A look back at 2021
Published 8:15 am Friday, January 28, 2022
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 October through December of 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.
• After acquiring a rare portrait of Patrick Henry in early 2021, the Red Hill staff immediately sent it to be conserved. After months of work by conservator Mark Wittl, the painting has returned to Red Hill and hangs in the museum for all to enjoy. American artist Junius Brutus Stearns (1810-1885) painted this work during the mid-19th century. Born in Vermont, Stearns served as a Union soldier during the Civil War and may have been inspired by Henry’s ideas of liberty to paint the patriot sometime after the conflict.
• In Charlotte Court House, on Saturday, Oct. 23, 154 years to the day that Joseph R. Holmes became the first African-American man in Charlotte County to win an election, a historical marker was unveiled in the courthouse square.
The marker, which took more than a year to be placed following its approval by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, informs the public about the life of Joseph R. Holmes who was born enslaved.
After emancipation, he served as a delegate to the Virginia Republican Party conventions in 1867 and 1869 and was elected to represent Charlotte and Halifax counties in Virginia’s Constitutional Convention of 1867-68.
On May 3, 1869, four white men assassinated Holmes on the county’s courthouse steps. The men charged with his murder were never tried.
The placement of the historical marker was spearheaded by Kathy Liston who recently published the history and murder of Holmes.
• SolUnesco, a Reston Virginia solar development company looking to construct one of the nation’s most extensive solar facilities in Charlotte County, is at the center of a lawsuit filed just weeks ago but the company’s CEO says no wrongdoing was done.
John Janson, a South Hill attorney, filed the lawsuit in Charlotte County Circuit Court on Sept. 28 on behalf of Faye Trent individually and as a fiduciary of Ruth A. Hansen Wilcox, after Trent said, SolUnesco and company CEO Francis Hodsoll obtained a signed land lease option agreement dated Nov. 23, 2020, with Wilcox who was incapable of making such decisions.
In addition to SolUnesco and Hodsoll, the suit names real estate broker Sandra Ann Towne and her company Properties of Virginia LLC and landowner William Berkley Devin as defendants.
• After six months of renovations, the historic bridge at Staunton River Battlefield State Park is complete.
The $469,673.50 project began in May and included replacing the decking and sides of the main bridge, replacing damaged railroad ties beneath the decking and stabilizing the trail at both ends of the bridge.
The state park used Virginia Public Building Authority bond funding to repair the 600-foot-long bridge.
The bridge, rich in history, allows visitors at the Clover Visitors Center to cross the Roanoke River to the Roanoke Visitor Center and the Roanoke Station in Randolph.
• As the state and some local counties begin seeing a rise in coronavirus cases, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized booster shots for everyone 18 years and older.
Some areas of the Piedmont Health District began seeing a spike in virus cases last week. According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) from Friday, Nov. 12, to Friday, Nov. 19,
Charlotte County was up 20 new cases.
• Charlotte County citizens are not likely to see a county-wide cigarette tax following a motion by the Board of Supervisors to table the idea indefinitely.
The quick decision came during the Board’s Monday, Nov. 8, meeting following a brief discussion.
In August, Charlotte along with other surrounding counties was made aware of a change in state law on July 1 in which counties can assess a tax on tobacco of up to 40 cents per pack.
According to the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC), if Charlotte were to impose a county-wide cigarette tax at .30, the potential collected revenue could be as high as $460,000.
“I think if we do this, we’ll see a situation like we have with the electricity tax,” Chairman Gary Walker said. “We started at the county, had all the proceeds of that to use for education, and one town after another, eventually passed their own, and that money went to the towns, and that’s their right.”
If a town already has a tobacco tax, their respective county could apply the tax in the town unless the town blocks it. For instance, Keysville could block a separate tax by Charlotte County or stack it on top of their own.
The Town of Keysville enacted a cigarette tax two years ago to pay off out- standing loans on its sewer plant renovations from many years ago, then shifting to the loan on the water plant renovation from years ago.
• For the approximately 70 million Americans who receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits this January, their monthly checks will have something extra in them.
A 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to retirees, disabled workers and those who receive survivor benefits.
According to the Social Security Administration, this annual increase will be the highest beneficiaries have seen in about 40 years.
In 2021, the cost-of-living adjustment was 1.3%.
According to estimates by the Social Security Administration, the COLA amounts to $92 a month for the average retired worker.
With the increase, the estimated average monthly benefit for all retired workers will rise to $1,657, up from $1,565.
A typical couple’s benefits would rise by $154 to $2,753 per month.
• Following the resignation of the county’s Voter Registrar, Eric Goode, on Dec. 3, the Charlotte County electoral board voted on Wednesday, Dec. 22, to temporarily relocate the Registrar’s office.
The temporary office is located at 117 LeGrande Ave. Charlotte Court House.
Electoral Board member Glenn Baker said the decision to relocate the office was made because of a filed complaint and motion to impanel a special grand jury.
“This is creating problems finding fill-in people willing to enter the premises and manage the daily operations of the office,” Baker said.
According to Baker, the office is currently being managed by a Halifax County Voter Registrar Heather Harding.
• The Charlotte County Christmas Parents held its annual toy distribution at the Drakes Branch Fire and Rescue building on Saturday, Dec. 11 and were met with smiles and plenty of thank you’s from parents.
“Things went very well. We served close to 200 children in the community,” said Desiree Lee, head of fundraising for the organization.
According to Lee, toys, stuffed animals, blankets, sweaters/sweatshirts, socks, underwear, diapers and wipes were given to each child, age and sized appropriately.
“The citizens of Charlotte and even our surrounding counties have truly shown their Christmas love this year,” Lee said.
For those shopping for their children the event meant a little something extra special under the tree this Christmas
• Drakes Branch Fire and Rescue member and treasure Wade Setzer was honored for his 50 years of service to the department on Sunday, Dec. 13. Department President Charlie Hancock, left, presented Setzer with a plaque recognizing his efforts. “He taught us that being fiscally responsible is owed to the people that support us.” said Chief Kenny Tharpe.
• 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.