This week in county government; Purcell won't seek re-election to BOS; Adams, McGuire trade jabs at SD10 debate; Supes to hold first public hearing of FY24 budget cycle; Mineral TC welcomes new member
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.
This week in county government: public meetings, March 20 through March 25
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 frequently schedules internal committee/work group meetings after publication time. Check the county’s website for the most updated information).
Monday, March 20
Louisa County Board of Supervisors, budget work session, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 4 pm. (livestream)
Louisa County Board of Supervisors, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 6 pm. (agenda packet, livestream) The board will convene in closed session at 5 pm.
Tuesday, March 21
Louisa County Electoral Board, Executive Board Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa 10 am. (agenda)
Wednesday, March 22
Ag/Forestal and Rural Preservation Committee, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave. Louisa, 7:30 pm.
Thursday, March 23
Lake Anna Advisory Committee, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7 pm.
Tuesday, March 21
Louisa Town Council, 212 Fredericksburg Ave., Louisa, 6 pm. (agenda)
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.
Purcell won’t seek re-election to Louisa District Board of Supervisors seat
Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell won’t seek re-election this November.
Purcell, who was elected to the board in 2019, said in an interview last week that he doesn’t plan to run for a second consecutive term, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family.
“When I was writing things down and looking at the pros and cons of re-election, I realized that it’s not just a commitment to run in an election. It’s a four-year commitment and that four years happens to coincide with the last four years that my son, Luke, will be in our home before he goes away to school, and we only have one child. He’s playing ball and involved in many activities I want to see and be a part of,” Purcell said, adding that he’s had two hip replacements in the last four years and is dealing with some other health issues that sometimes make his job as a supervisor feel like “a chore.”
“I think, whenever you don’t feel well, that always contributes to your enjoyment of doing anything whether that’s going to a game or a meeting,” he said.
Purcell (I) is the second supervisor in the last month to announce plans to step away from the board. Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry (I), the board’s second-longest serving member, said in mid-February he wouldn’t run for a sixth term.
A Louisa native who runs Louisa Land and Timber, Purcell previously served as a supervisor from 2003 to 2007 and was appointed to represent the Louisa District on the Planning Commission from 2012 to 2017, serving five years as its chair. His decision to step back from the public stage doesn’t mean he’s closing the door on public service, he said, but the timing is right to take a break.
“I’m not closing the door on (public service) at all. It is something I enjoy. It’s something that I could easily see myself doing again…I think that it’s healthy to get outside the board bubble, so to speak, and live life outside of the responsibility of making board decisions so that you can gain a healthy and fresh perspective on what the concerns of the people are, not just the ones that come out to meetings, but everyone,” he said.
He added that, in 2007, the timing was also right to step away, noting that he’d just married his wife, Jennifer, and they were starting a family. That break served him well, he said.
“I found that when I did that before that four-or five-year gap helped me a lot when I returned to the Planning Commission. I could see something very similar happening this time around,” he said.
During an interview Wednesday morning, Purcell reflected on his tenure as a supervisor, what he sees as the board’s key accomplishments over the last four years, and what he views as the most pressing challenges facing the county.
Purcell pointed to the board’s plan to bring universal fiber broadband to the county as one of the most notable accomplishments of his current term. In 2021, supervisors announced a partnership with Firefly Fiber Broadband, a subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, and the area’s two other electric providers, Dominion Energy and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, to deliver county-wide fiber access by 2025, committing $9 million in local funds to the effort.
“The broadband project required a lot of legwork on part of the board and coordinating with a lot of agencies,” he said.
Purcell also highlighted the steps the county has taken to complete the James River Water Project, a multi-million dollar, years-long initiative that, when finished, will channel millions of gallons of water to commercial, industrial, and residential development along the Interstate 64 corridor, home to four of its designated growth areas. He noted that, during his first term, he was one of two supervisors sent to Fluvanna to broker an initial deal to set up the James River Water Authority, the entity overseeing the pipeline’s construction.
Purcell said that JRWA’s board, on which he now serves, has made significant strides toward completing the project in the last two years, most notably resolving issues with the Monacan Indian Nation that threatened its future. Last year, JRWA abandoned plans to build a water pump station at a site believed to be the Monacan’s ancestral capital and, in cooperation with the tribe, agreed to move the station to a new location slightly upstream. County officials have said water could flow from the James as soon as late 2025 or early 2026.
While he recognizes that neither the fiber project nor water line are done, he said both are moving in the right direction and are expected to fill critical needs for the county.
Purcell pointed to the board’s update of the Comprehensive Plan and a subsequent rewriting of the county’s land development regulations as another key milestone in recent years. He acknowledges that the documents “aren’t perfect” but recognizes that they’ll play a key role as the county navigates continued growth.
Purcell identified several key challenges facing the county including the need to address deficiencies in its transportation infrastructure, which he said requires strong leadership at both the local and state level. He also said that county officials must work to strike “the proper balance between managing growth and keeping the traditional concept of property rights,” which he called “a hallmark of Louisa County.”
With respect to specific issues facing his district, Purcell said that it’s important that the county and the Town of Louisa maintain a strong relationship and that the county does its part to ensure that the town thrives.
“I’m not saying that the relationship is adversarial, but I think the county is sometimes dismissive of the importance of the town…I’d like to see the county and the town work well together to address issues related to the town,” Purcell said. “I think having a good Town of Louisa benefits the county as a whole.”
Asked what advice he’d give to the next supervisor to represent the Louisa District, Purcell said they shouldn’t let the job consume them.
“There is a lot of work that has to be done, but if it consumes every thought in your day then I don’t think you are effective…you have to get outside of the board silo,” he said. “I think, too often, people at any level of government, be it federal, state, or local, can get silo mentality or tunnel vision because you are only dealing with people in the government. You are too single-mindedly-focused, and you start losing the big picture.”
Upcoming BOS elections
Three seats on the Board of Supervisors are up for grabs this November: the Louisa, Cuckoo, and Jackson Districts. Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams (R) hasn’t formally announced plans to run for re-election, but he’s expected to seek a third term. While he faced opposition in his two previous campaigns, he easily won the deep red district, which includes a swath of eastern Louisa County.
Lake Anna resident Christopher McCotter announced in February that he’ll seek the Cuckoo District seat, formally filing paperwork with the Virginia Department of Elections earlier this month to run as a Republican. Reshaped during the 2021 redistricting process, the district includes most of the lake below the Route 208 bridge and stretches south beyond the village of Cuckoo.
No one has filed to seek the Louisa District seat. The district stretches from the Town of Louisa, mostly north of Route 33, to the edge of Gordonsville. The filing deadline for independent candidates is June 20.
The board could see more turnover next year if Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams wins his bid for the 10th District state Senate seat. Adams is locked in a hotly contested battle for the Republican nomination in the district with three other contenders (see article below). If Adams prevails in a May 6 convention, he’ll be a heavy favorite to win the strong Republican district this November. The new 10th includes most of Louisa County and all or part of nine other localities.
Adams’ ascendance to the Senate would leave the Mineral District seat vacant come January 2024. Per state code, supervisors may appoint a qualified voter in the Mineral District to the seat until a special election is held to fill the remainder of the term.
Adams, McGuire trade jabs at SD10 Republican debate
The four candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the 10th state Senate District found plenty to agree on during a debate hosted by the Louisa County Republican Committee last Thursday night. But the event still had its fair share of drama.
During the nearly two-hour debate, the candidates—Louisa County Board of Supervisors Chair Duane Adams, 56th District Delegate John McGuire, Hanover GOP Chair Jack Dyer, and Powhatan resident Sandy Brindley—found common ground serving up red meat to their party’s base. They declared themselves pro-gun and anti-regulation, said they’d fight to rid public schools of left-wing “indoctrination,” criticized laws that make it easier to vote including the 45-day early voting period, and argued that Democrats have taken Virginia in the wrong direction.
But the event turned testy during its closing minutes with McGuire and Adams, widely regarded as the frontrunners for the nomination, trading barbs as they tried to portray their rival as a politician conservative voters can’t trust.
Redrawn during the once-a-decade redistricting process, the new 10th is a deeply conservative district—Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) won the 10th by 36 points in 2021—which includes most of Louisa and western Hanover at its northern edge and stretches south across all or part of eight other rural localities. Republicans will choose their nominee in a May 6 convention at Buckingham County High School, a nominating method that typically draws diehard party activists. The winner will be a heavy favorite to claim the seat in the November 7 General Election.
In radio interviews and campaign emails, McGuire has questioned Adams’ conservative credentials, pointing out that he ran as a Democrat three times in the 1980s and early 1990s—twice in his native West Virginia and once in Virginia—and tagging him “Democrat Duane.”
Adams brought up the attack during his closing statement, making clear that he has never hidden his political record. He said that he was a Reagan Democrat in the 1980s and has always been a conservative, noting that he ran against former Delegate Frank Hargrove in the early 1990s and Hargrove recruited him to the Republican Party.
“At the age of 29, I ran against Delegate Frank Hargrove as a Democrat. You can imagine how that worked out,” Adams said. “Del. Hargrove took me to lunch the following week and said this, ‘you’re not a national Democrat, you are a West Virginia Democrat. Thirty years ago, I was also a Democrat until Goldwater came out. You are as much a Republican as me.’”
Adams turned the tables on McGuire, questioning his record in the General Assembly. He pointed out that, in 2018, McGuire cosponsored a bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the US Constitution that many Republicans claim would constitutionally guarantee abortion rights.
“You do have a record of five years ago cosponsoring the ERA so I would question your support of life because that would enshrine abortion in the national constitution,” Adams said.
McGuire responded that, as a freshman delegate, a fellow Republican asked him to cosponsor the bill, telling him it would “support women.” But he said he never voted for the legislation.
“If you read the ERA, it says nothing about abortion. I was brand new…when I found out what it was, I said ‘take my name off it,’” McGuire said. “I’ve never voted for the ERA. I voted against it every time.”
McGuire accused Adams of raising taxes 40 percent during his tenure as a Louisa supervisor, asking attendees to raise their hand if their taxes have increased in the last few years.
During Adams’ five years on the board, supervisors haven’t increased the county’s real estate or personal property tax rates, both of which rank among the lowest in the area. Assessments for both homes and vehicles have jumped significantly, however—real estate assessments increased nearly 14 percent this year excluding new construction—meaning many property owners have seen their tax bills rise. McGuire said that Adams should’ve lowered the tax rate, suggesting that’s what supervisors in other counties have done.
“I get phone calls from retired people all over Louisa County who say, ‘I’m on a fixed income. I can barely make it.’ He could’ve given you relief, but he didn’t,” McGuire said.
Adams countered that McGuire was misrepresenting the facts, quipping, “No wonder you’re not on the budget committee because you’re not very good at math.”
He acknowledged that tax assessments have risen in Louisa due to variety of factors, noting if “you want to look at inflation, blame that on President Biden,” but he said that supervisors have delivered tax relief and more could be on the way.
“As assessments have gone up, the Board of Supervisors last year gave $1.2 million in tax relief to the citizens,” he said. “We’re getting ready to introduce a package of tax relief again.”
Adams also slammed McGuire for, as he put it, running for “five offices in four years,” a reference to his two runs for state office and multiple attempts to run for Congress including a failed bid for the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District in 2020. Adams said that he’s not running for Senate to climb the political ladder but to serve his constituents.
“I think you need to look at who’s running and why they are running. I told you why I was running. I’m running because it’s an opportunity to serve the greater community. I don’t think everybody up here can say this,” he said.
While the debate’s closing minutes sparked some fireworks, much of the evening took on a more low-key tone as the candidates introduced themselves to the crowd and made the case for why they are the best choice to represent the district.
Adams, a retired insurance executive who operates a boat rental company on Lake Anna, portrayed himself as a strong conservative with a proven track record who’s ready to advance the conservative agenda in Richmond. He said he decided to run for Board of Supervisors because “he didn’t like the way the county was headed” and, since first winning his seat in 2017, has helped the board reach a 5-2 conservative majority. Since that election, he said the county has hired more sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, raised deputies’ salaries, and put more counselors in schools, all while keeping taxes low and cutting regulations. Now, he said, he’s ready to make change at the state capitol.
McGuire, who currently represents Louisa County in the House of Delegates, pointed to his three terms in the General Assembly’s lower chamber as evidence that he’s prepared to make the leap to the Senate. The fitness instructor and former Navy Seal who resides in Goochland County said he’s known for his work ethic and ability to get things done. He pointed to legislation that he passed to cut taxes on veterans’ retirement benefits and said, through his constituent services, he’s helped many residents resolve issues with state agencies. Other candidates talk about carrying bills to safeguard Second Amendment rights and “protect life,” he said, but he’s done it.
Brindley, a former public school teacher, billed herself as the conservative educator the district needs. Throughout the debate, she focused on public education, hitting on themes that have animated grassroots conservatives in recent years including bolstering “parents’ rights” and opposing “critical race theory.” She argued that it’s time to get the “Marxists” out of public schools and noted that, during her time in the classroom, she taught history “through the lens of the US Constitution.”
“We have never had a conservative educator in the state Senate. I would like to be the first person to fill that void,” she said.
Dyer, a Hanover County contractor, called himself a “businessman and straight shooter” who’s ready to defend conservative values in the legislature. He branded himself as a political outsider who would take on career politicians while “building a coalition of strong conservatives who will fight for our values and our rights.”
“The Senate desperately needs an outsider with new perspectives and new experiences, a refresher on what our rights and values are, and a reminder of who we the people are,” Dyer said.
During a lengthy Q and A, moderator Joe Thomas, a conservative radio host from Charlottesville, led the candidates through a series of questions that covered specific policy issues. The foursome mostly served up answers that appealed to the solid Republican crowd, slamming Democrats’ efforts to rid the state’s power grid of fossil fuels, decrying “overregulation” that they said harmed local farmers, and vowing to do their part to roll back abortion rights in the wake of the 2021 Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe vs Wade, a 50-year court precedent that constitutionally guaranteed the right to an abortion.
The candidates also homed in on what’s at stake this November with all 140 seats in the General Assembly—40 in the state Senate and 100 in the House of Delegates—on the ballot and a Republican in the governor’s office. If Republicans secure a majority it both chambers—they currently hold a 52-48 advantage in the House and Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the Senate—they would clinch a coveted trifecta, opening the door for sweeping policy change.
“We have an opportunity to move our conservative agenda forward,” Adams said.
Supervisors to hold first public hearing of FY24 budget cycle, consider crowded agenda
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors on Monday will hold its first public hearing of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget cycle, part of a crowded agenda that includes four public hearings, four presentations, and three action items.
Prior to their regular bimonthly meeting, supervisors will hold a budget work session as they continue to craft an FY24 spending plan that could reach $209 million in operating costs and capital expenses.
Board to hold public hearing on FY24 real estate tax assessments: Supervisors will hold the first of two public hearings as part of the FY24 budget process, providing residents a chance to weigh in on a potential hike in their real estate tax bills. While the county proposes to keep its real estate tax rate at 72 cents per $100 of assessed value, real estate assessments increased 13.9 percent excluding new construction and improvements, meaning most property owners will see their tax bills rise. The hearing is statutorily required because assessments rose more than one percent and the county didn’t propose lowering the tax rate to offset the increase.
Several community members have complained about rising tax bills at recent county meetings, urging the board to lower rate. But, so far, supervisors haven’t shown much interest in making that move.
While the board has had limited public discussion about the rate, they’ve formally advertised it at 72 cents and crafted their proposed budget using that figure. During a March 6 budget work session, supervisors acknowledged that rising assessments are impacting some longtime residents, but one said there’s little fat in the budget and another noted the county’s escalating expenses. Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams pointed to the cost of hiring six new firefighters, which the board green-lighted later that evening.
The FY24 operating budget is expected to reach about $150 million with another roughly $60 million in the county’s capital spending plan. Based on expected revenues, the county projects a $7.2 million operating surplus. Some of that money could be used to cover capital costs, about $49 million of which will be drawn from local funds.
But the operating surplus could provide supervisors some leeway for tax relief. Last year, the board expanded a tax relief program available to income-eligible elderly and disabled residents and temporarily reduced the personal property tax ratio, only taxing vehicles at 90 percent of their assessed value. The latter move came after personal property tax assessment rose more than 30 percent.
Board Chair Duane Adams, who’s currently pursuing the Republican nomination in the 10th state Senate District, said during a debate last Thursday that the board provided $1.2 million in tax relief last year and more could be on the way.
Firefly to update board on county-wide fiber project: When’s fiber broadband coming to my neighborhood?
Supervisors will get some answers to that question Monday night as representatives from Firefly Fiber Broadband brief the board on their efforts to bring universal high-speed internet to the county by 2025.
Firefly, a wholly owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, began connecting customers in CVEC’s territory several years ago. Since then, they’ve partnered with the county and the area’s two other electric providers, Dominion Energy and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, to deploy fiber broadband county-wide. Firefly will serve as the internet service provider and connect to infrastructure owned by Dominion and REC.
Firefly’s Regional Internet Expansion Project (RISE), an initiative aimed at bringing fiber to parts of 13 central Virginia localities, is the main vehicle the company is using to connect the county. The project is expected to cost about $70 million in Louisa County alone. Supervisors committed $9 million in local funds to the effort in 2021—a second $3 million installment is included in the FY24 capital budget—and Firefly received a $79 million state grant. More than $22 million of that money is expected to be used to connect Louisa residents.
To learn more about Firefly and RISE, click here.
Board to consider resolution capping water use from Zion wells at 75 percent of their capacity: Supervisors will consider a resolution that formalizes a 2019 agreement with the Louisa County Water Authority to cap withdrawals from the public wells that feed Zion Crossroads at 75 percent of their permitted capacity. The authority, which operates the wells, adopted a resolution at its March 8 meeting committing to the policy.
In 2019, supervisors approved Crossing Pointe and Zion Town Center, two mixed-used developments that are expected to add nearly 1,000 homes and more than 410,000 square feet of commercial space to the Zion Crossroads Growth Area. Amid fears that the developments would strain the area’s water supply, supervisors adopted a policy that year to stop selling water when the wells hit 75 percent of their permitted usage, a threshold that’s slightly lower than the 80 percent cap mandated by the Virginia Department of Health.
During a March 6 public hearing in which the board approved 50 more dwellings at Zion Town Center, Louisa County Water Authority Executive Director Pam Baughman told the board that its agreement with the water authority doesn’t include a formal, written commitment. Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams described it as a “gentlemen’s agreement.”
In response, Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell, who serves as the board’s liaison to the water authority, requested that supervisors pass a resolution formalizing the agreement at their next meeting.
VDH permits the wells to pump 624,800 gallons of water per day, up from 587,520 gallons following a hydraulic test that the authority conducted late last year. The system uses, on average, 205,000 gallons per day of that capacity, according to LCWA. The authority is preparing to bring two addition wells online this spring that are expected to increase capacity by 204,800 gpd. LCWA’s system supports commercial and some residential development at Zion Crossroads.
The wells, several of which are situated in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District just to the north of Zion, have long been a source of controversy—and occasionally litigation—between residents in the historic district and county officials. Historic Green Springs Inc., a land preservation group, has repeatedly argued that continued development at Zion threatens the water supply that Green Springs landowners rely on for their homes and farms. County officials and developers insist there’s plenty of water to feed Zion in the near term.
The county’s long-term solution to Zion’s water woes is a pipeline to the James River that when complete will channel millions of gallons of raw water to a treatment facility at Ferncilff then down Route 250. Stymied by delays, the project is currently winding its way through the state and federal permitting process. According to Economic Development Director Andy Wade, it could be complete within the next three years.
Board to hold public hearings on dogs running at large ordinance, changes to MOG, and minimum lot size effective date: Following a hearing on real estate tax assessments, supervisors will hold other three public hearings focused on proposed amendments to county code.
In the first, supervisors will consider amending the county’s “dogs running at large” ordinance to remove a provision that states, “It shall be the duty of the animal control officer to enforce the provisions of this section.” The meeting materials don’t include any additional information about the proposed change.
Last year, residents repeatedly raised concerns about dogs running at large, prompting the board to tighten the reins on roaming canines. Under current rules, the county bars roaming dogs at any time and repeat offenders are subject to escalating penalties.
In the next public hearing, supervisors will consider changes to a county ordinance that governs the operations of the Management and Oversight Group, a body that advises the county on issues related to the Fire and EMS Department. According to the proposed resolution, the amendments “deal with the qualifications for membership to the MOG and the method of appointment to the MOG of citizen representatives.”
In the final public hearing of the night, supervisors will consider a proposed amendment to county code that would allow any property rezoned to residential (R-2) between February 2019 and February 2021 to be subdivided and developed in accordance with the county’s minimum lot size prior to a 2021 rewriting of the zoning code. The proposed amendment also applies to any adjoining R-2 property shown in the rezoning application as intended to be developed with the rezoned property.
In February 2021, supervisors adopted a significant overhaul of the zoning code that increased the minimum lot size in R-2 zoning from 40,000 square feet to 1.5 acres. So, any R-2-zoned property that hadn’t been subdivided prior to the rule change falls under the new rules.
Community Development Director Josh Gillespie told the Planning Commission that when supervisors adopted the update, they didn’t include any provision to exempt projects “in the pipeline.” He said that the Covid-19 pandemic impacted developers’ ability to complete plans for subdivisions and the proposed amendment would allow subdivisions working their way through the county’s approval process during the specified timeframe to adhere to the minimum lot size requirement in place prior to the overhaul.
Fire and EMS Department to receive donation for new equipment: The Foundation for Lake Anna Emergency Services, a community group that initially raised $100,000 to jumpstart county efforts to build the New Bridge Fire and EMS station on Route 208, isn’t resting on its laurels.
The group recently chipped in another $76,235 to support local emergency services. Supervisors will consider a resolution Monday night to formally pass that money along to the Fire and EMS Department. According to the resolution, the funding will be used towards the purchase of a LifePack System and extrication equipment for the New Bridge station.
Supervisors to consider adoption of Regional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan: Supervisors will consider adopting the Regional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. Ian Baxter, a planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission briefed the board on the document at its March 6 and July 5 meetings.
Revised every five years, the plan provides details on how communities can take action to prepare for natural disasters before they strike thus reducing the potential for loss of life and property damage when disasters occur. The plan’s update is supported by the Hazard Mitigation Working Group, which falls under the umbrella of the TJPDC. The work group consists of representatives from each of the six localities in the planning district including Louisa.
The 2023 update was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in January and now requires formal adoption by each locality’s governing body. Adopting the plan would make the county eligible for some disaster-related federal grant programs. Read the plan here.
Board to hear TJPDC legislative update, VDOT and LCWA quarterly reports: Beyond an update on Firefly’s broadband project, supervisors will hear three other presentations. Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Legislative Liaison David Blount will update the board on the 2023 General Assembly session and ongoing efforts to finalize amendments to the state budget. Virginia Department of Transportation Residency Administrator Scott Thornton and Louisa County Water Authority Executive Director Pam Baughman will deliver their respective agencies’ quarterly reports.
Note to readers: Engage Louisa works hard to bring you the latest local government news. While we mainly focus on county government—there are only so many hours in the day, after all—we recognize that there’s a lot going on beyond the walls of the Louisa County Office Building including in our county’s two towns, the Towns of Louisa and Mineral. With that in mind, we’re excited to bring you this update from the Mineral Town Council by Mineral resident Chris Guerre. -Tammy
Mineral Town Council roundup: Council welcomes new member
by Chris Guerre
The Mineral Town Council held its regular monthly meeting on Monday, March 13, welcoming a new member to the body, discussing the Fiscal Year 2024 budget process, and more.
Anthony R. “Tony” Wade, council’s newest member, attended his first official meeting in that capacity. Council’s five other members unanimously appointed him to fill the seat left vacant by Thomas Runnett. Runnett declined to accept a new four-year term after receiving the most write-in votes for the sixth council seat in last November’s election.
Wade recently moved to Mineral after retiring as a chaplain from the United States Air Force. He served for 36 years as a military officer including deployments in Qatar and Afghanistan and led congregations at seven U.S. military bases.
Wade will serve on an interim basis until town voters select a sixth member in a special election. Louisa County Registrar Cris Watkins said the election could coincide with the November 7 General Election, but a Circuit Court Judge has not formally set the date. The winner of the special election will serve through 2026.
During Monday's meeting, much discussion was devoted to prioritizing the formulation of the town's FY24 budget (July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024), setting dates for council’s budget work sessions, and scheduling the requisite public hearings and newspaper advertisements related to the budget cycle. A key part of the budget process is setting the town’s real estate tax rate, currently 22 cents per $100 of assessed value.
In other business, Ian Baxter, a regional planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), appeared briefly before council to encourage adoption of a resolution – which council adopted by a unanimous vote – confirming the town's participation in the commission's 2023- 2028 regional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. Council received detailed information about the plan at a previous meeting.
Council member Ron Chapman said that participation in the Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan was not only inherently beneficial to the town, but that the town's official inclusion in these regional efforts might also help lead to grant funding opportunities, both within the grant programs available through the commission and otherwise.
Wade asked Baxter if the regional plan included any specific provisions or applicability regarding man-made hazards or disasters. Baxter replied that he did not believe so.
Mayor Ed Jarvis later commented briefly on the same subject, stating that he had recently fielded questions from town residents about how railroad safety issues are handled in and around the town in light of the recent high-profile train derailments in other parts of the country. Jarvis said that he has inquired about railroad safety with county officials.
The plan does include several aspirational goals for the town, which would likely benefit it in mitigating hazards and disasters whether they be natural or man-made. The goals include: incorporating hazard mitigation plans into community plans; ensuring all houses have clear address signs that are visible during snowstorms; working with Louisa County to designate a representative for the county's Emergency Operations Committee; developing a system for alerts and other communications with citizens; marking fire hydrants with reflective markers; installing an emergency generator for water wells; and burying utilities underground.
The TJPDC works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, local emergency managers, representatives from each locality in the planning district, and other community stakeholders to develop and maintain the plan.
The remainder of Monday night's meeting included committee reports given by council members and by Jim Snider, the chair of the town's Planning Commission, as well as reports from the mayor, who is also currently the acting town manager, and from Andrea Erard, the town's attorney.
During his report and in comments throughout the meeting, Jarvis discussed financial and planning issues including how he recently corrected a seemingly long-standing error which had been affecting the town's payroll reporting – in connection with W-2s issued to full-time town employees. Jarvis noted that the error seemed to be due to an automated, end-of-year issue that had been overlooked by prior town leaders.
Previously, at February's monthly meeting (held as a special meeting on February 20), Jarvis reported finding a significant financial oversight left over from years past. As Jarvis explained it, the self-service laundromat located in town had been operating under an agreement made with a former town manager whereby the laundromat was receiving 60,000 gallons of water from the town for a flat fee of $673 per month.
On several occasions, when the facility used more than 60,000 gallons, it wasn’t charged for the additional water, according to Jarvis. During the December 2022 billing cycle, for example, the business used approximately 102,000 gallons and wasn’t billed for the overage. Jarvis pointed out that the town's water tower holds about 60,000 gallons. He said that he discontinued the agreement with the laundromat.
Near the end of Monday night’s meeting, council briefly discussed a motion made by Becky McGehee to institute the saying of a prayer either at the beginning of each council meeting or just prior. The motion did not receive a second.
The final portion of Monday night’s meeting was held in closed session to discuss personnel issues related to the vacant town manager and town clerk/treasurer positions.
Upcoming Town Meetings:
All meetings will be held at the Mineral Town Hall, 312 Mineral Ave, Mineral.
March 20, 4 pm: Water and Sewer Committee Meeting
March 20, 6 pm: Town Council Budget Work Session
March 23, 6:30 pm: Planning Commission Meeting
April 10, 6:30 pm: Town Council's regular monthly meeting. 7:30 pm: Virginia Freedom of Information Act Training for council with Alan Gernhardt, Executive Director, Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council
April 25, 6:30 pm: Personnel Committee Meeting.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Find agendas and minutes from previous Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meetings as well as archived recordings here.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County School Board.
Click here for minutes and agendas for School Board meetings.
Click here to access past editions of Engage Louisa.
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