A look back at 2021

Published 8:15 am Friday, January 28, 2022

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 October through December of 2021.

OCTOBER, 2021

• Governor Northam announced that Virginia has received a record number of local and private sector applications to match state broadband investments, putting the commonwealth on track to become one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access by 2024. Virginia anticipates more than $2 billion in total broadband funding thanks to local and private sector matching funds that go beyond the $874 million in state appropriations since the governor took office in 2018.

• Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville and SolUnesco of Reston, the developers of a 130 MW facility destined for Lunenburg, are waiting and negotiating with county officials in an effort to have their Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Red Brick Solar approved.

At the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) Sept. 21 meeting, the Board voted to remove from the table any further consideration of the Red Brick solar application to allow further discussion of a siting agreement with Red Brick solar.

“At this time, it’s still under review by the county attorney,” Director of Planning and Economic Development Taylor Newton said in an email.

The intent of the siting agreement legislation is to give the local government the opportunity to address certain community needs and allow the solar project developer to help address those needs outside of any taxes or other fees paid by such project.

• A project that county officials hope will bring more industry to the area has moved a step further in the process.

Taylor Newton, Lunenburg County’s director of planning and economic development, addressed the Board of Supervisors Thursday, Oct. 14, informing them that the demolition of the old middle school has been completed.

County officials have been working to have the demolition of the building located on Route 40/49 between Kenbridge and Victoria for more than a year with the hopes of making space for new businesses.

According to former clerk of the Lunenburg Planning Commission Glenn Millican Jr., the building was no longer able to be used due to age, water damage and large amounts of asbestos.

“The building has reached the end of its economic life,” Millican said in a December 2020 interview. “It is just sitting there, and it’s very old and just can’t be used. The infrastructure is there,” Millican said. “The water and sewer are there, there is the power to the site, and it is located near a commercial highway, and with the county working on getting broadband, it will be a great location for businesses.”

• 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.

As of Monday, Oct. 18, GasBuddy was listing $3.12 a gallon in Lunenburg County at Timmy’s Grocery.

SuperTest located at 201 N. Broad St., in Kenbridge was listed at the lowest price of $2.99.

With cases continuing to slow over the last week, just over half of those eligible in the Piedmont Health District have now been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The news comes following a major announcement regarding the future of Moderna/Johnson & Johnson booster shots in America.

The health district has continued to see slight declines in COVID-19 cases this week. According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), between Monday, Oct. 12, and Monday, Oct. 18, Lunenburg County saw 30 new cases of the virus.

Prince Edward County was up by 38 cases. Buckingham County experienced 43 new COVID-19 cases over the last week, and Cumberland was up 11 cases as of Oct. 18. Charlotte County saw 25 new cases in the last week.

The area did see six reported COVID-related deaths last week; one in Lunenburg, three in Cumberland, one in Charlotte and one in Prince Edward.

NOVEMBER, 2021

• A recent ConsumerAffairs report has ranked Virginia as the ninth safest place to live.

Each state was ranked based on violent crime, property crime, number of law enforcement officers and law enforcement spending using FBI and Census Bureau data.

In addition, the top 10 safest states were also broken down by safest small towns, midsize towns and large cities.

In the commonwealth, the safest small town was Cape Charles, the safest midsize town was Purcellville, and the safest large city was Virginia Beach.

Lunenburg County, according to Crime Grade, receives a B+ grade when it comes to overall crime.

The B+ grade means the rate of crime is slightly lower than the average U.S. county.

Lunenburg County is in the 74th percentile for safety, meaning 26% of counties are safer and 74% of counties are more dangerous.

When it comes to violent crime, Crime Grade gives the county a C+ grade.

• Lunenburg County officials will spend the next 60 days working on a new redistricting map for the county’s Board of Supervisors members.

What this means for voters is some citizens will be voting at different precincts in 2022, electing a different Board of Supervisor than in past elections.

The redistricting is required by law and takes place once every 10 years following the United States Census.

“When the country takes a census, the count affects everyone from the county to the State House of Delegates and State Senate to the United States Congress,” Supervisor Mike Hankins said.

“This is just one of the reasons why it is so important that everyone gets counted in the census.”

Redirecting is done to ensure that citizens have nearly as is practicable representation in proportion to the population of the district.

According to Hankins, redistricting will affect all members of the BOS to some degree.

Hankins said there are about three districts that lost citizens according to the 2020 census and four districts that stayed about the same.

• Lunenburg County is one of 133 Virginia counties and independent cities that has received funding for tourism.

Director of Planning and Economic Development Taylor N. Newton made the announcement during the Lunenburg Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, Nov. 11.

According to Newton, the $30,000 in funding is part of the American Rescue Plan Act Tourism Recovery Program.

“COVID-19 has had a continued and devastating impact on Virginia’s tourism and hospitality industry in Virginia. As the commonwealth prepares to restore tourism economic impact, the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) is offering these funds to spur economic activity and travel across the commonwealth.” stated a release from VTC.

According to Newton, the specific project(s) in Lunenburg that will benefit from these funds have not been identified at this time.

• As areas in the U.S. are beginning to see rises in COVID-19 cases, the Piedmont Health District is celebrating several successful vaccination events as the community continues to up its immunity to the virus.

The state saw a bump in its virus cases last week shortly before Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced 83% of adults in the commonwealth have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Most counties in the Piedmont Health District, with the exception of Lunenburg and Amelia, saw decreases in cases this week.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) from Monday, Nov. 8, to Monday, Nov. 15, Lunenburg reported a large increase at 55 cases over the seven-day period.

Prince Edward County saw 11 new cases of the virus, Buckingham reported 13 COVID-19 cases over the last week, Cumberland saw four new cases, and Charlotte County saw 22 new cases between Nov. 8 and Nov. 15.

DECEMBER, 2021

• Transportation has installed pedestrian signs on Mecklenburg Avenue (Route 734) following multiple requests for something to be done about large truck traffic and safety issues.

Currently, trash trucks en route to and from the Lunenburg Landfill are advised to take two authorized truck routes. Mecklenburg Avenue is not on either of those routes.

At a July Lunenburg Board of Supervisors meeting, citizen Patricia Harper-Tunley presented a petition to the Board requesting a through truck restriction sign be erected.

“The trucks are moving at a high rate of speed through a fully populated residential area, noise levels have increased, and the roads are showing stress areas from the constant travel of the oversized, fully-loaded trucks,” Harper-Tunley said. “The possibility for an accident that would involve loss of life or limbs is an imminent threat to this neighborhood of predominantly African American residents.”

Following Harper-Tunley’s request, the Board asked VDOT to complete a traffic study of Route 734.

According to the recent VDOT traffic study, during a seven-day traffic count between Sept. 7 and Sept. 14, 2,556 vehicles traveled on Mecklenburg Avenue. Of that, only 2% was commercial traffic.

According to a 2019 and 2020 traffic count by VDOT, there was less than 2% significant truck traffic on Mecklenburg Avenue.

• The supply chain issues affecting the nation have hit home in Lunenburg.

Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) are having ongoing issues with food supplies for students; however, that has not stopped the district from continuing to provide meals.

“We are still having supply issues, and we don’t feel that this will change anytime soon,” said LCPS Family Engagement and Public Relations Coordinator Meri Page Spencer.

Supply chain issues nationwide have been blamed on congestion at the ports, lack of truck drivers and shipping containers.

“Our food services coordinator and our head custodian drove to our distributor to pick up food when there were no delivery drivers,” said Spencer. “We will continue to do whatever we need to do to feed our students.”

• The Town of Victoria Industrial Development Authority’s (IDA) hopes for a grant to help repair a former manufacturing building has been turned down.

Earlier this year, the IDA, with the help of the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC), applied for the Local Innovation Fund grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to help with repairs to the former STEPS building located at 300 Court Street on the western edge of town.

With the grant and repairs, the town had hoped the building would be used for several organizations looking for a new location.

“The Town and the IDA are continuing to seek funds for the project,” said Victoria Town Manager Rodney Newton. “Work may be prioritized and completed as funds become available,” Newton said that with the repairs, it is hoped that two local community service, nonprofit organizations would be able to use parts of the building for their services.

According to Newton, the building was in need of a new roof and interior repairs from water damage.

• If you have bought a gallon of milk, a gallon of gas, a used car, or shopped at the Dollar Tree, you know, inflation is at an all-time high.

According to Trading Economics, the annual inflation rate in the U.S. accelerated to 6.8% in November, the highest since June 1982.

It marks the ninth consecutive month the inflation stays above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target as global commodities rally, rising demand, reluctant workers, wage pressures and supply chain disruptions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices rose at a 6.2% annual rate, well above expectations, which was the biggest 12-month jump since 1990.

“Consumers are feeling it in the pocketbook at the gas pump, grocery store, and tenants in many parts of the country could get Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate sticker shock at their next lease renewal.”

Consumers are also feeling the price increase when eating out.

According to Pino’s in Farmville, beef prices are up 47%, Chicken is up 40%, Pork 51%, and crabmeat is nonexistent and 50% if found.