Monthly Archives: May, 2014

Greene Sheriff Briefs Board About School Bomb Threat Response — Requests Additional Resources

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the first May meeting (5/6) of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, School Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh provided the Board an update on the bomb threats at the schools. Greene County Sheriff Steve Smith was asked by several Board members to bring them suggestions on what could be done to address the ongoing bomb threats.

After the May 6th Board of Supervisors meeting, there were several other threats.  The week of May 15th, three students were arrested and charged with making the threats (2 in the middle school and 1 in the high school).  These arrests and changes in the schools protocols, there have been no more bomb threats.

At the May 27th Board meeting Smith provided the Board a report of his departments response to the sixteen threats in 2014.  He indicated that he had dedicated an additional officer to the schools.

Independent of the Sheriff’s office, the staff at the schools have implemented a procedure when the students use the restrooms. Students go to the restroom one at a time. There is an adult – either a teacher, volunteer or a substitute – to log the student in, when the student exits he is detained while the teacher/substitute surveys the restroom to search for a threat and then the student signs out. Since all the threats have been found in restrooms this has proven to be the best tool to eliminate the bomb threats. This procedure takes teachers planning periods away from them – at a time when students are preparing for SOL exams – or the school has to pay for substitutes.

Before the meeting Smith indicated to this reporter that a mother addressed him immediately after the public forum complaining that the Sheriff needed to stop the bomb threats. The next day that mother contacted the Sheriff after her son confessed to her of doing some of the threats.  Smith and the mother agreed on community service for the student – this is in addition to any penalty from the legal system. Sheriff Smith said he has asked the judge  to do the same penalty – make the student do community service for the Sheriff.

Smith’s recommendation to the Board of Supervisors was to hire an additional deputy and also secure a bomb sniffing dog. Greene County does not have a bomb dog and therefore has to ask for neighboring counties – Augusta, Culpeper, Halifax and Charlottesville and University of Virginia – to lend their officer and bomb dog. In some cases a dog has been available almost immediately from a neighboring county but in other cases it has taken nearly 3 hours just locate an available dog and then he has to be brought to Greene County. All the time, students and staff have been evacuated from their building and wait for the building to be cleared.

The costs associated with the bomb dog and his officer are:

1 Full Time Deputy (per year) $56,563

Training (one time)                     6,000

Vehicle Cage (one time)             2,200

Heat Alert System (one time)        830

Dog (one time)                           5,000

Food, medical (per year)            5,000

TOTAL COST (Year 1)              $75,593   ANNUAL COST $61,563

Smith indicated that this would clear the building much sooner than the current situation – up to 3 hours sooner in the worst case scenario. Also, if there truly is a bomb, it will be discovered sooner and disposed of sooner.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) stated that this officer and dog is not in the FY15 budget that has just been approved. Per Frydl, it feels like we are overreacting to 16 threats when we haven’t had that many in years. He also indicated that having a bomb dog and officer will not prevent a bomb threat – it still is reacting to the threat.

The question came up as to what the officer and dog would do when not responding to a threat.  Smith stated that training is ongoing – averaging a day per week and also indicated that the officer and dog would be available to neighboring counties – just as they have done for Greene County.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) asked Smith how many hours has his department spent with all of the bomb threats this school year. Smith said he would include that answer in his next monthly report.

Frydl said he felt that the request is a knee jerk reaction and there may be other security needs at a higher priority for the $75,000 requested. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) was concerned about all of the lost class time for students and that getting them back to class sooner is important. Frydl stated that the county cannot provide personnel for every situation – we could have officers looking for entrenched snipers. Where is the line vs. the cost for each situation? He further stated that we didn’t look at it during the budget and it is a large request.

Cox stated that the Board did discuss the addition of 1 or 2 School Resource Officers (SRO’s) and finally approved adding 1 to the budget for a total of 3.

Frydl stated that a whole lot more research is needed and the Board of Supervisors is asked for additional personnel all the time. He asked that County Administrator John Barkley  work with Smith to evaluate what can be done with the same dollars.

Frydl also explained that this issue would be required to have a public hearing and hoped this could be resolved prior to the next school year. Smith said that there is biannual training sessions with the next 13 week session tentatively scheduled for October, 2014 and that would mean the dog and officer wouldn’t be available until January, 2015 – best case. Barkley stated that he would work with Smith to determine the costs vs. benefits/savings vs. other safety options.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.


Shucet Expressway Expertly Railroaded Through Albemarle

Comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors May 27th 2014, 6:00 pm

Madame Chair, Members of the Board, Mr. Foley and Mr. Davis,

My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as President of the Free Enterprise Forum a local public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum has been a participant and a vocal critic of the Places29 Misplanning process.

image.pngTonight’s vote on the Shucet Solution is, as Mr. Shucet’s put it, a “first step”.

I agree with Mr. Shucet, his Expressway vote tonight will be remembered for forever changing the character and viability of Albemarle’s Main Street and Economic Engine.

Make no mistake, some businesses will relocate and recover, some will not.

Ask the long timers on lower State Street in Santa Barbara California which saw the only lights on US 101 removed in the early 1980s with an elevated highway cutting off Downtown from the Beach. After over twenty years of economic depression, their micro economy is finally booming again.

Linton Hall Interchange Under Construction

Ask the retailer in Gainesville who was not close enough to have his land taken by the Linton Hall interchange but has watched his weekly receipts dwindle to barely enough to cover the rent.

No government program can fix this.

The Shucet Expressway will cause some businesses to fail.

That is the fact.

Further, Mr. Shucet is channeling Monty Hall when he tells the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that the choice is to endorse his solution (and all of his solution) by the end of Summer or lose the money to other deserving transportation projects in the Commonwealth.

With the City who has two of the five votes on the MPO already endorsing the concept, and VDOT representative duty bound to support it, the Shucet Expressway has been expertly railroaded through our community. And quite frankly, I am disappointed.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website

Fluvanna BOS Approves Landscaping Business SUP

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

In their May 21st meeting, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors approved an additional landscaping business to move into the county and also payment of a joint water authority bill.

Bella Terra Landscapes, operating in its fifth year, currently rents space in Earlysville but is looking to move to Paynes Mill Road in Troy. The owner, Tim Reese, is under contract for property on the road near Beaver Dam Baptist Church.

The business currently employs five, operates as contract landscaping and offers no retail operations. It does horticultural services and design. Reese lives in Lake Monticello and hopes to also build a home on the property in the future.

The business would include office space, covered storage and supply holding areas. The current illustrative site plan has the building being shielded by trees on all sides. The final site plan will have to be approved by planning staff.

Neighbors across the street, David and Pam Gregory, were two of the three people to speak during the public hearing. They gave concern of water usage and noise from delivery.

“I don’t think this is a suitable location,” said David Gregory.

Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) noted multiple landscaping businesses the county has approved with more houses around, including two around Lake Monticello.

“We’ve approved all those and every one of them is in a high-density residential areas,” said Ullenbruch.

Previously the land was used for four trailers. The sales contract on the property is contingent on passage of the special use permit.

Reese will be restricted from using irrigation for long-term growing plants, like for a greenhouse, and operating a retail business. The business can irrigate plants short-term.

The board approved the special use permit, the first to be labeled in 2014, unanimously.

The supervisors also unanimously approved paying $150,000 to the James River Water Authority to move the permit from Fork Union to Columbia. While everyone voted for it, it was not with any enthusiasm from conservative supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham District) and Ullenbruch.

Money was allocated from the county’s savings, referred to as the Fund Balance. The Fund Balance is currently less than a million dollars over supervisors’ self-imposed required level.

Board policy is to keep equivalent of 12 percent of the fiscal year budget in savings. Money is deposited in the Fund Balance from previous excess revenues or unspent money.

Ullenbruch is worried if the state budget stalemate goes into July, it will result in the county having to pay for items the state is normally responsible for.

“I want to be careful about expenditures until July 1 when we get a state budget,” Ullenbruch said.

Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) questioned leaving Louisa hanging on an item the county committed to in the second half of 2013.

“I wouldn’t want to partner with me if every time we don’t show up to the table,” O’Brien said. “It is all coming down the stream.”

O’Brien also wasn’t worried the General Assembly would halt the operations of the commonwealth because of a disagreement between the political parties over Medicare.

Weaver was concerned the JRWA is going to keep costing money, which he was told by county administrator Steve Nichols that it would.

“I’m going to approve it because we have made a commitment.” Weaver continued, “It looks to me we are starting to get out of control.”

Just before the vote was taken, Weaver also said, “It is still my responsibility to pay the debts of this county.”

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors next meet on June 4 at 4 p.m., with a work session to follow at 7 p.m.


bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Greene Planning Commission Allows Food Banks

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the May 21st meeting of the Greene County Planning Commission a request was heard to include in the business districts, B-1, food banks and food pantries. Feeding Greene, Inc. brought the request to the commission but the revision would apply countywide in all B-1 districts, not just the location of Feeding Greene, Inc.

Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, reviewed the application for the commission. A food bank or pantry is a retail location similar to a grocery store. However, the hours of operation are significantly reduced down to one or two days per week. There is nothing specifically in the Comprehensive Plan concerning food banks or pantries. Staff recommended approval to add the definition of allowed businesses in Article 22.

The only speaker for the public hearing was Carroll Lawson from Feeding Greene, Inc. who stated that in April, 525 people were served at their Stanardsville location with a majority of them being children. A large portion of the population served do not have transportation available to them and having Feeding Greene in a B-1 area make it very accessible to residents. Feeding Greene is open only 20 hours per month but demand is growing.

The Commissioners next spoke on the issue. Chairman Jay Willer clarified that the Feeding Greene is not relocating but asking that their current location in Stanardsville be approved. Commissioner John McCloskey asked if this was the only pantry in Greene and Mr. Lawson stated that there are several smaller operations such at the Women’s Club and Grace but that Feeding Greene is the only USDA certified organization.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to approve the rezoning application and forwarded it on to the Board of Supervisors for their action.


Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Playing Dominos on The US 29 Expressway

By Neil Williamson, President

dominoesTo even the most casual observers, it is becoming evident that the US29 Expressway Domino Strategy is working.  By virtue of photoshop engineering, Route 29 Advisory Panel Facilitator/Puppet master Phillip Shucet has  convinced many that not only can US29 interchanges be built but it will be “no big deal” to do so.

The concept is to start with Domino #1 – a grade separated interchange on US29 (at Rio) and then patiently move south and north with at least five more economically disruptive grade separated interchanges and significant left turn restrictions (AKA Access Management) until the full US29 Expressway from Hollymead to 250 is achieved.


Photoshop Engineering US29 Expressway Domino #1 Rio Road Grade Separated Intersection

For those that don’t remember how the access management plan works it can be expressed arithmetically as 3 right turns = 1 left.  The concept that was trumpeted in Places29 advocated such solutions and much more.

Interestingly, a recent Charlottesville Tomorrow unscientific poll found 2/3rds (67%) of those responding had an unfavorable position regarding the proposed Rio interchange.

As Albemarle County prepares to hear more from the public on May 27th regarding the First US29 Domino (Rio Road) the City of Charlottesville, (with Mayor Huja absent on a previously scheduled trip), seems to have indicated a willingness to accept $10 million dollars for Preliminary Engineering of the Domino #2 (a grade separated interchange at Hydraulic/US29) that they have opposed since 1995.


Photoshop Engineering US29 Expressway Domino #2 Hydraulic Road Grade Separated Intersection

To understand the opposition, one might want to review the 1995 resolution passed by the Planning Commission and compare their concerns then with the concept presented directly above.

this proposal of the Hydraulic Road Grade Separated Interchange not be further pursued at this time by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), since it is not in the best interest of the community for the following reasons:

1.  It does not significantly deal with identified traffic problems.  It devotes much most of the right of way and improvements to thru-traffic problems and it does not adequately deal with the local traffic needs of the community . . .

2.  It will have significant adverse economic impact on adjacent businesses and properties in terms of; limiting access to these properties and due to additional right-of-way acquisitions at this intersection. [sic] It will require U-turn movements at intersection to get to businesses on the other side of the intersection.

3.  It will have significant adverse impact on the quality of the environment of the City; because of the nature of proposed development, which includes 25 feet depressed 29 North lanes with retaining walls.  the nature of the proposed interchange design is not harmonious to the character of the community. [Emphasis added- nw]

4.  It will have significant adverse impact on the utilities as they will have to be relocated and would cost a significant amount for such actions.

5.  It would have an adverse impact due to noise and air pollution.

6.  It would have an adverse impact on the response time on utility vehicles in adjacent neighborhoods and businesses especially as it relates to public safety and emergency vehicles.

7.  It will result in the elimination of a large amount of improvements currently being made to the intersection and on 29 North.

BE  IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Planning Commission asks the City Council to ask the Virginia Department of Transportation not to build this interchange at this time….. Unanimously approved by The Charlottesville Planning Commission January 12, 1995

No one believes that the interchange at Rio is the end, it is like putting in a 4 inch pipe on a 2 inch line, while the water will move freely on the larger connector it really does little good for the overall velocity of the water until you expand the whole line.

It is strategically important to recognize the proposed Shucet Solution is being offered as an all or nothing opportunity with a time deadline.  He (and the McAuliffe Administration) knows that is if  Domino #1 falls and Domino #2 starts to tilt – the eventual expressway will be well on its way to completion.

Once these first two dominos fall, we will start to see the calls for access management and more “grade separated intersections”.  The “depressed express lanes” will start at the Wal-Mart at Hilton Heights Road and will logically terminate with a set of flyover exit ramps to 250.

VDOT's last attempt at US29/250 interchange

VDOT’s last attempt of photoshop engineering at US29/250 interchange [since abandoned]

Currently the State has found the proper leverage points to “facilitate” a solution on the Charlottesville area.  The timing, strategy and tactics they have used have been nothing short of amazing.  They held an advisory panel of opinion leaders without a single vote or test for consensus, they truncated the timing of the process to elude the July 1 deadline of HB #2 that requires project prioritization and they are poised to get Charlottesville to give up almost two decades of opposition to the highly disruptive Hydraulic/US29 Interchange.

Chess Master Bobby Fisher once said, “Tactics flow from a superior position”. Even when it is not in the best interest of the community, one must recognize the excellent gamesmanship exhibited by both Shucet and Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne.

Well played, gentlemen, well played indeed.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website

Greene BOS Hears Schools Bomb Threat Update

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh  appeared before the Greene Board of Supervisors at their May 13th meeting to make sure they got the facts and offered to answer any questions they had related to the rash of ongoing bomb threats at the Greene County Schools. Also in attendance at the meeting was Sheriff Steve Smith.

During this school year there have now been a total of 14 bomb threats, 3 at the middle school, 9 at the high school and 2 at the Vocational School . Most recently there have been 4 at the high school and middle school.  Earlier this week, a meeting was held at the Performing Arts Center  where Whitmarsh, Smith and Commonwealth’s Attorney Ron Morris answered the public’s questions regarding the ongoing bomb threats.

At the BOS meeting, Whitmarsh indicated that all of the threats have been either writings in restrooms or written notes found in the school, none have been made via telephone. So the assumption is that the threats are being made by students and are being found in the restrooms. Students now have to enter the bathrooms one at a time, have to be logged in and out and a staff member checks the restroom after each use. This is requiring the hiring of substitute teachers to staff this task.

Whitmarsh stated that a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) link will be posted on the schools website for questions that came out of Monday’s meeting . She further explained that during the bomb threats students are evacuated to varying locations – other schools or the football stadium – so there is no repetition on location to ensure student safety. She complimented the cafeteria staff on their ability to feed the displaced students and also thanked Albemarle County for providing bomb sniffing dogs to secure the building. She then opened the meeting to the BOS for any questions they might have.

Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) expressed concern that there could be danger if the schools are complacent and one of the threats turns out to be real. Whitmarsh assured Lamb that each threat is taken seriously.

Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) asked if the threats could be treated as an act of terror. Whitmarsh said that Ron Morris answered that it is not terrorism at the public meeting on Monday.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked if a reward would be offered like it was in December? Sheriff Smith stated that one arrest is to be made soon and possibly others by the end of the week. If not, then a reward may be offered next week. Martin also asked if the FBI had been contacted. Smith said that his office had spoken to the FBI and they reviewed the actions of the Sheriff’s office and they indicated they would be doing exactly what is being done.

Supervisor Lamb said he understood that it feels like Marshall law in the high school and middle school. Whitmarsh agreed and that all the students are being punished for the actions of a few. Supervisor Deane said that parents need to understand that one of their children is making the threats.

Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) pushed the idea of using outside  resources such as the FBI.

Steve Smith Greene County Credit NBC29Sheriff Smith stated his belief that his department is handling the threats along with their normal duties with the assistance of state police. He also stated that he will pursue the maximum punishment but if a juvenile then there are limits on punishment.

Superintendent Whitmarsh is working with the school psychologist and many others but stated we just need the threats to to stop.


Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Photo Credits: NBC29

Fluvanna To Consider New Fees and Taxes

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors only have two main options when it comes to revenue to fill the budget: personal property or real estate taxes.

Wednesday night (3/7) the Board looked at additional options for revenue.

“We are a two trick county: real estate and personal property [taxes],” said Steve Nichols, county administrator.

Staff recommended the board further research and look to implement business, professional and occupational licenses (BPOL) fee and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) revenue recovery. Further more, staff recommended examining a meals tax.

BPOL fee would be a flat charge yearly to every business in the county. A BPOL tax would be based on a percentage of business revenue but was not thought to be the best to implement for the county.

Ullenbruch - Nov 2012 Web

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

“Is [BPOL fee] worth the pain you go through?” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District).

Ullenbruch said it would cause a lot of uproar with businesses and would only generate minimal amount of revenue.

Nelson County County charges $30 a business per year. It generates $32,610 per year. Some counties chose to implement both a fee and a tax but Fluvanna looks to explore the fee only.

“it is perfectly understandable a business doesn’t want to pay a tax,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District).

The EMS recovery option would potentially generate around $500,000 a year. Louisa, who takes more than twice as many calls as Fluvanna, brings in $966,710 in FY13.

The revenue recovery would bring in more than the county currently pays to operate emergency services. It could help pay for things like equipment or part-time staffing.

The plan would be ‘compassionate billing’ which would institute a way for those who showed an inability to pay, the possibility to have the charge removed.

Of the nine counties in the surrounding area, all have revenue recovery except Cumberland.

Staff also recommended supervisors finalize a proffer guidance document and review why some current fees the county collects are significantly lower than its peers.

One idea with additional revenue is to help supplant the current personal property tax. Fluvanna charges $4.15 per $100 assessed. Louisa charges $1.90.

Every nickel of Fluvanna’s personal property tax is $86,000 of revenue.

Measures like fees could be implemented for FY16. A meals tax would require a referendum and counties have had trouble passing such a measure. Currently Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson and Orange have a 4 percent meals tax.

Staff is expected to give more information on the items the board have agreed to further examine later this year.


bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.

Photo Credit: Fluvanna County

Will The US29 Solutions Panel Find Any?

By. Neil Williamson, President

us 29 logoAs the US29 Solutions Advisory Panel prepares for their final meeting on Thursday, May 8th, we have little doubt regarding the actual outcome of the meeting but we are not convinced the impressive group assembled will be allowed to find any real solutions.

The Free Enterprise Forum continues to believe the work of this panel will be revised, spun and recommended to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) however “facilitator” Phillip Shucet [and Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne] wants.

us29 woodbrook rd 0830 7.27.11There will be no vote, no test for consensus, Shucet will genteelly say here is what I and the technical team have been working on to  present to the Secretary and CTB, “What do You-all think about that?”.

The panelists, each in turn, will say nice things about the process and followed by a critique of several individual elements in the plan.

Different panelists will have different concerns and all will be dutifully recorded.  The facilitator will nod and make everyone feel as though their individual comments have been exceedingly helpful and, after checking his watch, thank the panel for all their hard work and dedication to the process and to the Commonwealth.

This is not an indictment on the members of the panel who, especially in the latest meeting, have been rather clear in their concerns.  Interestingly, both internal to the meeting and in the media Shucet has suggested he has heard the panel’s concerns but they (and by extension the community) need to keep an open mind.

page 6 (2)Rather than argue the merits of the proposed expressway with 22’ “Depressed Express Lanes” that will not have community (or MPO) support or the “do-ables” that will not have support from down state, I believe the Panel members should push for and alternative plan that is proactive rather than reactive.

Perhaps we can find one positive outcome from this public process charade.

Or as President Ronald Reagan was fond of saying “There has to be a pony in here someplace”.

One of the desired outcomes from the panel is a community supported solution that helps solve the mobility and congestion in the region.

What about a new road?  Not a bypass; Not a parallel road; a brand spanking, smell the asphalt, new road.

For the sake of argument we will call it Virginia Route 229.

Such a  four lane road could start at, or near, the Rapidan River (Madison/Greene County line) and continue to a point at least 10 miles south of the designated Development Area in Albemarle County.  Access to this road would be limited but not eliminated.  There is no alignment presupposed but certainly one should be studied.  It would be a shame to see this panel disband without even considering putting some money aside to look at a real solution to the bottleneck that is Charlottesville.

The model for such a road already exists outside of Richmond — Route 288.  Located one exit before Short Pump, drivers seeking to head south on I-95 have the option to take 288 South to Petersburg rather than dealing with I-295 or I-64.

To be clear this type of concept would be forward thinking.  Any real action on this project would be under, to use Secretary Layne’s verbiage “some future Governor”.

The only question is if the constraints placed on the Route 29 Solutions Advisory Panel will allow it to think that a new road long in the future might actually increase capacity and be part of the answer.

Alternatively, the panel could be forced to think only in political 3.5 year increments of progress and ignore real solutions.

Stay Tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website