A look back at 2021

Published 8:15 am Thursday, January 13, 2022

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Throughout the month of January each edition of The K-V Dispatch will highlight the events of 2021 as they appeared each week. This week’s edition takes a look back at the months of April through June of 2021.

APRIL, 2021

• Lunenburg County has hired a full-time economic development and planning director. Taylor Newton, a Lunenburg native, will fill the position previously held by Glenn Millican who served on a part-time basis.

• The applicants of Lunenburg County’s newest proposed solar farm were dealt a blow last month when the Planning Commission tied in a vote to decide if the project was in accordance with the county’s comprehensive plan.

The fate of Red Brick Solar’s project now lies in the hands of the Board of Supervisors.

John Puvak of Gentry Locke Attorneys, who represent Red Brick Solar, has requested that the Lunenburg Board of Supervisors overrule the Planning Commission’s action and present his client’s contention that the Red Brick Project is in substantial accord with the county’s comprehensive plan.

• The Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to exempt vehicle license fees for any permanent and total disability veteran.

During the board’s Thursday, April 8, meeting the vote came following the Commissioner of the Revenue Liz Hamlett’s address.

“I am pleased to inform you that the General Assembly has amended the Constitution of Virginia and Title 58.1 of the Virginia Code to allow for exemption of one motor vehicle for disabled veterans, but that does not exempt the vehicle license fee for them,” Hamlett said.

Hamlett told the board that currently, the county has 49 qualifying veterans, and 28 of those would be subject to the exemption.

Hamlett said the exemption of those veterans’ license fees would be a $700 loss of revenue for the county.

• Kenston Forest School senior, Thomas Inge, signed a letter of intent March 23 with Virginia Military Institute to continue his football career.

Thomas, the son of Tom Inge of McKenney and Carol Inge of Front Royal, will be a third generation Keydet to play football in the Inge family. His late grandfather, Thomas Benjamin, Jr., father, Thomas Benjamin Inge, III, and uncle, George William Inge, played football at VMI.

• Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed moving the legalization of simple possession of marijuana up almost three years sooner than initially approved by the General Assembly.

On Wednesday, March 31, Northam announced the amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, which could legalize adult-use marijuana in the commonwealth on July 1 of this year.

MAY, 2021

• A second solar utility facility has been given the green light by the Lunenburg County Planning Commission.

During the commission’s Tuesday, May 18, meeting, members voted that the 6th Street Solar 1 project to be located at 2188 Poorhouse Road in Victoria was in substantial accord with the county’s comprehensive plan.

The project will now move to the conditional use permit (CUP) process with the county. The project also must receive its land use permit and all necessary building and electrical permits.

On Wednesday, May 12, the Victoria Planning Commission recommended that the Victoria Town Council approve the CUP to 6th Street Solar 1.

The 6th Street Solar 1 project is spearheaded by Borrego Energy, which proposes a three-megawatt solar facility to participate in the Dominion Energy small-scale solar program.

• COVID-19 cases are continuing to reach phenomenal lows both locally and statewide, and new, mobile vaccination clinics now make it easier than ever to find a convenient time and place to get immunized.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the commonwealth saw just 76 daily reported COVID-19 cases Monday, May 24, compared to 272 cases a week prior.

The figure spells great news for the commonwealth which hasn’t seen a lower daily case number since March 27 of 2020.

The state’s seven-day moving average of cases was also down this week from 496 Monday, May 17, to 378 as of Monday, May 24.

Local numbers are looking similarly encouraging. According to Acting Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Sulola Adekoya, the health district is continuing to see a decline in cases.

According to VDH, Lunenburg County experienced eight new cases of the coronavirus between May 17 and May 24.

• The Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously voted to take the next steps in moving the county further in developing a new E911 radio communication system.

The new system, which could see construction begin next summer, will cost the county around $3.8 million.

An $89,000 State Homeland Security Grant will assist the county with the process.

During the Thursday, May 13, BOS meeting, Cheryl Giggetts, a principal consultant with CTA, presented the radio system proposal evaluations from two companies which submitted bids for the project.

According to Giggetts, L3Harris Technologies, Inc. (L3Harris) and Mobile Communications America (MCA) submitted proposals.

While L3Harris’ quote for the new system was around $3.8 million, MCA was quoted just over $6 million.

• Apex Clean Energy and SolUnesco, the applicants of Red Brick Solar, Lunenburg County’s first solar project, will have to wait yet another month to learn if its project is in accordance with the county’s comprehensive plan.

On Thursday, May 13, the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) held an information session to hear both sides of an appeal brought forth by Red Brick Solar following its defeat dealt by the planning commission in April when their motion died with a tie vote.

Citizens were allowed to express their concerns about the project during the public comment period Thursday. Of those speaking, only three spoke in opposition to the project.

Red Brick officials proposed to construct and operate a utility-scale solar facility located on 21 individual parcels of property. The project would place a solar photovoltaic power plant across 935 acres situated in north-central Lunenburg County, nearby the courthouse and about 4 miles southwest of Victoria.

JUNE, 2021

• Darlene P. Wells, a native of Kenbridge, will conclude her 26-year career with Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company in June. She will step down as VFBMIC executive vice president and CEO of Countryway Insurance Co., a position she has held since 2013.

Under her direction, VFBMIC has been named among Ward’s top 50 property and casualty companies multiple times. The list is compiled by Ward Group, a consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry and a leading provider of industry benchmarking. Each year Ward Group analyzes the financial performance of nearly 2,900 property and casualty insurance companies in the U.S. and identifies top performers.

Wells also led the company to an “A” rating from AM Best in 2020. That was the first time in 25 years that VFBMIC had been given the top financial-strength rating.

• Commissioner of the Revenue Liz Hamlett said vehicle owners in Lunenburg County could see an increase in personal property tax bills that are due on Monday, June 7.

This is not due to a tax rate increase or a reduction in tax relief, but because of increases in used vehicle values.

“The value increase affected newer model vehicles more so than older vehicles, with the largest jump in passenger truck values,” Hamlett said. “The demand for these was great, but the supply was inadequate. As a result, some citizens of the county may pay more in personal property taxes this year.”

According to Hamlett, her office uses the “clean trade-in value” established by National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) as fair market value.

“The commissioner’s office will adjust for vehicles exceeding the mileage indicated in the pricing guide,” Hamlett said.

It is believed the COVID-19 pandemic caused the rise.

Historically, vehicle values tend to depreciate from month to month. As such, the predicted value of any vehicle would be lower than the value of that exact vehicle the previous January. In early 2020, vehicle values were trending as the industry customarily expected.

• The Lunenburg County Historical Society has undertaken the process of preserving two historic law offices located on the lawn of the Lunenburg Courthouse.

According to the Historical Society’s President Steve Israel, the law offices, both dating from the 1800s, were refurbished and dedicated in a Memorial Day event nine years ago through the Historical Society’s efforts.

“The time had come to do painting and repairs to the buildings,” Israel said. “It was overdue, and we had the funds, so the board decided it was time.”

Israel said the repairs, which began last week, included repainting the outside and inside and repairing and replacing several wooden pieces.

“We just wanted to bring these buildings up to date maintenance-wise, and once more, the Historical Society is seeing to it that these buildings are preserved for the future,” Israel said.

According to Israel, one of the buildings was built in the colonial era and today serves as a small visitor center where individuals may come and do genealogy research.

• COVID-19 cases are fluctuating locally as mask mandates ease across the state.

According to Rhonda Pruitt, senior epidemiologist for the Piedmont Health District, COVID-19 cases are down slightly in the Central Region of Virginia over the past week, but cases are slightly up in Piedmont.

Pruitt said Monday, May 3, the counties of Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland and Lunenburg all saw an uptick in cases in the last week, with only Nottoway and Prince Edward counties showing a slight decrease. Locally, cases have been fluctuating for weeks.

On Monday, May 3, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) was reporting 761 cumulative cases of the coronavirus in Lunenburg County since the start of the pandemic, up 16 cases from last Monday, April 26.