Tag Archives: steve nichols

Fluvanna Administrator To Retire

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

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Steve Nichols

Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols announced his retirement effective July 5, 2019.  “Thank you very much for the opportunity,” Nichols told the Board of Supervisors at the December 19 meeting. Nichols has served in this capacity since 2012 [Fluvanna Gets A New County Administrator].

Nichols cited his wife and he have been discussing his retirement and the timing was good for his family. He joked he wanted to be goof off, gopher and golfer while attending less meetings in retirement. Even displayed a few Bitmojis of himself getting ready for the “permanent vacation.”

After the meeting, Nichols touted progress achieved during his tenure. “This board believes and trusts this staff. I’ve been part of that, but all my staff has be part of that. This board is a very supportive board. We’ve made progress because of that relationship between staff members and board members,” said Nichols.

“I think he’s been a great servant to our county,” said chairman Mike Sheridan (Columbia District). “One of the things he and I have talked about is we haven’t always seen eye to eye but we all have the same goal: we want to move Fluvanna County forward. I wish him well.”

Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) was partly surprised he retired and she hoped he had four years left. “The county is in good shape because of him,” said Booker. She lauded his leadership and naval background as being attributes that led him well in his role in government.

Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) echoed her thoughts, “[He’s an] extremely hard worker, very committed to the success of the county. He helped guide the board through some very difficult times. [He’s] always put the county first, we’ve been so lucky to have him.”

In his retirement letter, Nichols spent over a quarter of it suggesting the supervisors skip the search for a replacement and name deputy county administrator Eric Dahl to the role.

“It is my hope that you will quickly come to the same conclusion and select Eric to become county administrator when I depart,” wrote Nichols.

Dahl started at the county prior to Nichols and worked as second in the finance department before being named the director. A few years ago the supervisors approve adding deputy county administrator to his title.

“I’ve enjoyed working with him. We’ve had a great working relationship,” said Dahl after the meeting. “I appreciate what he said.”

Booker and O’Brien offered no comment on the suggestion of Dahl as the replacement.

Nichols final day, July 5, 2019, is slated to be a Board of Supervisors meeting. He mentioned he picked the date so his successor would have a month before having a supervisor meeting to prepare for.

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.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

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Fluvanna Supervisors Record Setting Non-Meeting

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Yesterday, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors set a new record for inaction and meeting See the source imagetime because legally they couldn’t do anything but two motions.

The Sept. 5 meeting lasted all of a minute or two because a quorum was not met. Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) were present. Vice chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) had previously announced she would be absent. Chairperson Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) were not present.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 4 p.m. but was in a 45-minute holding pattern while the crowd mainly of staff or school officials waited for a quorum to be met. At 4:47 p.m. county administrator Steve Nichols announced the meeting was canceled because an unnamed third supervisor could make it, but in an hour — two hours after the meeting was scheduled to start.

County attorney Fred Payne announced a board of less than a quorum could only do two motions: defer the agenda and adjourn. With that, Nichols called the meeting to order in absence of the chair and vice chair people.

He asked if there was a motion to defer and adjourn. Weaver responded he would make that motion. Eager seconded. Nichols called for a vote and it carried unanimously.

The two supervisors then went to meet privately with the county attorney and administrator. Legally, supervisors can meet in groups of less than a quorum to discuss business without violating the open meeting laws. Once a quorum is met, it has to follow normal meeting procedures.

As Weaver and Eager left, Weaver said, “just two of us”, a reference to the gathering not being an official meeting.

Action that was deferred was BOS meeting dates change, library assistant position reclassification, E-911 grant, capital reserve maintenance fund supplemental appropriation, and the consent agenda.

Any item with a time sensitivity that waiting until Sept. 19 will not be feasible will have staff action. On Sept. 19 the board will have to ratify that action. It isn’t an ideal practice and is used sparingly.

But here’s what would’ve happened, had the meeting had a third supervisor:

The big ticket item that was the grant from the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. The $246,000 grant was awarded to Fluvanna to replace voice logging software and other E-911 equipment.

The state would pay for installation and increase contract costs for 24 months. Estimated increase in the contract is $12,000 a year. There is no local match required for the grant besides the county assuming the additional costs in month 25. The county previously received this grant in FY13 and FY14. Estimated deployment of the new equipment is the first half of 2020.

Another big issue was a supplemental appropriation of the capital reserve maintenance fund. This was connected to the unspent middle school funds from last meeting. FCPS is requesting $72,000 for abatement of an unusable classroom in the Abrams building.

County staff has gone through unused CIP allocated funds to see what could be transferred or returned to unassigned in the fund balance, the county savings. Staff found $138,000 of projects that could be moved to the Capital Reserve Maintenance Fund.

Those projects included are a no longer needed hydrogeological study, Carysbrook roof that was repaired instead of replaced, unspent funds of a completed courthouse fire detection system, and unspent funds of a completed courthouse lighting and control system.

A fifth project, building envelope renewal and repair, was reduced in scope or completed in other projects. It had a remaining balance of $120,000. Some of the project was for the historic courthouse that needs additional work of shutter repair, column restoration and painting all exterior trim. That $120,000 was requested to go towards work at the John Hartwell Cooke designed building.

The BOS meeting date change would push back the January 2019 meetings to the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month instead of first and third. The first Wednesday is January 2.

The reclassification of library assistant was to elevate the position to alleviate work from the library director. Currently all employees that work at the library report to the director. Elevating the position would allow a tier setup with chances for promotion. In the tier, only the assistants would directly report to the director. Other positions would report to the assistants.

But none of these happened. The supervisors will try again on September 19 at 7 p.m. Bring snacks.

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.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credit:  PerrysburgRotary.org

Fluvanna’s Bare Bones Base Budget

By. Brian Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Fluvanna budget season for FY17 has started.

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Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols

County administrator Steve Nichols has given his budget proposal, which includes no tax increase.

His budget proposal includes two new positions, ‘lean’ departmental budgets and no pay raises nor cost of living adjustments for employees. The budget does not include any additional requests for schools because those haven’t been hashed out at the School Board yet. Also, health care rates for next year are not in yet.

Bottom line, to keep the tax rate level will be a balancing act that maybe acrobatic Nik Wallenda would have difficulty completing.

Nichols has historically delivered a budget that allows the supervisors to build on. His predecessors have often set budgets the supervisors have to later tear down to get them to pass. Nichols approach breeds supervisors working together to add, which is obvious in two 5-0 votes in his three years.

Previous supervisors, even off the record, never complained about his budget proposals. He is often lauded publicly and privately for setting a foundation for supervisors to build on.

Nichols’ FY17 budget proposes adding an in-house county attorney with a paralegal. Currently the supervisors contract those services.

Nichols did not include adding an assistant county administrator, a position that has been vacated since Shelly Wright left in 2010. The county government has taken on more responsibilities since 2010 but the role never makes it into the budget.

He also did not include additional personnel for public utilities while supervisors plan on building water and sewer infrastructure projects. He did include additional utilities personnel in future budget projections.

In total, departmental leaders requested nine positions that were left off the proposal.

Supervisors will also have to weigh the deferred regular maintenance that has accumulated. The infrastructure improvements, much like staff pay, has been put off for the proverbial ‘next year’ in Fluvanna often. While more recent boards have fought to get ahead in both areas, there is still catch-up to be completed.

The Capital Improvements Plan  (CIP) could be bloated again in FY17, much like in FY15. Currently the plan is $9 million. Last year, FY16, it was under $2 million. Supervisors have over $9 million in the bank currently that could be used for CIP projects or pay off higher interest debt. Then supervisors could take on lower interest debt for projects like Zion Crossroads water infrastructure.

Supervisors will hold regular work sessions regarding the budget over the next two months. February 10th the supervisors will hear presentations from various non-profit organizations seeking County financial support at 7 p.m.

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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 Credits: Fluvanna County

Palmyra Political “Power Play”?– Fluvanna’s Late Night Water Vote

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

As the meeting waned on Nov. 18, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors passed an amendment to the agreement between Louisa County, Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) and the James River Water Authority (JRWA).

The vote was 2-1 with Don Weaver (Cunningham District) dissenting. Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) has recused himself from all LCWA related votes and discussion. Bob Ullenburch (Palmyra District) was not at the meeting.

The amendment requires LCWA to provide 400,000 gallons of treated water to Fluvanna at Zion Crossroads by the end of 2018. Fluvanna will pay the commercial rate for the water. Fluvanna can ask for more water, if possible. If additional capacity isn’t possible because of infrastructure limitations, Louisa can consider Fluvanna’s capital contributions to make it possible and a rate reduction could occur.

After a lengthy closed session, the supervisors reconvened to certify the closed session. After certification and before a motion to adjourn could be offered, Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) started the supervisors down a path to vote for the amendment.

No public nor any media members were present by this time. The audio recording, available on the county website, helped shed light on the proceedings.

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Fluvanna Supervisor Tony O’Brien

“I think there is an opportunity to get something done. It may not be the best timing but I also think it may eliminate some headaches,” said O’Brien.

Weaver, confused asked what he was talking about. To which the recording hears O’Brien shuffle a paper and say, “I’m taking about this”, presumably the amendment.

“As far as I’m concerned the meeting is over,” replied Weaver.

O’Brien said, ““Well, it isn’t, because we haven’t adjourned yet. Think about what I’m asking. There is a controllable situation right now and there is not a controllable situation, potentially not a controllable situation. That’s why I’m asking the question.”

Weaver said it didn’t matter because O’Brien couldn’t get a second without his support.

O’Brien said, “I don’t necessarily have to have one. But again, that’s why I’m asking.”

Weaver raised objection because someone (Ullenbruch) wasn’t present for the vote. He said he wouldn’t be a proponent of it.

O’Brien asked what was Weaver’s major objection. Weaver replied, “Midnight.”

It is important to note the vote happened before midnight because supervisors extended the meeting until midnight. Each meeting has a time limit of 11 p.m., for the sake of meetings not dragging along. However, supervisors can extend meetings if they last past 11 p.m. After certifying the closed session on Nov. 18, the meeting was extended until midnight and never extended again.

O’Brien asked besides the late hour, Weaver said he wasn’t comfortable of voting on something not on the agenda. He consistently requests items be on the agenda, even ones he’s in favor of.

O’Brien then went into a short speech on the merits of the amendment. One part he said, “And you looked at it strictly at the standpoint we’re voting on is this a good thing for Fluvanna County, regardless of how the other two votes turn out, I think one will argue this is a good thing.”

He also noted that agreeing to the amendment did not force any vote on the two special use permits to be voted on Dec. 2.

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Fluvanna Supervisor Don Weaver

Weaver still countered it should have been on the agenda. That is when Nichols says it was on the agenda but he was “threatened” to take it off.

Weaver still stays with the position he won’t vote on it because it wasn’t on the agenda.

O’Brien says, “I understand your position there. Procedurally these are, one could say, these will be one of the largest votes Fluvanna county will take in years to come that shapes the future of the county for years to come, whether you agree with that or not. Whether you agree it is shaping it in the right direction or wrong direction, it definitely shapes it.”

Weaver won’t budge.

O’Brien asks chairwoman Mozell Booker (Cunningham District) what she feels about the amendment. She says she wants to get it over with.

Booker said, “I don’t know his personal things but it is too many times he’s out and we have been considerate of not taking votes when he’s out. When you are out two and three and four and five and six times, and we have to delay our business because we don’t have a full board, I’m here all the time. I never miss. Don, you don’t miss any days. So why are we being so considerate of Bob because he’s chosen to take off at this very important time.”

Weaver won’t budge.

O’Brien then moved the board pass the amendment. Booker asked if she can give up the gavel and if Weaver could be chairman. He replied, “I don’t want to be chair.”

Fred Payne, county attorney, said the Chair (Booker) could recognize the motion without a second. She recognized it, O’Brien voted for it along with Booker. Weaver dissented.

After the meeting people keeping up with Palmyra politics were abuzz. First few questions were how this occurred without it being on the agenda and who threatened Nichols.

The amendment was not on the public version of the agenda. It was previously included in the agenda sent to supervisors on Nov. 13 but taken off once Ullenbruch saw the agenda, per Ullenbruch who gave a phone interview to the Free Enterprise Forum on Nov. 19.

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Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Ullenbruch said he announced his planned absence two months prior to the meeting. The board has scheduled its agendas to hear bigger items for when the full board convenes.

When he received the agenda on Nov. 13 he was surprised the amendment was slated to be voted. He contacted Steve Nichols, county administrator, and he said he told him, “Do so at your own peril.”

Ullenbruch said of his comment, “If that is a threat, that happens every day in politics.”

The item was removed for the agenda and new supervisor packets were issued.

“[I] felt very safe I could head out and take care of the business I am taking care of,” said Ullenbruch about receiving an updated agenda without the amendment.

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Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols

When asked about his comment on being threatened and Ullenbruch’s quoted ‘peril’ comment, Nichols said, “[My remark] was a not very elegant comment at the end of 17 hour day, after three hours of closed session, that could’ve been worded a lot differently. The point was, it had been on the agenda.”
Ullenbruch was not happy about the amendment passing, regardless.

“There was no need to do a power play at midnight,” said Ullenbruch.

He said the special use permits to be voted on Dec. 2, one for the JRWA intake facility and another for the LCWA raw water pipeline, could get conditions attached to them during the meeting. The amendment has no use if the SUPs aren’t approved.

“It just smells funny. It is just desperation,” said Ullenbruch.

When asked if he will not vote in favor of the LCWA pipeline, he wouldn’t comment one way or another because the public hearing hasn’t occurred.

“If I have already made a decision, what’s the point of the public hearing?” said Ullenbruch. “Anyone who weighs in right now how they are going to vote is not listening to the public.”

The two public hearings will be at a special 7 p.m. session on Dec. 2. Supervisors will have a regular 4 p.m. session on the same day

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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 Credits: Fluvanna County

Fluvanna Plans to Survive Government Shutdown

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

According to staff, Fluvanna County could survive multiple months if the General Assembly standstill shuts down the commonwealth.

The county would have to hold back on several projected items to keep county reserves high.

Fluvanna currently operates with committed and uncommitted money in the bank. The county collects taxes twice a year, June and December. After the June tax date, the county could have around $20 million in the bank to pay for various expenses until the December collection.

Uncommitted funds are known as the ‘Fund Balance’ or the county savings. The FY15 fund balance has to stay above $7.2 million, according to Board of Supervisors policy. The FY15 fund balance will be about $1 million above that.

The issue with a state government shutdown is it holds up major cash flow for the county and not just appropriations from the state. Federal funds that pass through the state, like education dollars, will be delayed, at best.

“Obviously, this is a worst case scenario that I’m showing you but it is something we want the board to be aware of,” said Eric Dahl, finance director, told the Board of Supervisors in a June 4 meeting.

He projects the county could make it through the 2014 calendar year but that would require holding off on signing the E911 radio contract. The county has $7.1 million committed to that.

Later in the meeting E911 radio contract came up for action but the matter was deferred until the next June meeting so supervisors could review the contract. There is a savings if the county signs the contract before the end this fiscal quarter but it could possibly affect the county’s money in the bank.

Staff did recommend on holding off on all Capital Improvement Plan projects that were planned in cash until a state budget is passed, implementing a temporary hiring freeze, hold off on paying staff raises, develop a plan across the county government in cuts in non-personnel costs and defer all non-essential staff training or travel.

The secondary concern beyond the shutdown is what the state budget will look like. The past biennium budget has resulted in a shortfall and making up that difference could be spread across the board in FY15’s budget, thus altering the county’s project revenue budget.

“We just don’t know,” said county administrator Steve Nichols.

He did say things like holding off staff raises will be retroactively applied once the county knows the effect of the pending FY15 state budget.

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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

Fluvanna Budget Proposal Includes Tax Increase

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna’s County Administrator Steve Nichols will formally present his budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 5. That budget is expected to include at least a real property tax increase of over five cents per $100 assessed.

Multiple high-ranking sources close to the draft budget process have confirmed the proposal will at least include a real property tax of 85 cents. One source said it could be 86 cents but both expected it in the mid-80s.

Nichols would not comment on his budget proposal until after he presents it to the Board. He noted it will be available later this week on the county website and physical copies at various county locations. Supervisors were given a copy of the proposal late last week.

Sources said the budget is rather level funding but includes modest increases to maintain services. The local school district funding is expected to include a $1 million increase over FY14.

The School Board had mentioned in preliminary discussions it would need $1.5 million more than FY14. Although, it was noted that number could change during the School Board budget deliberations.

Fluvanna School Superintendent Gena Keller did not comment on the possible rumored budget figures but noted the county administrator proposal is just a starting point for the supervisors to begin discussions.

Keller said in an emailed statement, “I will present my budget to the School Board on March 5 and [the School Board] will approve a budget on March 12.  On March 19, I will present the budget request to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration.

“We must work to rebuild a foundation for our schools so we can thrive, innovate, and become a vibrant realm of our community! It is important that we stop existing in survival mode.”

Nichols’ budget proposal last year created one of the easiest budget processes in recent history for the Board of Supervisors. The budget that was approved had little variations from his proposal. All five supervisors voted in favor of the budget and noted Nichols’ starting proposal was a reason why.

Nichols will present his FY15 proposed budget formally during the 4 p.m. Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 5. Following the meeting the board will have a work session on the budget

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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.