May 9 • 18M

May 9, 2022: Council briefed on ECC's progress toward 988, Marcus Alert implementation

Plus: Albemarle's Historic Preservation Committee weighs in on Comprehensive Plan

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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 second Monday of May, a fact that will likely fade from our minds the further we get from its actual happening. Let the record show that this was in fact May 9, which is considered by some to be National Lost Sock Memorial Day. That’s an appropriate feeling for this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, which seeks to catch up on as many loose threads as possible. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.

On today’s program:

  • Charlottesville City Council is briefed on efforts to implement the Marcus Alert system across Virginia

  • Supervisor Donna Price will only serve one term on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors

  • Albemarle County’s Historic Preservation Committee weighs in on the Comprehensive Plan review 

First shout to JMRL’s How To Festival

In today’s first subscriber-supported shout-out, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library will once again provide the place for you to learn about a whole manner of things! The How To Festival returns once more to the Central Library in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is something for everyone in this fast-paced, interactive and free event!

There will be 15-minute presentations and demonstrations on a diverse set of topics. Want to know how to do a home DNA test? Tune a guitar? What about using essential oils to repel mosquitoes? Visit the library website at jmrl.org to learn more. Schedule is coming soon! That’s the How To Festival, May 14, 2022. 

Price will not seek re-election to second term in Albemarle’s Scottsville District

Now that she’s announced a candidacy for the 55th District in the House of Delegates, Albemarle Supervisor Donna Price has announced she will not seek a second term representing the Scottsville Magisterial District.  She made a Facebook post on Saturday. 

“I will continue to dedicate my service to the County through the end of my term, be it January 2024 (the natural end of my four year term), or January 2023 (should there be a House of Delegates election this year and I am elected to commence service with that body at that time,” Price wrote.

That continues a string of one-term members in the Scottsville District. Price succeeded Rick Randolph, who had served one term from 2016 to 2019. Randolph succeeded Jane Dittmar, who was elected in November 2013 and did not seek another term in order to run for the Fifth District in the U.S. Congress. 

Before Dittmar, William “Petie” Craddock had been appointed to the seat to fill a vacancy left when Chris Dumler resigned after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery.  Dumler was elected after Lindsay Dorrier opted to not run for a fifth term representing Scottsville.

Price faces emergency room nurse Kellen Squire for the Democratic nomination for the 55th District. Incumbent Rob Bell has not indicated his plans. Squire officially launched his campaign with a video on Friday.

Albemarle Comprehensive Plan review continues; Historical Preservation Committee asked for input 

Albemarle County is in the first phase of a four phase review of the Comprehensive Plan, and there are three opportunities to learn what’s happening. This first phase is intended to look at the county’s growth management policy. 

The Let’s Talk Albemarle van will visit the Forest Lakes Farmers Market on Tuesday at 4 p.m. and will be at the Batesville Day Festival on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There’s also a “virtual office hour” on Thursday at noon to get more information.

The Albemarle Historic Preservation Committee was consulted on the Comprehensive Plan at their meeting on April 25, 2022. Specifically they were asked two questions by Margaret Maliszewski, one of Albemarle’s planning managers. 

“What opportunities exist for achieving our historic preservation goals, objectives, and strategies?” Maliszewski asked. “Are there new, or current, or ongoing threats to the county’s historic resources?”

The existing Albemarle Comprehensive Plan has a chapter on Historic, Cultural, and Scenic Resources (begins on page 21)

Ross Stevens said he wanted the committee to play a larger role in the county’s land use process, particularly as it relates to demolitions of structures that may be historic but not protected. He specifically singled out a manor house called Dunlora that will be removed as part of a by-right development. 

“I think we should be called upon for our advice and consulting of these structures and be part of the mix instead of just documenting stuff afterwards,” Stevens said. “I think we should be brought in to give our advice just like the Planning Commission does for the Board of Supervisors. I think we should be that resource to provide data and information regarding these properties.”

Another member, Liz Russell, agreed and said the committee currently has little venue to make their views known. 

“And even if only on things like rezoning and special use permits and things that go up to the Planning Commission and the Board,” Russell said. 

Russell is also a member of the Charlottesville Planning Commission. 

Betsy Gondes-Baten said she would like the county to pass a historic preservation ordinance to protect certain structures. 

“It would also provide an opportunity in that we would be able to qualify for certain funds for surveys and nominations and that sort of thing,” Gondes-Baten said. 

Russell said an ordinance would take more support from the county’s elected and administrative leadership. 

“So how do we educate not only the public but also our own leadership about the benefits, not just for protecting historic resources, but what other benefits?” Russell asked. “How do we make those links between the benefit between historic preservation and economic development? The benefits of historic preservation and sustainability? And I think now is the time to begin connecting those dots.” 

Russell said preserving naturally occurring affordable housing is also a role that historic preservation can play. 

“Older housing stock,” Russell said. “More modest turn-of-the-century, 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s. These houses are out there serving a role in our community in terms of affordable housing.” 

Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley threw cold water on the idea of historic preservation playing a stronger role in Albemarle. 

“I sometimes have to be [what] I’ll call it the reality check,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. “I know Betsy keeps bringing up the ordinance. That’s something you all would have to develop and we’d have to see what that is and what it means and what it entails. At this point I have no idea what kind of ordinance we want.” 

LaPisto-Kirtley acknowledged many people have passion for historic preservation, but she did not think it was the county’s role to make it happen. She said it was unlikely more staff time be dedicated to the topic. 

“I’m not going to lie,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. “We’re up to our necks in all kinds of different things as people on the staff know we’re doing a lot of things at the county level. There’s a lot going.”

LaPisto-Kirtley suggested a private foundation be set up to raise funds for historic preservation efforts. She said many homestays are being set up in larger historic buildings and their outbuildings.

Russell said she was disappointed by Supervisor LaPisto-Kirtley’s response. 

“That is one of the most discouraging things I think anyone on this committee could hear from a Supervisor who is appointed to be on this committee to advocate for us,” Russell said. “Historic preservation is a chapter in the county’s Comprehensive Plan because ostensibly the county values it just as it values economic development, the environment.” 

LaPisto-Kirtley said she was simply being realistic. 

“This is an important committee,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. “[But] this is not the top priority because of everything else going on.” 

For the rest of the meeting, the committee members discussed ways to advance an ordinance, beginning with research into what other communities have done. 

If you were to attend any of the three Comprehensive Plan meetings this week, what would be on your mind? 

Watch the April 25, 2022 Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee:


Second shout-out goes to Camp Albemarle

Today’s second subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting campalbemarleva.org/donate


Council briefed on efforts to bring Marcus alert system to region 

At least one in ten American adults will suffer a depressive illness every year, according to information from the National Institute of Mental Health.  That information was cited at City Council’s May 2, 2022 work session.

Officials with the Emergency Communications Center for Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and the University of Virginia briefed the Council on efforts to ensure that people experiencing mental health crises are not met with deadly force by public safety officers.  (view the presentation)

“We do receive around a quarter of a million calls per year here in the Charlottesville-UVA-Albemarle Emergency Communication Center,” said Josh Powell, the support services manager for the ECC. 

Powell said at least 90 percent of the 9-1-1 calls are answered within 15 seconds, an industry standard. He said that at least some of those calls are misdials or hang-ups. 

“If you do happen to misdial 9-1-1, please do not hang up,” Powell said. “It is important that you are able to make contact with the communications officer and let them know there is no emergency because otherwise they are going to continue to reach you to confirm that there is not an emergency.” 

A new emergency number will soon go into operation. Powell explains about what the 9-8-8 service will do.

“This is going to be a system that responds specifically for mental health crises,” Powell said. “Similar to 9-1-1 you will be able to reach it by call or text.” 

An image documenting the Continuum of Care of how mental health calls come in 

Also coming in the future is something called the Marcus Alert, as explained by Sonny Saxton, the director of the ECC. 

“The goal of Marcus Alert, if we were to place a singular goal on it, would be to provide a behavioral health response to behavioral health emergencies,” Saxton said. “Essentially Marcus Alert creates that coordination between the 9-1-1 and the regional crisis centers as well as specialized behavioral health response from law enforcement.”

Saxton said there are multiple initiatives to address multiple structural issues, including a shortage of psychiatric beds across all of Virginia. 

“The time has long passed for us to deal with these behavioral health emergencies effectively and to understand that it can happen to any of us,” Saxton said. 

The Marcus Alert system is intended to identify behavioral health issues whether the call comes in from a crisis line, 9-1-1, the future 9-8-8, or the rest of what’s referred to as the “crisis care continuum.” 

“When it comes to 9-8-8 being the new short code if you will to emergency services for mental health crises, it’s really that ‘no wrong door’ approach,” Saxton said. “In order words, you could call any of those. You could call 9-1-1, you can call 9-8-8, you could call the suicide hotline and the idea is you would have a complete continuum of care no matter where you access it.” 

Saxton said nearly 80 percent of calls can be resolved over the phone, but the remaining would require mobile crisis teams consisting of local law enforcement, emergency medics, and social workers trained in emergency responses.

“When you put that group together and deploy those into the community, that can really perhaps begin that emergency care treatment at the person’s side and then work on getting them to a crisis stabilization unit and then to a hospital or in-patient care if needed,” Saxton said. 

Marcus Alert programs are in different stages of implementation across Virginia. There are two pilot rounds, but the Charlottesville area is not located within either of these. Saxton said it might be some time to have the entire state covered. Region 10 is serving as a “crisis hub” but that’s not connected yet to the ECC. 

Legislation passed the General Assembly in 2020 to establish the system across Virginia, but legislation that passed in 2022 carves out exceptions for some communities (SB361). 

Saxton said it also took many years for the technology to make 9-1-1 ubiquitous, and the same can be said for implementation of behavioral calls to be as universal.

“Now, we do know that for 9-8-8, the telephone companies have to have that short-code set up by July 1, 2022, so July of this year,” Saxton said. 

For more information, review the whole presentation.

Saxton said protocols are still in development and there will be more updates in the future. 

A sizable group of people in Charlottesville would like to see the Charlottesville Police Department abolished. Mayor Lloyd Snook asked this question perhaps on their behalf.

“I know that a lot of folks in the community want very much for there to be as many opportunities as possible for there to be a non-police response to a mental health crisis,” Snook said. “Is there anything that can be done before we would get to the full implementation of the Marcus Alert System? Any sort of first step that we can be taking?”

Saxton said some steps have already been taken.

“For one, if you do call 9-1-1 today within the Charlottesville, Albemarle and UVA region, that call is answered by a communications officer that has received additional training,” Saxton said. “They’ll answer the phone and use the guidance from a National Academy protocol, so a new standard. They will do so quickly and get you on the line with someone that stay on the line until law enforcement gets there. They’re also trained in how they’re going to dispatch the law enforcement so they’re very careful about the information they give… over the radio to set the correct tone. That’s all training that’s underway that’s already happened.”

Saxton said an alternative is to call the non-emergency line and state that there is a mental health care plan in place.

“That’s essentially what the Marcus Alert voluntary database is,” Saxton said. “If you report to us or to Region 10, that you have a mental health care plan, we can notify law enforcement.”

The non-emergency line is 434-977-9041. 

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