The defining news story of 2020 was, of course, the coronavirus pandemic, which left no one unscathed. We asked a few Louisa County residents what they think of what federal, state and local governments have done so far to protect the public health and provide economic aid, as the second massive relief package was signed by the president. Read more about the year that was, below.
January: Sheriff hires a familiar sidekick
New Louisa County Sheriff Donald Lowe hired former Town of Louisa Police Chief Ronnie Roberts to serve as major and the sheriff’s second-in-command.
February: Teen murder suspect charged as adult
Cameryn Dickerson was 16 when he shot and killed Roger Payne and critically injured Payne’s wife in November 2019. He was sentenced in November to life in prison, though he will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
March: Monacans propose new water site
A large crowd erupted into shouts of “Shame!” when the James River Water Authority did not change its plans to build a pump station on land where Monacan Nation believes its ancestral capital city was located. But by October the authority was working with the Monacans on a study of an alternative site two miles upstream.
March: Coronavirus concerns
The coronavirus pandemic did not spare Louisa County, forcing schools and stores to shut down. Despite a massive federal relief package in April and an eviction moratorium, lines grew long for food at the Louisa County Resource Council and the unemployment rate jumped. Some businesses have barely survived. By the end of the year, nearly 900 people had tested positive in the county for the illness, with 57 hospitalized and nine fatalities. Despite the bleak news, many have shown up to volunteer to help fellow citizens weather the storm.
March-April: Seniors graduate, younger students head home early
Louisa County High School organized a unique graduation on the football field, inviting students and their parents to receive diplomas and greet educators one more time at a safe distance from one another. Younger students received assignments by mail from teachers while their parents participated in drive-throughs to collect things they had left behind when schools closed in March.
May: Pool vote is now in doubt
The Friends of Louisa County Aquatics lobbied for two years to place funding in the county budget to enclose one of the pools at the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center. The Louisa County Board of Supervisors first opted to have voters decide whether to fund the project, then changed their minds and removed it from the budget.
May: County may buy lake wastewater plant
It would cost the county $5 million to buy and upgrade the wastewater plant at Lake Anna Plaza. Doing so would enable development to proceed at Lake Anna Resort, across New Bridge Road (Route 208).
July: New body cameras for officers
The county used $123,000 in federal coronavirus relief to buy 55 body cameras and associated video software for the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office. The cameras were justified as a pandemic-related expense because they could be used to help trace people who may have been exposed to the virus.
July: Protestors call for broad reforms
The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer led to protests against racial injustice across America, including in the town of Louisa. More than 100 people marched through the center of town to raise awareness of police brutality, but also racial imbalances in public employment and concerns about Confederate symbols on public property.
August: Virtual, blended learning begins
Many students returned to school two days a week sporting masks, while others studied at home full-time. Louisa County Public Schools trained teachers to conduct virtual classes and set up Wireless on Wheels solar hotspots to help families stay connected.
September: Solar fields are rejected
With one solar field under construction, Dominion Energy hoped to add a second one across the road. But Tisdale and Waldrop Church road residents upset about views, traffic and stormwater convinced the Louisa County Board of Supervisors to vote against it.
September: Supervisors commit $15m for internet
The board of supervisors voted to set aside $15 million for internet, though it’s unclear how the money will be spent. The board pushed Rappahannock Electric Cooperative to commit to providing broadband via fiber-optic lines, much as Central Virginia Electric Cooperative has done.
September: Judge says flagpole not a monument, orders Lee portrait to be removed
Louisa Circuit Court Judge Timothy Sanner ruled that a 120-foot Confederate flagpole near Interstate 64 does not qualify as a monument; other issues in the case are still to be resolved. Separately, Sanner ordered a large portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee to be removed from the courtroom, citing concerns about racism. Attorneys for a murder suspect had argued their client could not receive a fair trial with the portrait on the wall.
September-October: Jail and nursing home outbreaks
Eighteen inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at Central Virginia Regional Jail, and about 40 patients and staff at Louisa Health and Rehabilitation Center. Scattered cases were identified during the late summer and fall at Louisa County Public Schools, though only one case was transmitted on school grounds.
October: Citizens turn out to Back the Badge
In response to protests against police brutality over the summer, the Louisa County Republican Committee organized a “Back the Badge” march and rally to offer support to law enforcement. Sheriff Donald Lowe spoke at the rally, as did Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral District) and Congressional candidate Nick Freitas.
October: All charges are dismissed in murder case
After almost five years in jail, Darcel Murphy was released when a judge found there was insufficient evidence Murphy fired a gun or was even present at Kevin Robinson’s home on March 29, 2016. Another man had previously pleaded guilty to Robinson’s death.
October: Fundraising goal for rescue station met
A nonprofit formed by a group of Lake Anna residents raised $100,000 in a few short months to support construction of a new rescue station on New Bridge Road. The Louisa County Board of Supervisors went on to fund the station in this fiscal year’s budget, and decided it should also be a fire station. It will be the first time the county government has built a station, rather than a volunteer organization.
October: Water rates set to rise in new year
Despite concerns about raising water and sewer rates during a severe economic downturn, the Louisa County Water Authority did so anyway. Members of the authority’s board reasoned that they need to raise rates so they can stop relying on the supervisors to help pay their operating expenses.
November: Election undecided
As of Election Night, it was far from clear that Abigail Spanberger would retain her seat in Congress or that Joe Biden would be the next president. Spanberger won a narrow victory a day later as absentee votes were counted, but many Americans didn’t accept it when the Associated Press called the election for Biden. The electoral college may have settled most doubts when it voted on Dec. 14.
December: Preparing for sports
Athletic Director George Stanley had the challenging task of making sure student athletes could play safely as the winter sports season began. As for football, it won’t start until February.