Closed Rest Stop
VDOT Relief Act of 2009
The Virginia Department of Transportation met its budget-cut goals this year with a simple two-step process: 1) Close down most of the rest stops on both sides of I-81. 2) Cut the mowing schedule back drastically enough that drivers and their kids have plenty of places to pull off and pee with a little modesty.
And The Coming Gubernatorial Rest Area Redo
In the face of the rest stop closings, the two candidates for governor in the November election came out firing: Republican Bob McDonnell said he would have the rest areas back open within 90 days of taking office; Democrat Creigh Deeds countered that he’d have them reopened in 60 days.
And Speaking Of No Mowing
When Roanoke County Supervisor and landscaping company owner Charlotte Moore decided this summer that she and her firm could assist cash-crunched VDOT by providing free mowing and tidying of the overgrown “Welcome To Brambleton Avenue” median and island at the corner of Va. 419 and Brambleton, she was met initially with a litany of restrictions, permit requirements, overlapping oversight, filing fees and training requirements, which as we go to press are still undergoing “streamlining” to allow Moore to maintain the tiny plot.
The ‘60s Finally Come To Roanoke Award
To a Hollins student and about 60 cohorts who in May walked around downtown carrying blank-screen TVs and then suddenly halted in place to stare at them, prompting police arrival, the student to remain in protest character and thus not respond to the officer, the officer to arrest her, and the obstruction and impeding charges to ultimately be dropped as the ACLU stood at the ready to defend the silent TV holder.
Then Again, As Long As You’re Not Holding A TV . . . Not long after Valley Metro put up a few “No Loitering” signs outside its Campbell Avenue bus station to combat panhandling and cat-calling, word came from the city that there is no Roanoke anti-loitering ordinance, and the signs had to come down.
To a Virginia State Police report, which in April cited historically black colleges and a Christian college as potential breeding grounds for terrorism, a charge that Governor Kaine immediately labeled as improper given the lack of specific reasons for citing of the three schools.
Should We Close Off Some Of The Greenways Too, To Make Them Look More Used?
Salem Red Sox management decided at the beginning of the team’s inaugural season to place big tarps over about a sixth of the seating capacity at Salem Baseball Stadium for the 2009 season – to make the stadium appear “more intimate.” The result: An opening night, and several other sellout nights during the season, featuring “standing room only” – for no reason – people turning around and going home for lack of a seat when there were nearly 1,100 seats hiding under the tarps, and fans getting up to wait in interminable concession lines only to return and find their seats vultured by other members of the standing-room-only crowd.
Hey, Salem Does EVERYTHING In About A Week.
In a metro area known for pro and semi-pro sports franchises disappearing faster than houseplants at the Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Salem set a record back in late April, when it announced that the Virginia Senators of the United National Gridiron League would play their home schedule beginning in May at Salem Stadium, with ticket prices ranging from $10 to $40; 10 days later the league, the team and those great ticket prices were history.
As we go to press comes news (also news to Salem when it was announced) that the league is back in, well, back in planning, with play slated to begin in 2010 and the Salem team’s name changed to Swarm.
What Happens When The Principal Gets Sent To The Principal’s Office?
A report this spring from the Virginia Department of Education pointed to William Fleming Principal Susan Lawyer Willis as the key person in an alleged scheme to remove students from classes requiring Standards of Learning tests and place them instead in non-SOL classes, with the goal of improving the school’s overall SOL performance. While the other four adminstrators left the school, Willis responded, in part, by hiring a public relations firm, booking the Hotel Roanoke for her hearing and asserting that the boss did it.
To the Explore Park board and would-be developer Larry Vander Maten, who in July notified the board that he was extending his “inspection period” until June 2010 to decide whether or not he will exercise his 99-year lease option and develop the 1,100-acre park, which has struggled to find its identity since its conception in the mid-’80s, and which has been closed for more than a year and a half.
The Rodney Dangerfield Award
To Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers, who spent much of his mayoral year not getting any respect from . . .
City Council. Bowers took offense when he found that since the last time he was mayor, council had canceled the city’s $5,000-plus membership in the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The six bullies then proceeded to take away hizzoner’s mileage reimbursement as well.
City Administration. When City Clerk Stephanie Moon suggested Bowers’ secretary as one of the positions to be eliminated in the city’s budget cuts, Bowers reportedly walked out of a meeting. And later lost on a 4-2 council vote with his plea to keep his secretary on a part-time basis, labeling the decision to eliminate her position as “petty, personal and political.”
No Mold Before Its Time Award
To the Jefferson College of Health Sciences, which in May decided that even though there was no sign of mold in its 10-story building, the ugly risk existed in . . . HOUSEPLANTS, and that all such potential mold-bearers were henceforth banned from the seven stories of classrooms, labs and offices as well as the three stories of dorm rooms.
Shootout At Twine Hollow Award
To Roanoke City and Roanoke County for their snit over use of the county-owned firing range, which culminated early this summer with the county deciding to “go in another direction” in regard to letting city law enforcement officers use the range, after charges earlier in the year that city personnel were using the range unsafely, as in guys standing down-range within a few feet of the target that other guys where shooting at.
Grading On A Curve Award.
To the American Lung Association, which in April awarded an “F” for air quality to the Roanoke Valley for 2009; the Alleghany Regional Commission quickly begged to differ, citing ALA’s use of new, more stringent standards retroactively to 2005-’07 data to create its “2009” number and noting that the valley has been in compliance with the new standard, adopted in early 2008.
Boilin’ Mad Award
To the 1,200 or so residents of the town of Buchanan, who were directed in April to boil their drinking water to prevent intestinal illness as they were told it could take up to 18 months for a filtering system for town wells to be put into place.
Extra Cash For Waking Up Award
To Roanoke City Schools, which in the face of bus driver protests and sick-outs over loss of hours and benefits as the system went to a private company for buses, in May implemented a $40-per-week bonus program for drivers who get to work on time every day and don’t crash the bus.
What About Getting To The Schools On Time?
The transition from buses operated by Roanoke City Schools to buses operated by Pennsylvania-based Mountain Valley Transportation was a bit rocky, as many buses ran more than an hour behind on both morning and afternoon runs.
Roanoke Albatross Award.
To lame-duck Roanoke City Manager Darlene Burcham, who oversaw the $4.1 million purchase of Countryside Golf Course in 2005, only to see the property languish to the tune of a projected $400,000 annual loss to the city as the current lease was due to expire at the end of October and the city considered, as we go to press, three responses to a request for proposals to operate the course.
Heal Thyself Award
To the Carilion Pharmacy on McClanahan, which calls loudly into question the hospital system’s commitment to “improve your health and well-being” with its array of Zagnuts, King Size Snickers and Little Debbies right there with the pills you take to recover from the heart attack that Zagnuts, King Size Snickers and Swiss Cake Rolls gave you.
Maybe Ukrop’s Didn’t Want Them Out Front Selling Beer.
Roanoke City Council in April granted its fourth extension for opening to the developer of the Walgreens in front of the Ukrop’s on Franklin Road, part of an agreement that calls for the city to pay up to $600,000 annually for 15 years to the developer. And by September Ukrop’s said it would close.
Maybe The Seminoles Could Wave Vegetables Instead of Flaming Spears?
Williamsburg’s tiny College of William & Mary continued its NCAA-mandated path toward a new athletic logo (the feathers were deemed demeaning to Native Americans in 2006 while the Florida State painted-face Indian, flaming spear and highly annoying chant remain NCAA-OK), this spring with receipt of about 400 ideas, including a wombat, a goat and an asparagus stalk.
Maybe We’ll All Have Personal Hoverjets By The Time It Gets Built.
A Roanoke U.S. District judge in August ruled against a lawsuit to stop the building of the proposed I-73, which was suggested in 1991; is projected to run through Roanoke on its way between Detroit and Charleston, S.C.; is “probably decades away” from construction, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney; and for which “there is no money,” according to a VDOT spokesperson.
Lax Axe Award
To Bedford County Schools, which in April voted down starting varsity lacrosse programs at Jefferson Forest High, despite parents’ assurance that they would raise money to cover all expenses of the teams as well as field improvements.
Ringer Of The Year Award
To the Boston Red Sox, who on the occasion of the first game of the division series between its Class A Salem Red Sox and the Winston-Salem Dash in early September, sent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (among the best pitchers in the American League the previous year) to pitch for Salem in a rehab start. The result: An easy 7-2 win for Salem, behind Dice-K’s strong 6 2/3 innings.
To the City of Roanoke for committing in July to a $5.7 million renovation of the City Market Building, but not until fiscal 2011, and only after series of studies, closings, mouse hunts, vendor chasings, false starts and changed plans dating back more than a decade.
Throw The Bums Out . . . Throw All The Bums Out.
To Lynchburg’s Liberty University which after initially banning the school’s Young Democrats organization on the grounds of disagreements over the party’s philiosophy, eventually reached the solution of not providing funding to either the Young Republican or Young Democrat clubs, and perhaps not granting university recognition to either.
At Least There’s No Moonshine Involved
The sheriff’s office in Franklin County went sort of Franklin County on us in May, when two top deputies got fired just about the time state police were investigating the sheriff who fired the deputies regarding allegations he had put his daughter on the sheriff’s department payroll but that she hadn’t performed any work.
Well, Since There’s A Liberace Museum . . .
Soon after Governor Kaine’s September announcement of the closing of the Botetourt Correctional Center in Troutville came the news that PETA wanted the building for a museum dedicated to “chicken empathy.”
NIMBY . . . The Boy Scouts?!
After indicating they would bring their 200,000-person National Scout Jamboree to Goshen Pass in Rockbridge County beginning in 2013, the Boy Scouts of America changed their minds this summer, citing “a land utilization perspective” as the reason for backing out, to the dismay of the county administator and the delight of about 2,000 Rockbridge residents who signed a petition opposing the proposed location.
Where Are Brill and Bogazcyk When You Need Them Award.
To the sports department of The Roanoke Times which this summer reduced long-time reporter and columnist Doug Doughty to making mention, in an Extra Section “Corner Shot” piece, that he was about to celebrate his 35th anniversary at the paper. Maybe Doughty’s the only Wahoo?
Maybe She Was Looking For A “Thanks For Dropping In” Card
An 81-year-old woman drove her car through the front windows and into the Cave Spring Corners Hallmark store in April, shattering merchandise and causing the store to close for repairs.
No Moonwalk? I’m Not Coming.
Carmike 10 at Tanglewood arranged to show the memorial service after the death of pop superstar Michael Jackson early this summer; a reported five people paid their way in.
CVS On Every Corner Award.
To the amphitheater virus that has beset the area, with hopes, plans or starts on such facilities at two or three places in Roanoke City, in Salem, in Rocky Mount and at Smith Mountain Lake.
If We Knock It Down, They Will Leave Award.
To Roanoke City, which once it announced plans to demolish the National Guard Armory on Reserve Avenue, saw the four guard units housed there prepare to pack up and depart for Petersburg, Danville, Lynchburg and Virginia Beach.
Is This Why The Mosquitoes Were So Bad This Summer?
Virginia biologists reacted with shock and dismay early this year as the mysterious die-off of bats, previously seen only in Northeastern states, began to decimate Virginia populations of bats, which consume 50 to 100 percent of their body weight in insects each night.
On the same day in March that the Dow-Jones Industrial Average went below 7,000 for the first time in 11 years, the State Corporation Commission, overseer of financially troubled Shenandoah Life, announced that the company’s top-selling agents wouldn’t be taking reward trips to Spain or the Bahamas as in previous years; and Roanoke contractor J.M. Turner Co. terminated its contract with the owners of a partially built upscale hotel on Reserve Avenue, citing non-payment of about $1.4 million for work on the planned Cambria Suites facility in the midst of the burgeoning Carilion Clinic campus.