Aug 9, 2021 • 11M

August 9, 2021: Charlottesville seeks volunteers for heat island mapping; UVA temporarily requiring masks indoors

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Sean Tubbs
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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Welcome to the 221st day of the year, at least, that’s the spot on the annual timeline upon which this script was written and the chronic coordinates when this recording was made. We can also just go ahead and say it’s August 9, but where would the fun be in that? In any case, this is the 229th edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement, which is also perhaps an unnecessary numerical signifier. Either way, I’m Sean Tubbs, your two syllable host. 

On today’s show:

  • The General Assembly signs off on Governor Northam’s $4.3 billion ARPA spending plan, but makes a few adjustments

  • One Albemarle Supervisor warns about dry conditions 

  • And a federal partnership is seeking volunteers to help map urban heat island conditions in Charlottesville

In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Rivanna Conservation Alliance is looking for a few good volunteers to help out on Clean Stream Tuesdays, a mile and a half paddle and clean-up to remove trash and debris from popular stretches of the Rivanna River. Trash bags, trash pickers, gloves, and hand sanitizer/wipes will be provided, though volunteers will need to transport themselves to and from the end points. Kayaks for the purpose can be rented from the Rivanna River Company. Visit the Rivanna Conservation Alliance's volunteer page to learn more about upcoming dates.

The seven-day average for COVID cases in Virginia continues to rise with the Virginia Department of Health reporting that number as 1,626 today. On Saturday, there were 1,784 new cases reported, 1,573 cases reported Sunday and 1,298 today. The seven-day percent positivity rose to 7.3 percent. As of Friday, 98.55 percent of cases since February have been in people who have not been fully vaccinated. 

There are 51 cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District today and the percent positivity rose to 4.5 percent. 

On Friday, leaders at the University of Virginia announced they would begin requiring masks indoors in order to prevent the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. UVA is still preparing to begin the fall semester later this month. According to UVA Today, the policy applies to indoor spaces owned or leased by the University, but are not required when eating or drinking. The policy also does not apply outdoors.

The General Assembly has passed a marked up version of a plan to spend $4.3 billion of state funding that comes from the federal American Rescue Plan. The legislature’s changes include $2.5 million for grants for community-based gun violence prevention reduction and $3,000 bonuses for officers who work in Sheriff’s offices and regional jails. The General Assembly also wants the Department of Motor Vehicles to submit a plan within 30 days to serve walk-in customers at service centers.  Currently all visits are made by appointment only.

Around $761 million in funds will not be programmed at this time depending on the direction of the ongoing pandemic, according to a release from Governor Northam’s office

Areas with high amounts of asphalt and pavement are less healthy places to live, and a hotter climate will exacerbate the problem. The city of Charlottesville is participating in a federal program to map urban heat islands and is looking for volunteers to provide data on temperature and humidity levels. The National Integrated Heat Health Information System is a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other partners across the world. According to the website, the idea is to “understand this problem, develop a robust and science-informed response, and build capacity and communication networks to improve resilience.”

The effort is seeking people who are willing to take samples on three different occasions in the last two weeks of August. If you’re interested, there’s a volunteer interest form to fill out. If you need more information, that’s available on the city website

On Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finalized the first section of their Sixth Assessment Report titled Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. A 39-page Summary for Policymakers describes in detail how human activity since the beginning of the industrial age has contributed to the gradual warming of the planet. The Arctic sea ice is melting, sea level is rising, and the report indicates that warming will continue throughout the mid-century even if greenhouse gas emissions can be cut severely. (view the various reports on the IPCC website)

Earlier this month, Governor Ralph Northam announced five new historical markers will be placed across the Commonwealth to commemorate contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played. One of them will celebrate the life of W.W. Yen, a Chinese man who graduated from the University of Virginia in 1900.

“Virginia has about 2,500 historical markers across the state but not enough are dedicated to sharing [Asian American and Pacific Islander] history,” Northam said in a ceremony announcing the new markers, each of which was submitted by students across Virginia. “This is a problem because AAPI history is Virginia history.”

Take a look at the release to find out who else has been recognized. 

W.W. Yen is the subject of one of five new historic markers

The rest of the newsletter is a review of last week’s Albemarle Board of Supervisors meeting. That was August 4 for anyone who needs a time stamp. 

At the top of the meeting, Supervisor Ann Mallek wanted people who don’t live in the rural area to know there’s a problem.

“Urban people who have not been out in the countryside may not be aware of how severe this dryness is,” Mallek said. “We have streams drying up all over the place in the countryside and pastures are gone, hayfields are gone, cornfields are gone.” 

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Albemarle County is either in the Abnormally Dry or Moderate Drought. All of Nelson County is marked as Moderate Drought, while Fluvanna and Greene counties are Abnormally Dry. 

Mallek warned that the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority be clear in reporting conditions to the city of Charlottesville and the Albemarle County Service Authority. 

“If we don’t start getting rain there is going to be a precipitous drop in supply,” Malelk said. “It happens very fast, like two, three, four feet a day at South Fork [reservoir] when things get to that saturation point.”

According to today’s water report from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, South Rivanna is full, as is the Totier Creek reservoir that serves Scottsville. Sugar Hollow is down over ten feet and Ragged Mountain is 2.31 feet below the usual level.

Albemarle County has hired a new director of the Human Services Department. Ti-Kimena-Mia Coltrane will take over the position on September 20, 2021, succeeding Lorna Gerome who will retire that month. Coltrane’s most recent position was as the Organizational Learning and Development Administrator for the city of Roanoke. She has worked in human resources for 17 years and has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Human Services and religious studies from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Master of Public Administration  from the University of Maryland. 

“I look forward to applying my experience in developing current and future catalyst leaders to services,” Coltrane said in a press release

Supervisors also agreed to schedule a public hearing on September 1 on whether to adopt an ordinance to levy a cigarette tax, a power that counties in Virginia only just received from the General Assembly this year. The work is being coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, who will be administering a regional board to collect the tax. Lori Allshouse is the Assistant Chief Financial Officer for Policy and Partnerships for Albemarle County. 

“The ordinance would establish a regional board which would efficiently administer the collection, accounting, disbursement, compliance monitoring, and the enforcement of cigarette taxes assessed by localities that desire to join the board,” Allshouse said. 

Fluvanna, Nelson and Greene counties have expressed interest in joining the board. Madison, Orange, and Augusta counties are also considering the board, even though they are not part of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. The city of Charlottesville is also interested. 

I’ll have more from the Board of Supervisors meeting and from other recent meetings in future installments of the newsletter.

Thank you for reading. Did you know this is a podcast, too? Every installment of CCE (but not the Week Ahead) is a podcast as well, building off my years in audio production. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify!