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December 30, 2011

Plan in works for land swap to create athletic fields at Biscuit Run

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 30, 2011

Throughout this year’s master planning process for the new Biscuit Run State Park, local officials repeatedly pushed for the inclusion of athletic fields. It was also the No. 1 request from the public.

CONCEPT illustration provided by Habitat for Humanity

However, the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation said such facilities were the responsibility of local governments and not something to be included in a state park. DCR staff emphasized at one meeting that they were not “changing their paradigm.”

“We have been barking at the state officials for many months to include fields in the Biscuit Run master plan,” said Bob Crickenberger, Albemarle County’s parks and recreation director. “I don’t think that’s a possibility anymore.”

However, a paradigm shift of another sort appears to be under way. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has stepped forward with a proposal to swap land it owns at the neighboring Southwood Mobile Home Park for land in the state park that it says is well-suited for a complex of up to five fields and parking.

“The county was deeply disappointed that there were no athletic fields as part of the master plan,” said Habitat’s executive director, Dan Rosensweig. “We know that the Biscuit Run development itself deeply divided this community, but there seemed to be one area of 100 percent consensus, and that is the fields are a great need and a great community amenity.”

Continue reading "Plan in works for land swap to create athletic fields at Biscuit Run" »

December 29, 2011

Divided RWSA votes to move sewer pump station from Woolen Mills

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Albemarle County and Charlottesville’s representatives on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board disagreed Wednesday over the location for a replacement for the Rivanna regional pump station.

Source: RWSA and Hazen & Sawyer

The RWSA board voted 4-3 to choose an option that would build a new facility at the site of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

This alternative, known as Option E, would include drilling a 2,000-foot tunnel to extend an existing sewer pipe that runs along the Rivanna River. The firm Hazen & Sawyer estimated this option would cost between $38 million and $40 million.

The county’s representatives on the board argued that replacing the station at its existing location adjacent to the city’s Riverview Park would be more affordable. Hazen & Sawyer estimated that Option A would cost between $25 million and $27 million.

“The direction I’ve gotten from our board is that they there’s a more cost-effective alternative that is $13 million cheaper,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority.

Continue reading "Divided RWSA votes to move sewer pump station from Woolen Mills" »

RWSA authorizes construction contract for new dam

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority voted Wednesday to authorize its executive director to sign a $21.5 million contract to build a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, pending resolution of several loose ends.

“The board authorized me to issue a ‘notice of award’ to Thalle Construction when the contingent items are completed,” Frederick said.

Source: RWSA

These include ratification of a cost-share agreement between the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County; approval by the City Council of a land-use agreement allowing the RWSA to build the dam on land owned by the city; and for the Virginia Department of Transportation to complete a review of changes needed to an embankment where the reservoir meets Interstate 64.

The RWSA must also finalize two property acquisitions on adjacent properties.

In December, the city and the Albemarle County Service Authority announced details of an agreement in which the county would pay for 85 percent of the dam construction costs.

The council will not hold a public hearing on the cost-share agreement until Jan. 17, according to City Manager Maurice Jones. The Albemarle County Service Authority will consider the agreement at its meeting in mid-January.

Continue reading "RWSA authorizes construction contract for new dam " »

December 28, 2011

Tonsler Park master plan prompts debate

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

City councilors put forth differing views recently on whether citizens or landscape architects should drive the planning process for Charlottesville’s parks.

In one of its last actions of the year, the City Council directed staff to begin the master planning process for Tonsler Park, a 7.4-acre facility at the corner of Cherry Avenue and Fifth Street Extended.

Photo credit: Daily Progress

Brian Daly, director of city parks, said work would get under way in the spring by in-house staff rathethan hiring an outside consultant. The goal is to have a master plan for the City Council to review in January 2013.

“The city’s adopted park master planning process will be followed, ensuring multiple opportunities for public input and involvement,” Daly said.

However, Councilor Satyendra Huja said expertise from qualified designers should inform the initial stages of the planning process.

“I am not saying that we should not have citizens participating in planning of parks, but I am saying there is a value to having a professional designer do park plans because they can bring their expertise,” Huja said.

Continue reading "Tonsler Park master plan prompts debate " »

December 27, 2011

After banner year, county will see less road work

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After a huge year for secondary road construction and improvements in 2011, Albemarle County residents can expect to see many fewer road projects taken on by the county in coming years.

With sharp cuts in state money being sent to localities for secondary roads — Albemarle saw a more than 90 percent reduction from a $4 million-plus per year average in the early to mid-2000s to $346,000 this year — the county’s construction docket for 2012 only includes four rural road paving projects.

“Once these are done the question will be, do we continue [with] road paving projects or accrue money for higher-cost projects?” said David Benish, the county’s chief of planning.

Higher priorities that also carry higher price tags, such as the extensions to Hillsdale Drive and Berkmar Drive called for in the Places29 master plan and adding sidewalks and bike lanes to Proffit Road, are currently on hold for lack of funds. In July, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said he would recommend that additional resources be allocated for some of these projects now that Albemarle has cleared the way for construction of the U.S. 29 Western Bypass.

Benish said new funding for secondary roads is still up in the air.

Continue reading "After banner year, county will see less road work" »

December 25, 2011

Crescent Hall renovations to kick off public housing redevelopment

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, December 25, 2011

When the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority adopted a master plan for renovations of the city’s public housing stock in 2010, it anticipated that the Crescent Hall complex would not see an expansion in its number of units.

Photo credit: Daily Progress

That might now change as the CRHA seeks ways to pay for the redevelopment of all 376 units it oversees in Charlottesville.

“There is a discussion on the redevelopment committee at the housing authority to look at how to leverage private resources at Crescent,” said Mayor Dave Norris at a recent City Council meeting.

Federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is decreasing every year. Norris said cities with larger housing authorities have a higher priority when it comes to receiving funds and that the master plan anticipated partnerships with private investors.

“Now there is [talk] about adding additional housing on site, which helps to bring in private capital to do the renovation of the public housing,” Norris said.

Continue reading "Crescent Hall renovations to kick off public housing redevelopment" »

December 21, 2011

Meet Your Government: Maurice Jones

Maurice_JonesMaurice Jones
Charlottesville City Manager

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

I was born at Dewitt Army Hospital on the base of Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County but raised in Dale City, Virginia in Prince William County.

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

I moved to Charlottesville in March of 1993 after accepting a job at NBC 29.

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I currently live in Earlysville but will be moving into the City at some point in 2012.

Family (spouse, kids, etc)?

My wife, Michele, and I have four young children, all boys ranging in age from five months to 5 years.

What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?

I graduated from James Madison University in 1992.

What were you doing before coming to the city government?

I worked in the field of broadcast journalism before becoming Director of Communications for the City of Charlottesville in 1999.

Your job title is City Manager - what, in your own words, would you say you do?

I serve as the Chief Administrator for the City government so my primary job is to work closely with our City Council and staff to provide high quality services to our residents, businesses and visitors. This originates with our City Council Vision and involves a tremendous amount of interaction and engagement with our constituents.

What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?

I enjoy being able to make a difference in our community. I’m blessed to be able to lead an organization that is committed to helping folks solve problems. Whether it’s a deteriorating sidewalk in one of our neighborhoods or addressing the issues related poverty, we are willing to look for different ways to tackle problems. We realize we cannot always solve issues through governmental action but many times we can serve as a catalyst and invite people to the table in an effort to bring about positive change.

I love my job but if I had to pick the most difficult part of it I’d have to say balancing my workload and professional commitments with my personal life.

How does your job most directly impact the average person?

Of course there is a lot of focus on major controversial issues like the water supply plan and the Meadow Creek Parkway. Both are important and have taken up significant portions of my time but in the end the most essential part of my job is developing our budget. It is the foundation by which we as a City government can help build a strong community. Our city’s character is ingrained in our budget. Our generous support of our schools, the commitment we’ve made to our public infrastructure like roads and recreation facilities and the level of protective service we provide through our public safety departments all contribute to the quality of life here for folks in the Charlottesville area, and it all begins with the reasoned and appropriate disbursement of the revenues we receive from our taxpayers. In the end our budget is a reflection of our community’s expectations and vision.

What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the city?

I think the work we’ve done on the Dialogue on Race over the course of the last two years has been vitally important. I was initially the primary staff member on the project and have enjoyed seeing its growth from dialogue to action. The City Council realized that Charlottesville’s long and complicated history of race relations needed to be addressed in a comprehensive manner and the community has embraced the project. There may be disagreement from time to time on what action is needed to move us forward but in the end we know we’re a stronger community because of our willingness to take on this issue.

What is a little known fact about you?

Although I certainly do not consider myself an expert in music, I do have an eclectic taste in it. You’ll find an assortment of music in my CD shelves and on my iPod. From Beethoven to Kirk Franklin to Beyonce, I enjoy a variety of artists from different backgrounds.

What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc?

I used to spend my free time reading, playing sports or going to movies but now most of my time spent outside of work is with my family. Spending quality time with my wife and children has become my hobby. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maurice Jones in the news

December 11, 2011 - Meadows residents seek protection from Stonefield traffic

October 26, 2011 - RWSA to advertise bids for new Ragged Mountain dam

September 28, 2011 - City will pay to initiate work on dredging proposal

March 5, 2011 - City Manager Jones to present ‘cautiously optimistic’ budget for FY2012

City Council falls short of consenting to parkway opening

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Charlottesville City Council approved an ordinance Monday that asks the Virginia Department of Transportation to make several safety improvements before Albemarle County’s portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway is opened early next year.

However, councilors made clear the vote did not indicate they were pleased with the imminent opening of the road that will eventually connect the two communities while cutting through a city park.

“I am not for consenting because I think that our consent is not necessary and is not being asked for,” Councilor Kristin Szakos said. “[VDOT] will do it whether we consent or not.”

Construction of the county’s portion of the parkway was completed in mid-October. Earlier this month, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking VDOT to open the road to the public.

City staff held negotiations with VDOT and the county and determined a series of improvements to mitigate the effects of opening the parkway. They include longer turn lanes as well as a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour as the parkway approaches Melbourne Road.

Szakos said she could support a request that VDOT make those improvements.

Continue reading "City Council falls short of consenting to parkway opening " »

Biosolids legislation not likely in coming General Assembly session

By Sean Tubbs & Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Albemarle County staff have told the Board of Supervisors that legislation to further restrict land application of treated human waste, known as biosolids, is not likely to be passed in the near future.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is in the process of adopting new regulations to govern biosolids. They were approved by the State Water Control Board in late summer but have not yet taken effect.

“Our suspicion is that the General Assembly will probably be reluctant to address [biosolids] until the new regulations play out to see whether or not they are sufficient protections for the concerns that have been raised,” said county attorney Larry Davis.

Albemarle County, as with all Virginia localities, cannot pass ordinances to prevent the use of biosolids. The county does have authority to perform inspections of treated land to verify compliance with state regulations.

Nearly 1,900 dry tons of treated waste were spread on Albemarle County fields this year through the end of November, according to DEQ records. The material comes from wastewater treatment plants in Washington D.C. and other large cities.

Continue reading "Biosolids legislation not likely in coming General Assembly session" »

December 17, 2011

Renewable energy center unveiled at Albemarle middle school

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, December 17, 2011

A cheering throng of Henley Middle School students gathered around a new 45-foot wind turbine Friday to witness a ribbon cutting and dedication of the school’s Renewable Energy Resource Center.

Student, staff and expert speakers all praised the new center as a source of clean energy and educational opportunities for students, with eighth grader Alex Kingsley calling it an “amazing addition to the school.”

“Enjoy it — it’s great to have these [energy] systems in the school,” said Richard Wright, director of business development at Baker Renewable Energy, the firm undertaking the project. “You’ll be able to generate your own power on site here from wind and from the sun.”

The renewable energy center will feature three different clean energy technologies: the wind turbine, 182 roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels and six solar thermal collectors, which use the sun’s energy to heat water.


Continue reading "Renewable energy center unveiled at Albemarle middle school" »