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March 04, 2010

Supervisor Dorrier: Closing Scottsville library not an option

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Albemarle County Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier said Wednesday that the Scottsville library will not be shut down as a way to close a budget shortfall.

“The fears that people have that the library is going to be shut down are without foundation,” Dorrier said.

Both Dorrier and County Attorney Larry Davis said the agreement that governs the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library prevents the library system’s Board of Trustees from using money set aside for local branches to pay for regional or administrative services.

“They can’t just take all of the cuts from the local funding,” Dorrier said.

Library funding has emerged as a flashpoint since Albemarle County Executive Robert Tucker unveiled a budget proposal for the next fiscal year that would trim funding for myriad programs and services.
The regional library system’s budget would be cut by 5 percent.

Library trustees responded by formally recommending the closure of the Scottsville branch and reducing hours at Crozet.

That prompted Dorrier’s declaration at the beginning of Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The agreement describes how costs are to be shared amongst JMRL’s six jurisdictions and defines three categories of operating costs. First, all jurisdictions contribute to library administration and system-wide services. Second, Charlottesville and Albemarle County both contribute to funding of the Central, Gordon Avenue and Northside libraries.

Finally, each jurisdiction contributes a “local cost” to operate branches within their borders. Albemarle County is the sole supporter of both the Crozet and Scottsville branches.

Davis agreed with Dorrier’s interpretation of the agreement.

“They could not take those funds and reallocate them for regional services or for Charlottesville-Albemarle Services,” Davis said. He said if trustees choose to close Scottsville, they will not only lose the money for that branch, but would still have to reduce funding for administration and the three branches it co-funds with Charlottesville by 5 percent.

Library trustee Tim Tolson said he did not have the same reading of the agreement. By restricting cuts to branches that only serve Albemarle, the library board has limited service reductions to the community that he says has decided not to pay its fair share.

“We have been through other lean budgetary times in Albemarle and have always been able to come to a compromise,” Tolson said.

March 01, 2010

City unveils proposed budget with $2.6 million in Council initiatives

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 1, 2010

The Charlottesville City Council will be presented tonight with a proposed $140.75 million budget for FY2011 that includes several new initiatives and service improvements, with no tax rate increase. The budget includes  $126 million for operations, a decrease of .77% from the current year. This is the second year in a row that the overall size of the city’s budget has decreased.

"We're presenting a budget that doesn't cut any services,” said City Manager Gary O’Connell in an interview. “Most residents will see a reduction in their tax bills."

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100301-Budget-Interview

20100301-FY2011-City-Revenu Click to enlarge this table showing the revenues that make up a portion of the City's budget
This is the 36th city budget that O’Connell has helped develop, and his 15th as city manager. It will also be his final one, as he is stepping down in mid-April to become executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority.

There are no pay increases, but no furloughs or layoffs either. There will also be no increases in fees.  While the real-estate property tax rate is not proposed to change in calendar year 2010, average residential property values in the city declined by 2.19 percent in recent assessments.

The budget features the following spending highlights:   
  • $200,000 for Council to spend on discretionary initiatives throughout the year. In the current year, Council opted to use this pool of money on workforce development initiatives.  
  • $110,000 to provide 30 minute headways (time between bus arrivals) on CTS Routes 3, 4 and 6.
  • $1 million contribution to the Charlottesville Housing Fund. Council will decide how to appropriate this money after the budget is adopted.
  • $350,000 for City-wide storm water initiatives.
  • $200,000 has been set aside for improvements in the Belmont Commercial Corridor to address neighborhood concerns about traffic calming and pedestrian safety.
  • $300,000 for new sidewalk construction with precise locations to be approved by Council with input from the Planning Commission.
  • $250,000 for park land acquisition, a figure O’Connell said triples current spending.
  • $130,000 in increased funding for tree planting and trail development.

The budget features the following spending increases:

  • $32,000 in funding for the Paramount Theater to increase youth outreach activities.
  • $75,000 to supplement the operations of the Greyhound bus station downtown.
  • The capital improvement program (CIP) budget is $33.85 million, including a $625,000 contribution for construction of a new YMCA in McIntire Park.
  • The city will provide the same level of funding to social and cultural agencies, including the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.
  • $119,298 in additional funding for the Charlottesville/Albemarle SPCA.
Council will review the budget proposal in a series of work sessions in the coming month. The first public hearing on the  budget will be on Monday, March 15. Council is set to adopt the budget on April 12.

February 26, 2010

County Executive unveils Albemarle’s $293.8 million budget for FY2011

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, February 26, 2010

Albemarle County Executive Bob Tucker has unveiled a budget for FY2011 that is 3.4% less than the current year, and 11.9% less than that for FY2009. The proposed budget of $293.8 million is based on a 74.2 cent tax rate, though lower property assessments translate into a projected $1.9 million reduction in revenue from property taxes.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100225-BOS-Budget

“The budget confronts the difficult realities of reshaping our organization while attempting to establish reasonable expectations for local government services in a time of significantly reduced revenues,” Tucker told the Board at a briefing on Thursday. “Balancing this budget creates very difficult choices that will change the nature of our service levels and funding support in fundamental ways.”

20100225-Budget-Chart1
Revenues from all sources are down. Real estate tax revenues will decrease because property values have declined by 3.18%. Sales tax revenues are down 11.4%, or $1.4 million. There have also been decreases in both state funding and personal property tax.

Tucker has proposed an operating budget of $266.5 million, a capital budget of $8 million, and $18.5 million in revenue sharing funds for the City of Charlottesville. Tucker also suggests an $800,000 shortfall contingency fund in case revenues are lower than expected.

The various cuts continue a restructuring that Tucker says the county has been working towards since the economic downturn began in 2007. With a total of 78 positions either frozen or eliminated since 2007, Albemarle will have as many local government employees as it did in 2002.

Among those 78 positions are 5 police officers. The County has a goal of having 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, but the actual ratio is closer to 1.2 according to Bryan Elliot, the county’s assistant county executive for community services.

“This action is translating into increased response times for both urban and rural parts of the county to priority-one calls,” Elliot said.

At least one position has been unfrozen. Deputy County Executive Tom Foley said a “business auditor” will be restored in order to track down unpaid taxes. The move is one recommendation from a efficiency study conducted last year by the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, a building inspector will be reassigned to staff the county’s new land use revalidation program.

Affordable housing initiatives will be reduced with the County saving $190,000 by eliminating its down payment assistance program. A housing counselor position has also been cut, and rental subsidies for the Wood’s Edge apartment complex will be phased out.

However, some expenditures had to be increased due to state mandates and other cost increases, including a $203,450 increase in funding for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Last year, the SPCA argued that both Charlottesville and Albemarle were not paying their fair share to the agency, which is the region’s official animal shelter. The county will also pay an additional $426,000 in employee health and dental benefits.

Other highlights:

  • Funding for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library will be reduced by 5%, but Tucker said the county would not support the closing of branches in Scottsville or Crozet.
  • Zoning complaints that are not directly related to health and safety will receive a lesser priority from county staff.
  • The County will no longer be a member of several organizations, such as the Virginia Municipal League, the Alliance of Innovation and the Virginia Institute for Government. County will continue to be member of economic development agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce and Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.
  • County will no longer help fund “bulk waste amnesty days” held by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, saving $22,000.
  • Funding for local community development agencies will be reduced between 5% and 10%, including the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, StreamWatch, and the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District.
  • The County will no longer pursue environmental complaints but will forward them on to federal and state officials.
  • Efforts to calm traffic in neighborhoods will not be made, as there is no longer a county transportation planner.
  • Funding for ACE program will continue for at least one more year, with a one-time $350,000 transfer from transportation balance in the CIP. No more general revenue funding will be used.
  • Funding for implementing master plans has been eliminated, meaning no further sidewalks or streetscapes for at least the next five years.

Supervisors had little comment after the briefing. Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) called the budget “sobering news.” Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said he needed to time to reflect before he could make a comment.

Members of the public can weigh in with their thoughts on the proposed budget at a public hearing to be held next Wednesday at 6:00 PM in Lane Auditorium. After that, the Board will hold a series of work sessions to amend Tucker’s proposed budget before its adoption in early April.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Briefing on the budget from County Executive Bob Tucker
  • 10:10 – Tucker describes the goals that helped shape the budget
  • 12:15 – Tucker discusses highlights in the budget
  • 14:30 – Tucker addresses 5% funding cut for library
  • 18:30 – Tucker describes how tax rate will affect tax bills, with most resident seeing a decrease
  • 21:15 – Deputy County Executive Tom Foley describes how community development services will be affected
  • 35:35 – Foley directly address discusses service impacts in community development
  • 39:05 – Assistant County Executive Bryan Elliot outlines reductions to community services
  • 45:45 – Elliot discusses how affordable housing initiatives are affected by budget
  • 50:00 – Elliot addresses how parks and spending on cultural events will be affected
  • 53:15 – Elliot describes reduction in funding for Jefferson-Madison Regional Library
  • 56:45 – Tucker wraps up the briefing on the budget
  • 1:02:30 – Tucker outlines next steps in the budget process


 

October 16, 2009

Senior Statesmen of Virginia hold forum for all six Albemarle Supervisor candidates

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 16, 2009

All six candidates for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors participated in a forum sponsored by the non-partisan Senior Statesmen of Virginia on October 15, 2009. Samuel Miller District candidates Madison Cummings (D), John Lowry (I) and Duane Snow (R) sat alongside Rio District candidates David Slutzky (D) and Rodney Thomas (R). Jack Jouett District incumbent Dennis Rooker (I) was also on the panel even though he faces no opposition.

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After each candidate gave a five-minute opening statement, they answered questions from the audience about land use taxation, the role of chain stores in Albemarle’s economic plan and cooperation with the City of Charlottesville. Each candidate was also given a chance to make a closing “wrap-up” statement.

20091014-SSV
The opening statements offered a chance for each candidate to explain why he is running. Rooker pointed to many achievements the Board of Supervisors has made during the past eight years, including maintaining a AAA bond rating.  Thomas said his time as Chairman of the Albemarle County Planning Commission prepared him to serve as a Supervisor. Slutzky said he was a hard worker who would put in the time to continue to serve Albemarle County. Snow said he was qualified for the job by his lifelong residency as well as his experience as a business owner. Lowry called for the creation of an economic development department. Cummings pointed to his service on the School Board as a reason why he should be elected.

The following are highlighted responses from the five questions asked by the audience.

Question 1:  What action would you take to enable restaurant chains such as the Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel, as well as big box stores such as the Home Depot, to open in Albemarle County?

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “We make it almost impossible for them to come here because we demand so much from them…”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett): “We do not choose which businesses want to come here. We provide adequate land uses for businesses to locate here. We have today about 3 million square feet of commercial space that is approved in the County but has not been built out.”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio): “The [County’s] maximum footprint is 65,000 square feet… I think that probably should be doctored a little bit to let the bigger stores come in…”

David Slutzky (D-Rio): “The Department of Conservation and Recreation issues some draft regulations that were ruthless in protecting the bay, but they also were going to have a profound chilling effect on the business climate in the Commonwealth in Virginia…I came up with an alternative proposal… They’ll be finalized and signed by the Governor later this year.”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller): “Businesses have to want to come here. Is the County perceived as being friendly to business? We need to have an economic development office to invite businesses here.”

Madison Cummings: (D-Samuel Miller): “If we’re not welcoming to businesses… we need to be working on that… I do hear occasionally that there are County employees who are less welcoming and sometimes rude. I would hope that we would work on that.”

Question 2: How would you join with Charlottesville government to help in making both areas save taxpayer dollars?

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio):”I would plan a meeting to do something with the revenue sharing… Right now we have no say over that money that is spent inside of the City of Charlottesville. $18.8 million is what the check is going to be for in January.”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett): “City and County cooperate on many, many things… We can always do more.”

David Slutzky (D-Rio): “The City runs the bus system… the bus system is very downtown-centric yet 80% of our commercial activity is along [U.S. 29]. I would like to see us enter into a collaboration with the City to form a Regional Transit Authority.”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “We have to be careful that in the effort to collaborate, [that] we don’t get carried away with spending…”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller): “We have a City operating independently inside the County and logically the two really ought to be together completely so we wouldn’t have an overlap in the school system and police, fire and rescue…”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller): “I was on the School Board in the late 90’s and I approached the superintendent and [asked] how we could cut this dog.gone transportation budget? I tried to work and see if maybe we could meld at least in the urban area the two transportation systems for the schools… One opportunity maybe we could consider again.”

Question 3: The Daily Progress recently reported that housing prices have dropped by 20%. How should the Board respond to lower real estate assessments?

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “There’s nothing we can do about raising those property values back up until the economy improves. But in the meantime you can’t tell someone that is already struggling to make ends meet that we have to raise taxes… Cut the waste in the County and then from there we can make decisions. Do you realize the County has never had a zero-based budget?”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett): “The County actually did try zero-based budgeting back in 1990 and then they went away from it… What we do today is what I would call a modified zero-based budget. We do look at every line item in the budget to determine whether or not it’s something we need to fund… Actual full-fledged zero-based budgeting is an incredibly time-demanding… At the end of the day it was abandoned because it took up a lot of time that could have been spent elsewhere… Before we raise rates, we always need to look for efficiencies and make sure we are getting the most out of the revenues we currently have.”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller): “Relying on property taxes alone is unsustainable.. You could have $20 million from commercial taxes over time that could be a replacement…It’s not a crisis of wasteful spending. We have a crisis of not having enough revenues to provide the services we like.”

David Slutzky (D-Rio): “You’ve got to minimize your expenses and you’ve got to increase your revenues… I voted against the turf fields that were going to be put in the schools…I find it frustrating in a campaign process where candidates sit there and say they’re going to cut the waste… if we’re interested in zero-based budgeting, that must mean that these candidates have already looked at the budget and have at least some suggestions of what waste they want to see cut, and I haven’t been hearing that so far.”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio): “There’s a lot of ways that you can cut. You want to cut the waste out of the budget… I think it’s going to be obvious as to where we need to make the cuts when we get into the budget, and cut the wasteful spending.”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller): “We perhaps are at zero-based budgeting now whether we want to be or not. We’re at least at baseline budgeting because of the number of folks [in County government] that are frozen.”

Question 4: “What negative results would occur if land use taxation were to be eliminated?”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett):”There probably are some properties out there that have been getting a benefit for that tax break that might not qualify, and we want to make certain that the program is only going to those who meet the definition... We decided to go with revalidation to see where that would lead us.”

David Slutzky (D-Rio): “I can’t imagine our board would eliminate the program. I certainly wouldn’t support it… It provides immense value in that it does create an incentive for rural lands to be protected for a period of time…”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “I don’t think it’s a matter of taxes. It’s a matter of personal property rights… The people that are living in the County that are getting a tax break on their property, most of them don’t use the services that those in the urban ring use.”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio): “Farmers would not be able to afford to run their farms if the program was done away with… I don’t know of any land use participant that is a land speculator… I can’t imagine anyone in the County doing that.”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller):”It’s a sacred duty to maintain the rural areas of Albemarle County and other areas. Land use taxation relief helps to do that.”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller): “The agriculture industry would completely go away. The timber industry would disappear, too.”

Question 5: What are your views on the bypass around Charlottesville?

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller): “In the 70’s, they were talking about the western bypass. We talked about it and I said, why wouldn’t they talk about going down U.S. 15? What doesn’t make sense about that? That was before Historic Green Springs set itself as a historical area, so that makes it more difficult now… The western bypass, the topography there is not attractive. It’s terribly expensive…I think we need to drive a stake through its heart permanently.”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller):”I’d like to speak on the seriousness ofn the ability to fund road improvements in our area. We have a problem of flow right now. We have a state that is not sending money to our community… It’s not a lack of planning that we’re missing. We’re missing a lack of funding… It’s not the bypass that’s so important. We need lanes connecting Hydraulic to the traditional 29 bypass. We need the rural road program to be funded.”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “They tell us that roughly 10% of the traffic we have in this area goes straight through the 29 area and out of the County. They say that in building a bypass we’re building it mainly for that 10%. What we really need is to make it easier for the 90% that are moving around inside of the city to get around more effectively.”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio): “I really like the [Western] bypass… I thought it was a very good internal road that we needed… If the bypass had been put in, it would have eliminated a high percentage of the cars blocking or backing up at the 250 bypass interchange…”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett): “There is no funding for transportation in the state… Somebody needs to solve the transportation funding problem… Hillsdale needs to be built… We know we need to add a lane on 29 from Hydraulic Road south to the 250 Bypass along with an extra ramp at Best Buy… we don’t have any money for it.”

David Slutzky (D-Rio): “I strongly agree with my opponent Rodney that we cannot let 29 become an expressway, and I think that was one of the original reasons why the community looked at the so-called Western Bypass… If the Board is going to be deliver anything out of Places29, it is that parallel road that is Berkmar that’s been described already.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Introduction from David Perkins of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia
  • 03:30 – Opening statement from Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett)
  • 09:00 - Opening statement from Rodney Thomas (R-Rio)
  • 10:30 - Opening statement from David Slutzky (D-Rio)
  • 16:00 - Opening statement from Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller)
  • 20:15 - Opening statement from John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller)
  • 25:45 – Opening statement from Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller)
  • 31:20 – Question #1
  • 44:00 – Question #2
  • 56:30 - Question #3
  • 1:10:30 - Question #4
  • 1:26:00 - Question #5
  • 1:39:00 - Wrap-up comment from Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller):
  • 1:42:00 - Wrap-up comment from John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller)
  • 1:44:40 - Wrap-up comment from Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller)
  • 1:47:15 - Wrap-up comment from Rodney Thomas (R-Rio)
  • 1:50:00 - Wrap-up comment from Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett)
  • 1:53:30 - Wrap-up comment from David Slutzky (D-Rio)

June 03, 2009

Supervisors approve preliminary design of Crozet Library

20090603-crozet-main-street

By Julia Glendening
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Albemarle County’s Crozet Library project team presented their initial design for the new Crozet Library and the Board of Supervisors approved it with enthusiasm. The project will now proceed into the design and development phase. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring of 2010 and be completed in 2011.

Bill Letteri, the County’s Director of Facilities Development, spoke to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on June 3, 2009 to share the conceptual design and to request authorization for the next phase of the project. His presentation included a timeline of the Committee’s progress since it was established in the summer of 2008. The architectural designs were presented by Melanie Hennigan of Grimm & Parker Architects.

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20090603-Hennigan
Architect Melanie Hennigan, Grimm + Parker Architects

The library will be a two level building that will have all of its facilities on the upper level. The lower level will be mostly unfinished and Hennigan shared the option that it could be developed further in the future. The upper level will be accessible directly from the parking lot or from an elevator and stairs via the Crozet Avenue entrance. Features of the library will include a children’s section, numerous reading areas, computers, and a large reference section.

There was unanimous approval from the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) commented on the potential for the lower level and she commended the architects for designing large windows that would allow the library to be naturally lit.

“This is a beautiful building and I think your design efforts and the community’s design efforts have resulted in a terrific amenity to downtown Crozet. This is going to be a successful anchor,” said Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio).

Letteri also emphasized that the present condition of the economy would make the Crozet Library project less expensive if construction was moved ahead of schedule. The original estimate is $6.3 million, but Letteri said he believed there is the potential to save 20% if the project begins construction in the fall of 2009 due to the favorable construction market.

Slutzky said that the timing of the project had already been determined in the FY2010 budget discussions and believed it was unrealistic for the project to be pushed ahead of schedule.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) was interested in the prospect of a less expensive library and said he would want to move the project forward if possible. Slutzky agreed that it would be financially beneficial, however, he did not believe that it was at all probable and reiterated that the construction schedule had already been established within the budget process.

Letteri said he only wanted the Board of Supervisors to be aware of the amount of money the County could save on this project.

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) agreed that the information was useful in case federal funding was made available to Albemarle County. “It is the number one library project in the state,” she said.

The Board of Supervisors approved the preliminary design of the Crozet Library and agreed to review the timing of the project in the fall. They will examine how the construction market has changed and if the library construction could be started sooner .  The design development phase will take about three months and result in a preliminary site plan for submission to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors this fall.

January 14, 2009

County planners review $100 million reduction to capital projects

Albemarle County’s five year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) could be shrunk from $239 million to $138 million due to declines in government revenue from taxes, proffers and grants.  The County Planning Commission heard a report from the CIP Oversight Committee at their meeting on January 13, 2009.

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CIP-recommendations Committee member Bill Letteri, who works as the County’s Director of Facilities Development, said reductions in County revenues have meant fewer dollars are being transferred into the capital budget. As such, only one program has been added to the program this year, and that is the County’s contribution to the expansion of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

The Board of Supervisors directed staff last year to reduce the amount transferred from general revenue to the capital budget by an equivalent of 3 cents of the tax rate. Two cents of that had been dedicated to transportation, the Acquisition of Conservation Easements program and other infrastructure projects. The CIP is also not receiving as much money from proffers and grants. The reduction in funding will cut over $100 million worth of projects that had previously been programmed, from all areas of County government.

Letteri said the public works section of the CIP was cut to a level that would allow the County’s infrastructure to be maintained, but there will be no expansions. Letteri said reduction to the neighborhood plan implementation would leave enough money to pay for components of the Crozet and Pantops Master Plans, but not other plans such as those for Places29 and the Village of Rivanna.

“Everything that we’re doing to the CIP is about either deferring projects or in some cases eliminating them,” Letteri said, adding that the County would need to increase its level of borrowing in order to maintain even the reductions. He recommended changing the County’s debt policy to encourage projects that can leverage outside funds.

One project getting scrutiny is the County's contribution to the new YMCA facility being design for McIntire Park in Charlottesville. The committee suggested moving a $1.25 million project to help pay for  a competitive swimming pool at the YMCA outside of the five-year CIP as the County is currently reviewing other proposals for improved swimming facilities from Crozet Park and from Star Swimming (Fairview Pool). The Board has also previously committed another $2 million to support the construction of the facility, but that contribution is not programmed in the CIP. 

The proposed amendments to the CIP also push back construction of a replacement for Northside library to at least FY2014. The facility’s current lease expires sometime during FY13, so staff is currently negotiating an extension.

Projects suggested for deferral from five-year CIP:

  • Replacements for voting machines ($394,000)
  • Pantops Fire Station ($6.5 million)
  • Ivy Fire Station
  • Crozet community park ($2 million)
  • Northside Library replacement facility ($17 million)
  • $1.25 million commitment to fund competitive swimming at YMCA until alternatives can be reviewed

Projects suggested for elimination:

  • Climate Protection Program ($1,016,000)
  • North Fork Rivanna Natural Area ($114,000)

Other reductions:

  • Funding for implementation of Neighborhood Plans reduced by $3 million
  • Roadway landscaping reduced by $1.1 million
  • Sidewalk construction reduced by $1.1 million
  • Transportation funding cut by $10 million due to elimination of specific capital transfer
  • County’s contribution to ACE reduced by 50%, saving $4.6 million
  • Funding for stormwater program reduced by $3.7 million

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) wanted to know if the cuts to master plans would mean that no further master plans be adopted. County Director of Planning Wayne Cilimberg said the money in the CIP for neighborhood plans would go to specific projects, and not the actual development of the plans themselves. He confirmed that implementation of Places29 could be delayed if there is no funding .

Edgerton also called for a restoration of funds for the ACE program. “One of the priorities of our comp plan is the preservation of the rural area and this is the only vehicle that’s been made available to the County,” Edgerton said.  His comments were echoed by Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large)

The Commission made no specific changes to the committee’s recommendations, which will go before the Board at a later date.

Fania Gordon & Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from Bill Letteri , Facilities Development Manager for Albemarle County
  • 05:30 - Letteri details the County's policy on acquiring debt
  • 08:00 - Letteri details the differences between the adopted plan and the proposed changes
  • 22:30 - Leterri describes the delay to the YMCA contribution
  • 24:20 - Planning Commission begins questioning Letteri
  • 25:00 - Commissioner Marcia Joseph asks about the reduction of a "climate protection program" from CIP
  • 26:30 - Joseph asks what cuts to stormwater program will entail
  • 27:30 - Commissioner Bill Edgerton asks about cuts to neighborhood plan implementation 
  • 28:30 - Edgerton asks for details on cuts to sidewalk funding
  • 31:30 - Edgerton says he strongly supports restoration of funds for ACE
  • 33:20 - Chairman Eric Strucko asks about proffer contributions to capital fund
  • 36:30 - Strucko asks how decisions on capital transfer rate were made
  • 38:30 - Public hearing comment from County resident Sean Haggerty
  • 41:00 - Joseph seconds Edgerton's support for ACE

August 07, 2008

Gordonsville Mayor asks Albemarle to support new town library

Photo: Kyle Amborn © The Mayor of Gordonsville has asked the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to donate money for the construction of a new library in his Orange County town. In his presentation to the Board on August 6, 2008, Bob Coiner said many of the library’s patrons are Albemarle County residents. Gordonsville is not part of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system to which Albemarle belongs.

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The existing 900 square feet library is one of Orange’s three libraries, and is located in the town hall. Coiner said it is not an adequate space.

”If you open the door to walk in, if someone’s checking out a book, everyone has to move over,” Coiner said. There’s only one computer, no bathrooms, and many books are stored off-site in a warehouse. He estimates that at least forty percent of library users come from outside Orange County, given that Gordonsville is less than a mile away from the Albemarle and Louisa Counties.      

The Orange County government has allocated $800,000 for a new library, but the Friends of the Gordonsville Library would prefer to build a design that would cost $1.1 million which would allow for expansion. To make up the $300,000 gap, Coiner said the group is seeking help from multiple sources, including Albemarle. They have until October 1 to come up with the extra funding.

“This could potentially be an Albemarle County library if you look 50 or 60 years down the road,” Coiner said. In the mean-time, it’s serving a lot more people who don’t want to drive all the way from northeast Albemarle to get books. Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) asked Coiner to quantify exactly how many Albemarle residents used the Gordonsville library, but Coiner could not give an accurate figure because the library only qualifies patrons as residents and non-residents.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) suggested the matter should be referred to the library board, but warned that this is a tight budget year. Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) said that Albemarle County is building its own new library in Crozet.

County Attorney Larry Davis said in this situation the County cannot send money to a town in another jurisdiction, but could allocate the money to the library board, which could then donate the money to Friends of the Gordonsville Library.  But he said there would have to be some sort of an agreement in place.

Boyd said there were a lot of issues to deal with, and he asked for the matter to be referred to the Library Board to make a recommendation in advance of the Board’s September 3rd meeting.  Thomas said a donation could be “a creative way to get a lot of bang for our buck” but that there were many issues to work through.

Sean Tubbs

May 08, 2008

Supervisors seek lower construction costs for Crozet Library

Wsr
This summer, a team of citizens, elected officials and library staff will begin work on the design of a new library for Crozet. One of the charges for the steering committee: Keep constructions costs low.

The new library was called for in the 2004 Crozet Master Plan, and is expected to be an anchor for the downtown. The Board of Supervisors approved construction of a 20,000 square foot building in March 2007, and have appropriated just under $10 million in capital funds.  Construction is scheduled to begin next year with completion by the fall of 2011.

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Bill Letteri, the County’s Director of Facilities Development, approached the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on May 7, 2008 to ask them to form a steering committee to oversee the design work. In all, he suggested 12 members be appointed to the committee, including two members of the Board of Supervisors. Letteri said the committee would be charged with reviewing designs and ultimately making a recommendation to the Board. 

Crozet-library
This house was demolished in March to make way for the new Crozet Library (Photo: Jim Duncan)
In response to a question from Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), Letteri said the construction project is effectively budgeted at $325 per square foot.  Slutzky called that a problem, given the public outcry over the cost per square foot of the new Hollymead Fire Station, which was over $220 a square foot. Slutzky voted against the library in part because of cost concerns and the size. 

“I said that a library is an imperative element of what we’re trying to do to revitalize downtown Crozet, but that I thought that building a structure that was half the size would serve that purpose,” Slutzky said.
Letteri said his office feels the library cost is reasonable, especially given the LEED certification that will be sought by the County. Slutzky said LEED generally adds about 5% to the cost of a new building, and that Letteri’s numbers were questionable.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said the costs seemed in line, given the sharp escalation of constructions materials and labor. 

“I think we should work to lower it, but I think what we need to do here is look at what we’re planning to build, look at what the alternatives might be if we lowered the cost, and then decide if that’s what we want to fund,” Rooker said. He also asked Letteri to explain at some point how his office calculates cost estimates. 

Slutzky said he wants to make sure the steering committee  that is clearly directed to keeping the cost per square foot down.

“I understand it is a capital budget, but we took a penny off the capital contribution already this year, and I’m just saying it’s a useful cautionary element of this process to admonish the participants as part of their

charge to pay careful attention to the cost of the building while they’re discussing what they want in it,” Slutzky said.

Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) also took issue with a 10% cost over-run contingency built into the construction budget, which is included in the $325 figure. Slutzky said the steering committee should be encouraged to find ways to cut costs. 

“I just want to draw their attention succinctly to the idea that they need to be mindful of what this all costs at all times,” Slutzky said. Rooker said the bid process would allow the County to seek the lowest possible cost for construction, but the design should be limited to what the County actually needs.

Letteri  said the Committee would spend the summer developing site models, reviewing potential facades, as well as refining and completing the library’s program. In the fall, the steering committee would present a full recommendation to the Board.  Supervisors Ann Mallek (White Hall) and Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) will serve on the Committee with Letteri serving as chair. 

Sean Tubbs

August 13, 2007

Location for Northern Albemarle library under review

20070806librarylocations
      A map depicting existing and potential library locations

Albemarle County officials and the Board of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library are currently putting the finishing touches on plans to open a new library in Crozet by 2011. Soon after construction begins, they’ll begin planning  work on a new facility to replace an overcrowded branch in the Albemarle Square shopping center. But the location of this new branch has not yet been finalized. 

"[Northside] Library is too small for the amount of use it gets," according to John Halliday, director of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library. He said the library spends $250,000 to rent the 15,572 square foot space, which opened in 1991.  Halliday says the County would like to get see the replacement project get underway by 2013.

By 2015, the County projects a population of 111,000 residents, who will need 77,700 square feet of library space.  That’s based on a goal of 0.7 square feet of library space for every resident, according to Halliday, and a projected deficit of over 37,000 square feet.

In 1999, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library conducted a building assessment survey for its entire area, which covers Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties as well as the City of Charlottesville. The top priority for Albemarle County was to build a new library to serve Crozet, which currently only has 1,728 square feet in the town’s former train depot.

A replacement site downtown has been selected and is expected to open in 2011 at a cost of $8.5 million.  While the 20,000 square foot building will be two stories, all of the library’s services will be provided on one 15,000 square foot level. A June 2007 fact sheet on the new Crozet library states it will “insure a consistent and complementary approach to the look and feel of Downtown Crozet.”

The second priority identified was to replace Northside Branch. The report suggested replacing it with two facilities. In addition to a replacement near the existing branch, a second building would be built north of Airport Road.

"But, recently, in discussions with the county and population projections and all of that, what we pretty much settled on is a library that would be a minimum of 30,000 square feet at Forest Lakes South," said Halliday. That’s in line with current library policy, which is to locate facilities so they are spaced six miles apart. Halliday says the board recently determined a library north of Airport road would be too close to Greene County, and would not adequately cover Albemarle's urban fringe.

"The county and the regional library are pretty much focusing on building a library at a minimum of 30,000 square feet at the intersection of Ashwood and 29," said Halliday. According to county records, this land was donated to the county as part of the rezoning of Forest Lakes South, and is adjacent to the current entrance of that subdivision.  The land was given ‘for such public use facilities as the County may select,’ but the developer retained the right to hide any building with a visual buffer.

“The intent was to leave the use of this land flexible so as to accommodate the most appropriate public use for that area at the appropriate time,” said Elaine Echols, the County’s Principal Planner, in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Libraryblock
Artist's conception for how a library at North Pointe might be integrated into the community. The building is on the left.  Image from northpointecharlottesville.com

But, last summer, the Board of Supervisors approved the North Pointe development, and in doing so, accepted a proffer from Great Eastern Management Company for space to construct a branch library 2.2 miles North of Ashwood Blvd with a footprint of 12,500 square feet. 

Since that decision, Supervisors have said they didn’t realize a site had already been designated in Forest Lakes South.

"What they proposed at North Pointe, it's a small site, and it would be a two-story library at half the space we need to serve that area of the county,” Halliday said. He added that the library board’s preference would be to have all new libraries built on one floor to minimize operating costs, as well as for safety reasons.

“The main reason for that is that parents don't want to come in to the library and have their kids upstairs while they're downstairs,” said Halliday.

The proffer accepted by the Board of Supervisors sets forth a pad of 12,500 square feet on which the library would be built. The plan would allow for a two story building to be built for use as a library.

Valerie Long represents the Great Eastern Management Company, the developer of North Pointe. She says the proffer was written to allow for flexibility when it comes time to build the library, which she calls an important component of North Pointe’s effort to embrace the County’s Neighborhood Model.

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The library block set forth in a proffer made by the developer North Pointe before rezoning. Image from northpointecharlottesville.com

“The library block is an important component of the mixed use community,” she said.  “Down the road, if for whatever reason they want a bigger building, the proffer permits that to happen.”

But to do so will mean a trade-off which would alter the character of that spot, with either a smaller park, or
a smaller parking lot. Long says the developer would work with the county to find a solution.

“I’d be surprised if they wanted the park reduced or eliminated completely,” she said, adding that open space and the library are both crucial elements of the development.

“It creates a real destination for the residents to come down to that part of the community, and for others to come in. It creates a pedestrian friendly environment and adds to the synergy of the development.”

Long compared North Pointe to the Downtown Mall, and said many people go downtown to the library, and then end up having lunch, running errands, or going shopping. She says a library developed in the lot proffered at North Pointe would make the community more successful.  If the County opts not to use the land to build a library, there is the opportunity to build another county building for other public purposes. 

"It would be nice to have a library in the North Pointe development, but as far as county-wide needs go, I think we'd be better off with the Ashwood-29 location," Halliday said.  "We'd be happy to have a small branch up there, but looking at the larger scheme, it doesn't really fit into the pattern of one library serving a six mile radius.” He added that the Ashwood location would be more convenient to Albemarle residents who are closer to the City.

Ashwood3
      The area marked in red is the JMRL Board's preferred location for the Northside replacement

A library at Ashwood and 29 would sit at the entrance of Forest Lakes South. To get to this location, patrons would most likely have to make a separate trip in their vehicles. While the draft Places29 Master Plan calls for increased pedestrian/bicycle paths and future bus rapid transit along Route 29, which would give patrons other ways to reach any library in the corridor, it also shows the need for a grade-separated interchange to be built near this location.  Residents of the Forest Lakes Neighborhood Association are asking that the County-owned land  be used for the right of way for that interchange. 

In making their final location decision, Albemarle County officials will have to evaluate both proffers and the transportation issues, making a determination if the new library should be on the edge of a traditional cul-de-sac development or in the town center of what North Pointe’s developers intend to be an example of the County’s new neighborhood model.

Meanwhile, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library has other projects in its pipeline.

"Another project we have online is the renovation of the Central Library," Halliday said. The building on McIntire Building was built in 1903 and is showing signs of its age. The renovation project has a current price tag of $21 million to be paid for by the City and the County. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has set $10.5 million in its preliminary fiscal 2013 capital improvement budget for that project.

After Northside’s replacement is built, the next major project in line will be a new facility to be built across from Monticello High School.

Sean Tubbs