Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
May 14, 2021: No appointments needed to visit JMRL branches starting Monday; Andrews launches bid for Samuel Miller seat in Albemarle

May 14, 2021: No appointments needed to visit JMRL branches starting Monday; Andrews launches bid for Samuel Miller seat in Albemarle

Today is day 7,804 of the 21st Century, and there are only 29,085 to go until the 22nd century. Are you ready?

In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out...your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $75,100, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!

On today’s show:

  • Jim Andrews officially announces his race for the Samuel Miller District in Albemarle County

  • The CEO of Tiger Fuel Company talks about the fuel emergency 

  • The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library will open without appointments on Monday at most branches


We begin today with fuel. When I drove to an Exxon station run by the Tiger Fuel Company this morning, there was gas in the pumps and no line to get to them. The same was the case five hours later when I drove home again after being a guest on “Real Talk with Keith Smith.” (take a look!)

How long that will last is uncertain, as the supply line is still suffering from the Colonial Pipeline shutdown which has led to another state of emergency in Virginia. Gordon Sutton is the president of Tiger Fuel Company and when I spoke with him yesterday, he said it will take time to get back to normal operations.

“Everything on the whole East Coast has been depleted and the system isn’t really designed to keep up with that kind of replenishment, so it’s going to take us a while to dig out,” Sutton said. 

Sutton said he initially thought the situation would be much worse, but his company was able to move fuel around to somewhat delay putting bags over the pumps. But this disruption was not like others in the past and there was no fuel for much of Wednesday and Thursday. 

“You know we’ve had supply disruptions in the past from hurricanes and things like that, but you usually have a couple of days to sort of prepare for that and the disruption would be from 24 to 48 hours,” Sutton said. “In our 40 years of existence, we’ve never seen a disruption like this.” 

Sutton said he’s had many people call to ask if they should postpone travel this weekend. He said people should play it safe while the system replenishes. 

“I don’t think we’ll be back to normal for at least a couple of weeks,” Sutton said. 

Sutton himself delayed business-related travel this week. 

Yesterday, Colonial Pipeline issued a statement that the pipeline was fully operational as of Thursday morning but that delays may continue. 

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during this start-up period,” reads the release.

The only candidate filed so far to run for Supervisor in Albemarle’s Samuel Miller District formally kicked off his campaign yesterday on the steps of the County Office Building in downtown Charlottesville. It is a political tradition for candidates to appear here, and fellow Democrats Diantha McKeel and Ned Gallaway did so, though there were fewer people at those events due being in an earlier of the pandemic recovery.  But around two dozen people gathered there Thursday afternoon when political newcomer Jim Andrews declared his candidacy in public. 

“I’m running for the Samuel Miller District Board of Supervisors because I am committed to Albemarle’s economic and environmental resilience and sustainability," Andrews said. “I’ll work to achieve fairness, equity, and inclusion for all who call Albemarle home. We envision a bright future. I look forward to devoting my time and efforts to fostering resilience and to overcoming our economic, equity, education and environmental challenges.”

We’ll hear more from him in a moment. 

If elected, he would replace Supervisor Liz Palmer. She opted not to run for a third term. She had made her announcement on the same steps back in April 2013

“I can’t believe that it really has been seven and a half years since I was on the Board but it’s true,” Palmer said. “I’ve served as Supervisor of the Samuel Miller District. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of what I set out to do done or at least I’m confident that stuff will be completed.” 

Jim Andrews (left) is joined on the steps of the County Office Building by friends, family and campaign staff

Among those accomplishments include video coverage of Supervisor meetings, continued support of the water supply plan, and construction of the Materials Utilization Center at the Ivy Landfill. 

“And then there’s rural broadband, which as a member of the Board of Supervisors I’ve served on the broadband authority, helping position us to take advantage of state and federal money for fiber to the home for rural residents,” Palmer said. 

Palmer said she was confident Jim Andrews, a fellow Democrat, would be able to continue representing the Samuel Miller district as the county updates the zoning code and the Comprehensive Plan. The next Board of Supervisors will be the ones to vote on whatever changes are made, and Palmer said Andrews is up for the task. 

Mark Lorenzoni, an owner of the Ragged Mountain Running and Walking Shop, is serving as one of Andrews’ campaign advisors. He listed several traits he saw in Andrews.

“Time, talent, temperament and a passion and desire to serve his neighbors,” Lorenzoni said. 

Lorenzoni said he’s known Andrews for several decades.

“That sometimes brash, argumentative, and sarcastic young law student I remember from 40 years ago has seasoned beautifully into the complete package of what it takes to serve in the role of selfless and benevolent leadership,” Lorenzoni said.

For his part, Andrews said Lorenzoni was the first person he spoke with when he was considering running. Andrews came to the community in 1979 to enter UVA Law School. In 2021, the nation is beginning to coming out of the pandemic. 

“There’s no doubt that the pandemic has at least temporarily changed our lives,” Andrews said. “I think some of it we’re getting back to normal but the long-term effects. We’re going to have some businesses that closed and may not reopen. There are new ways of doing business. There are changed property uses, an increased need for broadband and ways of communicating and ensuring government transparency. These changes don’t come without stresses and I’ve seen some of that in my work with the Legal Aid Justice Center on housing issues.” 

Andrews said if elected he looks forward to the update of the Comprehensive Plan and the update of the zoning code. He also said work to implement the Climate Action Plan can help the community be more prepared for extreme weather events and challenges to infrastructure. 

“The rural areas of the Samuel Miller District are  important as a carbon sink and for biodiversity,” Andrews said. “I’m committed to facing these challenges that threaten clean water, forests, fields,  and farms that we are fortunate to have in abundance in our county and district.” 

Andrews addressed the high cost of housing in the community and said he would support policies to increase the number of below-market units by working with private developers and nonprofit developers. 

Andrews faces no opposition in the June 8 Democratic primary and as of this moment faces no opposition in the general election this fall. Neither do Gallaway or McKeel.

For over a year, it has been impossible to just show up at a branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library for simple browsing. In the early days of the pandemic, the library system moved to tier 5 in its COVID response plan, which was to shut everything down. Gradually they have loosened restrictions, and currently allow limited in-person browsing - as long as you have an appointment. That changes Monday, according to JMRL Director David Plunkett. 

“The library is preparing to enter tier two of our COVID-19 response protocols,” Plunkett said. “Tier 4 was curbside and contactless pick-up only. Tier 3 was appointment service inside the branches where we allowed five people at each location with some variations. And tier 2 now is a more general opening of the doors pretty close to normal service hours. Some capacity limits based on the number of staff that we have available.” 

Public meetings are not yet available and library programs will remain virtual for now. Also, fines will continue to be waived for the foreseeable future. 

“We have not been collecting any fines since March of last year, of 2020, and will not be collecting any fines as long as we have to continue to quarantine materials for 24 hours which is still the case in Tier 2,” Plunkett said. 

During the pandemic, a building in Lovingston off of U.S. 29 was renovated to be the new Nelson County branch. It’s open for appointment now and will also be open in Tier 2 on Monday. Don’t expect a large ceremony to serve as a grand opening just yet. Still, Plunkett said the building is something to celebrate.

“Nelson County really led the way here in supporting this project and funding this project and picking the very best architects and construction companies for this,” Plunkett said. 

When was the last time you went to the library? Do you plan to go back? Let me know!

And finally today, the University of Virginia has appointed Malo A. Hutson as the next Dean of the School of Architecture. Hutson is currently director of the urban planning Ph.D. program at the Columbia University in New York City. He’s also the director of the school’s Urban Community and Health Equity Program. Hutson succeeds Dean Ila Berman, who will return to the faculty in the school. Hutson will begin his tenure at the A-School on July 2, 2021. (read more in the press release)

Malo A. Hutson (photo contributed to UVA)

Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
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.