Climate change, school employee benefits: Newscast for January 21, 2019

Good afternoon and welcome to this late edition of the daily newscast. Today’s installment is brought to you by Court Square Tavern, a downtown institution since 1976. Come by and have a conversation with a stranger, all while having a great meal and a great ale. That’s Court Square Tavern in the street level of the old Monticello Hotel.  Now, on to the stories.


The U.S. Defense Department has presented a report to Congress that outlines the security risks that come with climate change. The $329,000 report states that erratic weather and sea-level rise pose potential impact to “missions, operational plans and installations.” The Pentagon has been studying the issue for years. The Langley-Eustis air force base in Virginia has seen a 14-inch sea level rise since 1930 and flooding “has become more frequent and severe.” The report also lists thawing permafrost as a threat to critical infrastructure in Alaska, and said armed forces may also have to help with a growing number of humanitarian relief projects following catastrophes. 


The Charlottesville City School Board is seeking to raise the minimum wage for support staff to $15 an hour. The Daily Progress reports that the increase would cost the school system an additional $423,789 a year. According to materials presented at last week’s budget work session, enrollment in Charlottesville schools has increased from 3,855 students in fiscal year 2009 to 4,238 in the current one. School officials also report that enrollment will continue to increase as more dwelling units are built within Charlottesville city limits. The school board is currently down one member with the resignation earlier this month of Amy Laufer. Chairwoman Jennifer McKeever told the Progress that the board will appoint an interim member and are looking for a previous member who will not run this year to permanently fill the vacancy. (USE IMAGE)

The Staunton News Leader reports that Augusta County schools may offer health insurance and other benefits to bus drivers. The system stopped offering health insurance to new employees in 2013 in order to save money. In November the News Leader reported that the system has 160 bus routes but only 150 drivers. Localities across Virginia are experiencing similar shortages.


The Lynchburg News and Advance reports that the continued shutdown of the federal government will mean no new varieties of Virginia wine and beer until there is a resolution. The formula for new products must be inspected and approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Treasury. A notice on the agency’s website said that no new applications will be reviewed ‘until appropriations are enacted.” The shutdown is now entering its second month.


Charlottesville City Council will not meet today as it is a holiday to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Junior. Council will meet Tuesday for a relatively light agenda at which they will discuss the lease terms for the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society to continue occupying the McIntire Building. The society has been in the former library location since 1993. The current lease expires at the end of April and to renew it, the non profit society must complete a series requirements, including “accountability for racial and ethnic diversity in staffing practices and representation on the Board of Directors that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of our region.” The staff report for the discussion indicates that the society has met that goal, but has not submitted an audit of it finances.

(city council agenda)


There are over a dozen items on the City Council’s consent agenda. That is a list of items that are all approved at the meeting without public comment. These items include appropriation of $875,000 in state money for two trail projects, and acceptance of nearly $550,000 in intersection improvements in the city’s Belmont neighborhood. The latter projects were prioritized through the city’s Street That Work problem as well as a 2016 study of unsafe intersections in the city by the Timmons Group. The city will need to spend around $66,000 of its own money for the Belmont work, and that money will come out of a fund set aside for the Strategic Investment Area.


Also on the consent agenda is an appropriation to pay the group Smart Growth America an additional $42,553 to tailor presentations on form-based zoning to the Board of Directors for both the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Public Housing Association of Residents. As part of the additional work, Smart Growth America will come up with an estimate of how many “affordable” units can be built at the Ix Park, which is itself within the Strategic Investment Area.


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