Welcome to the antepenultimate day of September! The federal fiscal new year is looming, and you have three days to set your plans to mark the occasion. In the meantime, this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement is here to celebrate September 28 as International Day for Universal Access to Information. As always, every installment of this newsletter and podcast provides links to primary sources so make sure you take a look today. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.
On today’s installment of the program:
Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor resigns to take a school superintendent position in Spotsylvania County
A detour of two major roadways in Albemarle finishes earlier than anticipated
Solar policy takes center stage at the Rivanna River Basin Commission conference tomorrow
A restaurant staple on Maury Avenue will close later this year after 46 years
UVa’s director of hospital epidemiology reflects on where we are in the COVID pandemic and whether it is over
First shout-out: WTJU Jazz Marathon
WTJU is different. WTJU is a free public service dedicated to sharing the transcendent experience of jazz & blues. Now the station is counting on listeners to provide the funding to make it possible. Please tune in and support WTJU’s Jazz Marathon, airing round-the-clock special shows this week through Sunday, October 2nd. Featuring live jazz & blues concerts every night at 8 p.m. New listener? Marathons are great ways to discover what makes WTJU so special.
Greene County administrator resigns to take schools job
Greene County has joined a growing list of communities that are searching for a new executive to lead local government. Mark. B. Taylor has resigned to become school superintendent in Spotsylvania County. He told the Board of Supervisors last night that he helped the county get a lot accomplished.
“Been here since April of 2019 and it has been quite an adventure,” Taylor said. “We all got through COVID. We worked together and established an [Emergency Medical Services] department after the [University of Virginia] canceled us.”
Taylor said the county has also exited the Rapidan Service Authority in order to create its own water and sewer department
Last week, the Amherst Board of Supervisors asked for the resignation of Dean Rodgers, according to a story in the Amherst County New Era Progress. Earlier this year, Nelson County Administrator Stephen Carter resigned and Candace McGarry was appointed to the position. Pittsylvania County is on its second interim administrator after the firing of David Smitherman in early January.
Charlottesville continues to be run by interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. The city is seeking to hire a new police chief before turning back to a search for a permanent replacement.
Taylor will be paid $245,000 a year in his new position runnings schools in Spotsylvania, according to ABC7 News.
Route 151 / U.S. 250 detour finishes two days early
A planned detour of the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 151 in Albemarle County has wrapped up earlier than expected. Night-time closures of the intersection took place to reconstruct the approach Route 151 makes toward the federal highway.
“Crews with the contractor, Curtis Contracting Inc. of West Point, Va., worked extended shifts to accomplish the work necessary to reestablish access through the intersection and remove the detours,” reads a press release.
The roundabout is expected to be completed in February. Curtis Contracting is also working on the diverging diamond at I-64 and U.S. 250 which is also scheduled to be finished early next year.
Long-time restaurant to close
The owners of Anna’s Pizza #5 on Maury Avenue in Charlottesville have announced they will be closing at the end of this year after a 46-year run.
“We appreciate all the love and the relationships we have developed as you allowed us to put great food on your tables,” states a Facebook post made yesterday. “We will greatly miss it, but it is time to move on to our next chapter.
The post does not mention that the building was purchased this April by an entity called Stadium Row LLC. The company purchased two properties that make up the shopping center for $3.05 million. Other tenants include Yuan Ho Chinese Take Out, Rudy’s Dry Cleaners, and Wahoo Wash. (Read the April 2022 property transactions)
Under the city’s existing rules, the land is zoned Neighborhood Commercial Corridor. Under the adopted Future Land Use Map, the property is designated as Urban Mixed Corridor.
As for Anna’s, one of the owners will continue business “as Sapori Della Nonna” with fresh pasta, sweets, Italian dressing, tomato sauce and more. You can follow her on Intsagram at @nonnadelicacies5 and on Facebook at “Sapori Della Nonna”
Solar policy subject of Rivanna River conference
Do you or someone you know have an interest in the connections between how land is used and the water quality of rivers and streams? Tomorrow, an entity called the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC) is putting on its seventh annual conference.
“The purpose of this conference really is to promote the environmental stewardship and equity of the basin and the region as we transition into more renewable energy sources,” said Isabella O’Brien, environmental planner at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “As well as to provide a forum for local governments, staff, and the public as well to learn more about this growing topic of solar.”
The conference comes at a time when many localities across rural Virginia are processing utility-scale solar facilities that can take up hundreds of acres. For instance, Albemarle County is currently considering a special use permit for a 650-acre project called Woodridge Solar.
“Our first speaker is Elizabeth Marshall and she is the program manager for the Weldon Cooper Center’s Solar Initiative,” O’Brien said. “She was the lead on the Virginia Solar Survey where the UVA Weldon Cooper Center reached out to all of the cities and counties across Virginia to learn about their capacity for transitioning into solar energy.”
Marshall will share the results of the survey, which was completed by 109 out of 135 localities across the Commonwealth. O’Brien said using up that much land has effects which can be mitigated, and the discussion will provide best practices.
“We’re trying to help create the platform to have those conversations so we also have have Lauren Glickman from Encore Renewable Energy coming and their organization really focuses on dual use solar,” O’Brien said. “That includes practices like agrisolar or agrivoltaics where you can use native plants, raising animals, and other practices sort of to amplify the benefits you can see with solar energy rather than clear-cutting.”
The final speaker is Chad Martin, the environmental justice coordinator for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Blue Ridge Region.
“He’s coming to speak about the background and the history of the environmental justice and laws surrounding it as well as how its implemented on the county and city level,” O’Brien said.
Martin will also discuss the White House’s Justice 40 initiative, which seeks to direct 40 percent of federal spending into communities that are “marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.”
The conference begins at 1 p.m. at the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in Darden Towe Park. There’s also a way to watch virtually. (Facebook page) (Register to attend in-person) (Zoom registration)
Second shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program
In today’s second 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!
Pandemic continues as concern continues for preparation for future novel viruses
This newsletter and podcast got its start in the early days of the pandemic when I launched the Charlottesville Quarantine Report. I was not working as a journalist but when faced with a crisis that had been brewing all winter, I began devoting my time to getting out information.
In the early days of this program, almost every episode had some information about the pandemic in some way. It has now been more than two and a half years since the state of emergency was declared, and it’s much more rare for me to get to a story.
At the September 21 meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, Chair Donna Price announced that she finally got a positive test.
“I joined 95,566,521 Americans with COVID last week,” Price said. “We’ve had over a million and fifty thousand deaths. There are 30 million Americans who have experienced long COVID.”
According to the COVID tracker of the Centers for Disease Control, the number of confirmed cases continues to trend downwards. Price said her case was very mild due to her recent boosters as well as the availability of antivirals. She urged people to remain vigilant.
“And I encourage people to continue to get your vaccination, to use safe practices, because it still is out there and we still are having several hundred Americans die every day,” Price said. “The President may have spoken in one respect that we are beyond the pandemic but the reality medically is that we are not.”
That topic came up a couple days later at the weekly COVID-19 briefing put on by the University of Virginia Health. Dr. Costi Sifri is the director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Hospital. He said things seem like they are getting back to normal, with many people going to restaurants, traveling, going to the theater, and taking part in everyday events.
“In that manner and fashion, for those individuals, the pandemic has receded and may conceptually be over in their mind but the virus isn’t done with us,” Dr. Sifri said.
Dr. Sifri said COVID-19 remains one of the top five causes of death across the country and there is always the possibility of new strains. He said there’s no consensus of when to declare the pandemic over, and he doesn’t consider the pandemic over. He added that end of the emergency response is within sight.
“One of the potential consequences of saying that the finish line has been crossed is that we pack up the bag, go home, and don’t think about what could be coming around the corner and what could be coming down the line,” Dr. Sifri said. “With the end of the emergency response, I think we may still be at a level of higher levels of circulation of the virus than we would want but we still see that it could still be a significant threat particularly with people who are not vaccinated. Also to people who don’t respond well to vaccines or have multiple medical conditions that put them at high for COVID.”
Dr. Sifri said models project another surge as temperatures drop. He said the public health sector has been taxed severely after the past two and a half years.
“The pandemic has greatly stretched and stressed public health to a point that it’s very difficult for them to respond continuing on an ongoing basis,” Dr. Sifri said. “It requires an investment not only in capital investment but also investment in the human resources, the people who do these jobs.”
Dr. Sifri said more study is needed to improve the equitable delivery of health care while moving through the fight against a novel virus. The time is now to reflect and prepare.
“How can we do this better?” Dr. Sifri said. “We need to be doing better because we are clearly seeing over the last ten years novel emerging pathogens or reemerging pathogens and we should expect that they will continue going forward.”
Charlottesville Community Engagement will continue to pay attention and I also urge you to remain vigilant. I’m at the beginning of my second week of my first bout with COVID, and it’s much better if you can avoid it yourself.
Housekeeping for Episode #437
Thanks again for reading or listening! This newsletter and podcast is a service of Town Crier Productions, a company I created in 2020 to help me get back to reporting and here I am. There’s a lot more coming up in future editions of the program, including reports on the September Regional Transit Partnership meeting, the joint City Council and Planning Commission on next steps for zoning, and the Albemarle Planning Commission takes look at their Comprehensive Plan.
These are the sorts of things I spent many years writing about and it turns out, that’s how I want to spend much of my time now. Civilization and society is complex, and I’ve made it my career to try to make sense of things. I’m grateful for the one in four members of the audience who are helping cover the costs.
If you’d like to join them, please sign up for a paid subscription through Substack. At the $5 a month or the $50 a year level, you get a first look at some content such as the upcoming September property transactions report. If you sign on at the $200 a month founding level, you get two shout-outs a month! It’s a very low cost way to get a message out, and the system is going to change in the coming month.
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Music in the podcast version comes from a musical entity known as Wraki, a musical entity you can sample more of if you purchase the album Regret Everything on Bandcamp. Pay what you want! Thank you, Wraki!
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