Supervisors vote

Supervisor Tony O’Brien said that the amendment, which is not yet available on the county’s website, stipulates that Louisa will make “every effort possible” to have 400,000 gallons per day of water for Fluvanna’s use at Zion Crossroads by Dec. 31, 2018.  Per the agreement, he said Fluvanna will be able to purchase that water at Louisa’s then-current commercial rate.

“In essence this agreement provides a pathway for us to have quantities of water at Zion Crossroads sufficient for decades to come, at a cost that is significantly below any cost that has previously been seen by the Board,” said O’Brien.

The vote, which was not on the agenda, took place after the regular portion of the meeting had come to a close.  When supervisors exit for closed session, typically any remaining members of the public and media leave.  Closed sessions can last for hours.  Supervisors then reconvene in open session to certify that their closed session only pertained to matters which they are permitted to privately discuss.  Often, though not always, the meeting immediately adjourns.

This time, however, O’Brien brought up the idea to vote on the amended interjurisdictional agreement.  Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch was not present at the meeting, and when the topic arose Supervisor Mike Sheridan exited the meeting in conformance with his promise to recuse himself from discussions on the LCWA pipeline, as a portion of it is proposed to run through his property.  So only three supervisors – O’Brien, Chairperson Mozell Booker, and Supervisor Don Weaver – voted on the agreement, which passed 2-1 (Weaver dissenting).

When asked why the issue didn’t come up during the regular portion of the meeting, when the public was present, neither O’Brien nor County Administrator Steve Nichols would comment.

In addition, neither would comment when asked why the vote hadn’t been put on the agenda.

Because Sheridan recused himself, only four supervisors could vote on the agreement.  If Ullenbruch had been present and had voted against the agreement, the vote would have been 2-2 and would have failed.

When the meeting reconvened in open session, the audio recording of the meeting recommenced.  As heard on the recording, O’Brien suggested the vote, saying, “I think there is an opportunity to get something done, and it may not be the best timing, but I also think that it may eliminate some headaches.”

“I don’t want to do anything while somebody [Ullenbruch] is not here,” Weaver responded.  “I’m not going to be a part of it.”

“What’s your major objection?” asked O’Brien.

“Midnight,” responded Weaver, referencing the late hour.

“Aside from that,” said O’Brien.  “It’s been done before.”

“Yeah, it’s been done in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and you saw what happened with them,” Weaver replied.  “People were outraged.  They were doing it late at night.  It wasn’t on the agenda.”

“This is an operational agreement – it isn’t forcing the next two votes,” said O’Brien, referencing the major votes on the pipeline project coming up on Dec. 2.  “It is simply guaranteeing that this part [the agreement amendment] is done.  In fact, I would argue it strengthens our position in advance.  It actually gives us a better place to be…to make a clear decision on Dec. 2.”

“It wasn’t put on the agenda,” repeated Weaver.  “You should have brought it up at some other time.”

“It was put on the agenda,” said Nichols.  “I was threatened so I took it off.”

Nichols declined to comment on who threatened him or how he was threatened.

The recording continues with O’Brien saying, “One could say this is going to be one of the largest votes that Fluvanna County will take…and that it shapes the future of the county for years to come.”

“I don’t like to vote at midnight when it wasn’t on the agenda.  That’s where I am,” said Weaver.

“I would like for us to go ahead and get it over with because this would be one piece done,” said Booker.  “We know Mike [Sheridan] couldn’t be here.  Bob [Ullenbruch] isn’t here because he’s – whatever reason, on vacation, whatever – I can’t control that.  At this most important time if I were a Board member I would be present.  I don’t know his personal things but it’s just too many times he’s out and we have been considerate of not taking votes when he’s out.  When you’re out two and three and four and five and six times, and we have to delay our business because we don’t have a full Board – I’m here all the time.  Don [Weaver], you don’t ever miss any days.  So why are we being so considerate of Bob because he’s chosen to take off at this very important time?”

O’Brien made the motion to vote on the amended agreement.  When County Attorney Fred Payne confirmed that the vote could proceed without a second, Booker and O’Brien passed the agreement over Weaver’s objection.

When asked to explain the hasty vote, O’Brien said, “The Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) is the expected financing body for the debt obligations of both projects… The VRA pool for the spring is early February and between the holidays, Board schedules, and potential delays in the special use permit votes without an agreement, making the spring pool would be very difficult.”

Nichols said the VRA’s spring pool deadline is the first week of February.  When asked if VRA financing was affected by having the decision made Wednesday night as opposed to Dec. 2, Nichols said no.

Because he said the previous interjurisdictional agreement did not provide sufficient guarantees for Fluvanna, O’Brien said he did not feel comfortable voting on the LCWA special use permit on Dec. 2 without the amended agreement already in place.  “The unpredictability of Boards is a complicated thing,” said O’Brien.  “We have seen repeated instances where negotiations have come down to the last minute.  This was one of those last minute things and I felt it was critical to the future of our county.”

“I don’t want to hurt the county or the Board, but I cannot withhold the truth,” Weaver said to the Fluvanna Review.  “When Tony [O’Brien] made the motion I said, ‘We’re doing this under the guise of darkness and I won’t be a part of that.’  I’m not saying there was anything wrong with the content [of the agreement], but it was the procedure.  Never before in 26 years have we voted on a major issue when not all Board members were there.  They need to read their code of ethics, because what went on was wrong.”

The vote amended an existing interjurisdictional agreement.  It did not approve or deny the water pipeline project itself.  Those two votes will take place Dec. 2.


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