Quiet coming week in county gov; BOS oks pay hike, AWS water agreements; Construction of 208-522 roundabout to begin in Jan; Woodward to appoint Kersey to PC; Office of Elections happy in new home
Engage Louisa is a nonpartisan newsletter that keeps folks informed about Louisa County government. We believe our community is stronger and our government serves us better when we increase transparency, accessibility, and engagement.
Quiet coming week in county government
For the latest information on county meetings including public meetings of boards, commissions, authorities, work groups, and internal county committees, click here. (Note: Louisa County occasionally schedules internal committee/work group meetings after publication time. Check the county’s website for the most updated information).
According to Louisa County’s website, there are no public meetings scheduled for the week of December 25 through December 30.
Additional information about Louisa County’s upcoming public meetings is available here.
Interested in taking your talents to one of the county’s numerous boards and commissions? Find out more here including which boards have vacancies and how to apply.
Supervisors ok pay hike, water service agreements with AWS
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors wrapped up 2023 with a busy meeting last Monday night, approving a significant pay hike for board members, okaying a pair of water service agreements with Amazon Web Services and establishing the framework for a tourism advisory committee. (meeting materials/video)
But several items on the board’s agenda weren’t considered. Supervisors delayed until their January 2 meeting a public hearing on the county’s request for a Conditional Use Permit to erect a civic use building adjacent to the Louisa County Animal Shelter. A quarterly report from the Louisa County Water Authority and an update from Dominion Energy on its troubled Belcher Solar Facility were also postponed.
Supervisors said goodbye to two veteran board members who opted not to seek re-election last November: Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell and Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry.
Gentry, who served five terms, said he’s seen a lot of change in the county since he joined the board 20 years ago, especially in terms of commercial and residential growth.
“When I first joined the board, Zion Crossroads was just getting started. That was the very beginning, 20 years ago, we didn’t have a master plan, infrastructure. We didn’t have anything,” Gentry said. “So, from that point until now, there’s just so many things out there that I was privileged to get involved with.”
Gentry added that he’s worked with a lot of good people over the last two decades and, in his parting words, referenced one of his favorite jokes.
“I’ve had a lot of fun talking about being the Cuckoo supervisor,” he said.
Purcell, who served two nonconsecutive terms, said that he especially enjoyed working with the current group of supervisors, and he’s proud of the board’s accomplishments over the last four years.
“It’s been a great four years. This is the best board I’ve ever worked on, and I worked with quite a few. Staff’s done a fantastic job, and I think we’ve gotten a lot accomplished. There’s still a lot to do, but I think you guys are going to get it done in a way that the citizens will be very proud (of),” he said.
Come January, Manning Woodward, a Louisa native who currently represents the Louisa District on the Planning Commission, will take over for Purcell while Chris McCotter, a longtime Lake Anna resident, will assume Gentry’s seat.
Board approves pay hike: The Louisa County Board of Supervisors greenlighted a substantial pay hike for its members, but it won’t go into effect until 2026.
With little discussion, supervisors voted unanimously to raise board members’ annual pay from $9,000 to $15,000—a 66 percent increase—and to raise the chair’s salary from $10,200 to $17,000. The increase marks supervisors’ first significant pay hike since 2002 when they raised salaries by $3,000.
The raise comes with a notable condition. It won’t go into effect until January 1, 2026. State law requires that supervisors set their compensation prior to July 1 each year with the salary taking effect on January 1 in the year following an election. No supervisor seats are on the ballot next year, but four seats are up in 2025. The board will need to appropriate funding for the raise in early 2025 as part of the FY26 budget process.
Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell, whose term ends December 31, brought up the idea of a raise at the board’s December 5 meeting, noting that supervisors’ pay is falling behind some of its peer localities. Purcell said that serving on the board requires a lot of work, and low pay and long hours could deter qualified candidates from seeking a board seat. In his motion to approve the raise on Monday, Purcell reiterated those points.
“No one does this job for the money, but, like other jobs in the county structure, money should at least be competitive, so we can attract good people…(pay) shouldn’t be a hindrance,” he said. “We shouldn’t have a situation—I’m just going to be as honest as I can—where you need to either be a retiree or have money to be on the board.”
Currently, five of seven board members are either retired or self-employed. The other two work for Louisa County Public Schools.
Purcell added that a lot has changed in the county since supervisors’ last significant pay hike some 20 years ago, including substantial population growth and increased commercial and industrial development. Those changes have made the job more demanding, he said.
“We’ve put this off for too long because it wasn’t something politically that people wanted to handle,” Purcell said.
Along with the pay hike, the board okayed a policy that will likely lessen the political pain of approving future raises. Going forward, when supervisors greenlight a pay hike for full-time county employees, they’ll receive a matching raise.
The board took the first step in implementing that policy during the Fiscal Year 2024 budget cycle last spring when they approved a five percent raise for staff and—without a standalone vote—quietly okayed the same raise for board members. Because three supervisors were on the ballot last November, that raise will take effect in January, hiking the chairman’s pay by $510 and the rest of the board’s pay by $450.
In November, the board raised full-time employees’ pay another two percent to account for a pay increase provided by the General Assembly as part of amendments to the state budget. Supervisors will see that increase tacked on to their salaries in 2026 under the policy.
The new pay package makes Louisa’s board the second-highest paid among adjoining rural localities. Goochland supervisors receive the most compensation with the chair pulling in $19,000 annually and board members receiving $17,000. Orange’s board makes nearly $13,000 a year and its chair receives almost $16,000. In Fluvanna, board members’ salaries match those currently paid in Louisa.
Supes ok water service agreements with AWS: Supervisors took another step toward solidifying a massive economic development deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The board approved, 7-0, a pair of water service agreements with AWS as the tech giant prepares to develop two data center campuses in the county’s Technology Overlay District (TOD).
Under the agreements, the county, via the Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA), could provide the campuses as much as seven million gallons of raw water per day at full buildout and peak demand. The untreated water, drawn from the publicly owned Northeast Creek Reservoir, will be used to cool the racks of computer equipment inside the sprawling, warehouse-like facilities. Data centers are a critical piece of 21st century infrastructure, housing servers and networking equipment that support cloud computing and other web-based technology.
In late August, Louisa County announced that AWS plans to invest at least $11 billion by 2040 to build two data center campuses in the TOD. One of the campuses—dubbed the Lake Anna Technology Campus (LATC)—is slated for 146 acres at the corner of Kentucky Springs Road and Haley Drive adjacent to the North Anna Nuclear Power Station. The other—the North Creek Technology Campus (NCTC)—is planned for 1,444 acres south of Route 33 and east of Mount Airy Road across from the Northeast Creek Reservoir.
Though AWS hasn’t publicly announced specific plans for the campuses beyond its initial $11 billion commitment, a conceptual plan submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers shows seven standard data centers covering about 1.7 million square feet at the Lake Anna campus. An AWS official told the Planning Commission in November that the NCTC could include 20 to 25 data centers but noted there’s still “a fair amount of flexibility” on what the final number would be.
County officials have said that one data center could employ 20 to 25 people and generate, on average, just over $2 million in tax revenue annually.
One of the key concerns about data center development is the facilities’ insatiable demand for cooling water. But Economic Development Director Andy Wade insisted Monday night that there’s ample capacity in the Northeast Creek Reservoir to serve the sites, fulfill the needs of current customers and provide for future growth.
“We have a ton of capacity left in the reservoir,” Wade told the board.
To back up that assertion, Wade pointed to a recent analysis of the reservoir’s capacity, which found that it has a safe yield of 3.2 million gallons per day. He said that, on average, the campuses would use about 630,000 gallons daily at full buildout and that the reservoir’s current users withdraw about 300,000 gallons per day on average and 500,000 gallons at peak demand.
Wade noted that the Northeast Creek Water Treatment Plant has the capacity to treat one million gallons of water per day. If all that capacity was used, the reservoir would still have a 1.57-million-gallon safe yield buffer, he said.
In conducting the analysis, Wade said that the county’s consultants “modeled every day from 1980 to December 31 of 2022” including a period of significant drought in the early 2000s. He said that a previous capacity study conducted in 1980 set the reservoir’s safe yield at 2.77 million gallons a day.
Though the campuses could use as much as seven million gallons of raw water a day at peak demand, per AWS, Wade has said that the facilities would likely only need that much water during the hottest days of summer. He’s said that, in winter, the centers would rely on the ambient air temperature for cooling.
The water service agreements approved on Monday, which span 10 years then renew on an annual basis, lay out the responsibilities of both the county and AWS. The county will build, own, operate and maintain the water and wastewater infrastructure needed to support the campuses while AWS will pay for the infrastructure as it’s built. AWS will also pay for water and sewer service.
For potable water and sewer, AWS will pay the same rates as LCWA’s residential customers, currently $7.71 per 1,000 gallons for water and $11.41 for sewer. AWS will also pay $7.71 per 1,000 gallons for raw water—the bulk of its water use—with that rate remaining steady for at least 10 years.
To serve the campuses with cooling water, the county will build a “two-headed” raw water pump station at the Northeast Creek Reservoir’s water treatment plant with pumps to provide approximately 1.4 million gallons per day of capacity to the LATC and 5.2 million gpd to the NCTC. The design specifications for the NCTC note that an additional pump station and related infrastructure could be required to meet its raw water needs.
According to the LATC agreement, Louisa County will build an 11-mile raw water line from the pump station to the campus, measuring between 14 and 16 inches depending on the type of pipe used. The county also agrees to acquire the easements necessary to construct the line. LCWA will only provide the campus with raw water service.
Wade said that Dominion Energy has agreed to let the county co-locate the water line in the right-of-way of a 230 kv transmission line that runs from North Anna past the reservoir. He said the county would still need to pay landowners for the right to use the easement.
The agreement requires completion of the infrastructure by January 20, 2027. Wade has said that AWS would initially rely on groundwater for the first phase of the LATC, which is expected to include one or two data centers. Construction at the site will likely begin next year.
As for the NCTC, which will rely on LCWA for raw and potable water as well as sewer service, the county will build a 2,000-foot, 12-inch water main to provide potable water to the campus, a 2,000-foot, 24-inch raw water transmission line and a 6,000-foot sewer force main from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. The campus is also expected to require a new sewer pump station at the school. The county agrees to complete the infrastructure by July 23, 2026.
AWS will reimburse the county up to $24.78 million for the actual cost of the LATC infrastructure and up to $9.87 million for the NCTC infrastructure. Any changes to the maximum reimbursement amounts would require written approval from AWS.
Wade said that AWS will pre-pay the county in monthly installments as the infrastructure is built.
“Essentially, we’ll project what our first invoice is going to be, send it to them and they advance us that payment 30 days ahead…As we pay one (invoice), we’ll resubmit to AWS for the next 30 days so we’ll have it in the bank,” Wade said. “The reason for that is so we don’t have to carry the cost of the infrastructure project, and AWS will carry it by advancing us the payment.”
Thanks to an incentive agreement approved by the board last month, at least some of the company’s costs will be offset by infrastructure grants provided by the county. The grant money will be drawn from net new tax revenue directly generated from the campuses.
Board oks framework for tourism advisory committee: Supervisors are one step closer to launching a committee specifically focused on local tourism.
The board unanimously approved a document establishing the framework for a tourism advisory committee. The county currently has a Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee, but, at the request of Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams, the board has opted to create a panel dedicated exclusively to promoting tourism and addressing tourism-related issues.
Adams made that suggestion after the board raised the county’s transient occupancy tax from two percent to seven percent in November. Under state law, three of percent of the revenue collected from the tax must be used for tourism-related initiatives. The new committee will serve as the county’s official tourism industry organization and advise the board on how the revenue is spent.
The transient occupancy tax is tacked on to customers’ bills when they spend the night at a local hotel, bed and breakfast or short-term rental. Based on previous revenue derived from the tax, it’s expected to generate nearly $600,000 for tourism-related spending next year.
According to the framework approved Monday, the tourism committee will serve as an advisory body to the Board of Supervisors, county administrator and director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, providing recommendations on advertising, target marketing and long-range plans for tourism. It will also research and investigate other ways to advance and develop tourism in the county.
The committee will be comprised of a range of stakeholders, appointed by the board, including representatives from the agritourism industry, the arts, history, hospitality, retail, restaurants, and recreation. The committee will also include a representative from the Lake Anna Business Partnership, the Louisa County Chamber of Commerce, the Towns of Louisa and Mineral and the Board of Supervisors.
Assistant County Administrator Chris Coon said that staff is compiling a list of people interested in serving on the committee, which will be presented to the board at a future meeting.
Tourism is a growing industry in Louisa County. According to data from the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the county benefited from $47.44 million in direct tourism spending in 2016 and more than $69.9 million last year.
TJPDC talks Regional Transit Governance Study: A representative from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission briefed the board on the organization’s recently completed Regional Transit Governance Study, which explored the possibility of setting up a multi-jurisdictional body dedicated to funding and enhancing public transportation across the six localities in the planning district. Those localities include the City of Charlottesville and the counties of Louisa, Albemarle, Nelson, Fluvanna, and Greene.
The study is an outgrowth of the Regional Transit Vision Plan. Funded by the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit, the plan was completed last year and envisions ways to expand regional transit at varying levels of funding. For Louisa, one version of the plan envisions expanding Jaunt service to seven days a week including offering five trips a day to and from Charlottesville. Jaunt is Louisa’s only form of public transportation.
TJPDC Director of Transportation and Planning Sandy Shackleford told the board that, in 2009, Charlottesville and Albemarle received permission from the General Assembly to set up the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (CARTA) as a means of improving transit in the area. The legislation establishes Charlottesville and “all or portions of Albemarle County” as the essential boundaries, but Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson could join as members if they choose.
Though the CARTA legislation doesn’t include a provision for dedicated funding sources, the study recommends using the existing governance structure in the interim while “an ideal transit authority that has potential to accomplish regional goals is pursued.”
Shackleford said that one of the next steps in setting up an ideal regional authority is preparing legislation for the General Assembly to consider that would authorize its creation and give it power to collect and divvy up revenue. She pointed to Richmond’s Central Virginia Transportation Authority’s funding mechanisms, which include a regional sale tax, among other taxes, as a possible model.
Some board members expressed skepticism about the benefits of a regional transit organization for the planning district’s rural localities. Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams wondered how many Louisa residents would use public transportation compared to residents in denser urban and suburban areas like Charlottesville and Albemarle.
“It looks like a great deal of tax burden being talked about for a regional transit system for what percentage of the population in the outlying counties,” Adams asked. “This is always the issue I have with regional cooperation with Albemarle and Charlottesville. Everything is very centric to Albemarle and Charlottesville.”
Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry, who serves on Jaunt’s board of directors, said that he too is unsure that a regional authority would benefit Louisa. Gentry, along with County Administrator Christian Goodwin and Assistant County Administrator Chris Coon, served in a workgroup that took part in the study.
“We understand that, part of the driving force for this, was Charlottesville and Albemarle County looking for additional revenue sources then it grew into a regional concept with invitations to the rural areas,” Gentry said. “The concern I have is how is the money going to be divvied up and what is the bottom line…I haven’t been totally sold that it’s the best thing for Louisa County, but there’s still more to come.”
Shackleford said that her presentation was mainly informational and that the board will have to decide if it wants to continue to participate in the conversation surrounding creating a regional authority.
“The real question would be what is the transit authority going to move forward with and do you all want to remain engaged in the conversation without a commitment to participate in whatever the final legislative package looks like. And then, at that point, you would be able to make (the) decision (whether) you want to participate or not,” Shackleford said.
Board approves budget supplement for landfill operations: Supervisors okayed a $40,000 budget supplement to cover the rising cost of recycling. Finance Director Wanda Colvin told the board that the county’s co-mingling recycling contract costs have risen from $20 a ton to $130 a ton and the county wasn’t aware of the increase until staff called for bids on the contract after the FY24 budget process. The money to cover the increase will be drawn from the county’s General Fund.
Construction of Wares Crossroads roundabout to begin January 3
A roundabout is finally coming to Wares Crossroads.
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Residency Administrator Scott Thornton told the Board of Supervisors Monday night that construction of a long-anticipated roundabout at the intersection of Route 522 (Zachary Taylor Highway) and Route 208 (New Bridge Road) near Lake Anna is scheduled to begin January 3, 2024 and wrap up by December 2024. Thornton said that VDOT recently awarded a $2.8 million contract to J.L. Kent and Sons, a Spotsylvania-based firm, to construct the roundabout, which is expected to improve safety and ease congestion.
According to a project overview, J.L. Kent will construct a single-lane roundabout at the intersection, requiring periodic lane closures. VDOT will notify residents about traffic impacts and related changes through media reports, social media posts and its 511 information system.
In 2017, the Commonwealth Transportation Board selected the intersection for state-funded improvements via SMART SCALE, the commonwealth’s main vehicle for paying for local transportation projects. SMART SCALE relies on a data-driven scoring system that, for Louisa County, focuses heavily on the need for safety improvements.
The Wares Crossroads intersection is one of Louisa County’s most dangerous sections of roadway. Between January 2022 and December 2023, 16 crashes occurred at or approaching the intersection resulting in 16 injuries, according to VDOT data.
The decision to build a roundabout instead of installing a traffic light has been criticized by some community members, who insist that the latter is a better choice given the volume of traffic that passes through the area especially during the summer. Both 522 and 208 are major thoroughfares for travelers visiting Lake Anna.
In its overview, VDOT says that the intersection was studied multiple times, and it doesn’t warrant a traffic signal based on guidelines in the Federal Highway Administration Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. VDOT also says that roundabouts are safer and more environmentally friendly.
“Roundabouts are safer than traffic signals and conventional stop-controlled intersections because traffic can continually and efficiently flow through the intersection. There are fewer conflict points and, since vehicle operating speeds are lower, any crashes tend to be less severe,” the overview states. “Additionally, roundabouts help reduce air pollution and fuel use compared to a signalized intersection due to reduced idling and less acceleration and deceleration.”
The project, including design, right of way acquisition and construction, is expected to cost $7.6 million, up from an initial estimate of $5.4 million. Thornton said in an email last week that that total could change as VDOT updates final costs as each phase of the project ends.
Woodward to appoint Kersey to Planning Commission
A familiar face is returning to Louisa County government.
Matthew Kersey, a retired postmaster who won a seat on the Board of Supervisors when he was just a teenager, will take over as the Louisa District representative on the Planning Commission, pending formal approval by the board in January.
Louisa District Supervisor-elect Manning Woodward, who currently serves on the commission, told Engage Louisa last week that he selected Kersey to fill the seat. Woodward said Kersey’s deep roots in the community, many years in public service and even-keeled style make him a good fit for the job.
“When we served together on the Town of Louisa Planning Commission, he was always a voice of reason. He had kind of a calming effect in the way he would decide things,” Woodward said.
A Louisa native who grew up in the eastern part of the county, Kersey will bring broad experience at various levels of government to the commission. He represented the Mountain Road District on the Board of Supervisors for three terms in the 1980s and 1990s, first winning a seat in 1981 at 19 years old. After moving to the Town of Louisa in 1998, Kersey served for 14 years on town council and 11 years on the town’s planning commission. He has also served on appointed county committees including the social services board and health center commission.
Beyond positions in local government, Kersey spent much of his professional career as a federal employee. He logged 30 years with the US Postal Service including 14 as postmaster at the Louisa Post Office.
Kersey said in a brief interview last week that he looks forward to joining the commission and again serving the people of Louisa County.
“I’m very humbled to have the opportunity to serve in a different capacity, and I am very open to discussion with the citizens of the county whether they are in the Louisa District or other districts,” Kersey said. “I look forward to those discussions and (citizen) input because that’s the only way we’ll succeed.”
Woodward said that he chose Kersey, in part, because they share a similar vision for the community, namely ensuring that the county stays rural through strategic growth and careful planning.
Kersey said that he wants to make sure that local officials focus on preserving the county’s rural character, the chief goal of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
“I’m not that sure that voice is as strong as it needs to be because we are changing, in my opinion, rather rapidly, and the decisions that are made in the near future will definitely drastically affect the outcomes in 20 or 30 years,” Kersey said. “That’s what planning is about. It’s making those decisions and trying to have a vision of where you are going to be just a few years down the road.”
The Board of Supervisors is expected to appoint Kersey to the Planning Commission at its January 2 meeting. His first meeting as part of the body will be January 11.
Note to readers: The article below was written by University of Richmond sophomore Chloe Fortune as part of coursework for Professor Tom Mullen’s Community Journalism at Home and Abroad class. Engage Louisa is grateful for Chloe’s contribution.
Office of Elections reflects on first election in new home, looks to 2024
by Chloe Fortune
The Louisa County Office of Elections just completed its first election in a new home.
In mid-July, the office moved from a small office in the County Office Building across the street to the former Human Services Building at 103 McDonald Street in the Town of Louisa. The location change gave Registrar Cris Watkins and her team a larger, more secure space, a welcome development ahead of last month’s Virginia elections.
The new office, which serves as a polling location during the 45-day early voting period, provides increased security, an improved voter experience, and more space for day-to-day operations.
“The new location has a lot more space than our old location. It gave us a lot more space to run early voting and allowed us to run our operation the same every day,” Watkins said in a recent interview.
The new space offers voters an accessible voting experience with a central location and easy parking as well as dedicated spaces for poll worker training and Electoral Board meetings. The new location also provides enhanced security including a perimeter and interior security system coupled with storage space for election equipment, a great improvement from the Office of Elections’ previous home.
“Prior to the move, voting day equipment and election day supplies were stored off site from us. Now all of our equipment is in the same location as us,” Watkins said.
For Watkins and her team, the move has also provided more independence and efficiency in completing everyday tasks, allowing the office to run as a more well-oiled machine.
“Now, we have space to store all of our absentee ballot envelopes and pack them up instead of doing that in the middle of voting, and in the new location we have our own office and training spaces, so it just makes things a lot easier,” Watkins said.
And the new space has improved Watkins’ ability to communicate with candidates and voters who visit the office with questions or concerns.
“Running the office before the move, we had no privacy to talk with candidates or others. In the new location, with my own office, if I need to talk with someone in a more private environment, I can do that,” she said.
Now the Office of Elections is looking forward to the 2024 presidential election. With early voting for the presidential primaries starting January 19, Watkins said that preparation is already in motion. She told Engage Louisa that the new space will allow her team to adapt to changing voter needs including the potential for more voter check-ins and voting machines, if necessary.
“We’ll be able to run voting in our space and make adjustments if turnout really picks up and we need to,” she said.
During her 22-year tenure as Louisa’s registrar, Watkins has seen the number of registered voters in the county double, from 15,000 when she started to over 30,000 now, and she’s adapted to changes in Virginia’s voting laws that expanded early and absentee voting. Together, population growth and increased access to the ballot box have placed more demands on her and her staff and the space in which they operate. With a high-turnout election cycle looming, the move to a new office came at the right time.
“Coming up into the presidential election, having the larger space for early voting will be wonderful,” she said.
Chloe Fortune is a sophomore at the University of Richmond double majoring in biology and health studies. She plans to attend medical school and outside of class enjoys singing in Richmond’s Schola Cantorum and working in the UR Bake Shop.
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