By Kathy Knotts
FREDERICKSBURG FREE PRESS
The Stafford County Board of Supervisors laid out a solution for the Long Family Market and heard from pickleball fanatics on Tuesday.
But they spent most of the meeting hearing impassioned pleas from parents to intervene in the school board’s site selection for what’s become known as “Elementary School No. 19.”
Locations for future schools, support for early childhood education programs and pay raises for school support staff dominated the public comment portion of Stafford’s Feb. 6 board meeting. The board voted and unanimously passed resolutions to fund 43 modular elementary school classrooms (prefabricated mobile buildings) plus an additional $350,000 for new footers after Chris Fulmer, deputy superintendent and chief operating officer for the school system, agreed to drop a proposed legal appeal. Footers are the poured concrete structural components between the bottom of a building and the ground.
Also on Tuesday, the board passed a resolution to support keeping the Long Family Market operating in the VDOT-owned 610 Commuter Lot in North Stafford with a special event land use permit. The market was in danger of losing its permit due to concerns over liability issues.
“I would like to thank Mrs. Long for being so patient,” said Crystal Vanuch, supervisor for the Rock Hill District. “We got more emails about the farmers market than we have ever gotten for anything, ever. So, it’s very clear how much support you have in this community.”
Robin Long, who acquired the market from Vanessa Griffin in 2015, stated that the Stafford County Agriculture Committee has approved them for the 2024 season, and they plan to open as scheduled on April 7.
“Long Family Markets is a producer-only market—everything sold in the marketplace is made, baked or grown by the seller,” Long wrote in an email to the Fredericksburg Free Press. “Last season we averaged 70 to 80 businesses on site in the marketplace each week. While we are food-focused, we also feature several local artisans with a variety of products including soaps, skincare, fiber arts, candles, jewelry and home decor. We also offer space for community groups.
“I want to express my gratitude to the Stafford County Board of Supervisors for their commitment and efforts in addressing the concerns regarding our leasing. And thank you to the community for coming together and letting their voices be heard. Everyone working together has not only ensured future opportunities for micro-businesses to thrive in Stafford but also strengthened the bonds that make our community extraordinary. “
Board chairman Meg Bohmke (Falmouth) spoke at length about the Stafford School Board’s decision to place “Elementary School No. 19” at the Brooke Point High School site instead of the Embrey Mill location proposed by school division staff.
“I don’t think a lot of people are aware of this, but the county and the schools formed a joint school site selection committee to evaluate … potential school sites in 2018,” Bohmke said. “There were no elected officials on this committee… and at the top of the list was Embrey Mill.”
Bohmke further stated that after the school board voted against the Embrey Mill site, nothing further happened until October, when she says the school board “increased the capacity of the next five elementary schools… It was never discussed or voted on by the school board. They essentially spent taxpayer money and did not get approval.
“It is the responsibility of the board of supervisors to fund our partner agencies and our school division is our largest partner agency…My issue is not with the teachers or anything else that is transpiring in the schools. My issue is with the fact the school board never took the appropriate action.”
Other supervisors requested that county administrator Randy Vosburg gather more information about the impact of delaying that funding, to be presented at the next board meeting on Feb. 20, and to move the public comment session to the 7 p.m. meeting to accommodate the large number of residents who wish to speak on the subject.
Vosburg’s staff will “work to identify and explore Elementary School 19 funding options while considering any potential unforeseen effects and financial implications,” he said. “Our goal is to ensure that all possible funding avenues are explored and evaluated thoroughly to ensure the Board is making informed decisions that are in the best interest of our community.”