presented the Zion Crossroads Guidebook to the Board “to provide direction to implement the county’s goals in regards to Zion Crossroads.”  The concept included a business-filled town center, a mixed use village with both business and residential, and a mainly residential mixed use neighborhood.  Lindsey noted that currently 43% of the community planning area at Zion Crossroads is vacant.

Librarian Cyndi Hoffman gave an update on the library, noting its blossoming circulation and program participation.  She informed the Board that local funding levels to this point have fallen short of state requirements, a fact which may endanger the library’s state funding.  The state may call on the library to fill out waiver paperwork and have a hearing, a bureaucratic process that she and other county staff are anxious to avoid.

Supervisors approved $36,000 from the schools’ bus funds to be used instead towards vehicles for the legally-mandated transportation of special needs students.

Supervisors approved the issuance by the Fluvanna Economic Development Authority (EDA) of $7 million in tax-exempt bonds for the benefit of Region Ten, an organization that, according to its website, “provides mental health, intellectual disability, crisis and substance use services for adults and children” in Charlottesville and surrounding areas.

The public hearing on Aqua Virginia’s water proposal will take place Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.  The public hearing on the proposed development Walker’s Ridge is tentatively set for Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in the courthouse.

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