This week in county government; Update on James River Water Project highlights brief agenda for BOS meeting; Who’s funding the candidates
Engage Louisa is a community newsletter aimed at keeping folks informed about Louisa County government. It’s free, non-partisan, and powered by volunteers. 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, Nov. 1 through Nov. 6
Monday, November 1
Tuesday, November 2
Election Day, Louisa County voters will cast ballots for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and House of Delegates as well as four seats on the Board of Supervisors and four seats on the School Board. Polls are open from 6 am to 7 pm. Click here for sample ballots.
Wednesday, November 3
Louisa County School Board, Central Office Administration Building, 953 Davis Hwy., Mineral, 7 pm. (agenda)
Louisa County Broadband Authority, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7 pm. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available. (public notice)
Thursday, November 4
Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, Virtual Meeting, 7 pm. A Zoom link is available in the agenda packet. (meeting materials)
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.
Update on James River Water Project highlights brief agenda for supervisors’ election eve meeting
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors will gather for its first November meeting Monday night on the eve of a hotly contested election that could significantly reshape the board. Four supervisors are on the ballot on Tuesday, November 2, with two facing challengers.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes, a six-term incumbent running as an independent, squares off against Republican William Woody while Green Springs District Supervisor Bob Babyok, an independent seeking his second term, faces Republican Rachel Jones. Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams, one of two Republicans already on the board, and Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow, an independent who is one of the board’s most conservative members, are both running unopposed.
The board will hear an update on the James River Water Project, a joint effort by Louisa and Fluvanna counties to channel water from the river to feed future development along the Interstate 64 corridor, which runs through both Barnes and Babyok’s districts. The project has been years in the making and stoked controversy far beyond its path.
Aside from the water project update, the board will consider a relatively light agenda including two other presentations and two main action items.
Update on the James River Water Project: Representatives from the James River Water Authority, a joint venture between Louisa and Fluvanna counties tasked with bringing sufficient water supply from the river to meet both localities’ longterm needs, will provide the board with an update on the status of the James River Water Project.
The project has been stalled by the authority’s decision to locate its water intake and pump station near the confluence of the James and Rivanna rivers at a site believed to be Rassawek, the ancestral capital of the Monacan Indian Nation. That selection met widespread resistance from the Monacan, historians, preservationists, and local residents.
In 2020, under pressure from the Monacan and their allies, JRWA decided to study alternative sites. Earlier this year, members elected to pause the Army Corps of Engineers’ permitting process at the original location. The authority is now focused on a site roughly 2.3 miles upriver from Rassawek, dubbed the Forsyth alternative.
The Monacan agreed to support an alternative location under certain conditions including that archeological field work doesn’t confirm or strongly indicate the presence of human remains. The Monacan believe that Rassawek is home to an ancestral burial ground.
Over the last several months, the authority has conducted due diligence and some archeological field work to determine the Forsyth alternative’s suitability. At its October meeting, JRWA decided to move forward with more in-depth archeological study at the site and along the pipeline’s proposed route. That portion of the line would connect with an already-constructed water mane in Fluvanna County.
Legal counsel Justin Curtis said preparing for the field work could take three to four weeks while the study itself is expected to take between 30 and 90 days, according to The Daily Progress.
At its outset, the James River Water Project, including a pipeline, water treatment facility at Ferncliff, and other infrastructure, was expected to cost $50 million with Louisa County footing much of the bill. The cost to locate the pump station at an alternative site and reroute part of pipeline is unclear.
Putting those pieces in place is key to Louisa’s plan to expand development in designated growth areas clustered along Interstate 64. With much of the infrastructure already built, the project could be complete in two to three years. But, hurdles remain.
Considering approval of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s legislative priorities for the 2022 General Assembly session: At its September 7 meeting, representatives from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission briefed the board on its legislative priorities for the 2022 General Assembly session. At Monday's meeting, the board will consider formal approval of the platform, which has undergone some revision after discussions with TJPDC’s six member localities.
According to the agenda packet, TJPDC Director of Legislative Services David Blount will present the updated platform to the board. Broadly, TJPDC’s top legislative priorities include: supporting action at the federal, state, and local levels to protect communities and to ensure their viability in the face of the COVID-19 health emergency; urging the governor and legislature to enhance state aid to localities and public schools, to not impose mandates on or shift costs to localities, and to enhance local revenue; and encouraging and supporting state and federal efforts and financial incentives that assist localities and their communities in deploying universal, affordable access to broadband.
TJPDC’s platform also lays out specific legislative positions, covering a wide range of areas, from housing and land use to public safety and transportation. The board adopted its own legislative priorities at its September 20 meeting, which mirror parts of the TJPDC platform.
Considering approval of new holding cells at Louisa’s General District Court: Supervisors will consider approving and awarding a contract for the construction of new holding cells at Louisa County General District Court. The county received three bids for the project.
According to the proposed resolution, the county selected the lowest bidder, HSL, Inc., dba Loudin Building Systems, a Louisa-based company. HSL, Inc. bid $1,643,000.00, $20,000 under Kenbridge Construction, the next lowest bidder. Pending approval, funds for the project will be drawn from the Building Enhancements/Building Spacing Capital Project.
Presentation on Cutalong Community Development Authority: The board will hear a presentation focused on potentially establishing a Community Development Authority serving the Cutalong development at Lake Anna. The development is already home to a golf course and is expected to include townhomes, single-family homes, golf cottages, a hotel, and other resort amenities.
Community development authorities are permitted under Virginia law to finance infrastructure for specific developments via bonds. Generally, those bonds are paid off over time by property owners in the CDA district via taxes and/or special assessments generated by the new development.
CDAs are an increasingly popular financing tool in the commonwealth. The Richmond area is home to several such authorities including at Short Pump. Henrico County will use a CDA as a financing vehicle for the new GreenCity arena project.
Presentation from Central Virginia Small Business Development Center: The Central Virginia Small Business Development Center will brief the board on its work. The center connects small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with experts, trainings, technical assistance, and other resources. The organization aims to “level the playing field for small businesses, growing strong communities and businesses.”
Louisa County allocated $15,000 to the center in FY22. The organization relies on one to one matching funds from the localities it serves and the Small Business Administration.
Follow the money: who’s funding the candidates
Election Day is almost here and candidates are making their final pitch to voters. Their ability to effectively convey that message depends, at least in part, on the depth of their campaign coffers.
Candidates running for local and state office this November filed campaign finance reports for the latest fundraising period, from Oct. 1 through Oct. 21, last Monday. They provide a window into who’s funding the candidates and how they’re spending that money.
Here in Louisa County, five candidates for local office filed reports. Office-seekers who don’t raise or spend any money may be exempted from regularly filing, and donations of $100 or less aren’t required to be itemized. Here’s a quick look at the latest filings for local races and the 56th District House of Delegates seat.
Barnes and Woody continue to raise, spend in Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes, running as an independent and seeking his seventh term on the board, continues to raise money at a decent clip. He pulled in $1,900 from 14 donations during the first three weeks of October and has raised just over $24,000 during the course of his campaign.
Jack Sandford of Faulconer Construction, a Charlottesville general contractor, was his top donor during the filing period, chipping in $500. Stony Point Development’s Chris Henry and Bio-Cat owner Chris Schuler are the top individual donors to Barnes’ campaign, contributing $3,000 and $2,600, respectively. N&S Construction and AAP1 LLC, two entities owned by David Allen Powell, gave $2,500 each.
Barnes spent $7,265, mainly on campaign mailings, signs, and donations. He’s spent over $18,000 since he launched his campaign in June. Barnes ended the filing period with $5,779 cash on hand. (full report)
Republican challenger William Woody posted strong fundraising numbers thanks, in part, to donations from relatives. He raised $4,850 from five donations with his wife, Buffy Jo Woody, and Waylon Woody contributing $2,000 each. Since launching his campaign in May, Woody has hauled in over $18,000. His wife contributed $4,500, Louisa County Republican Committee Chair Robin Horne gave $4,000, and Friends of John McGuire, 56th District Delegate John McGuire’s campaign committee, pitched in $1,750.
During the first three weeks of October, Woody spent $4,174 with more than half going to newspaper advertising. He’s spent over $8,200 during his campaign with $9,880 in the bank as of Oct. 21. (full report)
Babyok ramps up spending, Jones continues steady pace in Green Springs
The battle for the Green Springs District Board of Supervisors seat hasn’t seen the fundraising levels of its neighboring district but that hasn’t stopped the candidates from getting their message out.
Independent incumbent Bob Babyok, who announced in September that he would self-fund his campaign, didn’t raise any money during the filing period. He loaned his campaign $7,500 over the last several months but paid back $1,692. Babyok spent $3,020, mainly on campaign mailings, and ended the filing period with $1,093 cash on hand. Besides the loan repayment, he’s spent $4,712 during his campaign. (full report)
Republican challenger Rachel Jones raised $735 on six contributions. 56th District Delegate John McGuire’s campaign chipped in $250. Over the course of her campaign, Jones has brought in over $7,500 with $2,250 of that coming from McGuire. Morningstar Farm, a western Louisa equestrian facility, is her second largest donor, contributing $1,000.
In the first three weeks of October, Jones spent $406 with $300 of that going to the Louisa County Republican Committee for an event sponsorship. She’s spent $4,302 during her campaign and ended the filing period with $3,227 cash on hand. (full report)
Other spending in local races
Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams is the only other local candidate to file a report. The Republican, running unopposed, raised no money while spending $641, with $550 going to the Louisa County Republican Committee for a dinner sponsorship. He closed the filing period with $1,246 cash on hand. (full report)
LCRC has paid for mailers in both the Green Springs and Patrick Henry District races, according to disclosures included on the pieces. Exactly how much the committee has spent on those campaigns is unclear.
Campaign finance rules exempt local party committees in localities with less 100,000 people from filing quarterly reports unless they spend or collect more than $15,000 in a calendar year. Neither Jones nor Woody have included any in-kind contributions from the committee on their campaign finance reports. Jones has reported $575 in cash contributions from the committee while Woody has reported $500.
Engage Louisa reached out to the Louisa County Electoral Board to determine if any organization or individual reported independent expenditures in local races. County Registrar Cris Watkins said no independent expenditures have been reported to the board.
McGuire continues strong fundraising in HD56 race
Republican incumbent John McGuire, vying for his third term in the 56th District House of Delegates District, continued to post strong fundraising numbers. In the first three weeks of October, he raised $86,533 from 291 contributions. Jeffrey Jay, a Palm Beach, Florida retiree, contributed $11,600, his largest cash gift.
McGuire has hauled in over $532,000 this campaign cycle. About $364,000 of that has come from out-of-state individuals and corporations. Reliable Paving and Concrete, an Arlington, Texas-based company, is his largest contributor, chipping in $75,000. McGuire is widely believed to be preparing for a run in the Seventh Congressional District, a seat currently held by Democrat Abigail Spanberger.
During the first three weeks of October, McGuire spent $168,336. About $90,000 paid for digital and television advertising. He’s spent more than $380,000 during his campaign. As of October 21, McGuire had $167,429 cash on hand. (full report)
Democratic challenger Blakely Lockhart raised $12,659 from 107 contributions during the filing period. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus contributed $5,000, her largest cash contribution. Since she launched her campaign in March, Lockhart has brought in about $112,000. VLBC and Democratic mega-donor Sonjia Smith of Charlottesville are her two largest donors, giving $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.
Lockhart spent $38,757 with much of that covering the cost of mailings and adverting. Over the course of her campaign, she has spent more than $95,000. She ended the filing period with $16,145 in the bank. (full report)
The current campaign finance period runs from October 22 to November 25. Reports are due December 2. Candidates are required to report large contributions made in the final 10 days before an election within a day of receipt. Those include contributions of $5,000 or more for candidates running for statewide office, $1,000 or more for General Assembly candidates, and $500 or more for any other candidate.
News of note:
Oral arguments in Chickahominy Pipeline case: A State Corporation Commission hearing examiner will hold oral arguments on Chickahonony Pipeline LLC’s request for a ruling that its proposed 83-mile fracked gas pipeline doesn’t require SCC approval. The virtual hearing is set for this Wednesday, November 3, at 12 pm.
The pipeline would cut through five central Virginia counties including Louisa, channeling fracked gas from the Transco Pipeline near Boswell’s Tavern to the yet-to-be constructed Chickahominy Power Plant in Charles City County. The privately-backed plant plans to sell its power on a large market serving numerous states.
Chickahominy filed a petition with the SCC asking for a ruling that it doesn’t need commission approval in early September. The company argued that it doesn’t fall under SCC jurisdiction because it’s not a public utility and won’t sell gas to two or more customers. The company also contended that obtaining gas from Virginia Natural Gas, the designated service provider for the area where the plant will be built, isn't feasible, necessitating construction of the pipeline.
In subsequent SCC filings, Louisa, Henrico, and Hanover counties, among other respondents, disagreed with Chickahominy’s arguments. SCC staff weighed in with an opinion that also countered the petition. It suggested that the pipeline should fall under the commission’s regulatory authority and that evidence is required to show whether VNG is capable of providing gas to the plant.
“To proceed with the proposed Pipeline, Chickahominy (Pipeline LLC) must seek a CPCN (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) from the Commission and the record must be developed on whether VNG is unable to meet its legal duty to provide natural gas to the customers in its certificated service territory,” staff wrote.
Since plans for the pipeline first came to light in July, the project has been shrouded in mystery. Louisa County invited lead developer Irfan Ali, who is also involved in building the power plant, to its September 20 meeting in an effort to learn more about the project. Ali failed to show up, a move that didn’t sit well with supervisors.
A representative from Encompass Energy Services, a company contracted to gain access to land for initial surveying, appeared at the board’s October 4 meeting. His presentation offered little new insight into the project.
The pipeline’s proposed route cuts across the heart of Louisa County, impacting some 180 parcels. Click here to check out the route in detail on the county’s GIS map. (Click on Layers, scroll to Overlays, and choose Proposed Chickahominy Pipeline. The route appears in pink).
Wednesday’s hearing is only a first step in Chickahominy’s SCC case. Attorneys will deliver oral arguments on the company’s petition but it’s unclear what actions will follow. SCC commissioners will make the final ruling in the case. Watch the hearing here.
LCPS receives grant funding for remote learning devices: Louisa County Public Schools is set to receive roughly $1 million in grant funding from the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Connectivity Fund. The $7.1 billion fund was established via the American Rescue Plan Act, federal pandemic relief legislation passed last spring. It aims to help schools and libraries provide remote learning tools and services including laptops, tablets, WiFi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity purchases.
“ECF will help provide relief to millions of students, school staff, and library patrons and will help close the Homework Gap for students who currently lack necessary Internet access or the devices they need to connect to classrooms,” according to the program’s website.
LCPS plans to use the money to buy some 1.200 Chromebooks and 1,000 iPads, as well as MiFi devices and accompanying service, according to Superintendent Doug Straley. Straley said that older students use the Chromebooks while student in the lower grades use the iPads. Both were essential tools during school closures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the hybrid learning period that followed. Many of the devices need to be replaced because of wear and tear, Straley said, as they continue to serve students for both remote and in-person instruction.
Harmful Algae Blooms persist at Lake Anna: Even with cooler weather setting in, Harmful Algae Blooms persist in parts of Lake Anna.
In mid-October, the Virginia Department of Health extended a no swim advisory that’s been in place for much of the summer for the lake’s North Anna and Upper Pamunkey branches. Click here for the advisory and here for a map. The specific areas impacted include:
Pamunkey Branch: From the upper inundated waters of the Pamunkey arm of the lake downstream to the 612 Bridge. Includes Terry’s Run.
North Anna Branch: From the upper inundated waters of the North Anna arm of the lake downstream to above the confluence with Pamunkey Branch above Goodwins Point. Does not include “the Splits.”
Results of samples collected October 12 found unsafe levels of cyanobacteria, which can cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illness including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. People and pets are advised to avoid activities that may involve ingesting water like swimming, windsurfing, and standup paddle boarding.
The VDH advisory notes that HAB may persist into the winter months. But, due to lack of funding, testing won’t resume until next May when recreational swimming season gets underway.
Algae blooms can occur when warm water and nutrients combine to make conditions favorable for algae growth, according to the advisory. Most algae species are harmless but some species may produce irritating compounds or toxins. VDH advises people to avoid discolored water or scums that are green or blueish-green because they are more likely to contain toxins.
Harmful algae blooms have prompted no swim advisories in parts of the lake over the last four summers. An advisory shut down swimming for several weeks at Lake Anna State Park’s main beach in 2019. The first no swim advisory for this summer was issued in early July. Local and state officials have struggled to address the blooms.
During the 2021 General Assembly session, State Senator Mark Peake pushed through a language-only amendment to the state budget that instructed the Department of Environmental Quality to convene a Harmful Algae Bloom workgroup in conjunction with the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The workgroup released a draft report in September detailing the location, frequency, and severity of HAB in Virginia, some factors that may lead to their formation and occurrence, and possible strategies for state agencies to support appropriate mitigation efforts.
The report notes that neither DEQ, which conducts HAB testing in cooperation with the state’s HAB Taskforce, nor VDH, which issues HAB advisories, have the resources to adequately monitor, test, and respond to freshwater Harmful Algae Blooms.
At the Louisa County Board of Supervisors’ legislative work session in early October, supervisors discussed HAB with the county’s three representatives in the General Assembly, Senators Bryce Reeves and Mark Peake, and Delegate John McGuire. Louisa officials are hopeful they can work with legislators to craft and pass a bill that allocates funding to address the blooms.
“We really need to work together to figure out how to tailor a piece of legislation that will get DEQ and VDH the resources they need to monitor this more effectively and to learn more about causes,” County Administrator Christian Goodwin told legislators at the meeting.
Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams echoed the urgent need to tackle HAB.
“There is a tremendous economic engine at Lake Anna for Louisa County, both from property taxes from the homes that are built at Lake Anna to tourist business. The economic impact of the HAB problem at the lake—I don’t use this word very often—has the potential to be catastrophic, not only to our residents and visitors but to both county governments that have a lot of tax revenue on it,” Adams said, referring to Louisa and Spotsylvania counties.
County ups efforts to keep citizens informed: Louisa County is stepping up its efforts to keep citizens informed. The county recently launched an e-newsletter to “provide quick summaries of the latest county news and special dates,” according to its official Facebook page. Sign up for the newsletter here. (Scroll to the “News Flash” section).
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Find agendas and minutes from previous 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.