A look back at 2021

Published 8:30 am Friday, January 14, 2022

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Throughout the month of January each edition of The Charlotte Gazette 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

• COVID-19 cases are back on the downtrend, but public health officials are noticing an increase in cases in children ages 5 and below.

Monday, April 26, Piedmont Health District Senior Epidemiologist Rhonda Pruitt said all counties in the health district with the exception of Cumberland County were seeing a slight decrease in cases this week after a temporary uptick in cases earlier in the month.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), both Charlotte and Lunenburg counties saw seven new cases of the virus the week of April 19 to April 26, bringing the counties’ cumulative case totals to 831 and 745, respectively.

• The Charlotte Court House Town Council is on a mission to address abandoned and blighted properties in the town and has requested suggestions from Town Attorney Gary Elder.

Councilmember Terry Ramsey said the old Charlotte Elementary School and School Administration Building at 200 and 300 David Bruce Avenue beside the County Health Department had become eyesores.

“This is something some town council members have concerns about, and we are looking into appropriate action,” Ramsey said in an email. “These are contributing structures in the Charlotte Court House Historic District and have windows broken out and have been neglected for many years.”

• Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday, April 22, that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15.

The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s good news that half of all adults in Virginia have gotten a shot so far,” Governor Northam said. “Vaccination numbers are up, and our COVID-19 case numbers are substantially lower than they were earlier this year. So, we have been able to begin easing some mitigation measures. We took a few more targeted steps this week, and we will do more next month.”

• The Virginia Loggers Association (VLA) recently requested Charlotte County to exempt logging businesses from certain taxes, potentially costing the county approximately $411,00 in lost revenue.

Executive Director Ron Jenkins with the VLA addressed the Board of Supervisors during a recent budget work session requesting an exemption from the machinery and tools and personal property taxes on forest harvesting equipment, but was quickly met with surprised faces by BOS members when they learned of the sustainable tax losses.

“We don’t exempt farmers in this county, and we have to get money from somewhere, and a lot of that comes in the form of farming and logging,” Supervisor Kay Pierantoni said.

• The highly debated issue of the Confederate statue that sits atop a pedestal in the Courthouse Square once again became a heated topic at the Monday, April 12 Charlotte County Board of Supervisors meeting when one citizen said a supervisor did not allow citizens to speak at a recent committee meeting on the issue.

Kathy Liston took to the podium during the public comment portion of the board meeting to say she was “accosted” by Supervisor Kay Pierantoni. She said Pierantoni told her she was not wanted at any discussions on the Confederate statute issue.

Liston, a published historian and archaeologist, says she and others in the county should be included in the meetings to discuss the fate of the statue.

MAY, 2021

• Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has officially lifted all state COVID-19 restrictions.

According to Executive Order 79, all social distancing and capacity restrictions related to the novel coronavirus ended midnight Friday, May 28.

The order does not change current mask guidelines. As of Friday, May 28, fully-vaccinated Virginians do not need to wear face masks in most indoor and outdoor settings except for places like public transportation, K-12 schools and health care facilities. Businesses retain the right to require masks inside.

• After 14 months away from home battling cancer, 7-year-old, Zeke Puig has returned to his home in Phenix.

On Monday, May 17, Zeke and his parents John and Danielle were escorted home by firetrucks and police cars to find their yard full of well-wishers cheering and holding signs for Zeke.

“It was such a beautiful picture of the mighty prayer army that has been surrounding us since we left 14 months ago,” Danielle Puig said. “It is so incredible to actually be home. We are overjoyed and grateful that the Lord has carried us to this point.”

Over the past 14 months, the Puigs have been living in Pennsylvania while Zeke has undergone rounds of testing, treatments and bone marrow transplants at The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with monosomy 7, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

• A new industry has broken ground at the Heartland Regional Industrial Park in Keysville with the anticipation of providing 20 or more full-time jobs to the area.

On Monday, May 17, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Heartland Regional Industrial Park located along Highway 360.

The company distributes structural floor and roof systems to the professional contractor trade through a network of retail lumber dealers and truss manufacturers.

• A Drakes Branch Fire and Rescue member is being hailed as a hero after finding a missing woman.

According to Prince Edward, Sheriff L. A. “Tony” Epps, on the evening of Wednesday, May 12, Allen Gordon was traveling on US Highway 360 in Prince Edward County when he noticed a woman standing near a vehicle partially in the roadway.

Epps said the woman had been reported missing by her family several days earlier in another jurisdiction.

“Feeling that something just wasn’t right, he turned around and went back to check on her,” Epps said, “ Gordon called our office to report this and stayed with her until our Deputy T. J. Hathaway arrived.”

• In an unprecedented move, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously voted to unappropriate funds to the Charlotte County Voter Registrar’s FY21/22 budget during its Monday, May 10, meeting, citing concerns of overspending by the office.

The $15,275 removed on a motion by Supervisor Kay Pierantoni was originally earmarked for new electronic poll books.

JUNE, 2021

Keysville is just two years away from a roundabout the VDOT says will keep traffic moving safely.

“The project is still in development and is on time and on budget,” VDOT Communications Manager Paula K. Jones said.

According to Jones, construction is set to begin in early 2023.

In 2017 the proposed $5.2 million roundabout at the intersection of Routes 15 and U.S. 360 made it through the second round of scoring under the new SMART SCALE prioritization process used by the state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).

• With a new cafeteria and four classrooms close to completion in the coming weeks, the front wing of Bacon District Elementary will begin a transformation.

According to Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) Executive Director of Operations Brette Arbogast the front of the school will be demolished making way for a new wing which will include larger, more energy-efficient classrooms.

“So far, this project has gone well.” Arbogast said.

According to Arbogast, it was more economical to demolish and construct a new front entrance of Bacon District rather than renovating the building.

• Rodney Stotts, a Charlotte Court House resident, is one of only a handful of African American falconers in the country, and he is on a mission to build a bird sanctuary and provide access to nature for his community.

“We can all hurt people, but we can also help people, and I want to do the latter,” Stotts said.

This is a story of second chances — for injured birds of prey — for an abandoned plot of land — for a group of teenagers who have dropped out of high school — and for Stotts himself.

“All this is healing; all this is medicine. All this changes who you are,” Rodney Stotts said.

Armed with only a chain saw, wood chipper and a weed eater, Stotts is working to turn seven areas of his property in Charlotte Court House into a bird sanctuary.

• Health officials are concerned localities lagging behind in vaccine rates may be headed for trouble as the B.1.617.2 (Delta) COVID-19 variant takes hold of the U.S.

The Delta variant, which made headlines in previous months as it wreaked havoc in India, is estimated to have a transmissibility rate between 40-60% greater than current leading coronavirus strains in the U.S.

In Virginia, public health officials predict the Delta variant will quickly become the most common variant in the state as it overtakes the dominant U.K. variant.

Although COVID cases have dramatically lowered in recent months, officials say counties with low vaccination numbers may be particularly vulnerable.