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Citing better pay, 53 percent of Warren County residents commute elsewhere to work

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It’s all about the money.

Earning a living wage is what compels nearly 53-percent of Warren County workers to gas up the car and commute to a job outside the county.

According to data from the 2020 U.S. Census, the average commute time for Warren County wage-earners is nearly 42 minutes, about 45-percent longer than the state average and 51-percent longer than the national average commute. In fact, that travel time is enough to earn Warren County the dubious spot of 15th longest commute amongst all counties nationwide.

Royal Examiner reader Angela Toler says she travels about 140 miles roundtrip to her job as an interior designer for Arlington County because she cannot “afford to work anywhere ‘west’.” Her typical day is 9.5 hours. She usually works either 5 AM-2:30 PM or 5:30 AM-3 PM.


Toler said she rode the Commuter Connection bus for about two years, but between low ridership and COVID, it stopped running. Fortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic, she was able to telework frequently. Post-COVID, Toler typically commutes two days a week and works from home the other three days.

Toler has made that commute for nearly 16 years. She said that her salary,” by Arlington standards is almost low-income.” Her job doesn’t exist in less-populated areas, such as Warren County, and her salary is at the low end of what similar jobs pay in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Prince William County and Montgomery County, MD. She also says her Arlington County job does not afford her the option of living in the county where she works. Toler would rather commute, she said, than “be living with a houseful of roommates.”

County resident Teresa Lamb also commutes to her job, close to 50 miles each way. Lamb lives in the southern part of Warren County, near Thunderbird Farms, and travels to southern Frederick County, Virginia, each day. Lamb has gotten her commute down to a science, saying, “It takes me about 25 minutes to the Walmart stoplight (at Riverton Commons) and about 17 minutes to get to my job from there.”

“Route 522 traffic is terrible between 6-7 AM.  There are lots of semis as well between 4-5 PM.  Stoplights kill my time,” Lamb stated.  Despite the travel time and the stress of heavy traffic both ways around Riverton Commons, Lamb says she works outside Warren County for the money.

Front Royal resident Steve Campbell has commuted from Front Royal to Northern Virginia his entire career. He commuted to Mt. Vernon High School for his senior year, graduating in 1987, then began working for Fairfax County Schools in 1988; he’s been commuting for 34 years.

Campbell’s daily commute to Springfield is 65 miles each way, with travel time ranging between 55-90 minutes, depending on the traffic. Like Toler, he does not work a traditional 9-5 schedule, typically working 5:30 AM–2 PM.  He says, “Thankfully I miss most of the traffic in the afternoon but I’m finding out more and more (especially after the pandemic) that 2 PM is the new 3:30 PM as far as traffic goes.” Campbell continues, “Add into the equation the widening of Interstate 66 and it can test your patience for sure!” Still, he says it is about the money. I can’t make what I make in Front Royal or anywhere closer than Manassas.”

For his remaining 5-6 years of daily commuting, Campbell says he’ll use the Pay lanes when they open. He opined, “I find the commute more and more stressful due to so many people using cell phones and not paying attention. Going straight through when there is a lane shift, changing lanes without looking is a big plague now. I’m hopeful that when the hot lanes open later this year it relieves some of the stress.”

Surprisingly, since he began commuting to his Fairfax job in 1988, Campbell has used just four vehicles – three of them accumulated at least 200,000 miles and one was totaled in an accident. “My current car, a 2020 Sonata, gets great gas mileage, 40 MPH-plus on the highway. It a has lifetime powertrain/electric/interior warranty so it will be my last car until I retire. Like over 75-percent of Warren County commuters, all three drivers interviewed drive alone.

Royal Examiner reached out to Warren County Administrator Ed Daley, Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) Chairman Jeff Browne, as well as each Board of Supervisor (BOS) member via email on April 29, listing the U.S. Census stats for the county, and asking for their thoughts and how things might change in the future. Daley inquired about the source of the data, which Royal Examiner provided. He did not respond further.

None of the BOS panel responded. Browne asked for a link to the statistics and expressed the authority’s continuing effort to bring living wage companies into the community. Browne’s response will be part of a subsequent story on this topic.

The statistics shared with Warren County officials regarding commuting times are concerning.  Warren County ranks third in the state for longest commutes–only workers from Westmoreland and Cumberland Counties spend more time on the road each workday. Over 75-percent of those commuting drive alone; about 12-percent have a one-way trip exceeding 90 minutes.

Dr. Christopher Fitzgerald, a Cedars-Sinai internal medicine physician, frequently sees patients for issues like hypertension, back pain, weight gain, and stress, which he says can be caused or worsened by long commutes.

“This is a common issue I talk about with a lot of patients,” Fitzgerald says. “If you have a long commute, it’s taking the place of something in your life that’s healthy and reducing time with your spouse or your children or friends.”

Dr. Fitzgerald says sitting for prolonged periods has a proven negative effect on the heart and overall health; longer commutes mean more sedentary time. He says commuters should try to take at least 5,000 steps a day, if not 10,000.

Other measures to combat the effects of a long daily commute include parking further away from the worksite, taking the stairs as often as possible and walking and stretching during meal breaks. Getting some exercise at work is important Fitzgerald says, because once commuters get home, they are tired, and less likely to exercise.

Warren County Commuter Statistics from the 2020 U. S. Census:

  • Average commute time: 41.7 minutes
  • #15 longest among all counties nationwide
  • 3% longer than the state average
  • 1% longer than the national average
  • Workers with 90+ minute commute: 11.6%
  • Left for work from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.: 27.8%
  • Worked outside the county of residence: 52.9%
  • Means of transportation: drove alone (75.1%), carpooled (14.9%), walked (2.1%), public transportation (0.2%), worked from home (6.9%)
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Post Elections for the Giles B. Cook – American Legion Post 53

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Election of Post Officers for the Giles B. Cook – Post 53 of the American Legion 2022-23 term will be on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Polls are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Post, located at 22 West 8th Street, Front Royal, VA.

Absentee ballots are available; arrangements must be made with the Post Adjutant to receive an absentee ballot. All Members must have a valid 2022 membership card to vote.

Nominees:

  • Commander – Rick Kinsey
  • First Vice Commander – Roy Unger
  • Second Vice Commander – Jimmy Brinklow
  • Adjutant – David Kaplan
  • Sergeant at Arms – Lalit “Pip” Piplani
  • Chaplain – Charlie Goddard
  • Historian – Charles Mills
  • Finance Officer – Open – nominations will be accepted at June’s meeting if no nominee is designated beforehand

Executive Committee (4 at-large members needed):

  • Jorge Amselle
  • Jodi Jones
  • Ed Canas
  • TBD – the final position is open

Members may vote for the nominees or write in a candidate of their choice.

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Hundreds of Elementary students get excited about their community

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Last year, Warren County Public Schools created Elementary Gifted Resource Teacher positions to enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children through education, advocacy, community building, and research. At A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, our publisher Mike McCool met two of these teachers, Faith Falkenstein and Justnye Louk.

WCPS Superintendent Dr. Chris Ballenger asked these teachers to have a year-long project to inspire students to learn about their community. Faith and Justnye got excited about the project and came up with a plan after some brainstorming activities. The overall theme is called Footprints. This project instills an appreciation for the incredible things students can see and do (and protect) in their community.

This project included over 100 third to fifth-grade Enrichment/Gifted students from all five of our elementary schools and included:

  • Researching the person each school is named
  • Pick a place in the community to research
  • Create a Google Slides presentation
  • Record the presentation
  • Built 3-D representation of what they researched
  • Create QR codes that linked the projects to the presentations
  • Create a walking tour/scavenger hunt for students and parents that cover Chester and Main Streets in Front Royal
  • Create Google Earth Tour which linked top the projects and places researched

On Sunday, May 22, 2022, the students will display their projects and share the information they researched at the Town Commons Pavillion from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.


This project was made possible by a grant provided by the Warren County Educational Endowment, which allowed the teachers to purchase a 3-D printer and supplies for each elementary school.

 

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RED Day: Give Where You Live

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Every second Thursday of May, Keller Williams agents, leadership members, and associates step away from daily business duties, proudly donning their red KW gear and venturing into the communities they serve with three goals in mind: renew, energize, and donate.

Widely known as RED Day, this annual day of service took shape in May 2009 to celebrate Keller Williams vice-chairman Mo Anderson’s birthday. Thirteen years later, it continues to grow momentum as the Keller Williams family unites under a shared commitment to philanthropy.

This year’s RED Day took place on May 12, and the local Keller Williams staff met at 219 Orchard Street in Front Royal, where the Warren County Habitat for Humanity is working with the Bushrod Family to build their home.

The Bushrods are grandparents raising their school-aged grandchildren and are excited about building a stable and safe place to call home. Building a home that will provide a secure future, knowing that this home will forever change the generations to come, is a dream come true.


You can still help the Warren County Habitat for Humanity and the Bushrod’s with your donation. Click here to download the form.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Northern Rough Greensnake

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A species first for us at the Center, a Northern Rough Greensnake, came in for care this week!

Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

This patient was found by a hiker on the Appalachian trail after a mild jaw injury and blood in the mouth was spotted. It was in care for only a few days on cage rest with staff monitoring the injury, and after making a full recovery was released back at its found location!

This small, docile, harmless species is a primarily arboreal (tree climbing) species, residing in deciduous forests, mixed hardwood-pine forests, field and thicket areas, and the border areas of bodies of water.



They are active during the day and spend nights sleeping coiled on tree branches. If you come across a green tree snake (as they are commonly called), allow it to cross your path and be on your way!

This species only eats invertebrates (including grasshoppers, caterpillars, snails, spiders, and wasps) and have had significant decline in the last decade due to pesticide usage and domestic animal attacks.

This spring season brings good reminders to refrain from chemical plant and insect control on your property and to keep your domestic animals secured/monitored when outside.

The snakes and other native species will thank you by providing you with free, natural pest control!

Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Crime/Court

Joint motion to continue Luckey hearing toward what – trial date or plea agreement? RSW fatal overdose hearings also continued

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A trio of high-profile criminal cases set for hearings and at least one possible setting of a trial date were continued in Warren County Circuit Court on Monday morning, May 16. Those cases, in the order they were called on the May Grand Jury Term Day docket, were Daniel Edward Shifflett, Brian Thomas Martin, and William Raymond Luckey. Shifflett and Martin’s hearing were continued to July 11, at 9 a.m. Luckey’s hearing was continued to June 3, also on the morning docket.

Based on evidence indicating the in-facility sale and provision of a fatal opioid dose, Shifflett and Martin have been charged with Second-Degree Murder in the RSW Regional Jail inmate overdose death of Jonte Smith last December 12. Luckey, a former Christendom College professor and professor emeritus for 30-plus years, was arrested June 25 of last year on charges of “Indecent Liberties” and “Solicitation” of a minor child under the age of 16.

A hint that negotiations toward a possible plea deal in the 73-year-old Luckey’s case were being pursued was offered by Stafford, Virginia-based defense counsel Thaddeus Furlong in forwarding a joint motion with the Commonwealth for continuing the hearing at which a trial date was expected to be set. “I think we are making progress toward resolving this case,” Furlong told the court in seeking the continuance of the hearing.

Judge William W. Sharp granted the continuance to June 3rd on the 9 a.m. docket. The judge also extended Luckey’s $50,000 bond granted conditionally at the Circuit Court level on July 12, 2021. Luckey had initially been denied bond in a June 30 Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court hearing in front of Judge Nancy Reed. Conditions of Luckey’s bond imposed by Judge Sharp include that he has “no contact with minors without another adult within sight and sound of them” and “No contact directly or indirectly with the victim or the victim’s parents”. Luckey was further ordered “Not to counsel or direct or encourage any effort by anyone else to discourage victim, victim’s parents, or other witnesses from cooperating with the prosecution”.


William R. Luckey at the time of his June 25, 2021, booking at RSW Jail on indecent liberties charges against a minor alleged to have occurred three days earlier. Courtesy Photos RSW Jail website

The order forbidding attempts to influence a dropping of the charges addressed Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Samantha Meadows’ concern about the content of recorded phone calls between Luckey at RSW Jail after his arrest and his wife Julie, indicating a possible effort to influence the victim’s parents into dropping the charges, which Meadows noted during that earlier bond hearing would be witness tampering, a crime in its own right.

A pandemic-masked and frail-looking Luckey made his way into the courtroom shakily late Monday morning, with the aid of a walker. Defense council Furlong told the court his client suffered the consequences of an earlier brain injury. In arguing for bond in the lower court, Furlong’s co-counsel Shannon Johnson cited myriad health issues Luckey suffered from that would be exacerbated by continued incarceration. Those included cardiac problems, high blood pressure, and consequences of a past back injury. Defense counsel Johnson also contended that specifics in the Commonwealth’s case against Luckey indicate a comparatively mild incident compared to some of the verbiage included in the “Solicitation” warrant reflecting the harsher side of sex abuse against minors statutes.

As reported in Royal Examiner’s coverage of the June 30 J&D Court bond hearing, responding to his wife’s taped phone conversation comment, “This isn’t what happened” of specific oral or penetrative sexual acts listed in a general “Solicitation” warrant, Luckey replied, “No, it doesn’t say ‘Show me your hiney’.” At the initial bond hearing the prosecution first presented evidence indicating Luckey had offered the child ten dollars to see their posterior, which was declined. However, the prosecution noted that the ten dollars had been left by Luckey, perhaps indicating additional efforts by the defendant that achieved that initial request.

RSW overdose charges

As to the two scheduled preliminary hearings for Shifflett and Martin, the former who also overdosed the day of the Jonte Smith’s overdose death, both were continued to July 11, on the 9 a.m. docket. Shifflett was represented in the courtroom by defense counsel Lou Nagy. Shifflett, like Martin who was represented by Greg Bowman, appeared by video from RSW Regional Jail where they both were incarcerated at the time of the overdose drug incidents of last December 11-12.

Daniel Shifflett, 32, and Brian Martin, below 34, are both facing 2nd Degree Murder charges in what is believed to be an unintentional opioid overdose death of fellow inmate Jonte Smith, 21, on Dec. 12, 2021, at RSW Regional Jail.

As previously reported by Royal Examiner regarding the “Death in Custody Briefing” of RSW Regional Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison on March 24, the meeting minutes state: “Mr. Gilkison explained that the event took place on the night of December 11 and into the morning of December 12; inmate Daniel Shifflett and inmate Jonte Smith who were both incarcerated; had a medical emergency that was discovered after the fact that it was an overdose. The inmates obtained the heroin (corrected spelling) that inmate Shifflett stated that they were taking; from another inmate inside of the housing unit.”

Brian Martin is believed to be that inmate.

RSW Regional Jail Authority will go into a second closed session on personnel issues related to inmate overdose death

“Staff responded to the medical emergency; performed First-Aid, CPR to include AED, administered Narcan, and EMS was called. Mr. Shifflett was revived about the time EMS arrived on the scene, unfortunately, Mr. Smith was not revived by our staff or EMS and was taken via local transport to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on December 12, at 0120 hours (1:20 a.m.).”

Jonte Smith was incarcerated on Sch. I and II drug possession and a firearms charge at the time of his death.

Also as previously reported: “Inmate overdose survivor Daniel Shifflett, 32, and a second inmate, Brian Martin, 34, were indicted by a Warren County Grand Jury on April 11 for Second-Degree Murder in what is believed to have been the 21-year-old Smith’s accidental death from an opioid drug overdose. Other pending charges against Shifflett, who was incarcerated on a Probation Violation charge related to earlier drug offenses when he overdosed inside the jail, include 10 counts of distribution of a Schedule I or II substance for at least a third offense. Martin is charged with eight counts of distribution of a Schedule I or II substance for at least a third offense. At the time of his death Smith was incarcerated on possession of Schedule I, II drugs and a firearms charge.

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Rotary Club of Front Royal honors Warren County Public School Teachers of the Year

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Eleven “Teachers of the Year” selected by their principals were honored by the Rotary Club of Front Royal at its weekly meeting Friday, May 13. Each received a commemorative plaque from FR Rotary President Katie Tewell.

The principals introduced their nominees, beginning with Lori Layman of A.S. Rhodes Elementary whose top teacher was Debra Curtis. Then came Jane Baker of Blue Ridge Technical Center, whose nominee was Darren McKinney, followed by E.W. Morrison’s Lisa Rudacille who cited Virginia McKinnon as her top teacher in 2021-2022.

Warren County ‘Teachers of the Year’ line up for a group photo with Rotary Club President Katie Tewell, far right. Courtesy Photos FR Rotary/Bret Hrbek

 

Other awardees were Sara Sullivan of Hilda J. Barbour, introduced by principal Nikki Taubenberger; Joy Freemire, Leslie Fox Keyser teacher of the year, nominated by Shamika McDonald; and Ressie Jeffries’ Elementary School’s Michele Wilkerson, nominated by Nina Helmick.


Also, Skyline Middle School’s Pam Waters (Bobby Johnston); Warren County Middle School’s Samantha Morrison (Amy Gubler); Elizabeth “Grace” Bucklen of Skyline High School (Danelle Sperling); Lynn Durso, Warren County High School (Ken Knesh); and last, Lori Tamkin, described as a “non-traditional teacher” by sponsor Randa Vernazza.

The Rotary Club has honored county school teachers at similar ceremonies in past years titled “Rotary Club of Front Royal Awards for Excellence in Educating Youth.”

 

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