Renovation plans for a Rosenwald school in Albemarle County can now move forward.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Wednesday evening unanimously approved a special-use permit for St. John Family Life and Fitness Center Inc. and the Building Goodness Foundation to allow the building in the Cobham-Gordonsville area to be used as a community center.
Rebecca Kinney, president of the St. John group, said the programming at the community center — which will include exercise and other classes, workshops, lectures and a resource library — will be available to everyone.
“We will continue the legacy of education established in the past into the future with the education of the mind, body and soul,” she said.
The school was constructed in 1922 and was one of seven Rosenwald schools built in Albemarle. The Rosenwald Fund was established by Julius Rosenwald of Sears, Roebuck and Co., in partnership with Booker T. Washington, president of the Tuskegee Institute, to build schools primarily for African American children throughout the South.
The project is part of the Building Goodness Foundation’s C’ville Builds program, which is supporting construction, repair and restoration efforts in the area, specifically for low-income homeowners, nonprofit organizations and small businesses that are struggling as a result of the pandemic and ongoing effects of structural inequity.
The project team members — who include two engineers, two project managers and one historic preservation architect — are working pro bono on the St. John School renovation.
Jody Lahendro, the historic preservation architect on the project, said about 85% of the original historic finishes still exist in the school, which had been a residence from 1954 until 2003.
“We’ll be taking away the later finishes, we’ll be restoring the interior, and then because of the new uses, we’ll be adding some walls,” he said. “These walls are being designed so that they comply with the secretary [of the U.S Department of the Interior’s] Standards for Rehabilitation. They will be distinctly different from, but compatible with, the resident interior of the building so that one could come in and tell what the two classrooms were inside.”
Kinney said the St. John group recently was awarded $10,000 to help make the building handicap accessible. They also have submitted an application to the federal government for $108,000 in funding for the HVAC system, plumbing, electric and a new well.
“What’s remaining is the carpentry work that needs to be done, so we have a couple of donors who are anxious to help us raise that money for the additional amount that we need for the carpentry work,” she said.
With approval of the special-use permit, they plan to start work at the end of the summer, with completion expected around the fall of 2022.
More information on the project is available at stjohnfamilylife.org.
After a nationwide search, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors on Wednesday named Kaki Dimock director of social services.
Dimock has been Charlottesville’s director of human services since 2016, and will start with the county on Aug. 16. Albemarle’s former social services director, Phyllis Savides, recently retired after 23 years with the county.
“Kaki stood out to our team because of her range of experience in the human services arena. Our teams have worked together as partners, and we’re glad to have someone with such strong community connections and a demonstrated commitment to collaboration join our leadership team,” Deputy County Executive Doug Walker said in a news release.
Dimock has more than 25 years of experience in a range of settings, including community, family and youth resiliency programs and homelessness prevention. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Vassar College and a master’s in social work from Columbia University.
“Albemarle County is in my DNA — I grew up here, and after 20 years away, I have made my home here,” Dimock said in the release. “I know this community and I look forward to serving in this role for the community.”
Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global and Fitch Ratings all have affirmed Albemarle’s Aaa/AAA/AAA issuer credit ratings. According to a news release from the county, in the ratings, Albemarle’s financial policies and management, comprehensive capital planning and budgeting and stable local economy were cited.
Albemarle’s chief financial officer, Nelsie Birch, said in the release that the stronger credit rating allows for lower interest rates, meaning the debt service that Albemarle pays will be lower, generating cost savings for taxpayers.
“We experienced those cost savings with our most recent debt issues,” she said. “Due to low interest rates and the county’s Triple Triple A credit rating, these bonds were priced with interest rates and lower borrowing requirements — below what our team has modeled into our financial forecasts and annual budget. Over the 20-year life of the debt service, the county will save over $42.6 million.”
On June 24, Albemarle issued $57.7 million in public facility revenue bonds to finance the capital program and refinanced approximately $20.4 million of outstanding debt, netting a savings of approximately $2.5 million, according to the county.
The public facility revenue bonds will finance approved capital projects, including additions at Red Hill, Scottsville and Crozet Elementary schools, school division-wide maintenance and improvement projects, county fire rescue apparatus replacement and IT/telecommunications upgrades.