A look back at 2021 – part one

Published 4:24 pm Friday, January 7, 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 January through March 2021.

January 2021

The Bachelor star has local ties.

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Matt James, star of the 25th season of the hit ABC series The Bachelor, has ties to Farmville as a nephew of resident Sherry Honeycutt. James is the first ever Black man to be cast for the show’s starring role.

A record 6,500 women applied for Matt James’ season of The Bachelor. Although 32 women were selected to compete for his attention, only one woman will be offered his hand in marriage.

• Holiday COVID surge begins.

With record COVID-19 case numbers coming out of the state and post-Christmas coronavirus spikes seen across the health district, a local health official is warning Virginia’s case numbers could double in the next two-to-three weeks.

From Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, to Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, counties in the Piedmont Health District saw large jumps in cases of the novel coronavirus.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Prince Edward County experienced 80 new cases of COVID-19 in the last week for a cumulative total of 1,145 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Buckingham County skyrocketed 152 cases in one week for a cumulative total of 1,428.

Cumberland County, which experienced only one new case between Dec. 21 and Dec. 28, jumped 21 new cases this week for a total of 208.

• High Bridge to close for 3 months.

The High Bridge at High Bridge Trail State Park in Farmville will be closed for three months beginning Jan. 18.

In a release from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (VDCR) dated Monday, Jan. 11, officials stated the bridge will close for three months to allow for a large, preventative maintenance project which will replace all of the bridge’s decking.

• Bill would limit mining for gold.

Friends of Buckingham has a bill in the Virginia House of Delegates that calls for a study evaluating the impacts of gold mining on public health, safety and welfare in the state while also setting a temporary limit on gold mine operations.

This bill, known as House Bill 2213 (HB2213), is being carried by Del. Elizabeth Guzman and was referred Wednesday, Jan. 13, to the House’s Committee on Rules.

The piece of legislation stemmed from the Friends of Buckingham group because Canadian-based company Aston Bay Holdings had been performing drilling activities in search of gold in Buckingham for several years on the property of the Weyerhaeuser timber company. It wasn’t until 2020 that citizens and officials became aware of the drilling operations.

• Town asks county for funding help.

The Town of Dillwyn has seemingly exhausted all avenues in an attempt to find funding to pay for the Dillwyn Streetscape Project and is now asking the county to help. At the Monday, Jan. 11, Buckingham Board of Supervisors meeting, Town of Dillwyn Mayor Linda Venable Paige stepped up to the podium to address the board regarding funding issues for the transportation enhancement project.

The streetscape project, which aims to enhance the appearance of the U.S. 15 corridor, improve safety and make necessary updates, began construction in 2006.

The town was awarded $1.3 million in grants to complete the project. 80% of the project was to be reimbursed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the other 20% would be a local match.

But Paige told supervisors Monday night Dillwyn officials had no idea they would have to pay contractors the money before VDOT could reimburse any funds, and the town doesn’t have the funding to do so.

February 2021

• Landfill projected to bring windfall to county.

A study released last month by Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility estimates the landfill, proposed to be located in Cumberland County, would provide an economic boost of more than $74 million to the county over the course of the project’s lifetime.

The study, conducted by Magnum Economics, said direct payments to the county will total approximately $74.5 million over the 30-year life of the facility, averaging approximately $2.5 million each year.

• COVID figures look encouraging.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to decline throughout the Piedmont Health District and much of Virginia as more and more citizens get their second dose of the vaccine. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) continues to declare cases in Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland, Charlotte and Lunenburg counties as decreasing, with some counties seeing large drops in their number of weekly cases. Monday, Feb. 8, Prince Edward County was listed by VDH as having a total of 106 new coronavirus cases over the previous seven days, a considerable drop from the previous week’s 172 new cases. In Buckingham County, cases also dropped significantly, with 67 new cases originating from the county over the last week compared to the 144 cases seen from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1. Cumberland County rose 16 cases from Feb. 1 to Feb. 8 compared to a 21-case increase the week prior.

• Winter storm wallops Farmville area.

A weekend ice storm knocked out power to more than 7,000 residents in the Farmivlle area and made driving treacherous. Reports of downed power line and trees closed roads kept many at home and in the dark for much of Sunday and Monday as crews worked to repair the power grid. The winter weather is likely not over as another ice storm is forecast to hit the area Wednesday night into Thursday.

• Sentara in talks to gift building to county.

Buckingham County officials have announced a tentative agreement with Sentara Martha Jefferson Medical Group that would see the former Buckingham Family Medicine building and land donated to the county. Scores of citizens expressed discontent when Sentara announced the impending closure of its Dillwyn location last summer, an act that would leave few local health care options for residents. At the Feb. 8 Buckingham Board of Supervisors meeting, Board Vice Chair and District 4 Supervisor Thomas Jordan Miles III announced a real property donation agreement between the county and Sentara, citing the health care provider had agreed to gift to the county the 2,700 square foot building and the lot it sits on.

• Young students drive Johns honor.

Out of the 2,600 markers in the state, the first one dedicated solely to honoring Barbara Rose Johns was recently installed in Farmville in February.

In April 1951 at the age of 16, Johns led more than 400 students in a walkout, peacefully protesting the unequal treatment of African American students as illustrated then by the poor facilities at Robert Russa Moton High School, the school she was attending in Farmville. Her stand helped birth the civil rights movement, leading to the desegregation of public schools in the U.S.

It is only fitting that Johns’ recognition was made possible through the actions of young Virginia students.

More than 50 fourth graders at Laurel Ridge Elementary School in Fairfax let Gov. Ralph Northam know they wanted him to support the creation of the Johns historical marker.

March 2021

• Roof repair, new schools discussed.

A joint meeting of the finance committees for the Prince Edward County School Board and the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, March 3, featured a discussion about the leaky roof of the elementary school and preliminary thoughts about building new elementary and high schools.

Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS) Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson presented photos at the meeting of the significant leaks and water damage that occurred at Prince Edward County Elementary School during the recent winter storms when students were not there.

She indicated a meeting has been set up for Wednesday, March 10, with someone who can do an assessment, looking at the elementary school buildings and their roofs and determining what, if anything, can be done.

• Clinic planned to vaccinate 1,200 more this week.

A second mass vaccination clinic in as many weeks at the Prince Edward Farmville Youth Association Gymnasium (PEFYA) will help inoculate approximately 1,200 Piedmont Health District residents this week. COVID-19 rates in the health district continue to drop as more residents receive vaccinations.

Sunday, March 7, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) issued a release stating Walmart, in cooperation with VDH’s Piedmont Health District, would be conducting closed COVID-19 vaccination clinics Wednesday, March 10, and Thursday, March 11 at an off-site location at 2750 Layne Street, Farmville.

• Real estate tax increase is on the table.

Farmville property owners may be paying more taxes for the first time in more than 25 years next year after the town manager indicated adjusting the town’s tax rate for the county’s 19% property assessment increase is not an automatic process this time around.

Town Manager Scott Davis said during last week’s Town Council meeting the town’s property tax rate has remained essentially the same, adjusting with property tax assessments either up or down since at least 1984.

If the town leaves its property tax rate at the current 12 cent level, the town would realize additional revenue of $92,000. To maintain the revenue at an equal rate after the assessment, the town would have to drop its property tax rate to 10.5 cents per $100 valuation.

“There does become a point in time where the services that we provide and the quality of services that we provide have to be met in order to stay with some type of funding” Davis said. “The only thing I would not recommend you do is make it equal.”

• Sinkhole closes 360 East.

A sizable sinkhole on the eastbound side of U.S. 360 in Meherrin required the shutdown of that roadway Wednesday morning, March 24.

A sizable sinkhole on the eastbound side of U.S. 360 in Meherrin required the shutdown of that roadway Wednesday morning, March 24.

A press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) stated eastbound U.S. Route 360, Patrick Henry Highway, in Prince Edward County from Bruceville Road, Route 701 in Lunenburg County to Moores Ordinary Road, Route 728 in Prince Edward County is closed for emergency repairs and a detour established.

VDOT Lynchburg District Communications Manager Paula K. Jones said she was told Wednesday afternoon that the sinkhole is believed to be around 25 feet deep.