Supervisors hold supersized meeting in preparation for summer break

Board returns on August 3rd

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors July meeting Wednesday night (July 6) stretched from the Fluvanna County Library all the way to Denmark.

Cunningham Supervisor Chris Fairchild had intended to be home from a business trip in time for the meeting, only to be delayed by an airline labor strike.

The unexpected delay came just weeks after Rivanna Supervisor Tony O’Brien was forced to call in remotely due to a family emergency.

This spurred the first action of the night: the passing of a resolution setting the policy for remote participation by supervisors unable to appear in person. Under the Virginia Code, members can appear electronically up to six times per year. 

Despite a few glitches in the internet connection, Fairchild was able to join in discussions and cast his votes throughout the evening – which for him, was early morning. He expected the meeting to wrap at around 5 a.m. Denmark time.

Actions and deferrals 

Traditionally, the supervisors hold two meetings on one night in early July to give them a long summer break before returning to biweekly meetings in August. They worked steadily through two agendas containing a grab-bag of issues: 

County Attorney Fred Payne’s contract was renewed at the previous year’s rate of $10,000 per month. This covers services from Mr. Payne, his four deputy county attorneys, and paralegals.

Supervisors approved a public hearing for Aug 17. on a proposal by New Cingular Wireless to expand their lease of space on one of the county’s telecommunications towers to include ground space for the installation of a generator.

The Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) was given permission to apply for a state grant of up to $125,000 to fund the addition of two School Resource Officers (SROs) for the county school system.

The county attorney was given authority to work with Albemarle County to clarify the legal boundary line between Fluvanna and Albemarle.

The FCSO was also given the approval to complete the purchase of four new police vehicles at a cost of $143,600 from Sheehy Ford of Richmond. 

Several more complex matters were set aside, including the possibility of renaming one or more county voting districts in light of changes made by redistricting and whether to amend the zoning ordinance to up to 5.5 dwelling units per acre in areas zoned as R-4. Both items will return to the agenda in 2023.

Compensation study

Among the more complex items on the agenda was what to do with a new compensation report comparing current pay bands for county employees with those in surrounding counties. The county has experienced challenges in recruiting and retaining staff because of pay disparities with other localities.

County staff presented five different scenarios by which existing staff can be moved to pay bands consistent with the study, ranging in total cost to the county of anywhere between $48,000 and $840,000. 

Supervisors were also concerned with the fairness of some proposals, which could see some staff compensated more for longevity than initiative, or more junior staff benefiting more than senior staff. 

They all but eliminated four of the five scenarios but asked staff to look at the remaining option to come up with more details on how it could be implemented. They will resume debate on the issue next month.

Self storage

At the request of the applicant, supervisors also agreed to defer discussion on zoning and use permits for a proposed new self-storage facility until their Aug. 17 meeting. 

The facility would be located on a lot next to the UVA Community Credit Union branch on Rt. 53 and would be partially visible from the businesses at Turkeysag.

Several residents spoke during the first round of public comments to argue that the new business would disrupt the rural character of their community and add no value to the county in terms of jobs or infrastructure.

Corven Flynn and Cyndra Kerley, who own Gate Plaza near Food Lion, renewed their objections to the project during both rounds of public comments. They argue the new business would negatively impact their businesses and reduce property values; they also say the county violated its own policies in handling the application and has not been responsive to their requests for information.

The applicant, Cory Johnston, was not in attendance at the meeting. A representative from Shimp Engineering appeared via Zoom to ask for the deferral until late August to give them time to address concerns residents have raised about the visibility of the building from adjacent properties.

Community center

At the end of the public meeting, Supervisor Mozell Booker asked the other supervisors to make a visit to the Fluvanna County Community Center in Fork Union. While the building has received some upgrades, including the installation of a commercial kitchen and a senior center, much of the building is in poor condition and is in serious need of repairs and renovations.

Booker said it was a particular embarrassment to her because a picture of her late husband, a long-serving Fork Union supervisor, is prominently displayed in front of the building. 

“I’m ready to take his picture off the wall if we don’t make that building more presentable to this community as their community center,” she said. “That’s how strongly I feel about it.”

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