Feb 16 • 18M

February 16, 2022: Charlottesville might outsource Onesty Pool operations, no date for Smith pool reopening; Former Albemarle official to lead TJPDC broadband initiative

Plus: Committee recommends Broadus Wood Elementary retain that name

 
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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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Speaking of dubious holidays, it’s Do a Grouch a Favor Day which seems quite appropriate for these times. It’s also Innovation Day and National Almond Day, both of which I am skeptical are actual holidays. Who gets to decide? I hope you’ll decide that every installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement is worth spending time on a brief civic holiday. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s program:
  • While Charlottesville Parks and Rec still working to open one pool, they’re seeking to outsource operations of another

  • A former Albemarle officials will help administer broadband expansion in her new position at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District 

  • The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce releases a report touting various collaborations

  • A committee recommends that Broadus Wood Elementary keep its name

  • And a quick snapshot of the General Assembly with one month down, one month to go 

Patreon-fueled shout-out to LEAP

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Climate report: January was sixth hottest on record

This past January was the 6th hottest in 143 years of recorded climate history, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). January was also the 445th consecutive month with above-average temperatures. The data is collected by the National Centers for Environmental Information. (read the release)

Snow cover in the northern hemisphere is about average as was tropical activity. However, the polar sea ice coverage was at the second-smallest in January in 44 years of record. 

Another study from NOAA reports that the United States coastline will see at least a foot rise in seal level by 2050. That amount would usually take a century, but the new Sea Level Rise Technical Report uses the latest data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report said the increased water level will mean heavier flooding inland and states that reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could slow the rise. 

A map of the world plotted with some of the most significant climate events that occurred during January 2022. (NOAA NCEI) 
General Assembly: One Day After Crossover 

Someone who happened to take a look this morning at the statistics for the 2022 Virginia General Assembly would have seen signs of Crossover Day, the day when hundreds of bills fail because they were not approved by the House in which they originated. 

As of 8:25 this morning, 959 out of 2,543 introduced bills have now failed. That number is up sharply from the 351 on Monday morning. The figure will likely shoot up higher now that the Republican controlled House of Delegates will consider bills that passed the Democrat controlled Virginia Senate, and vice versa. 

There are 597 House bills pending in the Senate, and 489 Senate bills waiting for action in House committees. 

The House has passed one Senate bill. That’s SB739 which would allow parents permission to have their children not wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 while on school property. Governor Youngkin is expected to sign that legislation later this afternoon but amended it to state that this new parental power school won’t go into effect until March 1 for those school systems that want to continue the mandate.

Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 3,030 new cases today and the percent positivity is up slightly to 11.4 percent.

The text of Governor Youngkin’s amendments to SB739.
Chamber of Commerce releases collaboration report

The second anniversary of the pandemic is approaching and almost every organization across Virginia have been transformed in some way. The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce has released a report highlighting some of the partnerships it has undertaken during the challenging times. 

These include Venture Central, a project to help encourage regional entrepreneurship fueled by a $300,000 grant from GO Virginia. Other parties include Albemarle, Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia. 

There’s also the Leadership Charlottesville program, where people from different positions come together for a series of lessons and training about the community. The program was not held in 2021 due to the pandemic but will relaunch this September with support from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia and the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. A sneak peak is being held on March 9 where you can learn more about the application process. 

Another Chamber initiative is the Charlottesville Area Development Roundtable (CADRE) which works to influence land use policy. Last year their work was focused on the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted by Council in November. This year that group will work on the zoning rewrite that is now underway. 

Other Chamber programs include the Minority Business Alliance, the Hospitality Professionals Roundtable, and the Defense Affairs Committee

On Friday, the Chamber will present their first ever State of the Community at the CODE Building. Registration has been closed. 

Parks update: No date yet for Smith Aquatic reopening 

Charlottesville’s Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center has been closed for nearly two years, but not all of that is related to the pandemic. When everything shut down in March of 2020, the facility had been expected to be closed for at least $1.8 million in repairs to try to finally fix lingering air quality issues. Smith had been expected to open back up last year, but the work wasn’t complete. The goal is for it to open this spring. Vic Garber is the deputy director of the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department. 

“We are still working diligently with facilities maintenance to make sure that all of the boxes are checked and to make sure that once we open that darned thing it is going to be safe, it is going to be a good experience, and I would like to say a magical experience,” Garber said. 

Work is also underway to make sure the pool can be staffed. Garber said several new lifeguards have been hired this month. He said there was no date yet for when Smith will open.

Last summer, the outdoor pool at Meade Park was closed due to staffing issues. This Monday, the city issued a request for proposals for companies to take over the operations of the pool. 

Specifications for what Onesty Pool has to offer are within the RFP

“We’re striving to get more staff,” Garber said. “We need more than just a handful of lifeguards to get Onesty open. We need 60 to do that safely and effectively.” 

If the city proceeds to go in that direction, the vendor would be responsible for hiring that staff and for maintaining the pool. 

“There are five or six really well-acclaimed vendors in the nation that do that,” Garber said. “They go in. They actually do it in Fredericksburg. They do it in Asheville, North Carolina.”

This would just be for Onesty Pool, which Garber said is the busiest facility in the city’s pool system. 

“Because of all of the whistles and bells that we have and blind spots, we need more guards there than any place,” Garber said. 

Proposals are due on March 15. There are renovations underway at Onesty to repaint all of the water features and to update the 13-year-old facility. 

There’s been a sharp uptick in usage of the city’s parks in the past two years. Riaan Anthony is also a deputy director of parks and recreation. 

“I am looking at creative ways in terms of how do we meet the demand because trends have dramatically shown us that once the pandemic started, people started using the parks more and more and more,” Anthony said. “And the trend has just continued.”

That means more wear and tear on the parks, and Anthony said there’s a need to keep standards up. He’s considering outsourcing several services such as horticulture and landscaping because there is a struggle to fill existing positions. 

If you’re interested in a new job or know someone, take a look at the city’s jobs board

Anthony also said that the city needs to replace several playgrounds as they are over 20 years old. 

“According to the [Certified Playground Safety Inspector] standards, 20 is your cut off,” Anthony said. “You need to replace it. That’s like the last end limit and we have a few.” 

First up will be Meade Park and Belmont Park. Anthony said public input sessions will be held to get feedback from community members. 

A nonprofit group is fundraising to build a playground in Pen Park, as we learn from parks planner Chris Gensic about Bennett’s Village.

Bennett’s Village, which is a nonprofit group that’s proposing to fundraise and construct and effectively donate to the city an all-inclusive, all ages playground,” Gensic said. 

Gensic said there will be a public input process for that as well on March 15. There will be a public input meeting for Tonsler Park on March 22. 

Gensic is a member of the stakeholder group planning for a pedestrian and bike bridge over the Rivanna River to connect Pantops and Woolen Mills. The deadline is approaching for an application for Smart Scale funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation and there are two potential sites for where the western end of the bridge will land. 

“And we’re discussing pros and cons and getting public input from a variety of people about if it landed at Riverview Park what would be the pros and cons of that that?” Gensic said. “If it landed at Market Street down by the Woolen Mill, what would be the pros and cons of that?”

To learn more about the options, visit the Thomas Jefferson Planning District’s website. You’ll find a survey there. The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold a special meeting on March 10 at 1 p.m. to review the options and make a selection.

Shoutout to UVA Lifetime Learning

In this subscriber supported shout-out honoring Black History Month, fifty years after the Civil War and Emancipation, there was still a great need to educate Black people in the rural areas in the south, including Albemarle County. From 1912 to 1932, Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald built more than 5,300 schools, including the St. John Rosenwald in Cobham, northeast of Charlottesville. This school educated Black children until 1954, and fell into disrepair but still survives. Efforts to restore the school as a community center are bearing fruit, and on Thursday, February 17, UVA Lifetime Learning will feature two speakers who will help tell that story and the importance of honoring the past while preparing for the future. Join St. John alumna Rebecca Kinney and preservationist Jody Lahendro at 3 p.m. Visit engage.virginia.edu to sign up for this virtual event! 

Broadus Wood Elementary School may retain name

A committee that is evaluating whether the name of Broadus Wood Elementary School should be changed is recommending that it remain. In October 2018, the Albemarle School Board directed Superintendent Matt Haas to review all the names in the division to see if they still are consistent with school values. 

Broadus Ira Wood was a farmer who donated the land for the Earlysville area school in 1905 and the committee felt “he advanced education opportunities for African American and rural students.” 

The Albemarle School Board will consider their recommendation later this month. 

Paul H. Cale Elementary School became Mountain View Elementary School on July 1, 2020. Sutherland Middle School was renamed Lakeside Middle School a year later, but Virginia L. Murray Elementary retained its namesake in 2021. The Community Public Charter School is now the Community Lab School. Jack Jouett Middle School will become Journey Middle School on July 1.

A slide from the Broadus Wood Elementary School committee presentation (download)
Former Albemarle finance official now working for regional body

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District is one of 21 such entities in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is charged with assisting “local member governments, partners, and stakeholders with a variety of technical and program services.” Active projects include the aforementioned Rivanna River bridge as well as the Urban Rivanna Corridor Plan. Last year, the agency adopted a regional housing plan that offered tailored recommendations for each of the six jurisdictions. 

The TJPDC is also the lead agency for the Regional Internet Service Expansion project, a $288 million public-private partnership to expand broadband involving several counties, the Rappahannock and Central Virginia Electric Cooperatives, and Dominion power.

The project will be administered by Lori Allshouse, who spent many years as a top management and budget official in Albemarle County. 

“Lori is a seasoned and dedicated public administrator who has a track record of building and maintaining partnerships and years of experience working with local, state and federal funded programs, projects, and initiatives,” said Christine Jacobs, the executive director of the TJPDC. 

Allhouse said she’s glad to be on board.

“I just want to say throughout my career in Albemarle County I have always been super impressed by the commission, with its staff and the leadership and all its done for its member jurisdictions in the regional community where we all live,” Allshouse said. 

Learn more about the RISE project in this article by Allison Wrabel in the Daily Progress.

The work is consistent with the TJPDC’s vision.

“The vision is to be the intersection of ideas, partnerships, and support, creating a cohesive regional community,” Jacobs said. “The comparative advantage of the TJPDC is that we can help bring together different jurisdictions in order to coordinate across jurisdictional lines.” 

Other organizations got their start under the TJPDC umbrella. These include Jaunt, the Piedmont Housing Alliance, the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development, the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless, and the Jefferson Area Board for Aging. 

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