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In the end, 90 minutes just wasn’t enough.

At the Fluvanna library on Thursday (Sept. 28), local elected officials met with Delegates Lee Ware (65th District), Rob Bell (58th District), State Senator Mark Peake and a representative from Fifth District Congressman Tom Garrett’s office to talk about their hopes and dreams for the coming year.

With only 15 minutes to go, the group was still discussing the third of five items on their agenda.

It was a loaded agenda, made even heavier by what seemed like great ideas that just kept popping up – like partnering with Virginia Tech to do educational farming at Pleasant Grove.
Board of Supervisors Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) presided over the meeting that included the following agenda items:

  • Public school funding;
  • Local law enforcement: search warrants and applications for concealed hand gun permits;
  • Department of Education and Children’s Services Act funding; and
  • Zion Crossroads economic development opportunities and partnerships.


In his opening remarks, Ware called Medicare the “Pacman of budgeting” but promised his priority is school funding.

Bell said he was most interested in hearing about criminal justice issues Fluvanna faced.

Peake thanked everyone for gathering in one place to be heard as one voice.

Fluvanna School Board Chair Carol Carr (Rivanna) highlighted the schools’ graduation rate and top accreditation statistics and said it was largely because of county support. But there’s still room for improvement.
“From my perspective the lowest [test] scores are among our disadvantaged students,” Carr said. “Our biggest need is in helping those in poverty and it is rather hidden.”

Carr said statistics show the highest rates of mental health problems are with the youngest students who are economically disadvantaged.

She said the schools are having a hard time finding and keeping school psychologists and counselors.

Mike Sheridan said there is one counselor for every 500 students. “Try establishing a relationship with students with those numbers,” he said. “Anything you can do to help us there, we’d appreciate.”

School Board member Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) raised the issue of teacher salaries. The two raises in 10 years given by the state were paired with mandated increases in employee contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.

“We do have a teacher shortage,” Johnson said, adding how especially difficult it is to attract and retain special education teachers.

When Mike Sheridan began talking about farming Pleasant Grove, his brother, Commissioner of Revenue Mel Sheridan, suggested timbering a few acres. Mike Sheridan said he thought maybe a vintner program would be good for “teaching them to grow grapes, not necessarily drink wine.” Peake’s aide George Goodwin asked for specifics.

“We’ll get it to you – a master plan,” Mike Sheridan said.

“If you could specify it that could help,” Goodwin said.

Sheriff Eric Hess talked about how difficult it is to get a search warrant at a death scene or in the case of a missing juvenile.

“Currently there is nothing in the statute that allows law enforcement to enter a death scene for documentation, reconstruction or even to observe the body before removal,” Hess said. “Deaths are emotional and the public expects law enforcement to investigate deaths to verify the nature of the death; if criminal they want justice, if not criminal they want verification and closure.”

Investigators run into the same problem with getting electronic service provider account information in death investigations and missing juvenile cases, Hess said.

“Without a readily apparent criminal act, there is no means to obtain a search warrant,” he said.

The General Assembly addressed the same type of issue in fire investigations. There is a code now that allows fire investigators to get a warrant when the origin of the fire is undetermined or investigators can’t get permission to enter the property.

Hess suggested the legislature make a similar law for death and missing juvenile investigations.

Recently legislators gave state police troopers an average raise of $6,500 and sheriff’s deputies an average raise of $800, Hess said.

While he said he didn’t begrudge the troopers the raise, it makes it difficult for counties to keep their deputies from becoming state troopers because of the difference in pay.

“You get what you pay for,” Hess said. “I could use three more deputies, but I’d rather keep the ones I have and pay them well.”

Children’s Services Act (CSA) Coordinator Bryan Moeller talked about his concerns over proposed rule changes.

A joint Subcommittee for Health and Human Resources Oversight suggested one way to better manage the equality and costs of private day educational programs currently funded through CSA would be to give the money to the Department of Education to manage.

If that happens, there is no guarantee that money will go to private day placement, Moeller said. “Those funds would be best monitored by CSA,” he said.