Author archive: Roger Bianchini

Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring legacy: ‘Beyond Vietnam’
January 15, 2018

Sometimes words remain appropriate, not only for the era in which they are spoken, but for multiple eras, and perhaps for the length of humanity’s struggle to overcome the worst aspects of our collective nature – greed, avarice, hypocrisy and the bondage of others to forward one’s own self interests – in other words, FOREVER. 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of April 4, 1967 now known as the “Beyond Vietnam” speech are such words.  They illustrate the depth of Dr. King’s comprehension that the Civil Rights Movement was a struggle of more than one race in one nation at one point in time.  

These words, spoken exactly one year to the day before his assassination, are why some pause each January to remember and celebrate his life; while others are simply reminded of why he was, and continues to be hated by those attracted to power without compassion. 

As last year when we first printed them on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in this first month of 2018 these words remain pointedly appropriate as our national debate increasingly focuses on racial, ethnic, religious and national stereotyping as primary motives for immigration and foreign policy decisions.  And yet again we might ask ourselves if our ongoing borderless, worldwide war on terror isn’t at least in part, a legacy of our collective failure to heed Dr. King’s words of April 1967? 

And 51 years down the road, we must ask ourselves one final question – how close to “too late” are we as a people and a nation? 

Due to the speech’s length, some introductory comments and other details on the Vietnam era have been edited out – deletions are indicated by (…) and some points have been emphasized with bold highlights. 

There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. – Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photos/Public Domain)

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

‘Beyond Vietnam 

I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” … The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one … 

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world … Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.  And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history … For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us … 

“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? 

And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live …  

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such … 

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent … 

Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land. 

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances. 

But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men – for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life? 

… Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. 

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula … They must see Americans as strange liberators  … We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops … Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness … They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence? 

… At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved … and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. 

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. 

If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I speak as a child of God … I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. 

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.” 

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit … and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about … Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. 

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution … It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. 

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. 

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” 

It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” 

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, is not just … America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood … 

We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. – Martin Luther King Jr.

We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice … It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies … This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind … When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response … I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality … This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God” … 

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too lateOver the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” 

There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”  We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace … and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors.  If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight … Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world … 

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated: 

Once to every man and nation comes a moment do decide,
In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light. 

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong
Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. 

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. 

Local Government
‘Browntown at Night’ – NO agricultural event center here … maybe
January 12, 2018

Among opponents speaking against the Albarelli proposal was Alan Brockway, chief of South Warren’s Volunteer Fire Company 3. Like many, Brockway expressed traffic safety concerns, noting Co. 3 already averages one traffic accident call per week on Browntown Rd. Photos/Roger Bianchini.

FRONT ROYAL – Rather than a TV show featuring the dance-music-era “night life” of a community, Wednesday evening’s “Browntown at Night” gathering at a Warren County Government Center Meeting Room nearly full of South Warren residents showed that a clear majority is perfectly happy with their commercial nightlife status quo – NONE!!!

At issue at the January 10 Warren County Planning Commission meeting were zoning amendment and conditional use permit requests by Browntown property owners Michael and Judith Albarelli. Approved, those requests would allow an “agricultural events center” on an 87-acre portion of their 300-acre, Agriculturally-zoned property off Broad Run Road. A number of the 44 speakers at two public hearings – one on the zoning amendment, the other on a conditional use permit for the Albarelli property – expressed respect, admiration and even affection for the couple, as well as some of their preservation plans for their property. However, only five expressed outright support for their proposal to allow an agricultural events center estimated for 20 to 30 events per year, with guests numbering from 40 to 50 or 150 to 250 depending on perceptions of the proposal.

Consequently, by a 3-2 margin the planning commission voted to forward the zoning ordinance amendment request to the board of supervisors with a recommendation of denial. Commissioners Stickley, Smelser and Henry opposed the zoning amendment, with Myers and Rinaldi supporting it.

The Albarelli’s CUP application for their property was then postponed for 90 days on a unanimous voice vote. That “split decision” indicated a belief by the planning commission, and perhaps some of the speakers in opposition to the Albarellis’ application, that some variation of agricultural events centers on Agriculturally-zoned land is not a bad idea in principal.

At issue for the great bulk of Browntown residents opposing the proposal were the wide range of events sought in the application, as well as traffic safety issues on Browntown and Broad Run Roads. The list of events the Albarelli’s planned for their property included “company picnics and recreational gatherings, family reunions, retirement parties, fundraising galas, reception dinners, small weddings, educational retreats, seminars and workshops. Noise from some of those events carrying for miles across Browntown, or just across the street, was cited as a disruption of the quiet, rural lifestyle ambience most residents have either stayed or moved to Browntown to achieve.

A number of opponents pointed out that events like weddings, company picnics, recreational gatherings and fundraising galas were NOT “agricultural events”. Those same critics had less issue with educational retreats, seminars and workshops related to agricultural uses and preservation.

In fact, addressing his and his wife’s proposal to open the public hearing on the conditional use permit application, Michael Albarelli explained that he was seeking a revenue source to support his efforts toward “forest management” for the bulk of his 300 acres – “that cost is daunting” Albarelli said. He agreed that many of the events described in his proposal were not agriculture in nature, but he noted they would support his forest management efforts on his property.

Above, Michael Albarelli states his case for an event center to financially support his desired forest management project for his 300 acre property; below, the Albarellis, center, find a light moment among the generally good-natured hostility.


Albarelli bemoaned a lack of communications with neighbors and what he described as misrepresentations of his proposal.

“Our specific property has been severely misrepresented, which is why there are so many people here,” Albarelli said. He added that social media or other descriptions of him related to the application were “a little bit of character assassination”. Albarelli said he was described as “an absentee landlord with a get-rich scheme – I assure you that is not true,” he said.

Albarelli observed that worldwide the Shenandoah Valley is recognized as “the best example … of nature reclaiming an area that was clear-cut for agricultural purposes.” Then he pointed to ongoing threats to that naturally-reclaimed Valley from gypsy moths, fungus and other threats from multiple environmental and other sources.

“Our ultimate dream is to undertake the kind of educational seminars … to support this type of activity,” Albarelli said of forest management and preservation of the natural wonders that Browntown has developed within.
And while most speakers would share the Albarellis’ concern and desire to develop strategies to preserve their slice of the Shenandoah Valley, the scope of the Albarelli application was too much for most to agree to.

So the postponement of a vote on the Albarelli Conditional Use Permit application to allow it to be reworked to deal with the nature, size, traffic and other variables may be a positive sign. That sign being that with ongoing cooperation, the Albarellis, their neighbors and the county planning staff may be able to come up with a compromise proposal that will be seen as a benefit to Browntown, Warren County and the Shenandoah Valley, rather than a detriment.

Most opponents, like former Park Ranger Cindy Barnhart, might agree that forest management is a good end, but that the Albarelli CUP application is not the best means to that end.

One crucial variable on a potential compromise will be traffic management and perhaps road improvements to both Browntown and Broad Run Roads. One man described Broad Run Road off which the Albarelli property lies as “not much wider than this podium” as he spoke at one of the public hearings.
“Who pays for road improvements – will VDOT help?” Happy Creek Planning Commissioner Robert Myers wondered. County Planning Director Taryn Logan observed there were no road improvements included as part of the original Albarelli application.

Fork District Planning Commissioner Hugh Henry pointed to aspects of a compromise, suggesting less vehicular traffic accessing events, no amplified music, one-day events only that would be concluded by a prescribed time, likely late afternoon or early evening – “I can support this, just not as it’s written,” Henry said prior to the vote to postpone the conditional use permit application.

“I think we all agree that Mr. and Mrs. Albarelli are very professional and squared-away people,” Shenandoah District Planning Commissioner Ralph Rinaldi added. “I agree with Mr. Henry and Mr. Myers that this should be delayed and redone to fit what was said here tonight … As was said, that property could be logged (by right in an Agriculture District). I’m all for property rights – as long as they work to the best interest, safety and welfare of the people in that area.”

Were a positive resolution on the Albarelli permit application reached three months down the road, the planners would have to revisit their initial 3-2 recommendation of denial of the zoning amendment that would facilitate that permit – or perhaps just tell the supervisors to ignore that recommendation, upon further consideration.

Also at the first county planning commission meeting of 2018, Scott Stickley, Robert Myers and Cindy Kokernak were unanimously re-elected as board chairman, vice chairman and secretary, respectively.

In the end the county planning commissioners decided to see if the Albarelli application can be re-tooled over three months to their and a Browntown majority’s liking.




Local Government
Council defeats Property Maintenance Code with Rental Inspection District
January 10, 2018

Chris Morrison has been passionate about protecting the town’s renters – but a council majority now views enforcement of specific rental property standards as too expensive or too problematic. File Photos/Roger Bianchini.

FRONT ROYAL– By a voice vote of 6-0 on Monday night, January 8, the Front Royal Town Council began the process of removing the Rental Inspection District and its specific protections of town renters from the proposed Property Maintenance Code.
Chris Morrison’s motion to approve the first reading of the combined code failed by a 0-6 voice vote. During an adjournment in the January 8 meeting Morrison, who has been council’s chief advocate of adding town legal protections for renters, explained his “no” vote.

“You know what’s going on here; you were at the work session last week. I have to work with what I know can pass,” Morrison said. By joining the “no” votes, Morrison would be able to re-introduce the renter protections part of the failed ordinance at a future date when passage would seem more likely. The council majority has made it clear it plans to reintroduce the Property Maintenance portion of the ordinance proposal without the rental district.

Work session discussion on January 2 indicated a council majority did not support the rental inspection district or the costs associated with enforcement. During a July 2017 work session Mayor Tharpe estimated an annual cost of as much as $150,000 to create a position to oversee requested inspections and enforcement where violations existed. “We’ll see if our council will belly-up with a tax increase,” Tharpe said at the time. The eventual answer was “no”.

During the discussion six months ago Councilman John Connolly pointed out that revenue from one-cent of a past real estate tax hike had already been committed to fund a position that could handle such duties. Each penny of town real estate tax produces about $105,000, so another half penny hike could fund the position.

But in the immediate future, renters with serious complaints about the condition and circumstance imposed by some landlords will have to hope that the Property Maintenance Code portion of the proposed ordinance can be applied to assuring some basic living standards are provided to town renters. That appears to be Councilman Morrison’s hope in the short term

During a September 25 public hearing after which council tabled action on the proposed code, a number of renters at a highly visible property at 122 South Royal Avenue, described horrid conditions which several believe contributed to at least one’s respiratory health issues. The owner of that property, described as  retired Doctor Mir Batouli of Great Falls, is one of a number of out-of-the-area landlords cited as perhaps less interested in basic maintenance than maximizing profits from their properties.

Several locally-based landlords spoke in favor of increased protections against absentee-landlord abuses, but also expressed concerns about some aspects of the code. Those concerns included inadvertent punishment of conscientious landlords for minor issues; or impacts on adjoining properties from declaring offending properties such as described by tenants of 122 South Royal Avenue as “blighted”.

The owner of rental property at 122 S. Royal Avenue was cited as a likely target of rental protections by current and past tenants during a Sept. 25, 2017 public hearing.

Speaking in support of the code, former council candidate Linda Allen pointed out that landlord abuses generally target the community’s most vulnerable citizens. Those are citizens not in a position financially to either file civil actions or just up and move.
Another local landlord, C & C Frozen Treats owner William Huck, told council, “It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when you pass this.” Apparently the “when” involves a council willingness to add a half cent to the local real estate tax to fund enforcement.

And facing a 2.8-cent tax hike over the next six years to fund current or pending capital improvements like the new police headquarters, walking trails, sidewalks and physical improvements to historic downtown business district properties, the “when” remains in doubt. The Town’s current real estate tax rate is 13-cents per $100 of assessed value.

Local landlord and businessman William Huck urged passage of a rental inspection district to hold all landlords accountable to minimum standards of habitability as defined by the Town.

Suggested alternative methods of rental property enforcement suggested by another local landlord, David Silek, were cited by Town Attorney Doug Napier as unfeasible under existing legal definitions. Those alternatives included criminal prosecution under public nuisance or public health statutes. See related story:  Town attorney responds to rental inspections questions

Reintroduction of the Property Maintenance Code sans the Rental Inspection District can proceed immediately following the first-reading vote against the joint ordinance. On January 2, Town Attorney Doug Napier explained that no second reading vote would be required once the first reading approval failed. Council has authorized re-advertisement for a new public hearing on the Property Maintenance Code, sans the Rental Inspection District.


Local Government
FRPD Officers Ramey, Treese & BZA member Shipman acknowledged by Town
January 10, 2018

From left, Sarah and Jonathan Treese, daughter Taryn, Lacey Lancaster and Marc Ramey, Chief Magalis, Major  Nicewarner and Captain Ryman. Photos/Roger Bianchini

Getting pinned – at the Monday, January 8, Front Royal Town Council meeting Front Royal Police Officers Marc Ramey and Jonathan Treese were acknowledged, Ramey for his transfer from the patrol division to investigations and Treese for his move into the department and its patrol division from Shenandoah County law enforcement.

FRPD Chief Kerry “Kahle” Magalis introduced the officers and Major Kevin Nicewarner and Captain Jason Ryman rounded out the departmental representation.

Officer Marc Ramey is congratulated for his move into investigations.

Ramey has served with FRPD since 2007 when he began in communications. He was named “Civilian Employee of the Year” in 2011. Ramey became an officer in the Patrol Division in January 2012 and was named “Officer of the Year” in 2015. He became a detective in November of last year. Ramey was pinned for that promotion by his girlfriend Lacey Lancaster.

While Treese just joined FRPD in December 2017, he is not a newcomer to law enforcement. The Woodstock resident holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Messiah College and a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Liberty University. He switched career paths from teaching to law enforcement in 2008 when he became a reserve officer with the Strasburg Police Department. He was certified as a correctional officer and worked in the Shenandoah County Jail in 2009. He was then certified as a police officer in 2010 and continued to work in Shenandoah County law enforcement.

Officer Jonathan Treese is pinned by wife Sarah as daughter Taryn keeps the chief straight.

Treece was pinned for that move across county lines by his wife Sarah under the watchful eye of daughter Taryn.

Also on January 8, the family of the late Town Board of Zoning Appeals member Wayne L. Shipman was presented with a plaque of appreciation for his service to the community. Mayor Hollis Tharpe did the honors. Vice Mayor Eugene Tewalt recalled Shipman’s appointment in February of 2010 and noted the conscientiousness of his commitment to the town. Shipman continued to serve on the BZA until his passing on December 18, 2017.

In a moving and emotional moment, Shipman’s family received a standing ovation from council, town staff and the public upon the mayor’s presentation.

The family of the late Board of Zoning Appeals member Wayne L. Shipman receives a token of the town government’s appreciation of their loved one’s nearly 8 years of service to his community.

Local Government Local News
Front Royal benefits from additional CDBG funding found by State
January 9, 2018

Looking west and east on Front Royal’s East Main St. – things are looking up with the influx of an unexpected $700,000 in state community development grant funding to Front Royal. Photos/Roger Bianchini


FRONT ROYAL – Sometimes it pays to be Number 2, well actually Number 16, just one position out of the money among applicants for State economic development grant money. As Front Royal’s Community Development Director Felicia Hart explained to council following the September 19 announcement of over $9-million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding announced for distribution to 15 Virginia municipalities, Front Royal was Number One out of the second group of municipal applicants – the group not getting money.

But being Number One out of the Number Two group paid off on January 5, when the office of Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the awarding of another $2,149,346 in CDBG funding to four more municipalities. Consequently Front Royal will receive $700,000 to foster economic revitalization to its business district.

Having faced the disappointment of being so close, yet out of the money less than four months ago, Royal Examiner asked town Community Development Director Hart about the unexpected good news to start the new year.

“We, as a town and community, feel very fortunate that additional State funds were found to help us secure this grant towards the economic revitalization of our area. In addition to all the volunteers who put all their time and effort into making this a success, Town Council should be acknowledged for their work in understanding the need for this grant and finding the funds to match the requested State funds.
“This grant provides us two years to implement, so our committee will be putting together an overall timeline – to-do’s, projects, fund allocations, etc. – as part of our entire game plan. I’m excited to see all the hard work of our volunteers rewarded. Now, we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and getting back to work – again.
“What a great problem to have!”

Now the positive movement on downtown Front Royal re-development from the private sector will get a boost from the federal government, by way of state government administration. Above, the Barnhart properties on the 100 block of East Main Street are undergoing external and internal overhauls; as is the Weaver building across the street – brew pubs, Thai restaurants, and more are coming.

In the governor’s Friday, January 5 press release, McAuliffe said, “This program has long been providing funding for projects that improve the quality of life for thousands of Virginians every year. Through Community Development Block Grants, we are able to address needs across the Commonwealth including critical infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, as well as improve economic development opportunities, ensuring job creation in rural areas. I congratulate the four grantees and look forward to the success of these projects in Virginia.”

The governor’s office release also traced the history of the program: “Since 1982, the federally-funded CDBG program has been administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Nearly three hundred non-metropolitan cities, counties, and towns are eligible for this program in the Commonwealth. Most of the approximately $16.5 million Virginia receives annually is allocated among local government applicants through a competitive process using objective scoring criteria developed in consultation with eligible localities.”

Receiving the additional CDBG funds in addition to Front Royal ($700,000) were the Town of Narrows ($699,346) and the Counties of Scott ($250,000) and Amherst ($500,000). Awarding of the State CDBG funds mandates a matching investment, if not precisely 50/50 close to it, by the municipality to achieve its redevelopment proposal.

The Town’s original application sought one-million dollars from the State under a special exception of need. The projects cited in that application included six focused on downtown. The first of those sought exterior improvements to privately owned business properties in the Downtown Historic Business District:
· Façade improvements, $365,000 State/$350,000 Town;
The other five downtown projects cited physical improvements to publicly owned Town property, including:
· Physical improvements, public restrooms and drinking fountains, to the Town Gazebo area, $125,000 State/$26,180 Town;
· Multi-purpose Open Air Gathering Space, Gazebo area, $137,500 State/$114,500 Town;
· Sidewalk and streetlight upgrades on East Main Street, $25,000 State/$13,500 Town;
· Improvement to Jackson Street parking and side street and alley enhancements, $40,000 State/$16,500 Town.
· A sixth project, the Royal Shenandoah Greenway tied to the Criser Road Trail Link, was proposed at no cost to the State, with all $400,000 funded by the Town.
So, including the Greenway project funded in total by the Town ($400,000) and the façade improvements for private businesses ($735,000 total State and Town), the total amount of funding proposed for Public Improvements in the original million-dollar funding application was $898,180, with $327,500 from the State and $570,680 funded by the Town.

Other costs included:
· Administrative ($87,350 total – $79,800 State/$7,550 Town);
· Signage ($190,500 total – $156,000 State/$34,500 Town);
· and Branding & Marketing ($74,900 total – $51,700 State/$23,200 town.

If you glazed over by ALL those NUMBERS, the grand total of the originally-submitted Town of Front Royal CDBG application was $1,985,930, with $1,000,000 even coming from the State and remaining $985,930 funded by the Town.

Hart told Royal Examiner on Monday, January 8, that the Towns’ Project Management Team for the grant will have to reappraise its priorities to determine how the $300,000 reduction in State funding will impact the revitalization plan.

As stated by Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp during a Monday night council meeting power point presentation on the CDBG program and the Town’s most recent visioning statement related to the grant application, communities receiving CDBG funds have two years to complete their redevelopment project utilizing the State money. As for potential cuts to the plan, Camp pointed to a pavilion included as part of the Gazebo
area public improvements as a “large-ticket” item cost-wise that might be a prime candidate to be deferred five or so years into the future.

Then there are old favorites like Royal Cinemas and not-quite-as-old Brooklyn’s Marketplace under the tree next door. Will there be façade improvement money coming all these new and old business’s way?

September trial date set in Hoyle-Ramsey murder case
January 5, 2018

The scene of the crime – the Grand Avenue home Hoyle shared with his mother and victim Warren Howard Ramsey. Photo/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – A trial date of September 10 has been set for the start of the murder trial of a Front Royal man accused of shooting his mother’s fiancé last March in the Grand Avenue home they shared. David Glynn Hoyle pled not guilty Wednesday, January 3, to counts of First Degree Murder and the Use of a Firearm in the commission of a felony. A full week of the Warren County Circuit Court docket was set aside for a jury trial.

Hoyle, 32 at the time of the March 27 shooting of 58-year-old Warren Howard Ramsey, faces 20 years to life on the murder charge and a mandatory-minimum of three years on the firearm charge. Hoyle remains incarcerated without bond at RSW Regional Jail.

Wednesday was Hoyle’s second court appearance within two weeks. On December 20, his defense team’s motion to suppress some evidence gathered at the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shooting – including Hoyle’s admission to shooting Ramsey – was denied by Judge Ronald Napier.

Related story here: Motion to suppress Hoyle statements to police in murder trial denied

Several issues likely to play a pivotal role in a trial, or any potential plea agreement, were alluded to during that December 20 hearing. Under questioning from defense counsel Ryan Nuzzo, one Front Royal Police Officer at the scene testified he was aware from previous interactions that Hoyle had suffered a brain injury at some point in his life.

In seeking suppression of evidence gathered in police interviews with Hoyle at the scene, Nuzzo questioned his client’s ability to comprehend the implications of his waiver of his Miranda right to not answer questions or to have an attorney present for any questioning. Testimony indicated that during questioning by first officers at the scene, Hoyle had nodded affirmatively when asked if he shot Ramsey.

Judge Napier observed from viewing police camera video from the scene that it appeared to him officers were not trying to elicit a confession from Hoyle, but rather trying to get a handle on a very volatile and emotional situation they walked into – a situation that included the possibility there was an armed shooter at the scene or nearby. Police responded to the report of a shooting at the Grand Avenue residence at 10:49 p.m., Monday evening, March 27.

“He seemed upset, in a state of shock,” Front Royal Police Officer Tyler Smith testified of Hoyle’s demeanor at the scene. “I couldn’t stand the torture …I couldn’t take it anymore – but I didn’t want to do that,” Smith testified of Hoyle’s comments to officers.

The police report states that according to an unidentified family member Hoyle walked into the living room where Ramsey was seated on the couch and began shooting without any words being exchanged between the two. During hearings Hoyle’s mother Wanda Horton has been identified as one family member present at the scene with her son when police arrived to a report of a shooting.

In an April hearing in Warren County General District Court, a mental competency evaluation of Hoyle was granted to the defense. Asked by Judge W. Dale Houff if they were going to file an insanity plea on behalf of their client, the defense team of Nuzzo and Tim Coyne indicated they would defer a decision pending the results of any mental evaluations.

RSW Jail mugshot of David Glynn Hoyle shortly after his arrest. Photo/RSW Jail


Local Government
Valley Health rep addresses absence of maternity ward in hospital plan
January 4, 2018

Two views of the existing WMH, which has served the Warren County community for 65 years since the early 1950’s. Photo/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – As referenced in our story on the first Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting of 2018, the plan for a new Warren Memorial Hospital to be constructed off Leach Run Parkway between the new Warren County Middle School and John Marshall Highway does not contain a maternity ward.  See story here.  It is a fact raising alarm bells with some county residents.

Following the county supervisors January 3 meeting, at which a request for a Letter of Support for Valley Health’s Certificate of Need for a new facility, the Royal Examiner spoke to Valley Health representative Terry Mayes about the decision to build a new hospital in Warren County designed to serve the community’s needs, one might guess for at least a half century or more – the existing Warren Memorial Hospital is 65 years old according to the county report on plans for a replacement facility.

Mayes said the decision was based on existing birth numbers at WMH over the past five years. Annual births have averaged 333 over that five-year period, less than one a day. Mayes said the last time she checked the suggested annual average to justify maintaining a hospital maternity ward was 500 births.

“The planning team and Valley Health Board took this decision very seriously, it was not taken lightly,” Mayes says. She said the low volume of births at WMH has created recruiting difficulties for medical personnel with a focus on maternity.

In second row, Valley Health’s Terry Mayes listens to county supervisors’ discussion of the new WMH plan.

Of a concern the absence of a maternity ward at a new WMH would result in births occurring in the hospital’s emergency room, Mayes said Valley Health planned additional training and staff in the new facility’s ER to address that likelihood. She added that coordination would occur with Winchester Medical Center’s maternity staff and local emergency services to accommodate future births originating in Warren County, planned for transport to WMC about 25 miles away. The new hospital is slated to open in 2020.

Mayes also observed that prenatal care provided in Warren County by Valley Health’s Obstetrics and Gynecology departments and Front Royal Family Practice would be utilized to identify any potential complications that might suggest early transport for a pregnant mother to the Winchester facility. – “We will be proactive if a need is identified, pre-birth evaluations, planning transport ahead” all will be applied to Warren County’s maternity needs, Mayes said.

Of the likelihood planned future growth – there are residential development plans for as many as 1138 new homes on about 750 acres on the town’s east side by Front Royal Limited Partnership alone – will result in an increased county birth rate, Mayes said the new WMH campus will have space to expand services if necessary. However, in the agenda packet summary of the new hospital plan it is noted that Valley Health believes
much of future Warren County residential development will target “senior adults” with “a nominal increase in women of childbearing age”.
While there is not space in the new hospital design to add a maternity ward, a wellness center also planned for the hospital campus could be physically expanded if necessary, Mayes said.

The project summary presented to the county board of supervisors on January 3 states that “the new hospital campus will occupy approximately 28 acres of the 150-acre parcel” Valley Health acquired for the project in 2008.

What IS planned for the new hospital are:
· 36 private inpatient rooms;
· 18 Emergency Department rooms, with space for four additional rooms;
· Three operating rooms;
· Two endoscopy/procedure rooms;
· A cardiac catheterization lab;
· And green space and walking trails to encourage staff, patients and visitors to down-time, healthful, outdoor activity.
AND that wellness center that could be, or has adjacent land upon which a maternity ward could be added, if and when necessary.

Local Government
Jockeying at the top; schools staffing concerns; & a lost maternity ward
January 3, 2018

From left, former board Chair Linda Glavis, newly-elected Vice Chairman Dan Murray and Chairman Tony Carter ponder county business for 2018. Photos/ Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – On the morning of January 3, the Warren County Board of Supervisors rolled in the New Year with its first meeting of 2018. With the board seated in the front two rows of public seating, County Administrator Doug Stanley convened the meeting, calling for nominations for chair and vice-chair as the first order of business.

Dan Murray’s nomination of Tony Carter for chairman was seconded by last year’s chair, Linda Glavis – Carter served as vice chair last year. But what appeared to be a fairly routine transfer of procedural authority from one year to the next turned competitive when Archie Fox’s nomination of Murray for chairman was seconded by Tom Sayre.

After review of the meeting recording, the voice vote on the Carter nomination was recorded as 3-0 for (Carter, Glavis, Murray), with Fox and Sayre abstaining. The majority vote on the first nomination precluded the necessity of a vote on Fox’s nomination of Murray.

The political play to open the new year then continued with the nomination of a vice chair. Carter’s nomination of Murray was seconded by Glavis. Fox then nominated Sayre for vice chair, but did not receive a second. However, Board Clerk Emily Mounce pointed out to us after the meeting that no second on officer nominations is required.

However, there was again no need to vote on the Sayre nomination as the Murray nomination was approved by the same 3-0 margin (Carter, Glavis, Murray), again with Fox and Sayre abstaining.

That mini-drama out of the way, the board with its new officers – titled name tags in place – got down to business. That business included reports from VDOT, the accounting firm that did the financial audit of the County, and Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher.

Those assessments were:

· VDOT: State road maintenance, as well as preparation for winter weather events, continues as the nationwide Arctic chill continues into a second week. There is relief and early positive reports on the full opening of the South Fork Bridge on Front Royal’s north side; and hope the Morgan’s Ford low-water bridge will open ahead of its scheduled early June opening – weather dependent;

· Auditing firm Robinson, Farmer, Cox & Associates: The County continues to get high marks, including earning another Certificate of Excellence, on its financial status from the financial analysts contracted to audit that status;

· WCPS: While thanking the supervisors for their past investment in new school facilities over the past 12 years (new HS, renovated HS, renovated MS, new MS, Ressie Jeffries renovations), School Superintendent Drescher pointed to the need to maintain an experienced teaching staff inside the system’s facilities. Okay, this one’s going to take more than a couple of bulleted sentences.

School operations & costs
Drescher pointed to an increase of about 40% to 50% in teacher attrition over the past five years as a major contributing factor in school accreditation issues. And while those issues might have as much to do with an arbitrary government-imposed measuring system as anything (and yes, that was an unsolicited writer’s opinion), it is the system that exists and within which state public school systems must operate. And currently two schools have fallen below a 75% passing level necessary in English and Reading accreditation scores, if only by two or three points at 73% and 72%. A 70% level is required in math, science and history.

Pre-2013, Drescher reported an average annual loss of 30 to 40 teachers from a workforce of about 400. Over the five years from 2013 to 2017 that average attrition rate rose to 61 to 70 per year. And while lauding the positive contributions of new teachers into the system, Drescher noted that too many coming in at once can create a net negative as less experienced teachers gain the classroom skills the experienced counterparts they replaced had cultivated over their careers.

Drescher said that rather than a criticism of the county government, he was “simply pointing out a fact – we don’t keep enough skilled, experienced teachers year to year.” He said he was not asking the board to consider additional funding to compete with wealthier counties to the east like Loudoun; however he added, “We must compete with Winchester, Frederick and Shenandoah Counties.”

Contacted later, Drescher said an estimate of the revenue necessary to bring Warren County Public School teacher salaries into line with Winchester, Frederick and Shenandoah was $2.2 million. Currently each penny of county real estate tax generates about $403,000 of revenue.

Cold temps & 2-hour delays
If that didn’t lower the temperature in the room enough for a board already committed to formulating a tax-increase-free FY 2019 county budget, Drescher began his report on the public school system with a reference to the Arctic blast keeping temperatures here well under freezing, dipping into single digits at night. Those outside temperatures are creating a problem in maintaining comfortable temperatures inside some county schools, particularly the new middle school, Drescher observed, as familiarization with that school’s HVAC system in the school’s first operational winter proceed.

However, that the problem is more widespread than one school was indicated in a recorded phone message to parents from Assistant Superintendent Melody Sheppard at 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. About three-and-a-half hours after Drescher’s report Sheppard’s message informed parents that county public schools will return from the holiday break on a two-hour delay both Thursday and Friday, January 4 and 5. She reminded parents to see their children are dressed for the extremely low temperatures forecast through the week – and they may want to have several layers of indoor clothes on after shedding that heavy outerwear.

Carla Sayre leaves the podium after making her case to include a maternity ward in the plan for a new Warren Memorial Hospital.

No WMH maternity unit
Signs there might be an issue with a later agenda item – a request for a Letter of Support of Warren Memorial Hospital’s Certificate of Public Need to build a new hospital complex here – came during the Public Presentations, near the meeting’s outset. Carla Sayre, wife of Shenandoah District Supervisor Tom Sayre, appeared on behalf of the Front Royal Pregnancy Center. She expressed disappointment the plan submitted for the new Warren Memorial Hospital contains no maternity ward.

Mrs. Sayre worried over impacts on segments of the local population who might not easily be able to access Valley Health’s Winchester Medical Center some 25 miles away. She also worried at the likelihood women would end up giving birth in the new hospital’s emergency room, complicating that part of the hospital’s function.

During discussion of the Letter of Support of Valley Health’s plan to build a new hospital complex off Leach Run Parkway, tentatively slated for a 2020 opening, Supervisor Sayre agreed with his wife’s stance on behalf the pregnancy center. He pointed to a number of social media expressions of concern over the absence of a maternity ward from Valley Health’s plan.

“I concur,” he said of the social media opposition to the loss of a community-based maternity ward. Like his wife earlier, Supervisor Sayre worried that local women will end up giving birth in the new hospital’s emergency room. Sayre said he would vote for the Letter of Support for the new hospital, but hoped Valley Health would reconsider inclusion of a maternity ward in its plan. He reasoned that if birth numbers (333 annually) didn’t currently justify inclusion of a maternity ward, those numbers were likely to increase as the community continues to grow in coming years.

Dan Murray’s motion to approve the Letter of Support of Valley Health’s Certificate of Need to replace the 65-year-old North Shenandoah Avenue facility passed by a 5-0 voice vote.

A related story with additional detail of Valley Health’s rationale for exclusion of a maternity ward from the new Warren Memorial Hospital plan, potential options and the plan itself will be forthcoming this week.


Local Government
Welcome to 2018 – Town Council continues pondering the future & its costs
January 3, 2018


Bryan Phipps of People Inc. traces financial variables facing the town council in determining an optimum path in financing its estimated $11-million new police headquarters. Photo/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – Following a 17-day end-of-the-year break from public meetings, Front Royal’s Town Council got back to the business of municipal government at a January 2 work session. The first agenda item was a revisiting of financing options for the $11-million new Front Royal Police Headquarters.

After that, council:
• moved proposed proffer changes on the Front Royal Limited Partnership (FRLP) development of as many as 320 residential units on 149 acres of FRLP property on the town’s eastside to a public hearing;
• found out it is still committed to building a wastewater pumping station to service initial commercial development, including first client IT Federal, at the 149 acre Royal Phoenix Business Park;
• got an overview of budget items proposed to be cut in Fiscal Year 2019 in order to produce as close to a balanced budget without further tax increases as possible. – Council has already committed to an undetermined tax increase to initial funding, whatever it ends up being, of construction of the new police headquarters;
• and added liaison committee discussion with the County on how to approach the coming law moving inspection and all other window stickers away from the center of auto windshields.

But back to that first agenda item of 2018 – following a 55-minute presentation on the in and outs of the New Market Tax Credit program that offers up-front savings, if no long-term guarantees those savings will last over a 30-to-40-year payback period, it appeared a distinct council majority is IN – well almost, with a few more numbers verified on those potential savings.

As previously reported by Royal Examiner, following a December 4 work session see story those potential tax credit savings range from a best case scenario of $5.5 million and about $240,000 in annual debt service over much of the payback period to a loss of about $2-million in total costs and about $4,000 more in annual payments in the worst case NMTC scenario presented by town staff.

However, as noted in our earlier story the staff cost estimates in the NMTC program are based on guesstimates of what interest rates will be in seven to nine years when the tax credit program interest-only payment period ends. As Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson told us last month, the actual rates “could be better or they could be way-way worse.”

In fact, during his presentation People Inc. Vice President for Development Bryan Phipps told council that the 2.65-percent fixed rate option being offered to the Town as an alternative to the New Market Tax Credit Program People Inc. administers “looks pretty good to me,” adding, “To be the devil’s advocate, if you have 2.65% fixed for 30 years that might be the way to go. – I want to be as honest as I can with you.”

Pressed for a risk versus reward assessment of the options before the Town, Phipps said, “My advice – do you really need it (New Market Tax Credits) to get this project done?”

During his opening remarks Phipps recounted the creation of the New Market Tax Credit program as assistance to “low-income communities” to realize needed capital improvement projects. Of his seven years administering the federal tax assistance program, Phipps joked, “During that time I’ve lost a lot of brain cells – it is a fairly complicated federal tax program.”

As explained in our coverage of the December work session discussion, the New Market Tax Credit Program is a federal stimulus program dating to the year 2000, late in the Clinton Administration, though it was first implemented in 2001-2002, in the first year of the George W. Bush Administration. It was designed to provide government-assisted investment in struggling local economies. It is administered through the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Between 2001 to 2016 the program invested $50.5 billion in struggling local economies. However, Phipps told council that at this point in time, regional administrator People Inc. had $11.4-million available to invest.

Eugene Tewalt, Council’s primary advocate of taking the guaranteed, fixed rate option, remained skeptical of the risks involved. “In two months all or part of that ($11.4 million) could be gone,” he said. Phipps agreed.

As discussed on December 4, the question of whether the tax credit program will continue to exist by the time the seven-to-nine-year interest-only repayment period ends continues to be an unknown. Asked what he thought about the program’s long-term prospects, Phipps replied said while there were no guarantees, he thought it likely it would survive – he theorized a greater danger was the competition for the remaining money in People Inc’s. hands.

That information in hand, Council seemed committed to a financing decision for construction of the police headquarters on a fast track of four to six weeks. That is probably a good thing, since as Mayor Hollis Tharpe pointed out bills on early stages of that construction are poised to start coming in imminently. At the December 4 work session, Town administrative and finance staff recommended the more stable fixed, 30-year 2.65% interest rate option.

And despite Phipps confidence in both the short and long-term survival of the New Market Tax Credit Program, as Royal Examiner reported in coverage of potential economic consequences of the recently-passed Republican tax reform bill, like Private Activity Bonds, New Market Tax Credits were negotiated saves in the final version of the approved tax bill. And there were no details on how those multi-billion dollar federal programs will be funded in the face of an estimated $1.5 trillion in lost federal revenue from the tax bill.

Watch the Town Council at work.

Click to download Work Session Agenda.

Are you dreaming of Caribbean Getaway?
December 30, 2017

Caribbean Night – Photos/ Roger Bianchini

With temperatures dipping into single digits, even here in Virginia and points south as 2018 approaches,* what’s not to like about “Caribbean Night in December?!!?

It didn’t take much arm-wringing to get this reporter to the event hosted by Passages Travel & Cruises’ Maria Dutton on the second floor of the Main Street Mill on December 19.  The event was co-sponsored by Sandals Resorts and featured, not only Dutton’s recently refurbished “Road Warrior” vehicle sporting art advertising balmy Sandals resorts throughout the Caribbean, but a slide presentation and literature on those destinations and their many distinctive amenities.

Maria Dutton’s Passages Travel/Sandals Resorts mobile ‘Road Warrior’ billboard

“Romance” – we like to emphasize the Romance equation at our resorts, the Sandals representative said in opening his presentation.  And speaking of “romance”: “the best beaches, whitest sands, bluest and calmest waters” – I am already IN LOVE with all these things (see the Sandals power point art attached below).

Snacks warmed would-be vacationers up for Sandals Resorts show-time.

For more detail on seasonal vacation offers through Sandals Resorts, contact Maria Dutton at Passages Travel and Cruises at (540) 636-1402 or online at [email protected]

Mike, Norma Jean – we need a travel writer don’t we?!!? Maria, can you hold a spot for Montego Bay or Negril, Jamaica or …