Monthly Archives: December, 2014

Rio Road GSI, Route29 Solutions, VDOT and Dylan Thomas

By. Neil Williamson, President

rio gsiIn recent weeks, I have said that I believe the Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) at US29 and Rio Road will be built despite the significant, and valid, protestations of those opposing the project.  Based on the current political structure,  the manner this project has been steamrolled through and my personal experience with this process, I believe this project will be fully constructed by late 2016 and the balance of the projects will complete prior to the Gubernatorial Election Day 2017.

Despite this forgone reality, I also believe those who oppose the project must continue their efforts.  For if a project was wrong in its inception, the reality of construction does not change its meaning.  Dylan Thomas wrote about battling the inevitable in his great poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”.

Those with long memories will remember the Free Enterprise Forum speaking in opposition to the Places29 Plan at the Albemarle County Planning Commission.  As this 2009 Charlottesville Tomorrow article outlined:

Twelve of the 14 speakers addressing the commission represented businesses and business organizations.  They spoke in opposition primarily to transportation elements of the plan, specifically grade separation on U.S. 29 at six key interchanges.

Williamson said in an interview that his organization had reached the conclusion that the County shouldn’t even attempt to do land use and transportation planning together and that attempts to do so were “perpetuating the island mentality of the Albemarle-Charlottesville community.”

“I believe Places29 would be better served if it was simply a land use plan,” said Williamson. “Land use should inform transportation decisions, but the transportation decisions should be made in a larger regional context.”

The Planning Commission endorsed the plan 4-2 and sent it to the Board of Supervisors for action.  Prior to the vote on the Places29 Plan we clearly called for a veto

Interestingly as a part of the Places29 discussion that was eventually endorsed (6-0) included [according to a 2011 article by Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow]:

At the request of the board, consideration of grade-separated interchanges at key intersections along U.S. 29 will be delayed for at least five years, until the plan is required by state law to be reviewed. State officials are warning against the total removal of the interchanges from the plan.

“If the interchanges are removed from the Places29 plan, additional traffic modeling and study would need to be done to ensure that current and future land use and recommended improvements to Route 29 support the goals of Places29 and the needs of the regional transportation network,” VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said in an interview.

Much has changed since the passing of Places29.  The Western Bypass was revived, contracted,  then discouraged by federal action only to be eventually discarded by the newly elected Governor Terry McAuliffe.  The membership of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors changed as well. 

Just this year the community was introduced to Former Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Philip Shucet who led two panels that never voted but provided important input to the “Route29 Solutions” that will be completed prior to Governor McAuliffe’s last day in office.

don quixoteWith all of this as preface, I was reminded not of Cervantes Don Quixote but of the Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas (no known relation to former Albemarle Supervisor Rodney Thomas).  Thomas clearly understood the realities ahead as he wrote his most famous work.

It is with Thomas’ words that I close this post and proudly support the continued, though perhaps futile, battle to eliminate the Grade Separated Interchange at US29 and Rio Road. 

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Dylan Thomas —

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: Route29solutions.com

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The 2014 Free Enterprise Forum Five

By. Neil Williamson, President

Oh what a year it has been!

Annually, the Free Enterprise Forum takes a step back and examines our work over the last twelve months.  Based on this review – we have created the 2014 Free Enterprise Forum Five – our completely biased view of the top five blog posts based on readership and impact.

As we close our twelfth year, I want to take a moment and thank all of you for reading.   I also have to thank our financial supporters – If you find our work valuable please donate today.

Finally, I want to thank those who disagree and comment.  I sincerely appreciate your contributions.

Without any more fanfare – Here are the Free Enterprise Forum Five (click on the headline for the rest of the story):

#5  The Zombie Comp Plan — Return of the “Voluntary” Viewshed Requirements

D_nightofzombiesposterIn classic horror films, zombies are among the best villains as it is so hard to kill the “Walking Dead”.

Just like a zombie the Monticello Viewshed requirements are back and property rights are again under attack in Albemarle County.

But it’s OK because the requirements are voluntary.

#4 “Snob Zoning” Request Returns to Charlottesville City Council?

In a blog post just under a year ago, Is the Lorax Guilty of Snob Zoning?, we raised concerns of so called snob-zones-640-for-web-194x300“Snob Zoning” in Central Virginia.  Included in that post was a quote from Councilor Dede Smith about new residential developments.

[City Councilor Dede] Smith also wanted to know what population was being attracted to Charlottesville based on the nature of the new developments.

“Who is going to live at City Walk?” Smith asked. “Our number of families is declining in the city and it has been stated as a priority that we would like to at least maintain or grow housing for families.”

 

#3  Building Late Night Life Rafts on the Titanic

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

titanic sinking credit redbubbleTomorrow night (6/11) the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will be considering how to best assist businesses negatively impacted by the 2+ years of construction of the Rio/US29 grade separated intersection.

The Free Enterprise Forum is somewhat conflicted regarding “government help”.  We firmly believe in the free enterprise system and that a critical part of that system is business failure to make room for new innovations.  While we believe in the “creative destruction” concept, we prefer it is the market not the government doing the destruction.

#2  VDOT Losing Control on US29 Solutions?

By. Neil Williamson, PresidentUS29 Survey July 16 2014

“It seems how lately, baby
Got a bad case steamroller blues” – James Taylor

As we all are getting accustomed to yellow and orange vests in the impacted areas of US29, the Free Enterprise Forum has learned we will have significantly less control over the US29 projects than we were led to believe at the outset.

Later this week the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will rubber stamp the Shucet  US29 Solution Package.  Interestingly, only now have we learned (via Twitter) the sequencing of these long desired projects is seemingly out of our control.

#1 from April 12, 2014

 Shucet’s Charade – A Public Participation Illusion

us-29-logo_thumb.jpg

The Route 29 Advisory Panel is, perhaps unwittingly, playing a part in a masterfully orchestrated and expertly conducted illusion of public participation where the questions, concerns and opinions of panel members are being denied or actively dismissed. No votes are taken nor consensus measured. All the while the facilitator is complementing the panel for its incredible positive forward momentum.

And the public is none the wiser.

 

Honorable Mentions

Albemarle’s Mad Hatter Paradoxical Proffer Policymad-hatter-1-300x240

Only in Albemarle, Do You Make Housing Affordable by Making It More Expensive

Charlottesville Requires Residents To Tell How Their “Natural” Garden Grows

Fluvanna Budget Proposal Includes Tax Increase

Ruckersville Interconnectivity Goes Forward

failure-to-communicateAlbemarle’s Cool Hand Luke Development Areas Plan

Albemarle’s Manifest Density

Admiral Stockdale and the Albemarle County Planning Commission

Albemarle Knows Best – Comprehensive Plan Mission Creep

Do Jobs Fit in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan?

Is This The End of The Road?US29 Survey July 16 2014

Misinformation, Compartmentalization and Realization on the US29 “Expressway”

Regulatory Hurdles and Lack of Infrastructure Hinders Fluvanna Economic Development

D 78306-05  Pete Townshend. Obligatory Credit - CAMERA PRESS / Graham Wiltshire. Pete Townshend of British rock band The Who, pictured performing at Leicester Granby Hall in 1975. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>*** USA ONLY ***Albemarle Apologist Economic Development Policy

The Who Has the Answer to New US29 Panel

Who Puts the DL in TMDL?

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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

Greene County PC Starts Comprehensive Plan Update Examining Economic Development

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County Planning Commission began their update of the Comprehensive Plan with a workshop at the Planning Commission’s December 17th meeting. The economic development focus was led by  Alan Yost, Director of Economic Development Authority,  presented the strategic plan for the county.

Yost outlined goals for the county in the following categories:clip_image001

  • Small Business Development
  • Industrial Development
  • Stanardsville Vitality
  • Ruckersville Commerce
  • Tourism Development
  • Agri-Business / Agri-Tourism

Yost explained the key to the strategic plan is both to attract new business and retain existing businesses.

In his presentation, Yost mentioned that Nelson County is close in size to Greene County and can be a good model to follow. Nelson has seen dramatic expansion of their tourism, winery and brewery operations over the last ten years.

In terms of existing Ruckersville businesses, there are a variety of alternatives from small engine repair to bicycle shops to a national restaurant chain.

Yost highlighted the goal of tourism expansion and development.  He cited vacation rentals as a key area to focus on. He also mentioned festivals such as the Virginia Clay Festival to be held in the fall of 2015 will increase tourism.

In assessing strengths and weaknesses, Yost commented that attracting a large business is difficult without rail or air nearby. However, midsize businesses are attractive to our area especially with being close to Interstate 81, 66 and 95.

Planning Commission Chairman Jay Willer asked about attracting firms affiliated with the University of Virginia to locate in Greene County.  Yost indicated that most of these firms find it to be a competitive advantage to locate relatively close to UVA.

massanutten-resortAccording to Yost,  anecdotal evidence suggests a large portion of tourism visits within the county come from tourists staying at Massanutten Resort and he has targeted this market for increased promotion.

Also, Yost indicated that Greene is growing as a wedding destination and he is working on a website to show the offerings of the county.

Yost indicated that he views the Comprehensive Plan as marketing tool for prospective businesses. Businesses looking to relocate look at the county’s website and the Comprehensive Plan to gather information about the county. One of the biggest issues facing Greene County is utility availability.

Offering of natural gas is only at two sites – one in Stanardsville and potentially one on Route 29 south below Blue Ridge Café. The Town of Stanardsville water and sewer infrastructure is outdated and this was proven about five years ago when a developer walked away from Stanardsville due to this among other issues.

Yost mentioned broadband service is limited in the county and needs to be improved to attract more business. bacon hollow overlook photo credit e-treking

Inversely, Stanardsville can capitalize on its proximity to the Shenandoah National Park.

Yost updated the Planning Commission on an outing for the 25 concierges from Massanutten to several locations in Greene County – including Blue Ridge Pottery, Lafayette Hotel http://thelafayette.com/ and Noon Whistle Pottery.

Willer then opened the meeting for public comment.  Don Pamenter of Stanardsville,  stated that economic development is extremely important for Greene County in order to minimize the tax impact to home owners. He also reconfirmed the problem with water and sewer in the Stanardsville area and that improvements are needed for economic development as well as a water supply for fire protection.

Chairman Willer indicated that tentatively education would be reviewed at the January, 2015 meeting. Commissioner Vic Schaff indicated that he is working on a study with Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh and that they would be better prepared to present their information in February.

Chairman Willer asked Planning Director Bart Svoboda to see what departments would be available to present in January and work with Whitmarsh to schedule them for February along with Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC).

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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.

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

Photo Credit: Greene County, www.Traveladvisor.com www.Etrekking.net

The Sheffield Shuffle – Places29 Citizen Council Suspended By BOS

By. Neil Williamson, President

places29_webLate in their evening meeting last week, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors effectively suspended the currently appointed Places29 Citizen Advisory Council and asked staff to consider eliminating the Council and perhaps replacing it with two councils with a smaller geographic footprint.  The group’s members were informed of the Board’s decision via e-mail earlier this week [full text below].

Supervisor Brad Sheffield (Rio) brought the item up in other matters from the Board.  He mentioned a number of recent resignations from the group and suggested in the year he has been a part of the panel it seems to struggle to make decisions.  In his comments, Sheffield said this was not an indictment of the members of the Council, he said, “I have respect for a lot of them”.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel (Jack Jouett)  agreed saying that it might be better to break into two groups and focused on their charge.

The charge of the group according to the Albemarle County Website is:

The Places 29 Community Advisory Council (P29CAC) is an advisory committee that provides assistance to County staff and the Board of Supervisors on civic/community issues related to implementation of the Places 29 Master Plan in accordance with established County procedures. Members will communicate with their constituencies to increase understanding of and support for successful implementation of the Master Plan. The membership is broad-based to incorporate a variety of perspectives and ideas and to provide citizens, businesspersons and representatives of active community groups a chance to be engaged and be heard in a constructive and meaningful way. Emphasis added-nw

shuffleThe Free Enterprise Forum sees this “Sheffield Shuffle” as a legislative slight of hand designed  to change the composition of Citizen Councils that do not philosophically agree with the current Board.  While we agree this group has not been successful in reaching consensus, we do not think that means it has not been successful.  We believe this community is conflicted.  Sometimes, recognizing that there is not a community consensus is more important than a false agreement.

In communicating the consensus decision of the Board, Sheffield suggested panel members will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed “adjustments” that will come forward from the county staff.  The full content of the “Dear John” e-mail is reprinted below:

On behalf of the Board of Supervisors, I wanted to check in with you all on the status of the Places29 Community Advisory Council.  As I know you all are aware, there is a significant amount of activity occurring now, and in the short and long term future of this area of the County. All of this will require a very high level of community engagement in planning and decision making, such as prioritization of capital infrastructure improvements.  The Board is anxious to make sure that the Places29 Community Advisory Council is well positioned to be a successful partner and is considering some adjustments to the Council.  For example, the size and number of residents and businesses in the area is much larger than that of the other councils, which makes it difficult for the group to focus in on issues of shared neighborhood concern.  A majority of the Board feels that a reformation of the Places29 CAC, perhaps considering two councils or other adjustments, would help the Council meet its intended mission, so we have asked staff to assess the situation and bring forward a recommendation in February. Emphasis added-nw

We very much value your service to the Places29 CAC, and staff will ask you, as members, for your insights as part of their assessment.  Out of respect for your time and in light of this assessment, the Board will cancel the next two regular meetings of the Places29 CAC (January and February) and ask the Places29 members to be ready to receive further information after a discussion in February. We hope each of you will take this time to prepare and share your thoughts with staff on how best to make the Places29 CAC a productive community group.

Thank you.

Brad

Brad Sheffield
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Rio District

The Free Enterprise Forum believes this is a strategic move to eliminate the palpable dissent on the Places29 CAC and will be watching closely at who the Board chooses to sit on these newly formed “Citizen representative” groups.

It will be most interesting if those members that continue to challenge the current Board philosophy will find themselves without a seat at the table.

As always, we have more questions than answers.  Stay tuned.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit:  purpologydotcom.files.wordpress.com

Fluvanna Spending Approved

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors spent well over an hour earlier this month determining how to best allocate $28,000.  At the top of the list, Pleasant Grove is getting a new stage, completing a grant awarded from BAMA Works.

Booker2014
“(The stage) is what’s our vision for what Pleasant Grove will be,” said chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District).  It didn’t come without controversy.

Both Republicans, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District), didn’t like spending the $15,500 to complete the project.

bama worksBAMA Works gave $10,000 over a year ago.

The Fluvanna capital improvement plan for the current fiscal year contributed $5,000 and power company Tenaska donated $2,500 for the project. In total, the county had only $17,500 for the stage that costs $33,000.

The largest part of the contributions, the grant from BAMA Works, was only good for a year. Fluvanna was granted an extension but there is fear a second extension would not be granted.

Weaver pointed out that in the last year Fluvanna received the Tenaska donation. “If we wait a little bit, (maybe) we won’t have to use our money,” said Weaver.

OBrien2014 photo credit Fluvanna CountyTony O’Brien (Rivanna District) didn’t agree with that theory. He countered organizations give grants to see the projects materialize.
“Part of when people give grant money is they want to see it actualize. It is bad precedent to not actualize,” said O’Brien.

The stage is part of a planned amphitheater. The stage is designed to be the initial step. The next phases include a roof to enhance audio amplification, changing facilities, seating and production center.

“[The stage] is something we can afford,” said county administrator Steve Nichols. “what we can’t afford is the Cadillac (entire project).”

Ullenbruch made a motion for the $15,500 to come from the General Fund Balance but he and Weaver dissented in the vote. It passed 3-2.  Early in the stage discussion, Ullenbruch said, “It starts adding up.”

Earth-Day-zJust before the stage, supervisors authorized $13,500 for Earth Day celebrations.  The festivities of Earth Day, April 25, 2015, various things like trail work, vendor booths and waste collection. Fluvanna received a combined $9,000 from a state litter grant and Allied Waste but will need the additional $13,500 for the planned celebrations.  The Board of Supervisors contributed the additional funds to have three tire collection, litter awareness materials and a Clean Harbors Waste Collection contract.

“We’ve said no to $8,500 for fireworks because we wanted to save money,” said Ullenbruch.

Also at the Dec. 3 meeting approved a deer hunt for handicapped hunters and $1,000 application for area counties’ application on a tourism grant.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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, Bama Works, graphicsolutions-asia.com

Greene BOS Briefed on Albemarle’s Route 29 Solutions Projects

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Chip Boyles, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), updated the Greene County Board of Supervisors at their December 10th meeting on the Route 29 construction progress and scheduling  – in Albemarle County. The total funds allocated by for the Route 29 project is $250 million which is comprised of a number of different projects. Inversely the by-pass project has now been killed and all that is left to do is to offer the property back to the last owner – who VDOT purchased the property from (in many cases).

The Best Buy ramp project is to add another on ramp to the Route 250 bypass heading west. Next, Hillsdale Drive and Berkmar extensions will be extended parallel to Route 29. The next project is the one closest to Greene County. Route 29 will have an additional lane in both directions from Hollymead Town Center to Polo Grounds Road with either a bike lane or sidewalks on each side. In addition, improvements to the signal process so that changes can be made to the timing of the lights to improve traffic flow on Route 29.

The biggest single project is the Rio Road / Route 29 interchange at a price of $85 million. It will be a grade separated interchange and three existing stop lights will be eliminated on Route 29.

clip_image001

The contract will be awarded in February with construction starting in late 2015.  All construction on Rio/US29 GSI will be completed by no later than Dec. 2, 2016

The timeline for this project provides 103 days will have the east / west traffic on Rio Road closed. The start date for the closure is May 23, 2016 and the targeted completion date for the closure  is September 2, 2016. Progress on this project can be tracked at www.Route29Solutions.org.

In order to get the project done early, an incentive of over $8 million is being offered to the contractor if the project is finished early and inversely there is a penalty if the project goes over the timeline.

Mr. Boyles addressed that the Hydraulic Road / Route 29 has more traffic and therefore logically it would have been the first intersection to be done. However, this project requires that some existing structures come down and additional parcels need to be purchased, therefore making it much more complex than the Rio Road project.

Supervisor Davis Lamb, Ruckersville District, asked about the pushback of a group of businesses against the Rio Road project. Mr. Boyles said that the project is going forward and that complications will be dealt with as they happen. The Board thanked Mr. Boyles for the update.

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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.

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

Fluvanna EMS Reorganizes, Considers ‘Compassionate’ Billing

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

In Palmyra, you will still dial 9-1-1 to get help but the way Fluvanna County Emergency Services  organizationally responds to such a call is about to change.  At a Dec. 3 work session, the Board of Supervisors and the Fluvanna Fire and Rescue Association (FFRA) met to figure out ways to improve the rescue organization.  Currently, Fluvanna’s emergency services is broken down to: Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire & Rescue, Fluvanna Volunteer Fire, and Fluvanna County Rescue.

fluvanna rescue squadAll rescue or fire will respond if called for assistance but squads within each department have ‘first due’ areas. For example, Palmyra Volunteer Fire Department responds to fires in the Palmyra area because that is its first due. But if a situation in Fork Union needs assistance and Fork Union Fire cannot respond or needs help, Palmyra will still respond. The rescue operations works similarly.

Fluvanna Rescue is short on volunteers. During the day, a paid staff handles the operations. In total, the organization only has less than 30 volunteers.

The work session was set up to figure out ways to help alleviate Fluvanna Rescue department’s stress.

First, the Board of Supervisors agreed to pay for one nighttime crew to help with staffing issues. Secondly, the FFRA and the Board of Supervisors agreed to start planning on combining Fluvanna Rescue and Lake Monticello Rescue into just Lake Monticello Rescue. FFRA will report back in two months with how that will be done operationally.

This will help with recruitment of volunteers, certification, staffing and training. Some of these operations are done co-currently but because they are registered with the state as two organizations, they double up on work. Again, Fluvanna Rescue is stretched so thin of volunteers and that has caused administration issues.

Ullenbruch2014“Response times are concerning,” said supervisors Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District).  The average response time was 30 minutes at night. If Lake Monticello is called to Bremo Bluff, even if the squad was full of volunteers and at the garage door when the call came in, it still takes at least 20 minutes to get to the location.

In an ideal world, Fluvanna would be able to pay for four stations to be staffed with professionals. Just staffing one station 24 hours a day, seven days a week would be over $300,000 a year. Fluvanna has professionally staffed one station for 12 hours a day for part of last fiscal year and all of this fiscal year.

“We cannot fiscally staff all our stations,” said supervisors Mike Sheridan (Columbia District), who also serves as a volunteer firefighter and rescue squad member.  Steve Nichols, county administrator, said, “The only way to get help immediately is contract services.”

To help immediately with the call times, the supervisors authorized the aforementioned payment of nighttime hours by contracted staff. The motion put a stipulation of no more than $150,000 and monies come from the General Fund Balance.

The second way to help the response times is more volunteers. In order to do that and stop doubling work, FFRA agreed with the supervisors to consolidate the rescue squads from the two organizations into just Lake Monticello. The idea, Lake Monticello Rescue would then have stations throughout the county.

Also, part of the consolidation is having the rescue squad move into fire department buildings when possible. Currently, the rescue squad has aging buildings.

Fire Chief Mike Brent said rescue squad vehicles can be housed in the fire stations through a memorandum of understanding. That will not be a long-term solution because the fire stations do not have the room.

Within 60 days the FFRA will present a proposal to combine the rescue organizations. This will also help if Fluvanna institutes emergency services billing, which appears something that will come next fiscal year.

With emergency services billing, the county has to have one billing system for each rescue organization. If there are two organizations, there has to be two administrative procedures for billing. This would take away from the benefit of billing.

The idea of billing for rescue squad trips has been discussed recently and this upcoming tough fiscal year budget might push it over the edge. Also, research shows there are ways to do ‘compassionate billing’ where basically only insurance companies or those that can pay actually pay.

Sheridan talked to one county that says they send one bill then a second time. If it isn’t paid the second time, the situation closes. Ullenbruch has repeatedly said he doesn’t want an emergency services billing program that sends bills to collections or requires residents to prove they cannot pay.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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 Credits: NBC29, Fluvanna County

Albemarle’s “Hidden” Economic Slowdown Report

By. Neil Williamson, President

Buried in the “For Information Only” portion of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors’ Wednesday agenda, in an attachment to a staff report FY 15 General Fund Q1 Report; Revised FY 15 Revenue Projections Report; and Quarterly Economic Indicators Report the Free Enterprise Forum found a most interesting quote:

This piece of information, along with the recent slowdown in the decline in the County’s unemployment rate, stands in contrast with the somewhat positive collective revenue stream data. The jobs base and unemployment rate information, nonetheless, suggests that Albemarle entered an economic slowdown in the past year.

The six page report, written by Albemarle’s Manager of Economic Analysis annegative-news-in-the-mediad Forecasting, Steven Alshouse, and their  Chief of Financial Management Jacob Sumner, provided several important linkages to the determination of an economic slowdown, in the face of an improving U.S. Economy.  Even as we witness sales tax revenue increases, this report contends that jobs remain a real concern for Albemarle County’s long term economic health.

Those who follow the Free Enterprise Forum Blog may recall that we raised concerns in October about the employment picture when we took a hard look at Do Jobs Fit in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan?

The economic impact of Albemarle’s arrogance may very well now be coming home to roost. The latest Jobs Report from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce reported significant job growth across the region. If you look back 10 years, Albemarle’s private employment has grown by over 21% but dig a little deeper and you will find private sector employment in Albemarle County is 3.4% lower today than it was in 2007.

Now in an Albemarle County produced document the very same data set is being analyzed with similar results only with more recent data:

As shown on Table I, the average monthly total number of jobs in the County appears to have declined modestly from 42,029 in Q3 FY 13 to 48,910 in Q3 FY 14, or by 119 positions (-0.24%)….

Table I reveals that the private sector lost 73 positions between Q3 FY 13 and Q3 FY 14, but that the private sector’s share of the total number of jobs in the County remained essentially unchanged, at 67.02% of the jobs base, compared with 67.01% in Q3 FY 13. During this time frame, the public sector experienced a net loss of 46 jobs.

The report found other economic indicators that were equally foreboding:

Between Q1 FY 14 and Q1 FY 15 the County’s Inspection Fees, which reflect current development, increased modestly, by 3.76%. Other Development Fees, a measure related more to future development than to current development, dropped substantially, by 18.47%. It is not clear whether this drop represents a statistical fluke or whether the decline might indicate the start of a longer-term trend.

As Albemarle continues to move (at a glacial pace) toward the hiring of an Economic Development Director and establishment of an Economic Development Department, one might ask why was this report buried?

If it was good news would this have been a part of the regular agenda?

Based on my understanding of their meeting rules, it is the prerogative of any supervisor to have this agenda item pulled off the information section and discussed in open meeting.

So the question to the members of Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors is not if they can ask for a discussion of this agenda item but rather will they?

And if they do, what, if any,  policy shifts might they consider to change this trend?

Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit:  purpologydotcom.files.wordpress.com