City Council Discuss Power and Priorities

By Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

Charlottesville City Council met on Monday night (8/1) to receive reports on council priorities, nonprofit funding, and the Charlottesville area power grid.

dominion-virginia-power-logoCouncil hosted Dominion Power for a systems update upon request of Mayor Dave Norris, who expressed interest in hearing the state of the Charlottesville power grid given the frequent outages in recent years.

Dominion Power representatives explained both methods of meeting increasing demand, as well as reliability efforts in the Charlottesville area. Representatives explained that a 40% increase in demand over the last ten years can be explained by the increase in the number of electronics in homes and businesses alike. One of the methods for meeting the increase in demand is conservation efficiency measures. Locally, LED streetlamps have been installed on McIntire road, and “smart meters” are being installed in homes throughout Charlottesville. “Smart meters” reduce the need for service trucks, deliver more consistent levels of voltage to homes, and allow for “smart pricing plans” which assign prices based on the time of day.

Dominion Representatives stated that increase in storms, especially since 2009, is the cause of the frequent outages, not any specific system failure. According to Dominion’s presentation, in 2010 38% of outages were tree related. Dominion has aimed to lower this number by removing “danger trees”; trees deemed to be distressed by drought, disease, or for other reasons have a possibility of falling in proximity to a power line. Other reliability measures include increasing storm resiliency of distribution circuits (circuit reconditioning projects). Dominion also announced that construction of a new Brandywine Transmission substation is scheduled for 2013.

Council recently reviewed a set of priorities established in 2008. These priorities included alternatives to cars, infrastructure repair, race relations, economic development, workforce development, affordable housing and a greener Charlottesville. City Manager Maurice Jones delivered a report on ways in which the city has accomplished these goals including increased funding to affordable housing and workforce development, job fairs, launching of the Dialogue on Race, and efforts to make the city more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Council added “Children” as a broad Council priority at their June 9th retreat. This will include efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate, emphasize prenatal care, increase community activities, and close the achievement gap. Jones said that Council intends to partner with residents and nonprofits to achieve these goals.

Discussion continued on efforts to review the process by which human service non-profit funding will be allocated. A steering committee conducted research over a nine month period and produced seven goals for a healthy community to aim for when allocating funding. On July 5th, staff presented proposals to City Council and offered their own recommendations. On Monday (8/1), staff responded to comments given in the July 5th meeting. Staff reinstated “recommendation 1” by the steering committee which calls for a needs assessment for the area. Staff plans to submit a method and cost estimate of this needs assessment by October 1st.

Staff responded to Council interest in soliciting feedback from stakeholders by building feedback into the needs assessment, and by asking nonprofits how they will gather feedback as part of the funding application. Mayor Norris requested that stakeholders also be involved in feedback regarding the funding allocation.

Council debate centered on whether arts and cultural nonprofits should be included in the human needs category or if they should have their own review process. The steering committee as well as councilors Edwards and Huja voiced interest in having a separate process, believing that this would benefit the arts and cultural community.

However, staff recommended that these nonprofits be kept in the same review process upon requests by arts and cultural nonprofits and festivals. Council agreed to keep arts and cultural nonprofits in the same review process for a year trial period.

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Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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