A look back at 2021 – part two

Published 12:39 pm Saturday, January 15, 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 April through June 2021.

April 2021

• IDA to improve data center site

The Prince Edward County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) voted unanimously Friday, March 26, to move forward with Timmons Group on the next step to take the county’s potential data center site to Tier 3 in a state-recognized four-tier system of readiness for prospects.

Heartland Innovative Technology (HIT) Park is the name of the county’s $1.5 million, 280-plus-acre site off Persimmon Tree Fork Road that was purchased in May 2020 for the purpose of attracting data center operations.

• Town’s proposed budget includes 2.5-cent tax increase

Farmville property owners will likely pay higher taxes next year for the first time in almost 40 years.

Town Manager Scott Davis told the Farmville Town Council during a work session Wednesday, April 7, that the 2021-22 budget he will present at the Wednesday, April 14, Town Council meeting is balanced at a rate 13 cents per $100 valuation.

“The town has not increased taxes, as far as we can go back, since 1984, and I think it is probably longer than that,” Davis said. “Which is not a positive thing. I think you should always have some type of increase along the way, especially when you offer the services the Town of Farmville offers to our community.”

• Monument to honor 150 years unveiled

The 150th anniversary celebration of the Farmville Fire Department began with the unveiling of a monument Sunday, April 18, commemorating the event.

The monument provided by the Farmville Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary is at the base of the flag pole of the fire department on Third Street.

Fire personnel, former fire chiefs and Town of Farmville officials gathered at the fire department to watch as Auxiliary President Deana Bennett and other members of the group unveiled the monument.

“It’s an honor to present the fire department with this gift honoring your 150 years of commitment to our community and acknowledging the continuing commitment of the current members, both men and women,” Bennett, who has been a member of the Auxiliary for more than 30 years, said. “The Auxiliary hopes that this gift will serve as a reminder to all those that passed before it.”

• Rescue squad to cease operations

After 25 years of service to the citizens of Cumberland County and the Cartersville Area, the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad (CVRS) is ceasing operations.

According to Squad President and CVRS Member of 21 years Earlene Canaan, the decision to stand down follows national trends of volunteerism issues.

According to Chief of Cumberland Fire and EMS Tom Perry, CVRS will cease operations July 1 of 2021. However, the county will implement a new, paid, 12-hour crew in Cartersville starting May 1.

• County settles on 4-cent tax increase

With an eye toward setting aside money for a growing list of capital projects, a majority of the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors settled on a 47-cent tax rate for the 2021-22 budget year Tuesday evening.

The 47-cent rate is a four-cent increase over the 43-cent equalized rate following the county’s property reassessment that boosted values by an average of 18.27%. The change means a homeowner with a $200,000 home at the beginning of 2020 paid $1,020 in county property taxes. After an average reassessment increase and the four-cent tax increase, the same homeowner will pay $1,111.73 this coming tax year. The rate is four cents lower than last year’s 51-cent rate before the property reassessment process.

May 2021

• Youth sports make a return

Nothing is more normal in spring than the sight of a T-ball player preoccupied with a grasshopper in right field, parents shouting frenzied instructions to a clump of children on the side of a soccer pitch or the solid thump of a softball on an aluminum bat.

None of that was possible last year due to COVID-19, but youth sports in Prince Edward County have returned to make the spring of 2021 feel a little more normal.

“We are pretty much back to normal,” Danielle Boehmer, the secretary for the Prince Edward- Farmville Youth Sports Association (PEFYA), said. “We’re operating safely, obviously, and under mask mandates and things like that. We are just trying to make sure our fans stay at an appropriate distance.”

• Baker removed as Crossroads executive director

After six tumultuous years, Crossroads Community Services Board Executive Director Dr. Susan Baker has been removed from her position with the organization.

The news comes after a lengthy history of controversy surrounding Baker’s employment with Crossroads.

In a Thursday, May 6, press release, the community services board announced Baker’s departure from the position, adding Pam Wallace will serve as the organization’s interim executive director while the board selects and employs a search firm to assist in a national search for a permanent new executive director.

• Running on empty

Some area gas stations are running out of fuel after a ransomware attack to the Colonial Pipeline system led to gas shortages across the commonwealth prompting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to declare a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon, May 11.

On Tuesday, Northam, according to a release distributed at 2 p.m., signed Executive Order 78, declaring a state of emergency in Virginia to address gasoline supply disruptions following a May 7 ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system, a primary fuel source for several Virginia retailers. The attack resulted in a temporary shutdown of the pipeline.

• United Way to shut down by June 30

The board of the directors of the United Way of Prince Edward County has unanimously decided to end operations after more than 50 years of helping serve the needs of area nonprofits.

A press release from the organization said the board made the decision the week of May 2, but waited until it could notify its partner organizations before making the decision public.

“This has been a very difficult decision, but after much discussion over the past few years, we have decided that it is time,” United Way President Rucker Snead wrote in a letter notifying the organization’s members of the recent vote.

The shutdown and dissolution of the organization is expected to be finished by June 30.

• Council takes step to relocate statue

Eleven months after hastily removing the bronze soldier from atop the Confederate statue on High Street, Farmville’s Town Council took a step toward deciding what to do with it.

The council voted unanimously Wednesday, May 19, to have the town surveyor look for a location in the Confederate Cemetery to reassemble the statue and provide a cost estimate for moving the base of the state still remaining on High Street and the bronze soldier that has been in storage since June 18 of 2020.

The statue was removed back in June minutes after a vote to take it down in a special closed session council meeting as social unrest swept across the country and Confederate statues were being taken down both voluntarily and by force in several different locations. The council deemed the statue a safety hazard.

June 2021

• Worker shortage threatens area restaurants

Labor shortages in and around the Town of Farmville have left some local restaurants with no choice but to reduce hours.

Establishments are understaffed, those who are coming to work are exhausted, and while some point their fingers at unemployment compensation as the culprit behind the crisis, experts believe post-pandemic capitalism is enforcing harsher competition in the labor pool.

• EMS changes petitioned

More than 100 people have signed a petition asking Cumberland County to reverse its decision to remove Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad (PEVRS) as the main emergency medical service provider for residents at the southern end of the county.

The creator of the petition, Cumberland resident Edie Anderson, says the EMS changes tripled the amount of time it took for an ambulance to reach her home during a medical emergency. Citizens and even former 911 dispatchers are saying those precious minutes may cost lives. For years, emergency calls made near the southern end of Cumberland were answered by PEVRS and Farmville Volunteer Fire Department. (FVFD) However, a recent mutual aid agreement between Cumberland County, PEVRS and FVFD ended this arrangement, and emergency calls near the Farmville border of the county are now answered by Randolph District Volunteer Fire Department (RDVFD) at 2145 Cumberland Road and Cumberland Fire and EMS ambulance crews stationed in the middle of the county at the courthouse and in Cartersville at the county’s northern end. Emergency crews from Farmville and Prince Edward now only respond to emergencies if Cumberland crews request mutual aid assistance.

• Broadband access for all coming soon

After struggling with broadband access for years, a deluge of governmental funding means the wait for high-speed internet in Prince Edward and parts of Cumberland and Lunenburg counties will likely be coming to an end in the next four years.

Kinex is currently working on a project that is bringing broadband fiber from Cumberland Courthouse to Farmville. The company just passed the intersection of Highways 45 and 60.

Other projects the company will soon be working on will mean around 500 miles of new fiber in Prince Edward County, 300 miles of new fiber in Cumberland and 400 new miles of fiber in Lunenburg County. The project will place access to fiber in areas where households do not have download speeds faster than 25 megabits per second.

• Carter retires as county admin

Wednesday, June 30, marked the retirement of longtime Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca Carter who served the Buckingham community for more than 35 years, helping lead the way for growth, innovation and industrial development.

Under Carter’s leadership, the county has built a new administration complex, a new courthouse, and is slated to be the site of a three-story hotel which has been temporarily paused due to the pandemic. The Carter G. Woodson school complex on Route 20 was renovated and upgraded from the previously existing school buildings, and the vacant Gold Hill School building was sold to a company to renovate for the purpose of an in-house pharmaceuticals operation.

The county has also been able to implement a county-wide, county-operated emergency medical rescue squad service.