Supervisors confirm state of emergency

By Heather Michon, correspondent

The Sept. 19 meeting of the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors began by formally adjourning its Sept. 5 meeting. With three members unexpectedly absent that day, the meeting had been suspended, but not closed.

After that bit of parliamentary housekeeping was completed, supervisors tackled a super-sized agenda of items from both meetings.

Emergency declaration

With the county still cleaning up after heavy rainfall associated with Hurricane Florence, the board voted to confirm the decision to declare a local emergency. It was the first such declaration since a winter storm event in February 2015. Declaring a local emergency opens access to state resources and potential reimbursement for cleanup and recovery.

County Administrator Steve Nichols said much of the storm debris had already been cleared. However, the Virginia Department of Transportation expects repairs to washouts on Route 616 (Union Mills Road) to continue for another two weeks. Until then, the road will be closed to all but local traffic from the Route 600 (South Boston Road) intersection to Route 15.

Next Gen 911

Melissa Parsons, regional coordinator for Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA), gave a lengthy presentation on the state-mandated upgrade of emergency call centers to Next Generation 911.

The current analog 911 system is now 50 years old, and the old technology simply can’t keep pace in the digital era. Next Gen 911 uses a shared digital network that will eventually connect every 911 call center in Virginia.

Among its other benefits, it will allow 911 to handle texts and images as well as calls, access and share specific location data from callers, and build more redundancy and resilience into the system.

Parsons stressed that this is a nationwide effort, and communities don’t have a choice of whether or not they will participate. “Doing nothing is not an option,” she said.

“Because we realize it’s not your fault the state’s asking you to upgrade,” the state will pay the cost of installation and the difference between the current and upgraded maintenance fees for the first two years, Parsons said.

For Fluvanna, Parsons estimates this will come to a little over $338,000. This includes over $90,000 for increased monthly maintenance costs.

Each region will roll out the upgrades on a schedule set by VITA. For this region, the switch to Next Gen 911 will happen in 2020.

Money transfer

Supervisors approved a series of transfers of county dollars to free them up for ongoing projects.

About $72,000 was shifted from the Unassigned Fund to the fiscal year 2019 (FY19) Fluvanna County Public Schools Capital Reserve Maintenance Fund for work on the middle school campus.

Also approved was a capital improvement budget transfer of around $120,000 for repairs to the exterior of the Historic Courthouse, and $138,000 for a set of smaller projects like a hydrological study and replacement of lighting control systems in the main courthouse.

On the telecommunications side, supervisors approved a $114,000 contract with Fulton Communications for a new VOIP phone system for county offices.

Travel and reimbursement

“I’ve been working on this one for six years,” Nichols told supervisors as he introduced a policy update covering travel and business reimbursement for county employees.

The old system of using receipts to reimburse employees for expenses will be replaced by a more simple per diem structure, making it faster and easier for staff to process claims.

Supervisor Don Weaver disagreed with a provision in the policy that would allow out-of-state interview candidates to receive a per diem for traveling to Fluvanna County.

Human Resources Manager Jessica Rice explained that it’s difficult for rural localities to draw on a wide talent pool if out-of-state applicants are unwilling to travel here for an interview. She said a modest per diem is a “basic recruitment technique.”

The policy update passed 4-1.

Employee survey

Nichols also outlined the results of the 2018 staff opinion survey. About two-thirds of county employees filled out the survey, for a total of 97 responses.

When it came to overall satisfaction, 79 percent of respondents said they enjoyed being part of the organization and 78 percent said they were happy with their jobs. Another 63 percent said they thought their performance was judged fairly, and 68 percent said the training they received helped them do a better job.

Some areas that employees felt needed work were in recognition for accomplishments (53 percent), equal opportunity (59 percent), communications of new policies and procedures (57 percent), and the opportunity for employees to contribute to changes in policies and procedures (51 percent).

The survey is conducted every two years, and Nichols noted that overall positive responses had increased since the surveys began in 2012.

There was also room for staff comments, which included recommendations, observations and complaints.

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