Full story: Supervisors act


And after he did, chaos broke loose.  Arguments, angry speeches, and verbal jabs raged.  But before the night was over, supervisors passed the agreement 3-2 (Supervisors Don Weaver and Bob Ullenbruch dissenting).  Only a dozen citizens, not employed by the county government, were there to witness it.

On Oct. 2, supervisors voted to suspend negotiations with Aqua Virginia.  And at the Board meeting Oct. 16, Chesser stated, “The partnership is dead with Aqua Virginia.”  But other members of the Board have refused to comment so decisively, leading some to question whether the agreement was truly as dead as it seemed.

Most prominent after Chesser’s announcement last night were expressions of shock.  “What is this all about?” Weaver asked, flummoxed.  “I don’t know anything about it.”

“Where did this come from?” Ullenbruch demanded.

“The motion’s been made; is there a second?” Chairman Shaun Kenney asked.

“Second,” Supervisor Mozell Booker replied immediately.

“Anything of any consequence has always been brought up and put on the agenda,” Weaver remonstrated.  “I’m appalled; this is shocking to me… I’ve never seen such a tactic.”

“Who else knew about this?” Ullenbruch demanded.

“The entire community has known about it for three months now,” Kenney replied, referring, among other things, to the deal’s public hearing on Sept. 18.

“What was discussed was that you dissolved discussions on this with Aqua Virginia, and that was it,” Ullenbruch retorted.  He went on to claim that the other supervisors were “stuffing through again ahead of the public.”

“What you have here is democratic process,” Kenney said.

“Stop!  It is not.  It is under the table!” Weaver interjected.

Disputing the allegation of wrongdoing, Kenney responded that Chesser simply introduced a motion on a topic that has been under discussion for quite some time.  “There is nothing improper about that…  The negotiations [with Aqua] stopped; Mr. Chesser has found a way to break through.  That’s his prerogative…that’s the way this process is supposed to work.”

Weaver disagreed.  “The Board does not play underhanded things at the end of the meeting… I would be ashamed to do that and not to have it on the agenda.”

At this, Booker reminded Weaver of the now-infamous budget vote of May 2, 2012, in which the Board raised taxes to just under 60 cents, rather than the advertised rate of 68 cents.  All indications had seemed to point to a Board consensus of a tax rate at least in the mid-60s; at the meeting, however, Booker and Chesser discovered that the other three had a different plan.  “You read the motion [that night],” she said pointedly.

Chesser’s Aqua motion included two minor changes to the agreement in an attempt to rectify legal issues previously raised by County Attorney Fred Payne.  One change involved jurisdiction while the other addressed the time period for maintenance contracts.  But when Ullenbruch asked Payne if these changes ameliorated his legal concerns, Payne responded that he didn’t know.  He, like County Administrator Steve Nichols, had heard nothing of this beforehand and was caught completely by surprise.

Then the legal dispute began.  As Payne explained his legal concerns, Kenney debated back in an attempt to demonstrate that the contract, with modifications, was not illegal.  Back and forth the argument waged until finally, Payne informed Kenney that Payne’s own experience in federal court “substantially exceeds” Kenney’s.

At that, Kenney clarified, “I believe you notified the Board of Supervisors that we could indeed override your determinations?”

“Yes, you can!” Payne exclaimed.

“Then I think that’s what’s going to happen,” Kenney replied, and immediately launched into a surprising apology.  “Mrs. Booker, Mr. Chesser, Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Sheridan, I want to sincerely apologize for my vote on the budget two years ago; it was a mistake.  That should never have happened, because the reason why is because in Fluvanna County when we follow process, it really doesn’t matter.  In Fluvanna County, if we disagree with it, it’s bad process, and when we agree with it, it’s good process, and that is a terrible message to send our business community.  I sincerely hope you gentlemen set a better example for the future.  I have nothing more to say on this.  Do we have a motion?”

As Weaver began to speak, Kenney stopped him, saying it was time to vote.  When Weaver protested, Kenney overruled him.

“So you’re not going to allow me to discuss it?” Weaver asked.

“You can discuss it after the fact,” Kenney replied, and took the vote.  The agreement passed 3-2.  With the vote, supervisors committed $500,000 for a water down payment and $50,000 for a sewer down payment.  After the meeting, Kenney explained that this money comes from the $575,000 already appropriated in the budget for water improvement.

Commonly said to cost $20 million over 20 years, the Aqua deal will possibly cost less, Kenney said after the meeting.  The median estimate is $18 million.  When asked to clarify whether the entire amount of money was now committed, Kenney responded that “the next Board will have to determine that at the end of January.”

During public comments following the vote, one of the few citizens in attendance, Katy Clossin, addressed the Board.  “The way this vote was taken on the Aqua proposal without any public notice tonight – I think it’s incomprehensible… And you’re gonna dump that into the new supervisors’ lap just so that you can say ‘this is what you did as a supervisor.  This was your gift to the county.’”

Before adjourning, a few supervisors gave closing remarks.  Weaver said, “When you don’t do the right thing you breed distrust.  I’ve been on this Board now for 24 years and I have never, ever seen anything happen like this… Think about that: a $20 million project that’s not on the agenda; that’s never been done to my knowledge… If you want it, fine, but let’s do it above the table, let’s not do it under the table.”

Ullenbruch remarked, “That’s the way it fell… That’s the way it went down.  And I’m certainly not going to let this interfere with the future.  We’re going to work with the future and we’re going to get on with it.”

“At least we’ve made a decision,” Booker added.  “I’m glad we have stepped forward, and…the new Board…will see if it succeeds or fails.”

Kenney wrapped it up.  “The next Board is going to have tools that we did not have; that’s an accomplishment.”  After the meeting, he added, “Process was followed.  We’ve had that conversation in the daylight.  This doesn’t mean we lack integrity; it means we’ve done the public the service they elected us to do.”

In other matters, the Board:

Agreed to provide $25,000 to the James River Water Authority (JRWA) for “seed money” so that the authority can start the planning process to move the withdrawal permit, begin the initial engineering review, and pay for standard legal fees.  Louisa County is also providing $25,000 to the JRWA.

Modified the comprehensive plan to allow the James River waterline to run through the rural preservation area.  The thrust of the change was the decision to discourage potable, or drinkable, water in the rural preservation area, rather than water and sewer in general.

Presented to Modesto Farm a resolution for recognizing an outstanding conservation farm.  Located near Kidds Store, Modesto Farm is owned and operated by George and Claudia Goin.  The farm won an award from the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District for its clean water practices, including fencing to keep cattle away from the many streams on the property, the establishment of a rotational grazing management system, and the utilization of natural methods for insect control.

Urged the community’s residents to test their homes for radon.  According to Ullenbruch, radon is the second leading cause of cancer after smoking, and Fluvanna happens to have an abundance of radon.  Radon test kits are available inexpensively at Lowes, said Ullenbruch, and a mitigation system can be put into place if a home tests positive.  After the earthquake of 2011, rock formations shifted, and even homeowners who previously tested their homes are urged to do so again.

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