Top ten news stories of 2019

By Heather Michon


  1. The Fluco F

    After months of debate and controversy, the Fluvanna County School Board voted to allow the high school’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) Alliance Club to alter the “Flying F” school logo with rainbow colors, traditionally used to signify gay pride. The club’s seemingly routine request turned into an emotional, long-running drama that exposed the discrimination faced by LGBTQ teens. At one point, a letter containing the name and email of one LGBTQ student was leaked and published on a right-wing blog. In the end, three board members — Andrew Pullen (Columbia), Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham), and Brenda Pace (Palmyra) — abstained from voting, and the motion to approve the use of the logo passed 2-0-3 by Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) and Shirley Stewart (Rivanna). In public comments after his abstention, Rittenhouse called it “an abomination to anybody who graduated from Fluvanna high school.”


  1. Zion Crossroads water and sewer systems

Work on the long-anticipated Zion Crossroads Water and Sewer Project began in March 2019. By December, a substantial part of the work was completed, including the construction of a water tower near the Rt. 250/Rt. 15 intersection. County Administrator Eric Dalh told supervisors that the project remained within the projected budget and on track for completion by October 2020. The water and sewer line will run for four miles along Rt. 250 and about a half-mile down Rt. 15. When operational, it will allow for more business and residential growth on the Fluvanna County side of Zion Crossroads.



  1. Supervisors approve 3.6 percent tax rate

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors approved a 3.6 percent tax hike at their April 24 meeting — but they made it clear they weren’t happy about it. Four of the five supervisors gave impromptu speeches ahead of their vote, venting different frustrations from multiple viewpoints. Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) pushed back against public perception that the county was shortchanging core services like fire and rescue and the schools; Mozell Booker (Fork Union) advocated for more funding for schools, especially buses; Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) clashed over the concept of taxation itself. When it finally came to a vote, they set the overall budget at $82,838,139 and the tax rate at 92.5 cents by a vote of 3-2, with Weaver and O’Brien voting no.



  1. Flucos baseball wins first state championship

The Flying Flucos baseball team won its first-ever state championship when they defeated the Tabb Tigers in a 16-10 blowout game on June 14. Coach Joel Gray noted that his squad demonstrated all year that it can come back after a low scoring game and “tear the cover off.” As the season ended, junior pitcher Andrew Ward and senior catcher Jacob Critzer were named first team All-State. In addition, Critzer was named Player of the Year in Class 3. Coach Gray was similarly honored, as he was selected as Coach of the Year in Class 3.


  1. Changing of the guard

After seven years as county administrator, Steven Nichols stepped down on July 5 and handed the reins over to his deputy administrator and Finance Director Eric Dahl. Nichols was widely praised for bringing greater efficiency and transparency to the county government, along with his work on major projects like the E911 system, the Columbia Area Renewal Effort (CARE) task force, and the James River and Zion Crossroads water projects. Although retired, Nichols was asked to serve as an unpaid project consultant on the James River Water Project and will continue in that capacity until at least the end of June 2020.


  1. Lakers reject dues increase

Lake Monticello residents voted overwhelmingly to reject proposals designed to build up the HOA’s reserve funds and subsidize its beleaguered restaurants. The Board of Directors asked the members to approve a $180 dues increase to be phased in over three years and an annual $50-per-household restaurant subsidy. It is relatively rare for a due increase measure to fail, and many took it as an indication that the membership feels the Association should adapt to a tighter budget. Annual dues for most Lake residents in 2020 will be around $1,100, with $887 going to dues and $220 for trash and recycling. Lakers also selected two new board members, with Jay Hinkle and Johnny Williamson replacing Marlene Weaver and Larry Cormier.


  1. Permitting problems plague James River Water Project

Members of the Monacan Indian Nation and their supporters appeared before the James River Water Authority on Aug. 13  to protest a planned water pumping station atop what they believe to be the site of the historic settlement of Rassawek. Monacan Chief Kenneth Branham told members “I don’t think any of you gentlemen would like to see your grandparents and great-grandparents dug up,” and indicated that the tribe is ready to go to court over the matter. The meeting was just one of several issues to plague the project. Later in the summer, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources informed the Authority that the archaeologist hired to survey the area lacked the proper credentials, and a short time after that, a whistleblower came forward with a report about mismanagement of the survey. In late December, representatives for the Monacan tribe demanded an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the survey.


  1. A killing at Lake Monticello

On the night of Oct. 29, Lake and county law enforcement were called the scene of a shooting on Axle Tree Drive in Lake Monticello, where they found Jason J. Farren, 36, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Benjamin Camp of Charlottesville told police that Farren and another man, Joshua Bentham-Bell of Lake Monticello, had broken into the house and attacked him just before the shooting. Camp was arrested for second-degree murder and Bentham-Bell for assault and battery. Both are being held without bond at Central Virginia Regional Jail.


  1. Lenherr wins reelection

There were few surprises on Election Day 2019, with Fluvanna’s state representatives and constitutional officers retaining their seats. The one nail-biter was the treasurer’s race, where long-time incumbent Linda H. Lenherr found herself facing two opponents, Ben Hudson of Palmyra and Kim Oliver-Hyland of Scottsville. In the final weeks of the campaign, Lenherr and Oliver-Hyland sparred on social media over delinquent tax collection rates and other issues, while Hudson stayed out of the fray. Oliver-Hyland and Hudson ended up with a little over 2,400 votes each–not enough to defeat Lenherr, who won with 3,000 votes total.


  • Fluvanna becomes a second amendment sanctuary

Fluvanna joined more than 80 Virginia localities when the Board of Supervisors agreed to declare the county a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” Hundreds of people attended two special sessions and dozens give public comments, focusing on fears that the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly will pass restrictions on firearms in the upcoming session. Supervisors approved the resolution by a vote of 3-2, with Mike Sheridan (Columbia), Donald Weaver (Cunningham) and Patricia Eager (Palmyra) voting for it, and Mozell Booker (Fork Union) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) voting against.


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