By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
Before the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors could even get into the heart of its three and a half hour meeting, Mike Sheridan recused himself from any discussion on the Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) special use permit request.
Sheridan (Columbia District), along with consultation of the county attorney, found he has a conflict of interest because the SUP requests would affect his own land. He would get a financial gain from approving the permit.
Sheridan read a prepared statement, addressed to the chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District). The statement says the raw water line to be constructed between Columbia and Ferncliff by LCWA would be partially located on property he owns. The county attorney advised Sheridan this ‘probably gives’ him a personal interest in the board’s consideration of the permit.
“He further advised me, that while my interest may fall within one of the exemptions provided by law, the better practice would be for me to disqualify myself from participating in the board’s consideration of the special use permit,” Sheridan’s statement reads.
From now on, he will not vote or act in any manner on behalf of the board. He will also not attend any portion of a closed meeting authorized by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act when the permit is discussed. Finally, he will not discuss the permit application with any other government officers or employees at any time.
He requested his statement be recorded in the county’s public records.
The LCWA special use permit is scheduled to be heard in public hearing on Dec. 2 in a special session. Also expected to be heard that day is the James River Water Authority (JRWA) intake request.
The two are separate projects but linked together. Without the JRWA intake, the LCWA pipeline would be a pipe from nowhere.
The Board of Supervisors also approved the design of a Zion Crossroads water and sewer system in their November 4th meeting. This action starts the clock on moving to the final step of constructing such a system but it didn’t come without controversy.
Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) raised concern the system is expected to cost over $7 million while the ROI that was commissioned a few years ago was based on a $5 million system. It also concerned Don Weaver (Cunningham District) the system would be built at once, weighing on tax payers while waiting for a return. “We have limited our ability [before] by the debt we have taken on [in the past],” said Weaver.
Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) countered that without spending the money on the system, the county will never get a chance to lower real estate tax rates; no businesses are coming without a water system.
“There is only one location we can maximize our economic engine,” said O’Brien.
Chairperson Booker agreed with O’Brien. “We have an example right across from us,” said Booker about Louisa’s economic development.
Ullenbruch said if the county spends about $500,000 designing the water system, there is no turning back. Booker said she hopes there is not turning back.
The supervisors approved a contract with Dewberry Engineering to design the water and sewer system on a 3-2 vote (Weaver and Ullenbruch). The contract costs $430,000 and will be paid for by CIP funds approved two years ago.
Supervisors also approved $35,000 to purchase a new vehicle for the crime scene investigator. He currently uses a seven year old sedan. The supervisors voted to buy a F150 pick up truck. “If you don’t have the tools, you don’t have the equipment, you can’t do a professional job,” said Ullenbruch.
Weaver raised concern this was being done out of the budget calendar, something he and Ullenbruch often complain against. He said it was not fair to items other departments might need but wait for budget season to present.
“If it comes through the budget, I might be able to approve it but not under these circumstances,” said Weaver.
Ullenbruch, who champions public safety, said, “It is a small price to pay to get the job done right.” Weaver dissented in the 4-1 vote.
The board ratified a previous vote to give raises for employees who earned licensures, degrees or certifications after hire. There were some minor changes and discussion about requiring the degree to be in a related field.
Steve Nichols, county administrator, said it made the program much too complicated to include a requirement to be in a related field. He said the core requirements of any additional education will help employees be better workers. Requiring related field put undue burdens on department heads and him to make a decision to grant the raise or not. “The amount of appreciation we will see from our employees…we can’t replace that,” said Sheridan.
The ratification of the pay raise program was unanimous. Originally, Weaver and Ullenbruch voted it down.
Supervisors ended the meeting with seven presentations. A highlight of the seven was a Fork Union Sanitary District (FUSD) rate structure. FUSD will need rate increases and might even need a district wide tax to stay in the black.
With modest rate increases and a few capital improvement projects, the system could pay the county back all of its owed $118,000 by the end of FY26. It is currently FY16. By end FY28, the system could pay off its other debt.
The Fluvanna Historical Society is raising money to build a farm heritage museum at Pleasant Grove. The museum is mostly being built from non-county money but would be operated by the county once complete. The historical society asked the county to give $15,000 this year to help complete fundraising. The supervisors originally planned to give $10,000 next year.
Of note from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Route 53 has been given grant money to improve the roadway. The department will start advertising to expand the right of way along the entire road to put in rumble strips on the sides. It will be a multiyear project.
The supervisors next meeting is on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.
The 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.
Photo Credits: Fluvanna County