A look back at 2021 — part four

Published 7:45 pm Saturday, January 29, 2022

Throughout the month of January each Friday edition of The Farmville Herald will highlight the events of 2021. This week’s edition takes a look back at the months of October through December 2021.

October 2021

• Crossroads audit results released

After being presented with the findings of Phase 1 of the Crossroads Community Services Board (CCSB) forensic audit, the CCSB Board of Directors has approved to move forward with Phase 1(b) of the investigation.

During the Tuesday, Sept. 28, CCSB board meeting, directors were given a presentation regarding the completed Phase 1 of the forensic audit of the organization. The audit investigated financial and other data records covering the period of July 1, 2019, to Aug. 31, 2021.

Phase 1 of the audit appeared to yield no unlawful activities or misappropriation of funds across the organization, but the investigation did uncover areas of weakness in Crossroads’ accounting software that officials hope to see addressed.

Barrett reportedly found no incidents of misuse or impropriety during his investigation of the many allegations against Crossroads, including concerns such as financial statement fraud, food stamp, credit card and gas card fraud, financial document shredding, etc.

• School board approves extensive elementary renovation

The Prince Edward County School Board voted to send a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to give the elementary school a comprehensive renovation.

The decision was made at the Oct. 6 School Board meeting after a previous week’s joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors.

Teachers, parents and administration have complained that the school building has roof leaks that have led to mold and other related problems. Mold-ridden classrooms are not in use this year, Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson said.

At the joint meeting, Stephen Halsey of Moseley Architects presented these issues along with several others, including outdated infrastructure, electrical and HVAC elements.

• Hearing scheduled for massive solar project

The Buckingham Board of Supervisors has voted to schedule a public hearing at its November Board meeting to discuss a special use permit (SUP) for a potential 1,996-acre, 149-Megawatt (MW) solar farm.

The expansive project could bring in $14.8 million in revenue to the county, but locals are concerned it could also be an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

During the Tuesday, Oct. 12, Board of Supervisors meeting, Buckingham Planning and Zoning Administrator Nicci Edmondston introduced supervisors to Case 21-SUP290.

As part of the case, applicant Riverstone Solar, LLC, is requesting a special use permit to allow for the construction of the 149-MW utility-scale solar facility in the county.

The project, if approved, would be located in northern Buckingham on four parcels comprised of nearly 2,000 acres of land owned by timberland giant Weyerhaeuser. The property is roughly bound by Bridgeport Road to the south, Route 20 to the west, Hardware Road to the east and is divided through the center by Paynes Pond Road.

• Pain at the pumps

With summer ending and fall coming, consumers historically see a drop in gas prices. However, this fall, drivers may continue to feel pain at the pump when fueling up.

According to AAA, the national average price of gas has been at a seven-year high in recent days.

As of Monday morning, it was $3.30, up from $3.24 a week ago, $3.18 a month ago, and $2.18 a year ago.

“I don’t think we’re going to see much of a decline this fall like we usually see,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for fuel-savings app GasBuddy.

With prices hovering just over $3 a gallon, it costs $13.44 more to fill up a 15-gallon tank today than it did at this time in 2020.

• Hicks to retire

After 31 years of service in public education and touching the lives of countless students all over the commonwealth, Buckingham County Public School (BCPS) Superintendent Dr. Daisy Hicks has announced her retirement.

In a Tuesday, Oct. 26, statement, Hicks announced her plans to officially retire Dec. 31 of this year.

Hicks will enter retirement after an extensive career. Before becoming an educator, she worked at the Nottoway Correctional Center from 1987-1991. Since then, she’s served in a variety of education roles including teacher’s assistant, school secretary, central office secretary, teacher, principal, central office administrator and, of course, superintendent.

November 2021

• Pairet’s closing

Longwood students and locals have been rushing to 140 N. Main Street in the last week to buy up t-shirts and other apparel after learning of Pairet Inc.’s store owner Thomas “Tom” Pairet’s plans to retire and close the store for good, bringing an end to 76 years of family business.

Today, Pairet’s is a town staple known across the area for its licensed Longwood apparel and highly successful screen printing/engraving business, but the store can trace its origins all the way back to 1945 with the founding of an entirely different type of business — Farmville Electric Appliance Company.

Tom’s grandfather, Larkin Pairet, opened Farmville Electric Appliance Company 76 years ago, but it would not remain an appliance store for long. In fact, according to Tom, the family dabbled in many different lines of work before arriving at screen printing/Longwood merchandise, what the store is perhaps best known for today.

• Govenor’s Rural Prosperity Summit held in town

Virginia is leading the way in broadband partnerships and is poised to become the first large state in the union with universal coverage in 2024. That goal was a refrain of the two-day Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity, which was held Nov. 4 and 5 in Farmville. Presented by The Virginia Rural Center, the meeting focused on economic development, community vibrancy, connectivity, rural health and more and featured experts from across the commonwealth.

• Forestry removed from Land Use Program

The Cumberland County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to remove forestry from the county’s Land Use Program, increasing taxes for residents who currently receive a deferral.

Some citizens view the move as a big mistake, and one board member has already expressed regret for the vote.

In recent months, the Board held a public hearing to consider amending Section 58-211 of county code in order to remove forestry as an allowable exemption through the Land Use Program.

Cumberland’s Land Use Program currently allows eligible agricultural, horticultural and forest land in the county to be taxed based on the land’s use value as opposed to the land’s market value. The program is designed to encourage the preservation of land, conservation of natural beauty and open spaces within the county, easing pressures that force the conversion of real estate to more intensive uses.

Supervisors began considering the code amendment after officials highlighted approximately $444,355 a year in taxes are deferred through the forestry portion of the program alone, $293,997.22 of which are exemptions given to non-Cumberland property owners.Participants receive a tax break of between $9 and $10 per acre through the program.

• Drag all of us out’ Mask issue halts School Board meeting

Buckingham County’s newly-passed medical freedom resolution recently came into question following the shutdown of a county School Board meeting where citizens exclaimed they’d have to be dragged out for not complying with a facemask policy.

In September, the Buckingham Board of Supervisors (BOS), per the request of the Powhatan Board of Supervisors, adopted a medical freedom resolution surrounding the mandating of medical treatment, specifically vaccination and masking, in the county.

At the time of its adoption, the exact purpose of the resolution and any consequences of the motion were uncertain.

During a Nov. 10 Buckingham School Board meeting, School Board Chair and District 7 Member Theresa Bryant notified unmasked members of the audience that they would need to don a facemask or remove themselves from the meeting.

Discussions became heated as some audience members continued to argue over the School Board’s mask policy, while some Board members pointed out a sign outside the door of the meeting stating masks were required.

The Board briefly moved into closed session. When the meeting was reopened, Bryant once again warned audience members that they could put a mask on or leave.

When a law officer was instructed to remove the unmasked audience members, the room became more agitated. “Don’t touch me,” one woman said. “You are going to have to drag all of us out, literally drag all of us out.” “Dragging is not a good sign though, guys,” another member of the audience stated. “That’s not a good look.”

Appearing to be at a stalemate, the Board made the decision to shut down the meeting.

December 2021

• The Woodland announces contract of sale

The board of directors of The Woodland, Inc. recently announced that it is considering selling its facilities to Ramot III Holdings, LLC in partnership with Hill Valley Healthcare. According to the release, “affiliating with Hill Valley would allow The Woodland community to enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger organization with leverage in purchasing power to keep costs down, access to new technology and organizational management that is well-positioned to enhance services, reduce costs and ensure the long-term success of the facility. Hill Valley Healthcare is a skilled nursing consulting company rapidly positioning itself as a leading healthcare provider that applies its expertise and ingenuity to create 5-star facilities. Hill Valley Healthcare currently employs almost 3,600 team members and operates a total of 16 facilities in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. The system includes assisted living, skilled nursing and rehab, on-site dialysis care and home health.”

• Cases rising as omicron enters U.S.

Officials are continuing to heavily encourage vaccination and booster shots as local counties see large increases in their COVID-19 cases this week and more than a dozen U.S. states begin identifying cases of the new omicron variant of the virus.

Local counties in the Piedmont Health District are currently seeing an increase in coronavirus cases compared to last week, following statewide trends.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Prince Edward County saw 21 new COVID-19 cases between Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, and Virginia reported 1,676 new COVID-19 cases, up from 1,433 the previous Monday. The state’s seven-day moving average increased dramatically this week from 1,377 cases Nov. 29 to 2,264 cases Dec. 6.

The U.S. has regularly observed a period of increased coronavirus cases following major holidays, including Thanksgiving.

• Voting districts redrawn

The Buckingham Board of Supervisors voted Monday, Dec. 13, to approve a redistricting ordinance change following the 2020 U.S. Census results.

In order to redraw voting district lines, the Board established a redistricting committee comprised of each supervisor, the chairmen/presidents of the county’s Democratic and Republican parties, the leader of the local NAACP, the chair/president of the Buckingham Voters’ League, the chairman of the School Board and the county registrar.

County Administrator Karl Carter noted the biggest change to this year’s U.S. Census means the county no longer counts the local prison populations in the overall population count for the county, as inmates are now counted toward the population of their home counties and not the county the prison is located in.

Based on the adjusted population figures, the county’s ideal district number, meaning the amount of people living in each district should all seven districts be perfectly equal, was 2,212.

The committee redrew the county’s districts under numerous guidelines, including preventing any district from having a population of 5% more or 5% less than the ideal district number of 2,212.

The board, with the exception of District 1 Supervisor Dennis Davis who was absent, unanimously approved the redrawing of the districts. The changes will go into effect May 1 2022.

• New animal shelter slated for 2024

While discussions surrounding the Prince Edward County Capital Improvements Plan have mainly been focused on elementary school renovations, the plan’s highest priority project, a new animal shelter for Prince Edward County Animal Control, could be just over two years away.

County officials placed a new animal shelter at the top of the Capital Improvements Plan due to a variety of needed improvements to the facility, which is too small to meet its current and projected needs.

While the project, according to the Capital Improvements Plan, is currently slated for 2024, County Administrator Doug Stanley noted the date is a placeholder and not set in stone, adding significant work must be done in order to meet such a deadline.