August 19, 2021: Charlottesville Council agrees to pursue collective bargaining for city employees; Albemarle gets $530K for two electric school buses

The Virginia Department of Health reports 2,764 new cases today...

  
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On today’s show:

  • Charlottesville City Council approves a rezoning and pursues a collective bargaining ordinance

  • Albemarle County is getting half a million to pay for two electric school buses

  • Frank Friedman is stepping down as president of Piedmont Virginia Community College

  • Also in Albemarle, the reopening of an emergency financial assistance pool of funding


This morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 2,764 new cases and the percent positivity rises to 8.8. The percentage of adult Virginians is 66.4 percent. The seven-day average for vaccines administered is 14,676. 

Albemarle County has announced the relaunch of an emergency financial assistance for community members. These funds can be applied to mortgage, rent, or utility payments. If you or someone you know are eligible, you can call one of two hotlines to leave a message. A press release mentions it may take up to three weeks to get a response. Applicants will have to demonstrate a loss of income. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors allocated $800,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for this purpose. The numbers are 434-326-0950 for English speakers and 434-373-0930 for Spanish speakers.


Frank Friedman will retire as president of Piedmont Virginia Community College when the upcoming academic year ends next May. Friedman has been the president of PVCC since 1999 and is the fifth person to lead the institution since it was established in 1972. 

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president of PVCC,” Friedman said in a statement. “I have worked with the finest, most dedicated faculty and staff you will find anywhere. I am so proud that in the 23 years I have been president, over 150,000 students have received an accessible, affordable, high-quality education at PVCC.”

Since 1999, PVCC has acquired the former Monticello Visitor’s Center and converted into the Stultz Center for Business and Career Development for workforce services, launched satellites space in Stanardsville, the IX Building and the Jefferson School City Center, and 150,000 students have been enrolled. PVCC will launch a national search to find Friedman’s successor. 


Albemarle County will receive $530,000 from the state government to purchase two electric school buses. The funding comes from an environmental mitigation trust set up when the firm Volkswagen was caught lying about the ability of some of its engines to provide low emissions. Albemarle’s amount is part of a $10.5 million pay-out from the trust fund to replace 83 diesel school buses across Virginia. In all, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality administers over $93 million in the trust. 

“The Trust is the result of settlements resolving allegations that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act through the use of emission testing defeat devices designed to cheat on federal emissions tests,” reads a statement on the DEQ site. “Volkswagen sold more than 500,000 excessively polluting vehicles in the U.S. More than 16,000 were sold in Virginia, and produced over 2,000 tons of excess nitrogen oxides (NOx) in violation of federal pollution standards.”

Elsewhere in our area, Augusta County will receive $523,198 for two buses, and Culpeper County will receive $530,000. 


The city of Charlottesville and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission are seeking comment on a year-end report documenting how one pot of federal funds has been spent. The Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) tracks where HOME funds and certain Community Development Block Grants are allocated, who gets the funding, and what  housing units are either created or rehabilitated. 

“For PY20, completed HOME projects included two first-time homebuyer assistance projects, development of two new rental units, and twelve homeowner rehabilitation projects, for a total of 16 units,” reads the CAPER. “For CDBG projects, the City worked with sub recipients to implement public service and economic development projects.”

For all of the details, take a look at the document. The TJPDC will have a public hearing on September 2 at 7 p.m. and Charlottesville City Council holds a public hearing on September 20. You can also submit written comments. Details in the public advertisement in the Daily Progress.


Time now for another subscribed-supported public service announcement.

Do you ever look at a tree and wonder what kind it is? In September, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards will hold several identification walks in city parks for people who want to know more about the bark, leaves, and the flowers of our wooden neighbors. These walks are free, but you’ll have to register because groups are limited to 16. 

  • September 5 at 11 a.m. at Pen Park (register)

  • September 11 at 11 a.m. at the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont (register)

  • September 24 at 11 a.m. at the University of Virginia (register)

Learn more at charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org.


Time now to catch up with the City Council meeting from Monday, August 16.

One item on the consent agenda was Council’s approval of a tax refund plus interest of $63,009.25 to a nonprofit entity who had been charged after demonstrating they were exempt. Charlottesville Commissioner of Revenue Todd Divers said the identity of the group is protected from being revealed.

“This was not our fault,” Divers said. “This taxpayer had been paying this license tax for years since before I was elected. The question of their exemption? It was a tough call. We consulted with the tax commissioner in Richmond. We consulted with the Attorney General’s office.”

Divers said in both cases the state agencies advised him to make the exemption.

Rezoning approved

Council took a final action on a rezoning and special use permit for an eight-unit apartment building at 1206 Carlton Avenue in Belmont. Here’s City Planner Matt Alfele.

“The applicant at 1206 Carlton Avenue is requesting a rezoning from R-2 multifamily residential to R-3 medium density residential with no proffers,” Alfele said. 

No changes had been made to the application since Council’s discussion on August 2. 

Nearby resident Charles Neer pleaded with Council to deny the special use permit for additional density because eight units is too dense and the eight parking spaces to be provided are not enough. 

“If people have one car, then that means that somebody is going to be driving around every night looking for a parking place,” Neer said. “And guess what? There’s going to be more than one car. There’s going to be a bunch of cars driving around.”

Neer suggested Council approve the rezoning which would have allowed five units. 

Council voted 4-1 for the rezoning and 3-2 on the special use permit with Mayor Nikuyah Walker voting against both and Councilor Heather Hill voting against the increased density. 

City to study collective bargaining options

At the end of the meeting, Council took a vote to direct the city manager to pursue an ordinance to allow city employees to pursue entities to allow them to engage in collective bargaining. That’s not been possible until action by the General Assembly last year.  (read the bill)

At the public comment period earlier, bus driver Mary Pettis urged Council to proceed.

“I’ve driven the bus for 35 years in the City of Charlottesville and I’m here to ask you all to allow us to have a union because I feel it will help us,” Pettis said. “Help us get more things that we need. I personally had to move from Charlottesville to Waynesboro because I couldn’t afford to live in Charlottesville. I have three jobs because I don’t make enough money just driving the bus.”

Earlier this summer, Council approved a $2,400 bonus for new and existing school bus and transit bus drivers using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

City Manager Chip Boyles said the city of Alexandria and Loudoun County have begun to implement collective-bargaining.

“Both governing bodies studied the topic over a course of several months, put together financial proposals, and used outside consultants in developing an implementation plan,” Boyles said. 

For some perspective, Loudoun County has a fiscal year 2022 budget of $3.3 billion based on a tax rate of $0.98 cents per $100 of assessed property. The city of Alexandria has a budget of $770.7 million based on a tax rate of $1.11 per $100 of assessed property. According to the U.S. Census, Loudoun has a 2020 population of 420,959 and Alexandria has a population of 159,467. 

So far, Charlottesville has not done the work on implementation but at least one group of city employees have requested the ability to enter into collective bargaining.

“On March 6, 2021, Charlottesville Fire Department notified the City Council that a majority of its members within the department desired that the City Council should adopt such an ordinance to provide rules for the city employees to engage in collective bargaining with the city,” Boyles said.

Boyles recommended Council deny an ordinance that’s been offered by employees of the fire department, but to move forward with study of how one might be crafted, as well as a review of possible budget implications. In the case of Loudoun County, their current budget includes $300,000 for eight positions to oversee the collective bargaining process. 

“This is an issue not studied or addressed within the current FY22 City Budget,” Boyles said. “I would research administration and support cost estimates for consideration for your FY23 budget development process,” Boyles said. 

Council voted unanimously to approve Boyles’ recommendation to proceed with study of a collective-bargaining ordinance. 

Charlottesville is currently without a human resources director. 

“The [Human Resources] position closed on Friday so we’ll begin that process this week of starting to narrow that down and hopefully we will have a director in shortly,” Boyles said. 

This week marks the six month anniversary of Boyles as city manager. In that time, two deputy city manager positions have been filled, as has the positions of city attorney and neighborhood development services director. 

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