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March 18, 2012

Meet Your Government: Dan Eggleston

Dan Eggleston

Dan_eggleston

 

Fire Rescue Chief,
Albemarle County

Where were you born (and raised, if different)?

 I was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in Chesterfield County.

When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?

 I was always drawn to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area for the many outdoor opportunities and the various attractions the area has to offer. I first found out about the Fire Rescue Chief position while attending the Senior Executive Institute at the University in 2001, so I jumped at the chance to apply. One thing led to another, and I accepted the job and moved to the area in 2002.

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I was fortunate to meet a local volunteer fire fighter and realtor, D.B. Sandridge, soon after moving to Albemarle and D.B. convinced me to move to wonderful Crozet. Actually, it was the ride out 250 west heading towards Crozet – the view sold me right away. 

What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?

I received my undergraduate degree in Business from Averett University and graduate degree in emergency management from the University of Richmond.

Continue reading "Meet Your Government: Dan Eggleston" »

March 12, 2012

Supervisors endorse changes to county strategic plan

By Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 12, 2012

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has approved the addition of two objectives to the county’s strategic plan that would direct staff to add education and public safety as priorities.

The county’s strategic plan is an over-arching document that sets general direction for financial planning over a five year period. It will take effect on July 1, 2012 and now has seven distinct goals with descriptive objectives.

“It seems like you’ve done what we asked you to do,” said Kenneth C. Boyd, member of the County Board of Supervisors.  “We had a work session on this before and this is what we asked to be done.”

The two new strategic goals are “ensure the health and safety of the community” and “provide excellent educational opportunities to all Albemarle residents.”

In order to provide better educational options, supervisors said they support a goal of increasing the amount and quality of pre-kindergarten education options while developing the adult workforce in this field.  

County staff has worked in conjunction with the Albemarle schools and the United Way to identify metrics for work-force development.

This resulted in the creation of a Work-Force Development Opportunities Action Plan that will pair with the Economic Vitality Action Plan adopted by Supervisors in 2010.

“We’ve identified work-force development in both of those places, so we’re going to make sure that they coordinate with each other,” said Thomas C. Foley, County Executive.

Continue reading "Supervisors endorse changes to county strategic plan" »

February 19, 2012

Meet Your Government: Charles Werner

CharlesWerner
Charles Werner

Fire Chief, City of Charlottesville

Where were you born (and raised, if different?)

In the Valley: Harrisonburg, VA.

When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?

1978 with employment to the City as the youngest firefighter (18) hired at the Charlottesville Fire Department.  I am currently in my 34th year at CFD and presently the member with the most seniority.   

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I live in the Saddlewood subdivision area of Albemarle County.

Family (spouse, kids, etc)?

I have a fantastic and supportive family with my wife (Judy), daughter (Tyler) and son (Nicholas).  As for pets, I have two SPCA adopted mixed breed dogs.  Support the SPCA, it’s a great organization. 

What were you doing before coming to the fire department?

I was a volunteer firefighter (Harrisonburg Fire Company #1) and volunteer EMT (Harrisonburg Volunteer Rescue Squad) just out of Harrisonburg High School.  My first job just prior to coming to Charlottesville was working as an administrative assistance to the fire chief in Harrisonburg.

Your job title is the Charlottesville Fire Chief - what, in your own words, would you say you do?

My job is to identify opportunities and implement programs that will create a safer and better Charlottesville community through individual and organizational relationships/partnerships and in the most fiscally responsible way possible.

Continue reading "Meet Your Government: Charles Werner" »

October 22, 2010

Fire station slopes waiver prompts requests for Pantops community room

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 22, 2010

Fire-station-map
 

The last two fire stations built by Albemarle County feature training rooms that can be used by community groups for meetings. Now, one planning commissioner is calling for a planned Pantops station to include one as well.

“If we are building a public building, let’s make it for multiple uses,” said commissioner Cal Morris during a public hearing on a critical slopes waiver required for the new station.

The station is to be built on land donated to the county by the Worrell Land & Development Company, the developers of Peter Jefferson Place. The conditions of the donation specify that the facility is to be sited at the location of an existing maintenance shed. The Planning Commission endorsed the location for the station in September 2009.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101019-APC-Pantops

The slopes waiver application asked for permission to disturb less than a quarter of an acre to allow for construction of a one story 9,889 square foot building. However, the public hearing and commission discussion focused on the possibility of adding community space, and not the particulars of the requested slopes disturbance.

Dick Jennings, the chair of the Pantops Community Advisory Council, said the Pantops community does not have its share of county resources.

“There are no schools… there are no churches within the development area boundaries, there are no police stations,” Jennings said. “We on the Pantops council would like to be able to enhance the quality of life on Pantops and start a conversation about how to strengthen the quality of the community.”

The county fire chief said he did not think the Pantops station was an appropriate location for a community space.

“This particular station, just because of the constraints of the site and the owner’s desire to move it back as far as possible really limited our opportunity to add any additional community space or other amenities to this station,” said Dan Eggleston. He suggested the community ask Martha Jefferson Hospital if there is any community space on their new campus.

The plan is for the station to initially open in the spring of 2013 with six full-time crewmembers.  There will be one engine with volunteers staffing the station on nights and weekends, according to Eggleston. As currently designed, there are only 12 parking spaces on the site. The long-term goal is to add a second engine and an ambulance.

Ron Lilley with the county’s office of facilities development said the building’s footprint was reduced due to budget cuts, leaving no room for community space. The plan is currently to spend $3 million on the building.

He said the county has not discussed the possibility of two stories with Worrell, but a memorandum of understanding between the county and Worrell restrict the use to fire-rescue only.

“They have a real sensitivity to maintaining an open space field to that parcel as much as possible,” Lilley said.

Download Download Memorandum of Understanding between Worrell and Albemarle

After a unanimous vote approving the waiver request, Morris asked Lilley and Eggleston to approach the Worrell group and specifically ask if they would accept a two story building.

“There are ways of doing this,” Morris said.

David Benish, the county’s chief of planning, said the planned Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in Darden Towe Park also offered opportunities for community meeting spaces.


January 07, 2010

City’s Public Works director gives post-mortem on snow removal

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, January 7, 2010


20091220-hardware

A car being uncovered on Water Street on Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nearly two feet of snow fell on Charlottesville in the week before Christmas during the fourth largest blizzard in recorded history. While the remaining snowdrifts and patches of black ice will melt in the short-term, the after-effects of the storm could be felt for many years to come as City officials seek ways to improve planning for the next major storm. On January 4, 2010, Public Works Director Judy Mueller appeared before City Council to describe her department’s response. She addressed what went wrong, and offered suggestions to how the city’s response might be improved the next time a massive storm hits town.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:

Download 20100104-CC-SnowReport

Some facts from her presentation:

  • For six days, the streets division ran 12-hour shifts with 30 employees working snow plows to attempt to clear the roads. Seven other employees worked to support the logistics, and to repair broken equipment.
  • Over 450 tons of salt were used in the clearing efforts. Mueller said it takes 100 tons to cover every City street at least once. She said at no point did the City run out of salt.
  • Bridges were treated with a “special liquid chemical” rather than salt to reduce corrosion.
  • All of the City’s secondary streets were salted prior to the storm.
  • Plowing began after two inches of snow had fallen, and crews remained until all streets were cleared.
  • The first priority was to plow primary routes such as the Route 250 bypass, followed by transit routes, and then secondary roads. At that point, crews began to widen the paths made on primary routes.
  • The public works department received over 1,000 calls during the storm, including many people from Albemarle County who had seen the number given out in broadcast news reports.
  • Many private contractors were not available to work for the City until Monday because they had been retained to clear private parking lots.

20100104-Mueller-Council Mueller addressing Council
Mueller said this storm hit very fast and hit at rush hour. Over two feet of snow during the storm. In an average year, Charlottesville gets 17 inches of snow spread out over several storms. Mueller said the City’s equipment is designed to handle 99.99% of expected snow events.“This storm is the .01% that we really don’t have the equipment to handle in a manner everyone would have liked to have seen,” Mueller said. In response to a question from Mayor Dave Norris, Mueller said it would cost the city “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to purchase the heavy equipment needed to have been fully prepared.

In normal storms, rubber blades are routinely attached to city plows in order to reduce damage to streets. A decision was only made to switch to metal blades when it was clear the roads were packed with ice. 

Another major obstacle was the number of abandoned vehicles. Downed trees also stopped crews on some routes, especially if power lines had also fallen. Mueller said in those cases, Dominion Power must inspect the lines before the trees could be cleared to avoid electrocution.

Mueller said other City departments were also busy during the storm.

“One of the things when you have something like this that happens every 13 to 15 years is a tremendous outpouring of employees wanting to help other employees across division and departmental lines,” Mueller said.
  • The Police Department had 31 uniformed officers working on the Friday of the storm, 23 working on Saturday and 25 working on Sunday. City officers also assisted with search and rescue efforts for stranded motorists in Albemarle County.
  • The Fire Department had 37 employees working throughout the weekend, primarily to assist with the operation of the UVA Aquatics Center as a shelter for those who could not get  home. Officers also helped ferry supplies between the center and the Red Cross’s headquarters on Rose Hill Drive.
  • The Parks and Recreation Department dedicated 32 employees to clearing the downtown mall.
  • Seventeen employees from utilities division were put to work clearing public parking lots and also working on gas leaks and water main breaks.

Mueller said next time such a storm occurs, the city will take off the rubber blades earlier, will hire private contractors, and will try to do more in advance to keep people off the streets.

“We were really, really hampered by heavy traffic,” Mueller said.

Mueller said her department has repaired 36 potholes in the past week, including 13 on the Belmont bridge alone.

Councilor David Brown asked if the bus routes should have been cleared sooner in order to give pedestrians an alternative form of transportation. Mueller said the Charlottesville Transit Service opted to cancel service in the days after the storm in part because it had a hard time getting enough drivers.

20091220-ski

City streets downtown were still covered with snow on the Sunday following the storm, allowing for unusual transportation alternatives

Councilor Kristin Szakos called for a volunteer clearinghouse to be set up in order to connect willing workers with necessary projects.

Mueller said Madison House has done that during previous storms, but there were fewer able bodies because the University of Virginia had just ended its fall semester. She said there is a group of volunteers that offer to use their 4x4 vehicles to ferry essential personnel for hospitals and other critically important public services.

One immediate outcome of the storm will be to reconvene the city’s pedestrian safety task force to discuss how sidewalks on key corridors could be cleared faster.

October 19, 2009

Supervisors provide direction on balancing five-year financial plan

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, October 19, 2009

20091016-BOS-Dots2
Supervisors were asked to indicate which options they supported to help close the $5.8 million shortfall projected over the course of the 5-year plan
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have set the stage for some potentially sharp reductions in County spending. At their strategic planning retreat on Friday, the Board indicated its willingness to study cutting funding from several programs and also agreed to consider a 77.2 cent tax rate over the next five years. No decisions were reached at the retreat but staff now has direction on how to begin building next year’s budget.

At last year’s retreat, the Board started the budget process with plans for no salary increases, 55 frozen positions, and expectations there would be $100 million less in the Capital Improvement Budget.

As part of this year’s retreat, County staff presented the Board with a revised five-year financial plan based on the existing real estate property tax rate of 74.2 cents. Property assessments are expected to be 3.75% lower in FY 2011, with a rebound not projected until FY 2013. Sales tax revenues are expected to be 2% lower next year, with a increases projected to begin in FY2012. 

“We are facing a significant imbalance between revenues and expenditures,” said Deputy County Executive Tom Foley. The County has a $5.8 million shortfall over the course of the five-year plan.

That plan assumes the number of frozen positions will be expanded from 55 to 65. No salary increases are projected for next year’s budget either, but they are projected for the following four years. No money will be spent on professional development, and no money has been restored to previous program cuts.

A group of department heads and County Executive Bob Tucker formed something called the Leadership Council to make recommendations on how to bring the plan into balance. Some of their recommendations included:

  • Establish an equalized tax rate for both commercial and residential property tax rate for the first two years of the plan. This tax rate is assumed for the purposes of the five-year plan at 77.2 cents.
  • Maintain that tax rate for the remaining years of the plan.
  • Eliminate general fund spending for ACE program, cutting program to the $350,000 allocated externally by the Virginia Department of Tourism. The proceeds would go 100% to local government and are not subject to the 60/40% split with the school system.
  • Discontinue participation in VDOT’s revenue-sharing program and re-route 100% of these funds to local government, saving $1.5 million annually.
  • Eliminate spending for recycling centers during the next five years while future of program is studied.
  • Reduce funding to the Affordable Housing Trust by $190,000 a year.
  • Establish a one-time revenue shortfall contingency fund of $1.5 million.
  • Extend number of frozen positions beyond 65 called for in the existing plan.
  • Reevaluate all projects in the Capital Improvement Program.
  • Eliminate salary increases.
If these steps were taken, County staff still project a shortfall for the five-year plan, but with only a $600,000 deficit for FY 2015.

Other assumptions include:
  • Any money the County obtains through the land use revalidation process will be used to contribute to the County’s general fund as “fund balance.”
During their brainstorming session, Supervisors came up with these ideas, each of which was supported by at least two Board members:

  • Investigate whether school system can contribute to the reduction in the CIP
  • Work with the business community to promote the economy
  • Delaying construction of the Ivy and Pantops fire stations
  • Consider merging services and departments with the City of Charlottesville
  • Review development review task force recommendations to see if any cost savings can be found
20091016-BOS-Chart
 A green dot indicates a Supervisor's willingness to consider one of the options suggested by the Leadership Council
At the end of the retreat, County Community Relations Manager Lee Catlin emphasized that the Board did not endorse a tax rate, but instead authorized the study of various tools to address the County’s budgetary woes. 

“Nobody’s tax burden actually increases because reassessments are still declining during that time period,” Catlin said. “It does mean that in the last three years of the plan, if reassessments come above zero, people will see a minimal tax increase in their bill. What the Board said in their discussion was that was a possibility for balancing the five-year plan.”

Catlin acknowledged that many of the options on the table would involve painful decisions.

“There’s not any of them that either the staff or the Board felt good about embracing, but there was definitely a realization that we are at that place of tough choices,” she said.

County staff will now use the direction from the Board to prepare a more detailed analysis of how these spending cuts would affect next year’s budget. They will be presented with that analysis at a work session in November.

October 16, 2009

Charlottesville Planning Commission approves slopes waivers for YMCA and new fire station

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 16, 2009

Should the City of Charlottesville be held to a higher standard than other applicants seeking a waiver of the critical slopes ordinance? That question figured prominently in Tuesday’s meeting of the Charlottesville Planning Commission as they considered waivers for two projects on City-owned land. The Commission voted to grant waivers allowing for construction of a new fire station on Fontaine Avenue and the new Piedmont Family YMCA on the western side of McIntire Park.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091013-CPC-Slopes

The critical slopes ordinance is in place to prevent soil erosion. Any project that will disturb more than 25% of the slopes on a parcel of land must apply for a waiver in order to proceed. 

The site plan for the new YMCA would disturb a half-acre of slopes on a 4.5 acre site. In contrast, the new City fire station will be built entirely on critical slopes adjacent to a site of a former restaurant.

One way the Commission can justify a waiver is by demonstrating that the public benefits more from disturbing the slope than from protecting it.

Former Mayor Kay Slaughter, a staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, called on Commissioners to lead by example when considering the two applications.

“In an urban environment like Charlottesville, most streams have been degraded by culverts, pipes and previous development,” Slaughter said. The former mayor also said that her review of previous waiver applications showed that almost all of them have been granted. Slaughter suggested the YMCA project be redesigned so as not to affect any slopes, and suggested that the City should commit to “daylighting” other streams in the Moores Creek watershed by removing them from culverts.

Staff had recommended approval of the waiver for the fire station as long as the City conformed to several conditions, including the creation of an erosion and sediment control plan. Planning Commissioner Bill Emory made a motion reflecting staff’s conditions, but added a requirement that the City follow Slaughter’s recommendation. He asked that the City plan to daylight at least “254 linear feet of other portions of culverted streams in the Moore’s Creek watershed.”

“The City has made a very firm commitment over the years to environmental sustainability,” said Emory.

Deputy City Attorney Rich Harris said that Emory’s condition to require off-site mitigation would be hard to enforce without specifying exact locations.  Commissioner Genevieve Keller suggested that the Commission defer the consideration until specific mitigations sites were identified.

20091013-CPC-Wide
Economic Development Director Aubrey Watts appeared before the City Planning Commission
Aubrey Watts, the City’s Director of Economic Development, said the City is aware that the fire station site is problematic, but added the City has been looking for eight years for a site to improve response times in the Fontaine Road area. “We’ve wanted to make extremely sure that the City never applied for [a waiver] that would later come back and [the public] would say [the City was] held to a different standard,” Watts said. However, he said because the City is still in negotiations to purchase the site, they could not ask for a deferral because the deal would fall through.

“In spite of the steep slopes here, the station really does improve the response time in a very critical area,” Watts said.

Emory’s motion was voted down 4 to 3. One of the Commissioners who voted for it, Michael Osteen, said he wanted the City to be held to a higher standard.

“I think the City needs to be a leader not only in developing their own sites, but in administering their own critical slopes ordinance,” Osteen said.

Chairman Jason Pearson said he thought the City was a leader, but he saw no need to apply additional scrutiny to the fire station project. He said the increased response times outweighed the need to use a culvert to carry water off of the site.

“Sometimes you make hard choices and in this case it seems like the right hard choice to make,” Pearson said. “We have to do it because we don’t want people to die in a fire in their house.”

The Commission voted 7-0 to approve the waiver without Emory’s condition, but with similar language that urges the City to daylight more streams. Additionally, the Planning Commission will spend time in 2010 reworking the critical slopes ordinance.

Critical slopes waiver for YMCA approved on 4-2 vote

The City is playing no role in the design of the new Piedmont Family YMCA aquatic center under development in McIntire Park, but Kay Slaughter had also called on the Planning Commission to enforce a higher standard of development.

Scan
A site plan of the Piedmont Family YMCA which depicts critical slopes in purple (Click for a larger image)
The YMCA must use the area of McIntire Park set aside in the ground lease signed in January 2008. That location contains a man-made hill that was formed when the existing picnic shelters and the driveway to the baseball fields were constructed. Such hills still are protected by the critical slopes ordinance.
Under the site plan, one of the building’s walls is being suggested as a retaining wall to capture stormwater runoff from the slopes. The plan’s architect is proposing a series of gardens and swales wall to help filter the stormwater runoff.

Some Commissioners echoed Slaughter’s comments that the site could be redesigned to avoid the critical slopes, but were told by architect Todd Bullard of VMDO that he did not think that was possible in part because the critical slopes were right in the middle of the ground lease area.

Staff recommended approval of the waiver with several conditions, including the development of a rainwater harvesting system in order to ensure that the YMCA would not generate more stormwater runoff than existing conditions. Bullard said his calculations showed that such a system would take 28 years to pay back its investment, so he was reluctant to accept that condition. In exchange, he said that the proposed mitigation was to slow down the speed of runoff leaving the site to half of the existing rate. That would have the effect of minimizing erosion.

Bullard also said that the garden wall would be a feature along City walking trails.  New trails are being proposed in the McIntire Park master plan to connect the YMCA with Charlottesville High School.

Commissioner Osteen said it appeared to him that the site would create more critical slopes than were there previously. He was skeptical that Bullard’s mitigation plan would work. Commissioner Keller said the experience of McIntire Park should be respected and the slopes should not be intruded upon.

Commissioner Bill Emory asked if the steep slopes ordinance had been mentioned  when the master plan for the western side of the park set the parameters of the ground lease. Staff said it had been noted that the slopes were present.

Commissioner Rosensweig said he served on the park’s master planning committee, and that he had sympathy for the work Bullard had done to mitigate the slopes.

“The limits of the development in the ground lease were carved out specifically to be on a slope so that the building profile could be reduced,” Rosensweig said.

Commissioner Osteen said he could approve the waiver as long as he could be guaranteed the Commission would get another look at the walking path. He made a motion to approve the waiver, backing off of the requirement that the project must not produce any additional stormwater. Instead, the staff of the Department of Neighborhood Development Services will determine an appropriate level of mitigation.
The Commission voted 4-2 to approve the critical slopes waiver for the with Keller and Emory voted against.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Public commenr from former Mayor Kay Slaughter
  • 05:00 - Ebony Walden
  • 10:10 - Commissioner Dan Rosensweig asks for clarification on criteria for granting waivers
  • 12:30 - Commissioner Kurt Keesecker asks about the second phase of environmental review for fire project
  • 16:50 - Commissioner Bill Emory makes a motion, adds one condition
  • 22:15 - Deputy City Attorney Rich Harris questions whether Emory's condition could be enforced
  • 25:30 - Deputy City Engineer Sujit Ekka says he does not have concerns about erosion
  • 31:45 - Chairman Jason Pearson says Slaughter's comments have likely created greater scrutiny for these projects
  • 33:15 - Planning Manager Missy Creasy says waivers are usually approved because unfavorable wants don't proceed to Commission
  • 35:30 - Rosensweig says he is satisfied with mitigation that will be done for fire station, but says he can support Emory's condition
  • 38:30 - Economic Development Director Aubrey Watts comments
  • 43:15 - Keller asks Watts if he would accept Emory's condition
  • 46:00 - Keesecker suggests City look for streams that could be daylighted
  • 49:15 - Pearson says Emory's condition is overstepping the bounds of the Planning Commission
  • 51:30 - Commissioner John Santoski asks for a vote on Emory's proposal
  • 52:10 - Emory's motion fails on a 4-3 vote against
  • 53:00 - Commissioner Michael Osteen explains why he voted for the motion
  • 57:40 - Commissioner John Santoski makes a motion to pass waiver without Emory's condition
  • 1:00:00 - Rosensweig asks Harris if he can suggest language to
  • 1:02:45 - Motion to approve waiver passes 7-0
  • 1:03:00 - Commission takes up slopes waiver for YMCA with report from Nick Rogers
  • 1:18:00 - Todd Bullard of VMDO Architects appears before Commission to discuss design, request for waiver
  • 1:29:00 - Commissioner Rosensweig makes his comments
  • 1:32:00 - Commissioner Emory asks if the Planning Commission has ever seen the YMCA project
  • 1:34:90 - Commissioner Keller expresses her concerns with the plan
  • 1:36:30 - Alan Franklin of the Water Street Studio discusses the volume requirements
  • 1:46:30 - Piedmont Family YMCA CEO Denny Blank comments on the walking trail
  • 1:48:45 - Commission begins taking a straw poll to assess where they stand on the waiver
  • 1:51:00 - Commissioner Santoski makes motion to approve waiver

October 15, 2009

Supervisors get strategic plan update heading into annual retreat

By Tarpley Ashworth
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, October 15, 2009

At their annual retreat this Friday, members of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will meet with County staff to grapple with the challenge of creating a balanced 5-year financial plan. Supervisors will be asked to weigh in on possible service level reductions and financial assumptions revenue sources such as the real estate property tax rate. The County’s strategic plan, which is revised every four years, is a collection of long-term goals meant to direct County staff in their daily operations. The strategic plan is also expected to guide the Board’s recommendations  and it includes five central objectives:

  • Enhance quality of life
  • Protect natural resources
  • Develop infrastructure
  • Manage growth and development
  • Funding the future

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091007-BOS-Strategic-Plan

Lori Allshouse, the County’s Manager of Strategic Planning and Performance, briefed the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Wednesday, October 7th on how well the County has met the goals outlined in the FY 2007-2010 Strategic Plan.

Overall, she said the County completed several important objectives, including increasing collaboration with the school system and developing a comprehensive funding strategy. But significant challenges remain, such as rising unemployment and meeting transportation needs in the wake of budget cuts from state agencies such as the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

Regarding collaboration with the school system, Allshouse cited the County’s recent receipt of a $6 million Safe Schools, Healthy Students grant which required a strong relationship between schools and County staff to qualify. She also said that the Board’s adoption of its first five-year financial plan last year satisfied the goal of creating a joint future funding plan.

Allshouse identified several objectives that were nearly complete as well. The County’s focus on affordable housing in recent years has yielded some benefits such as receiving a $700,000 grant for improvements to Crozet Meadows, a housing development in Crozet intended for low-income elderly residents, and increased enrollment in the Homebuyer Education Program.

The goal of adopting master plans for all five designated growth areas is well underway, too. Two master plans are complete (Pantops and Crozet), two are scheduled to be adopted this fiscal year (Village of Rivanna and Places29) and one is scheduled for completion by FY 2012 (Southern Urban Area).

Strategic plan image
Source: Albemarle County
According to Allshouse, other issues are proving more difficult, but she estimates that these goals will also eventually be met. Only 23% of local streams meet Virginia’s aquatic life standards (in line with the state average).  The County has met 87% of its goal for conservation easements. Currently, 77,899 acres of County land, or 17%, is under easement and the County has received approximately 20 applications for easements that it has not yet processed.

The County has struggled to meet its public safety goals. The construction of the Ivy and Pantops fire stations has been delayed by funding and site location issues. Albemarle County is 18 police officers short of its target for 1.5 officers for every 1,000 citizens. Additionally, officers respond to Priority 1 emergencies in five minutes or less only 57% of the time, while the goal is 85%. Priority 1 emergency calls are classified as those where life and safety are suspected to be threatened. In rural areas, officers are responding to all calls in an average of 13 minutes when the goal is 10 minutes.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) explained these metrics by pointing out that these slower than hoped for response times were a direct product of the acknowledged officer shortage. “Obviously there is a correlation between the reduction in number of officers and the opportunity to respond in a timely fashion,” he said.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) raised the issue that Priority 1 emergencies included responses to home alarms, and since many of these responses were false alarms, it skewed the data to make response times seem worse than they actually were.

“Police response to private emergency alarm systems going off is one of the biggest government subsidies to private business in the world,” said Rooker. “The amount of money spent on police departments doing this is immense.”

County Executive Bob Tucker said that there had been discussions in the past about instituting a false alarm penalty, and that such a proposal could  come before the Board later this year if they chose to reconsider the issue

The most significant challenges, however, loom for transportation and the job market. Allshouse reported that even though transportation had seen some bright spots in the region, such as a 9% increase in ridership for JAUNT and the 18% increase in ridership for the Charlottesville Transit Service, the 74% budget cut from VDOT towards Albemarle County projects since 2004 remains a substantial hindrance to transportation improvements within the County. 

Steve Allshouse, the County’s Coordinator of Research and Analysis, presented an economic climate summary to the Board as well. He reported that the County experienced a net loss of 487 jobs between 2007 and 2008 and that the unemployment rate increased from 3.4% to 4.9% between August 2008 and August 2009. This compares to 6.5% and 9.6% unemployment in Virginia and the United States respectively, but Allshouse warned that this gap between Albemarle County and the state and national averages was lessening during the current recession. He also reported that the County’s taxable sales declined between 2007 and 2008 as well.

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said that unemployment statistics, by their methodology, does not count those unemployed who have given up searching for jobs. Slutzky added that unemployment didn’t adequately measure the under-employed rate either.

Friday’s Retreat to discuss changes for the FY 2010-14 Strategic Plan will be held at the Virginia Department of Forestry in the UVA Fontaine Research Park from 9:00 am-to 3:00 pm.

September 17, 2009

County planners clear way for Pantops fire station despite community concerns

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has endorsed one potential location for a new fire station in the Pantops area, despite concerns by one Commissioner that the one acre site will use up land designated as open space.

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The owners of Peter Jefferson Place have offered to donate the land to the County to build the Pantops Fire Station. A maintenance shed and sewer pump station currently occupy the site, which is otherwise considered open space.

The proposal is to build a 7,500 square feet building, which would include space for living quarters and bays for a fire engine and an ambulance. The facility would be smaller than the Hollymead and Monticello stations operated by the County. The station would be staffed by County employees during the day and volunteers at night.

=Commissioners
Commissioners Linda Porterfield, Cal Morris and Tom Loach
In order to accept the land, the Planning Commission needed to confirm whether the site would conform to the County’s comprehensive plan. Planning Commissioner Cal Morris (Rivanna), a member of the Pantops Community Advisory Council, took the opportunity to discuss one concern of that group.

“The Pantops steering committee is extremely concerned that this is going to take away from our green space,” Morris said. “Green space in the Pantops area is very, very precious.”

Commissioners weighed the merits of open space versus a need to improve fire service in one of the County’s designated growth areas.

Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) said the County has a goal for five-minute response times, which are currently not met in the Pantops area. “In order to reach this goal, we need more facilities,” Strucko said.

Fire service in the Pantops area is currently provided by the City of Charlottesville on a contract basis, with back-up from the East Rivanna Volunteer Fire Company near Glenmore. In 2007, the City averaged a ten minute response time to Pantops.

Albemarle pays Charlottesville up to $800,000 a year for the service. The current contract expires in 2013, and Albemarle Fire Chief Dan Eggleston said the price will likely increase if the County wants to renew.

 “We have on the one hand trying to achieve that five minute goal, and on the other hand we have to replace that consistent [response by an] engine company that comes out of the City,” Eggleston said. “We feel like this is the best bet at this point.”

20090915-APC-Fire-Station
The fire station is to be built near this maintenance shed, according to Fire Chief Eggleston
Ron Lilley, a project manager in the County’s facilities development office, said similar sites that would allow the County to meet the response time goal would cost between $1 and $3 million. The County had previously budgeted $2.7 million to purchase land and to do site work and engineering.  With a land donation, the overall projects costs are significantly reduced. The fire station is now estimated to cost $3 million, according to Lilley.

“It seems to me that it’s prudent for us to do something good for the taxpayers,” said Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville). “If the money is there and we can build a fire station on a free piece of land, it just seems like that’s the thing to do.”

Eggleston said the station would be built behind the existing maintenance shed, and every attempt would be made to blend it into the landscape. If the project moves forward, station is expected to open by April 2013.

The six Commissioners present voted unanimously to declare the site as being consistent with the comprehensive plan. Next, Albemarle County staff will continue to pursue the transaction with Peter Jefferson Place and to secure funding from the Board of Supervisors as part of the County’s capital budget.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Staff report from David Benish, County’s Chief of Planning
  • 10:00 – Ron Lilley of the Albemarle County Office of Facilities
  • 10:30 – Planning Commissioner Cal Morris asks Lilley if there are any other suitable sites
  • 12:10 – Fire Chief Dan Eggleston responds to Morris’ concern about losing green space
  • 17:00 – Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) asks question about response times
  • 21:30 – Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) asks question about continuing paying the City
  • 26:00 – Loach asks Eggleston if homeowner’s insurance rates will go up if there is not service

September 10, 2009

Albemarle takes first step towards charging for ambulance services

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have taken the first step towards charging for ambulance service. At their meeting on September 9, 2009, the Board voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance that gives the County and volunteer rescue squads the ability to charge fees to those who require an ambulance.

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The County provides about 2,000 transports a year from the ambulance service offered from the Hollymead and Monticello fire stations, which could result in $400,000 in funds generated for the County.

Volunteer rescue squads  would also be eligible to charge the fee once they receive a permit from the County. The money generated would be used to help fund the County’s investments in the rescue squads.

Over forty localities across Virginia have such a system in place, including Orange and Louisa Counties. The ordinance does not specify how much would be charged, but states that “reasonable fees” would be set by the Board of Supervisors.

“The ordinance also specifically provides that no person shall be denied emergency medical services due to an inability to pay,” said County Attorney Larry Davis. The County would be required to set up a compassionate billing program. Davis said most people would have their fees covered by Medicare, Medicaid or their insurance providers.

Davis said the adoption of this ordinance is just the first step in the County implementing the fee. Other steps would be securing a contract with a company to handle the account, negotiations with area rescue squads to find out if they want to participate, and a public relations campaign to explain the program to citizens.

Only one person spoke during the public hearing, which was held at 9:30 PM. David Zimmerman, a volunteer with the Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS), urged the County to get out of the ambulance business.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said that 85% of Americans live in an area where revenue recovery programs are in place.  He argued that contributions to Medicare and Medicaid fund the service, and this is a way to reclaim funds that the County deserves.

“Everyone knows about the bleak state of finances for all localities,” Rooker said. “This is one place where we can obtain some fees for services that are generally picked up by third-parties other than our citizens.”

Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles Werner told City Council in January that the City did not need to begin charging the EMS revenue recovery fee.

The resource utilization study commissioned by the Board of Supervisors recommended in February that the County charge the fee.

County staff will get together to assess how to put the process in place for Hollymead and Monticello. Conversations will be continuing with the rescue squad representatives about developing a process for bringing them in if they choose to participate.