The 2 p.m. regular session of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors, Oct. 5, 2020.

Schools to discuss increasing in-person learning from two to four days per week

Nearly fifty people attended Monday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting at the Rappahannock County Elementary School to listen to the latest — and possibly last — public hearing on the provisional comprehensive plan.

In September the Planning Commission approved its recommendations for the plan and submitted the draft document, along with a list of “errata” (errors corrected after the Commission vote) to the board for consideration. Supervisors now have until December 29 to do one of three things: adopt the plan as is; make amendments and then adopt it; or reject the plan and send it back to the Planning Commission.

Over the course of an hour, 14 county citizens with diverse perspectives addressed the board during the public hearing.

Demaris Miller of the Hampton district spoke first, urging supervisors not to “let the perfect become the enemy of the good” and to proceed with the approval of the plan in its current state.

Yet the majority of constituents in attendance voiced apprehensions about the draft.

A handful of residents expressed concern regarding the design of the village maps, worried that they were either too narrowly defined or not defined narrowly enough.

“Some have offered the use of maps to help define the geography and the boundaries of the towns and villages,” said Matthew Black, president of the Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community. “And while that to me makes sense ostensibly, it does raise the question of … should the maps show a bigger size or smaller?”

“What do we want? What kind of density? How big should Sperryville be? And who makes that decision? A map has certain connotations for what’s in and what’s out … what’s the guiding rationale?”

Diane Bruce of the Piedmont district advocated removing the maps from the comprehensive plan altogether, while others suggested clarity could be improved by simple changes to the wording of the plan (for instance, instead of encouraging development “in and around” villages, encourage development only “in” the villages).

In addition to concerns about the maps, some speakers voiced support for broadband protections. “We do not have a countywide broadband plan,” said Piedmont resident Margaret Bond, who is also a member of the county’s broadband committee. “We all have ideas — but ideas, aspirations and hopes do not constitute a well thought-out plan.”

In an interview last week with the Rappahannock News, BOS Chair Christine Smith said that the board plans to give serious thought to all of the public comments shared during the public hearing.

Hampton Supervisor Keir Whitson also went on the record last week to reassure county residents that he would not adopt the current draft until he is certain that “all of [his] constituents have been heard, that all input has been considered, that every word, every map, every chart counts and that the document is a strong one.”

Here’s what else you need to know from Monday’s BOS meeting.

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RCPS may transition to 4-Day Week

In her superintendent’s report, Dr. Shannon Grimsley announced that on October 13 the Rappahannock County School Board will discuss the possibility of increasing in-person learning from two to four days a week.

“With a newly released pandemic dashboard, we have improved local health metrics from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control with which we can … capture the transmission risks in our area as well as set measurable benchmarks for our ability to phase in additional students,” Grimsley said.

“Additionally, today RCPS sent out surveys to parents and guardians as well as all staff to better understand the collective perception and comfort levels of our key stakeholders before moving forward.”

County tables talk of paid Family Leave

During public comment, Library Trustees Theresa Sidrow, Maureen Harris, Randi Shumate and Judy DeSarno made appeals as private citizens, urging the Board of Supervisors to adopt a parental leave policy for all county employees. In August the Library Board voted 7-2 to recommend that the BOS pass a resolution to adopt a policy in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 12, granting eight weeks of paid parental leave to eligible commonwealth employees.

“I’d like to know where you stand on this,” Sidrow said on Monday. “Do something today. Show us where you stand, please.”

The board unanimously voted to table the discussion on a paid parental leave policy for county employees until after they receive the results of a personnel policy study conducted by the consulting firm Baker Tilly.

“I’d like to make it clear I am in favor of a parental leave policy,” said Stonewall-Hawthorne Supervisor Chris Parrish. “But not necessarily Governor Northam’s.”

VDOT to repaint Sperryville edge lines

The board voted unanimously to approve a $5,000 project in Sperryville to repaint the edge lines along Main Street in Sperryville, which supervisors hope will help improve pedestrian safety.

Peculiarly, in his quarterly report, VDOT Warrenton Residency Engineer Mark Nesbit observed that the 35 MPH speed limit in Woodville was never formally finalized. In fulfilling a FOIA request by a motorist who was ticketed for violating the posted speed limit, VDOT discovered that the speed limit was enacted as a temporary measure some years ago but was never officially adopted. A judge will determine if the motorist must pay the ticket.

BOS to appoint broadband authority

County Attorney Art Goff confirmed on Monday that a broadband improvement project would be a proper expenditure of the CARES Act, indicating that the board’s plan to fund such an initiative can proceed.

In order to spend CARES Act funding on a broadband initiative, the BOS is legally required to appoint a broadband authority to manage all contracts and transactions. A public hearing must be held before the board can officially appoint authority members and will be posted in this newspaper with ample notice.

CARES funding officially approved

The BOS voted unanimously to approve the CARES Act funding distributions discussed during the September 18 work session with one significant alteration. The board allocated $297,589 to public safety payroll because it is an eligible expense under the CARES Act rules. The decision will free up general fund money to be used for potential future broadband initiatives and the restroom project at the Rappahannock County Park.

CARES Act funding must be expended by Dec. 31, 2020.

Donehey to vote at VACO

Wakefield Supervisor Debbie Donehey volunteered to vote on behalf of the Rappahannock County BOS at the annual Virginia Association of Counties conference on Tuesday, Nov. 11. Hampton Supervisor Keir Whitson was appointed as the alternate.