Jul 27 • 19M

July 27, 2022: Rogers briefs City Council on how to spend $14.8M in ARPA funds; Two new members will join the city Planning Commission in September

Plus: Planning continues to make it safer for Charlottesville public school students to walk from home to class

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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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You can tell a lot about a person by what they think about the noise that emanates from the bagpipe, a woodwind instrument perhaps best associated with Scotland but with origins that might date back to the Hittite people from three thousand years ago. Even if are not a fan of the combination of melody and drone, July 27 is the day to appreciate this unique musical instrument. Perhaps this is the day you buy one for the enjoyment of your friends, family, and co-workers? I’m Sean Tubbs, and not a cent or shilling is being paid to Charlottesville Community Engagement by Big Bagpipe. 

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On this version of the show:

  • Charlottesville continues to prepare for a school year in which more students will not be able to catch a yellow school bus

  • Two new members will soon join the Charlottesville Planning Commission

  • A former member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has died

  • Charlottesville City Council hears from the interim City Manager on how $14.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding could be spent 

First shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: Have you been thinking of converting your fossil-fuel appliances and furnaces into something that will help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP,  has launched a new program to guide you through the steps toward electrifying your home. Thermalize Virginia will help you understand electrification and connect you with vetted contractors to get the work done and help you find any rebates or discounts. Visit thermalizeva.org to learn more and to sign up!  

Preparations continue in Charlottesville for more to walk to school 

Classes begin for Charlottesville City Schools in four weeks and work continues to prepare for a year in which more students will not be eligible to get a ride on a school bus. A driver shortage has led the school system to expand walk zones that are still being finalized. 

“We are hoping to let families know this week about their current bus eligibility and whether they have a bus request on files,” reads an email update sent to parents interested parties on Monday. “This status update will tell families if their child is in a walk zone or eligible for the bus.”

The notice also states that priority will be given to families living further away from schools. The actual bus assignments will be released in August. 

Last week, the city administration told City Council that staff is recommending using $500,000 from the city’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act to help pay for safety improvements. 

“We’ve added $500,000,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. “Higher amounts were suggested. In talking with staff we believe that we have other funds in the budget that can actually exceed the amount that has been suggested in the past by some of the communications from people but this is a high priority area and we are offering that up for your consideration.” 

More on ARPA later in the newsletter. 

In their update, city schools say they are in conversations with the city, parents, and community members about sidewalks and intersections that need to be improved. Last week, Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders said the city government will follow the school system’s lead.

“What we’re doing is working directly with schools and trying our best to make sure that their priorities are what we prioritize and what we do to help them through this process because we’re seeing this as everyone’s issue,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said the work to address safety concerns will continue past the first day of school. 

“And then to go beyond that and basically reboot our Safe Routes to School program,” Sanders said. “That’s what this is really synergized at this time by allowing all this focus on what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been talking about doing.” 

Sanders said there are also conversations with Albemarle about how to collaborate on pupil transportation for special needs students. 

The school system is also encouraging people to report problem locations using the MyCville app or by phoning 434-970-3333, option #2. 

Two other ways people can become involved are: 

The school system will hold a final “walk and talk” this Friday at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church from noon to 2 p.m. There will also be an online Q&A session on August 10 at 5 p.m. (register)

Council make two new appointments to Planning Commission

When the Charlottesville Planning Commission meets on September 13, two veterans of other advisory bodies will take their place at the makeshift dais in CitySpace. 

Carl Schwarz served two terms on the Board of Architectural Review from 2014 to the end of last year. He’s an architect in private practice who lives in the 10th and Page neighborhood. 

Phil d’Oronzio has been the chair of the Housing Advisory Council Committee since August 2014. He’s the CEO of Pilot Mortgage who lives in the Belmont neighborhood. 

The pair join three Planning Commissioner who were reappointed by Council at their meeting on July 18.

“By some accident of history we wound up with five different Planning Commissioners whose terms expire on August 31, 2022,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

By Virginia law, the seats have to be staggered so that terms don’t expire all at once. To make that work, they had to technically reconstitute the body and reappoint everyone, even those who terms were not yet.

A section of the Virginia code that enables Planning Commissions to exist 

Commissioner Hosea Mitchell was appointed to Seat One for a term expiring on August 31, 2023. Mitchell served a partial term in the late 2000’s before rejoining the Commission in June 2018 to fill an unexpired term. He is retired from a career in the medical business. 

Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg was appointed to Seat Two also for a term expiring on August 31, 2023. Stolzenberg first joined the Commission in October 2018.  He’s a software engineer with Lumin.

Seat Three will continue the appointment of Lyle Solla-Yates whose term expires at the end of August 2024. Solla-Yates has been on the Commission since March 2018 and is the current chair. He works for the University of Virginia School of Architecture. 

Commissioner Liz Russell will continue in Seat 4 with a term that also expires at the end of 2024. Russell has been on the Commission since September 2020. She’s the director of planning, sustainability, and project management at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. 

Seat 5 will continue to be occupied by Commissioner Karim Habbab until August 31, 2025. Habbab was appointed in June 2021 and is an architect with BRW Architects. 

The terms of Schwarz (Seat 6) and d’Oronzio  (Seat 7) and Schwarz will expire on August 31, 2026. 

The reconstitution of the Planning Commission comes at a time when the city is rewriting the Charlottesville zoning code to increase density. That’s a major objective of both of the Affordable Housing Plan adopted in March 2021 and the Comprehensive Plan updated in November 2021.

Former Albemarle Supervisor Cooke dies at 90 

A woman who served two terms on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has died. Patricia Cooke was elected in 1981 to what used to be called the Charlottesville District and was re-elected in 1985. 

According to her obituary in the Daily Progress, Cooke graduated from Lane High School in 1950 and opened a laundry business with her husband in 1956. She also had a bridal and formal wear company. A funeral service will be held on Friday.

The Charlottesville District became the Rio District at some point during the tenure of Cooke’s successor, David Bowerman. Bowerman served four terms until retiring the Board at the end of 2004. He passed away in March 2020 while he was a sitting member of the Albemarle County Board of Zoning Appeals.

In today’s other two shout-outs

Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. 

The final comes from another Patreon supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!

Want a shout-out? Become a Patreon!

Council briefed on potential usage of ARPA funds 

Charlottesville has now received all of the $19.6 million in funding it will receive from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act fund. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers gave Council an update at their meeting on July 18.

“It’s been a big help for local government in terms of recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” Rogers said.

Council has already appropriated $4.81 million of the funding and has an unallocated balance of $14.8 million. Money spent so far went to four different categories recognized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

A slide from Rogers’ presentation shows the broad categories in which the money has been spent

Of that $14.8 million, $2.28 million was already designated for various uses during the development of the budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1. For the balance, Rogers suggested the following uses:

For economic development:

  • $750,000 to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau to make up for revenue loss from decline in meals tax revenue. Albemarle County is also being asked to make the same contribution. 

  • $300,000 for improvements to the Downtown Mall coordinated with Friends of Downtown Cville. The Mall turns 50 in 2026 and Rogers said a task force may be formed to help mark that occasion and prepare for the next fifty years

  • $100,000 for updates to wayfinding 

  • One million for a strategic investment fund for economic development

  • $500,000 for the Meadow Creek Trail to close a gap for a VDOT-funded project

Internal uses:

  • $829,000 for equipment replacement

  • $200,000 for facilities repair

  • $270,000 to augment the Human Resources including hiring a deputy director and a recruiter

  • $200,000 to fund Council’s development of a new strategic plan

Public safety:

  • $1.4 million for additional COVID spending should future surges have a greater community health impact

  • $1.1 million to help Charlottesville Fire Department with its accreditation, including hiring three more battalion chiefs for two years

  • $450,000 to help retain personnel in the Charlottesville Fire Department

  • $50,000 to help retain personnel for the Sheriff’s Office

  • $500,000 for the “Safe Routes to School Fund” 

Human service support:

  • $700,000 for the Emergency Assistance - Pathways program which would include additional rental assistance

  • $1.63 million for affordable housing and homeless services

  • $500,000 for the Community Health Initiative 

  • $1 million for the Agency Investment Fund 

  • $580,000 for Community Arts Investment

  • $176,000 for the Office of Human Rights to hire an investigator to look into claims under the Fair Housing Act 

  • $40,000 for an emergency generator for a city shelter that would be used in major catastrophes 

The combined $2.63 million for affordable housing and the agency investment fund would be disbursed through a competitive process separate from the “Vibrant Community” process the city has used since 2019 to allocate funding for nonprofits. 

The Community Health Initiative would support public health projects.

“Think of this funding as being available for a previously floated idea of the Community Care Team or something of that nature in order to do a really needed and wonderful pilot to see what would be the best support for our community,” said Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall.

Council was to have discussed a proposal for a Community Care Team at its meeting on February 7 but the item was pulled. The topic did come up as part of a Council work session on May 2. 

Councilor Brian Pinkston noted that additional on-going positions were being proposed to be created with the one-time ARPA money.

“Hiring people with one-off type of funding is something we’re trying to be careful of,” Pinkston said. 

Rogers said those positions would be proposed to continue into the future and the city would have to find other funds to cover them. 

Councilor Michael Payne questioned the use of $750,000 to go to the CACVB. The city’s economic development director said the money would help the destination marketing organization with a current cash flow situation caused by the way it is funded. 

“There’s a two year lag in the funding cycles so the money wasn’t needed two years ago,” said Chris Engel. “It’s needed now because that cycle is playing through.”

Council got a briefing on the CACVB in June and learned that the agency received $680,000 from ARPA that flowed through the Virginia Tourism Council. (read the story)

“Given that state support I’m a little skeptical about how much is really needed for the CACVB as well as whatever specific measurable deliverables we will get for that investment,” Payne said.  

Council will be asked to take action on the appropriations at its August 1 meeting. There’s also an additional $2.52 million for which Rogers has not made any suggestions for how it should be spent. 

“We look forward to our dialogue on this,” Rogers said. “This is meant to be a first start to set us on a direction to address some things we really need to address in the coming months and thought that these funds would be a good way to do it.” 

Thoughts? Leave a comment below. 

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Housekeeping items for episode #412

That’s another program in the archives, and in a few days you’ll be able to read these stories on the Information Charlottesville website I created to help me keep track of what I’m reporting. 

All of this is supported by readers and listeners under the Town Crier Productions company I formed two years ago and am still learning how to operate. I’m breaking even, but I’d very much like to find a way to grow. There are ways to do that!

For one, if you sign up for a paid subscription through Substack, Ting will match your initial payment! And, if you sign up for their services through this link you’ll get a free standard install, your 2nd month free, and a $75 downtown mall gift card! Enter the promo code COMMUNITY for full effect. 

Sign up for Ting!

Music on the podcast version of the show comes from the D.C. sensation Wraki, and you can support their work by paying whatever you want for the album regret everything on BandCamp.

My sincere hope today, though, is that someone will go and buy a bagpipe. If you do, please let me know. If you have one already, record yourself and send me the audio! Or any exotic instrument, really.