Though Supervisor Don Weaver nominated Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch for the role, Ullenbruch in turn nominated Supervisor Mozell Booker.  With four of five votes, Booker became the first female Board chairperson in Fluvanna County history.  Ullenbruch retained his position as vice chairperson, also by four of five votes.


Next, supervisors set their schedule.  Evening meetings, which take place on the third Wednesday of each month, will continue to convene at 7 p.m., but afternoon meetings, which take place on the first Wednesday of each month, will now begin at 4 p.m.

The change came about because the two new members of the Board, Supervisors Tony O’Brien and Mike Sheridan, both have fulltime jobs during the day.  At first, the Board discussed holding all the meetings in the evening, but Weaver remonstrated, stating that the Board has traditionally had at least one afternoon meeting per month for, among other considerations, the sake of elderly citizens who have trouble traveling at night.

The new arrangement will convene afternoon meetings at 4 p.m., break for dinner from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and resume meetings, if necessary, after 7 p.m.  Work sessions, often held after afternoon meetings, will convene after the regular meeting has finished.  Supervisors may decide to work through the dinner break.  By a vote of 4-1, the Board adopted the new schedule.  Weaver dissented, stating that the new members of the Board knew the timing of meetings when they chose to run for office.

The first presentation welcomed by new Chairperson Booker came from Ryan Paris, radiation safety specialist and radon coordinator from the Virginia Department of Health.  Because Fluvanna and many surrounding counties are in a radon high-risk area, Paris wished to spread awareness to supervisors and citizens alike.

According to Paris, radon is a naturally occurring radioactive decay product of uranium that tends to accumulate in the lowest levels of people’s homes.  It seeps out from the earth through groundwater and cracks in foundations, and, when inhaled, can damage lung tissue.  In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and is, as Paris said, “the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers by far.”

Roughly one in four homes in Fluvanna may have a radon problem, Paris stated.  For that reason, he urged citizens to test their homes for radon using an inexpensive kit available online and from many stores.  In fact, he gave Fluvanna’s health department kits to distribute for free.  If tests come back with high levels, homeowners can take steps to mitigate their exposure to radon.

Ullenbruch, who has championed this radon awareness, talked about people he knows who bought homes and tested for radon before 2011.  But the earthquake that shook Fluvanna that year could have both fractured bedrock under homes and damaged their foundations, allowing radon levels to drastically change from previous test results.  Sure enough, Ullenbruch remarked, the people he referenced retested and discovered worrisome results.  Paris agreed, adding that even without earthquakes, the normal settling of a home’s foundation can allow for changes in radon levels, and urged citizens to test for radon periodically.

“I’d rather see [this radon issue] handled now than 20 years from now,” said Ullenbruch, “when we have a huge number of cancer cases and we’re starting to wonder why.  It’s a lot cheaper to fix this than to go through cancer treatment.”

After that, the Board turned its attention to a presentation on county vehicle usage.  Wayne Stephens, director of public works, described the safeguards in place to ensure that county vehicles are driven only for county business.  For example, employees may not take vehicles home unless specifically allowed by the county administrator.  Also, each department or employee must keep a mileage and condition report.  Fuel use is tracked and compared with mileage, and unusual changes in mileage driven and/or fuel usage are noted and investigated.

Treasurer Linda Lenherr gave an update on the voluntary contributions program, which allows citizens to make donations to several specific areas of Fluvanna County government.  So far, the county has received $1,685 through the program from 46 different donors.  In contrast, the cost of printing and stuffing the donation forms into tax bills was $255, not including staff time.  Booker called the community’s giving “uplifting.”

The program is still controversial, Lenherr noted, adding that her office has had to deal with “lots” of negative comments and phone calls.  When the program was first announced, both positive and negative reactions came from across the political spectrum.  Now, however, only one side remonstrates.  According to Lenherr, all of the irritation comes from the perspective that the county supposedly spends more than enough and ought not to be asking citizens for more.  None comes from the perspective that the county supposedly ought to raise taxes and not rely on the warm hearts of donors.

In other news, County Administrator Steve Nichols reminded the Board of the return on investment study community modeling meetings taking place throughout the county through Jan. 23.  The purpose of these meetings is to invite citizens to give feedback as to how to turn the study into a working model for Fluvanna.  How exactly to replace the study’s placeholders with actual numbers is a matter of opinion, and Nichols invited community members to make their voices heard.

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