JAUNT, Roadside Signs Top BOS Agenda

By Heather Michon

Funding for JAUNT was the main focus of Wednesday’s (June 7) meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Last month, JAUNT informed the county that their FY24 budget request was about 10 percent below the requested funding of $87,070. As a result, JAUNT would have to cut service to Fluvanna by 10 percent, probably by cutting weekday service to Charlottesville on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

But JAUNT also informed the county that they were set to receive a rebate of $22,760. Normally, this type of refund would go back to the county’s general fund, but supervisors could decide to make up the funding shortfall by directing part of the rebate back to JAUNT to maintain their current level of service. If the county directed all $22,760 back to JAUNT, they could expand either the Workday Link service to Charlottesville or the Intercounty Connector from three days a week to five days a week.

In public comments before the meeting, multiple speakers stepped up to ask supervisors to keep or expand service.

Palmyra resident Iscella Wittich said she had tears in her eyes the first time the twice-weekly Midday Link had picked up her husband to take him to Charlottesville. With his memory failing, she had enrolled him in a program in Charlottesville that helped keep him active and socially engaged.

The service had benefited her as well, allowing her “time for running errands, buying groceries, doctors’ appointments, taking a nap. Being a full-time caretaker left little time for anything else. How I loved seeing the drop bus come down our driveway on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, as I knew my husband had been offered the opportunity to participate in numerous activities offered him by JABA.”

She asked the supervisors to fulfill their promise to serve the people of the county by maintaining and expanding JAUNT service.

From the start of the discussion, it seemed like there was a consensus among the supervisors to at least retain the current level of service. 

Chris Fairchild (Cunningham) argued that the county had given JAUNT more in FY24 than they had in FY23, and he was concerned that giving them additional funds outside the budget season might open the floodgates to other nonprofits coming forward with supplemental requests. 

“Where do we stop?” he asked. 

Mike Sheridan (Columbia) made a motion to use part of the rebate to keep the current service which was then seconded by Patricia Eager (Palmyra).

Tony O’Brien (Rivanna), who was participating in the meeting remotely due to illness, was in favor of expanding the Workday Link to five days a week. He argued that, because this was funded through the rebate, it was an opportunity to re-evaluate the service with no impact on the taxpayer. His motion, however, failed to find a second.

The motion passed on a vote of 3-2. Along with O’Brien, “I’m going to vote no,” said Chair Mozell Booker (Fork Union). “I think we should do the $22,000.”

Illegal road signs

In early May, supervisors were briefed on a potential partnership with VDOT to combat the proliferation of signs placed along county roads, particularly at busy intersections around Lake Monticello. The placement of signs in VDOT’s right-of-way is prohibited under state law, and Fluvanna has the option to enter into an agreement with VDOT that could see violators fined $100 per sign.

However, as supervisors debated whether to approve the resolution, the discussion focused on what implementing a fines-based program would require. 

County employees would have to be designated and trained to administer the program. Workers would not be able to simply pull up illegally placed signs. Instead, each sign would have to be documented with photographs and forms, and each request for fines would have to be approved by the head of the local district. The resources and costs associated with managing the workload would, more than likely, far outweigh any revenue generated from the program.

After a lengthy conversation, Fairchild made a motion to approve the resolution but failed to find a second. 

While the resolution died, Booker said she didn’t think this was the last word on the subject. She believes the county government could find ways to educate people about the illegality of placing signs by the roadside. 

Ironically, the county can’t simply post warning signs along the roadways – those, too, would be illegal.  

Citizen are encouraged to report signs placed in rights-of-way, damaged or missing road signs, road repairs, damage claims, and a number of other issues directly to VDOT through https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/

Other actions

Daniel N Whitten has been appointed as Fluvanna County’s first in-house County Attorney. Earlier this year, Frederick Payne announced he was retiring from private practice and the county’s long-time contract with Payne and his firm would end. Payne has continued his service to the county during the search for a replacement and will stay on as special deputy county attorney until June 30. Whitten has previously served as county attorney in Prince George and Warren counties.

Children Services Act (CSA) director Bryan Moeller gave a semi-annual budget update for his department, which serves the needs of at-risk children in Fluvanna County. The county has provided $2.8 million in funding for the purchase of services in the fiscal year, and the department will have $23,657 when the year ends on June 30. Moeller said departmental expenditures have decreased slightly over the last couple of years, despite an increased caseload. 

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