Supervisors approve business grant program; talk deputy salaries

By Heather Michon

The Board of Supervisors held a marathon five-hour meeting on Wednesday night (June 17) touching on issues ranging from zoning and business grants, to police salaries and social justice issues.


Supervisors approved the $2,379,202 supplemental appropriation from the state under the CARES Act, approved by Congress in March to help localities pay for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Once it was formally accepted, Finance Director Mary Anna Twisdale briefed them on the first wave of disbursements from the fund. Among the qualifying expenditures already incurred by the county to deal with the pandemic was approximately $20,000 in staff salaries and overtime; $30,000 for cleaning supplies, plexiglass barriers, and other materials; $20,000 for video conferencing equipment for the courts and other departments; and $6,000 for public health related signage and advertising.

Fluvanna small business grant

The largest line item from the CARES budget is a $350,000 fund for an Economic Development Grant program. Several Virginia counties have designated significant portions of their CARES funds for business grants. Economic Development Coordinator Bryan Rothamel said Fluvanna’s program would utilize about 19% of the $2.3 million allocation, with $350,000 in grants for for-profit county businesses, and $100,000 set aside for nonprofits. The nonprofit piece will have to be approved separately by the supervisors at a later date.

Almost all for-profit businesses in Fluvanna County would be eligible for grants, provided they were established before March 27, 2020 and are currently on its local tax payments. Applicants will have to be able to show a loss of revenue or expenditures that directly relate to the pandemic.

The grants would be awarded on a sliding scale, with a full-time solo entrepreneur potentially eligible for up to $5,000 and a business with 51 or more full-time employees eligible for $20,000. Farmers, home-based workers, and private schools would all be able to apply for grant funding. The program will be managed by the Charlottesville-based Community Investment Collaborative for a fee of three percent.

Sheriff’s office pay scale

Supervisors approved 5-0 a new pay scale for the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office as part of an ongoing effort to raise salaries to match market rates and draw in law enforcement that “live here and want to raise their families here and be part of the community,” said Sheriff Eric Hess. Currently, the starting pay for a probationary deputy is around $38,000. By comparison, deputies in Powhatan County, which serves a similar-sized population west of Richmond, start at around $47,800. Albemarle County deputies start at about $40,000. Hess told supervisors that several of the current deputies “have to work a second job to have a home and to have things for their family.”

The new pay bands devised by Hess and Human Resources Director Jessica Rice raise the per-hour pay for most deputies by approximately one dollar per hour. It also gives those officers regularly assigned to “non-desirable” night and weekend shifts a differential pay bonus of $1,100 a year. In December, the supervisors approved an increase in the sign-on bonus for trained deputies from $3,000 to $5,000. Rice said that three new deputies had qualified for the enhanced bonus.

Hess said that pay band “compression” remains an issue. Each pay band has a minimum, mid-point, and maximum range, but there’s no clear path by which a deputy moves up towards the maximum. He noted that after 28 years on the job, even he is barely at the mid-point of his pay band; most of his senior staff are in a similar situation. This makes retention of officers difficult, as many decide to look for not just higher pay, but a clear idea of where they are going to be financially as their career progresses.

In response to a request by the supervisors, Rice said that 28 of the 36 current deputies live within Fluvanna County. That is a rate of 77.8 percent, slightly higher than the rest of the county staff at 76.1 percent. “They’re all in,” said Rice of these deputies, policing their communities and their neighbors.

Zoning issues

After a lengthy public hearing, supervisors voted 5-0 to deny a request to reclassify a 7.5 acre parcel off Rt.  250 from A-1 Agricultural to I-1 Industrial for a proposed vehicle impound lot.

They voted 4-0-1 to defer a request to amend the county zoning ordinance to define a “Vehicle Impound Facility” and allow the county to issue Special Use Permits in the A-1, B-1, and I-1 zoning districts. Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) abstained.

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