Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Ambassadors for a presentation on the latest news in astronomy. Finish the evening by relaxing and enjoying the night’s beauty with the members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club for a tour of the night sky. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and/or blankets. Feel free to bring your telescope or binoculars for your own exploration.
Entrance gates close one hour after the program start time.
Early voting underway for June 21 Republican Primary
Early voting is underway for the 6th Congressional District’s Republican primary, which is scheduled for June 21. The general election is on Nov. 8.
With Virginia’s recent redistricting, Frederick and Clarke Counties, along with the City of Winchester, are no longer in the 10th District but have become a part of the 6th District. The 6th District now comprises the Northern Shenandoah Valley and runs along the I-81 corridor to Roanoke.
Early voting began May 8 and is available from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays at the Warren County Office of Elections and Voter Registration located in the Warren County Health and Human Services Complex, at 465 W. 15th Street, Suite 800 in Front Royal. Drop boxes for early voting will be available at her office from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays.
Warren County Registrar Carol L. Tobin stated in an email Wednesday that “to date, Warren County has not had many voters turn out to take advantage of Early Voting in the 6th Congressional Republican Party Primary.”
She said that in addition to the weekday hours, her office will be open for voting on the two Saturdays before the primary — June 11 and 18 — from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tobin noted that the Office of Elections will be closed on May 30, 2022, in observance of Memorial Day.
On Election Day, drop boxes will be available at each polling location. Ballots will be accepted in person until 7:00 pm on June 21. Mailed ballots will be accepted until noon on Friday, June 24, if they are postmarked by June 21.
Voters can register online here: Citizen Portal – Virginia Department of Elections or register at their local voter registration office.
To register in Virginia, one must:
• Be a resident of Virginia (a person who has come to Virginia for temporary purposes and intends to return to another state is not considered a resident for voting purposes).
• Be a U. S. Citizen.
• Be 18 years old (any person who is 17 years old and will be eighteen years of age at the next general election shall be permitted to register in advance and also vote in any intervening primary or special election).
• Not be registered and plan to vote in another state.
• Not currently declared mentally incompetent by a court of law.
• If convicted of a felony, your right to vote must have been restored.
For more information about voter registration, contact Carol L. Tobin, Warren County Director of Elections & General Registrar at (540) 635-4327.
4 animals that can regrow body parts
Many animals have extraordinary abilities. For example, certain species can change color or sleep with their eyes open. Here are four amazing creatures that can regrow their body parts.
1. Octopuses need eight limbs to move around and eat. Fortunately, they can regenerate lost tentacles in a matter of months.
2. Lizards can sever their own tails as a defense mechanism. A new tail will regrow within a few months.
3. Flatworms can tear themselves in half and regrow a completely new body, including a new head.
4. Spiders commonly lose legs when fighting off predators. The good news is that they can regrow their lost limbs within a few days.
In addition, male deer shed and regrow their antlers every year.
Did you know?
People can also regrow one specific part of their body. The liver, which filters blood, can partially regenerate itself.
How to identify and eliminate red spider mites
While most pests are easy to spot in your garden, some are difficult to see with the naked eye. One example is the red spider mite. This pest is less than 1/64 of an inch long and only makes itself known when your plants start to suffer. Here’s how to spot red spider mites and eliminate them.
Appearance and behavior
Unlike the name suggests, red spider mites come in various colors, including brown, orange, and green. They suck the nutrients and chlorophyll directly from your plant, which causes the leaves to turn yellow and dry out. If left unchecked, this can cause the plant to die. Moreover, red spider mites don’t act alone. In fact, a single plant can be attacked by hundreds or thousands of mites.
The easiest way to spot red spider mites is to use a magnifying glass. You can also try pressing the plant’s foliage onto a sheet of white paper. If the paper becomes covered in tiny, moving specks, your plant is probably infested.
Control and elimination
Red spider mites thrive in hot, dry weather. Therefore, regularly watering helps prevent them from multiplying. Additionally, you can use a powerful spray nozzle to blast red spider mites off the leaves of your plants. However, if one plant is infested, you may want to dig it up to prevent it from contaminating nearby vegetation.
Finally, if you suffer from repeated red spider mite infestations, you can encourage or purchase predatory insects to take care of the problem. You can also use horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to keep these pests under control.
The Cracked Acorn: Old West
Mention James Arness to anyone, “Alive or Dead?” they will say “dead.” He was the star of the long-running TV show GUNSMOKE; the cast brought the family together for an episode each week. It was early TV, and it went from thirty minutes to an hour; critics predicted audiences would never sit still that long; how wrong they were!!
MATT DILLION, MARSHALL OF DODGE CITY, KANSAS, the early western days of trains and telegraph; Henry Ford was yet to be born.
“Matthew, there’s some hot boiled coffee on the stove; dust off and sit a spell. Miss Kitty is a mite upset that you are aiming to take on the Lomax boys and the Strutters when they bring their herds in, but it’s steel a fur days off!.”
“Festus, is this all the good news you have? Check the telegraph office for WANTED, check if there are any new people in town, and then bring me the bad news.”
Matt dealt with the liars, cheats, and people with hidden motives and agendas, each week ending not too happily ever after. The injured were attended to by Doc, broken arms and legs were painfully set, and he would stay by the bed of the dying all night, waiting for morning when the fever might break. Miss Kitty made sure that all the unfortunates that were to be buried at Boot Hill had someone to say a few words – she thought that even the worst deserved a moment of reflection.
The marshal always made time for a ride into the hills. While the unsaddled big gray had a roll in the buffalo grass and then grazed, Matt dozed under “clouds that ignored the plights of mortal men.” This was a man that was close to 7 feet tall. He believed in a simple answer for difficult justice. On the way back to Dodge, he would stop by the widow Smith with seven kids to check if all was o.k. Keeping the peace and giving equal treatment to everyone was a big job for a big man.
Samson was the big man of the Old Testament. He was given super strength by God. In many ways, he was a disappointment to his Creator, but he kept the Philistines at bay, and for a few years, the children of Israel could breathe easier. As a child, I was impressed that this strong man sought to correct his weaknesses; in the end, blinded, he prayed to God for one last chance to smite his enemies; God, how wonderful, answered his prayer. “Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers(Philistines) and all the people in it, killing many more when he died than while he lived.” (Judges 16:30)
“Well, it’s time to catch the noon stage. The town’s a buzzin that Abe and Sarah had a baby out at the Ole Kristie Ranch. Crazy Joe’s riding up front today. Some say he can Winchester a notch into a coyote’s ear a mile away; that’s good in case of hostiles. A cold north wind is aggravating the sage, could bring trouble, mite be movin. May the road rise up to meet ya and that the good Lord will take a liken to ya’ll. YAH! YAH! YAH! Giddy-up!” (Numbers 6:24-26)
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for May 23-27, 2022
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through June 25th.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 8 to 7, westbound – Right lane closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through June 25th.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 11 to 12, eastbound – Single lane closures for inspection of bridge over Manassas Run and Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road), Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
*NEW* Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for mowing operations, Monday through Thursday nights from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am.
*NEW* Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures for mowing and litter pickup, Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for soil and rock testing, 8:00 pm to 7:00 am through the night of June 2nd.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – No lane closures, but survey work in the right-of-way, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm through June 3rd.
Mile marker 300 to 299, southbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through June 25th.
*NEW* Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Overnight shoulder closures for vegetation control between Clarke County line and Route 661 (Fairground Road), Wednesday night from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am.
No lane closures were reported.
Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming, weekdays during daylight hours.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Farms POSF board members, supporters ask supervisors hard questions on Sanitary District management transfer strategy
As noted in our first story on action items on the Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting agenda of Tuesday, May 17th, a contingent of seven speakers supported by five written messages forwarded to the board by people who could not attend the meeting, leveled scathing criticism at the county board and staff for actions or inaction related to the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary Districts’ management future.
And for a board majority elected over the past three years on a “reform” platform related to oversight lapses allowing the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority financial scandal to boil over to the tune of $21 million dollars, it must have been difficult to listen to accusations of possible financial misappropriations, coverups, and a lack of good-faith communications with taxpaying citizen stakeholders directed their way.
Weren’t those the very type of things these supervisors, particularly the three-person majority of Cheryl Cullers, Delores Oates, and Walt Mabe elected in November 2019, ran on platforms to change for the better?
But some constituents with roots in the Farms’ geographically sprawling subdivision in Mabe’s Shenandoah Magisterial District appear to feel those supervisors, along with the more recently elected Vicky Cook and Jay Butler, have collectively failed to live up to campaign promises concerning transparency, accountability, and constituent communications. Due to the Public Comments format, there was no response during the meeting by board members to the criticism leveled their way. Should a subsequent response be offered by board members to what they heard during the May 17 Public Comments, it will be covered in a future Royal Examiner story.
As previously reported, the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms Inc. (POSF) notice of termination of the 2011 Sanitary District Management Agreement between POSF and the County appeared to have been made with the intent of the Farms’ citizen-elected POSF Board retaking direct Sanitary District project management authority. That transfer of authority would take effect at the turn of the fiscal year on July 1, 2022. However, as a number of May 17th speakers, including POSF board members past and present, noted, the County staff and elected officials have ignored as many as six requests by the POSF board for face-to-face meetings to discuss the Farms Sanitary District management transfer. And without notice to the POSF Board of Directors, the County has moved toward a supervisor-appointed Farms Sanitary District “Advisory Board” with no involvement by the POSF.
Following Farms resident and longtime POSF critic Lynda McDonough’s somewhat rambling opening Public Comment beginning with a perceived threat to America’s national sovereignty from public health, global pandemic guidelines being established by the World Health Organization, among other topics unrelated to POSF, things took an unexpected Public Comments turn – not as if that initial comment was expected.
That turn was seven consecutive speakers to the 7:30 PM Public Hearing cutoff time, later followed by five of six more messages from citizens unable to be present at the meeting read into the record by Board Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi in support of the POSF’s past and future role as the project and maintenance management organization for the Farms Sanitary District.
The sixth letter from Kristin Iden to the board addressed other concerns, beginning with the overly physical taking into custody of 77-year-old Ralph Ennis by WC Sheriff’s Office deputies (Ennis later died) LINK-Body camera footage details circumstances of Ralph Ennis’s April 2 traffic stop; and issues with a deputy serving as a school resource officer she said had bragged to students about intentionally inflicting pain on suspects being cuffed and arrested.
But back to the majority-referenced topic of Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District management, speakers supporting the POSF were in turn Tracie Lane, Patrick Skelley, Doris Harrington, Joe Longo, Ryan Messinger, Kathleen George, and Jesse Lepinsky. Beginning with Lane those speakers are called starting at the 7:50 mark of the linked County video. Messages later read into the meeting record in support of the POSF were from POSF Chairman Ralph Rinaldi, Norman Nelson, Laura Corebello, Bruce Boyle, and Dr. Stephanie Shaefer. Those letters are read into the meeting record beginning at the 1:00:10 mark of the meeting video.
All those supporters seemed to have something in common, either current or past POSF board service or involvement with that board as a concerned Farms citizen. Leading off the negative critique of the supervisors and staff was Tracie Lane. She opened by citing her disappointment in having to bring the POSF Board’s concerns about the county’s current elected officials and Sanitary District involved staff publicly forward. Lane’s comments outlined the range of issues the board would hear from those following her to the speaker’s podium.
“For more than a year we have been trying to serve the property owners of Shenandoah Farms by being good stewards of the resources of the community. Repeatedly our requests were ignored.
Finally we accepted that transparency on the part of Warren County wasn’t going to happen and took action and gave notice that we intended to take back the management of our Sanitary District,” Lane said of the POSF notice of intent to terminate the 2011 Management Agreement handing lead authority to the County.
“But instead of the civility one would expect from the board of supervisors for whom many of us voted, we were yet again ignored. When we asked for meetings to work together on the transition, we discovered that instead of answering our questions and working with us to resolve these concerns, we, the elected POSF Board were to be replaced by appointees. This stinks of an attempt to keep all of us, board members and property owners, in the dark. It stinks of a coverup,” Lane continued. – But coverup of what?
On a side note to the background of the 2011 shift of project management oversight to the County, it must be noted that the POSF had served the management role for the Farms Sanitary District from its creation in 1995, until that 2011 agreement. Several prominent POSF critics have given credit for that 2011 management shift to themselves and like-minded Farms citizens. However as would later be referenced by Patrick Skelley during his comments to the board, Rinaldi has noted that he as POSF board chairman at the time brought the suggested shift to direct County oversight forward due to that POSF board’s inexperience in handling a growing annual budget that had soared as high as $800,000. Recently Rinaldi has said he believes the current board is much more experienced to handle such high-dollar budgets, as the POSF has lost faith in the County’s current capacity to do so. That is a theme that would be revisited somewhat harshly several speakers later.
“The Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District is not the personal piggy bank of Warren County,” Lane continued Tuesday evening, adding, “The concerns I have imply that Warren County, not only want their collective hand in the piggy bank, but want the entire bank to themselves. Why else would you choose to appoint a new board, rather than meet with the existing board?” Lane asked those supervisors she faced from the speakers’ podium.
“While I wait for civility and respect, until we meet let me share with you a list of my concerns,” Lane said as she initiated an impromptu POSF-BOS meeting with the remainder of her 3-minute speaker’s time allotment. Those concerns included “Financial” which she began by citing a “lack of financial reports and a failure to respond to requests for those reports for more than 18 months.”
But she was only getting started.
“How has the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District balance sheet shed $700,000 in 30 days? Last time we were here it’s at $2.7 million and when the financial sheet that we finally got the day before our meeting on Saturday, it’s now at $2.04 (million). Where is the carryover from the last two years?” she asked referencing other financial variables involving the Sanitary District manager salary and out-of-Sanitary District budget transfers.
Patrick Skelley followed Lane to the speaker’s podium with a vote of support for the POSF retaking management control of the Sanitary District. He also expressed “gratitude to the County for the administration that they’ve done since they were requested by us” to take over those administrative duties in 2011.
“A lot of people are misinformed and think that we were taken over because of some degree of malfeasance, which has never been proven. Of course, social media is such an accurate reflection of reality,” Skelley joked of a preferred means of communication among some who like to sit on the sidelines and point fingers at those willing to undertake the work necessary to take on subdivision or Sanitary District management responsibilities.
Doris Harrington was next in line in support of the POSF and its elected board of directors of which she noted she was a current member. After acknowledging fellow board member Tracie Lane’s issues brought forward, Harrington observed that, “When we originally wrote our letter of intent telling you that we believed we could effectively manage the Sanitary District ourselves, that our present board had the commitment, the expertise and we felt we could exhibit the sense of common purpose and unity that would allow us for a better meeting of goals for the Shenandoah Farms residents – Nowhere in that letter did I see anything that would lead me to believe that you would dissolve our board if we withdrew from our contract.
“And yet that seems to be what you intend to do. And I’m wondering why. Most of you don’t know all of us on the board … I don’t know why you would appoint X number of people that may or may not have any knowledge of how Shenandoah Farms functions. I would really appreciate an answer to that question,” Harrington told the supervisors, adding that no information had been circulated on the process of the proposed appointed “advisory board” as to makeup, meeting schedule, or qualifications if any.
Her second question involved the lack of response from the board or its staff to what she said were five or six POSF requests “I am aware of” for meetings with county officials on the management transfer.
“Not only do we not get granted a meeting with you; we don’t even get acknowledged … And that just seems so discourteous and so unprofessional. I’m disappointed, I’m disheartened, and I’m very concerned for the residents of Shenandoah Farms,” Harrington concluded.
POSF Board member Joe Longo was next to the podium and things were about to be taken up a notch. He began by citing numerous social, legal, and infrastructure issues the Farms subdivision faced when he moved there 26 years ago. “The sheriff at the time called the roads creek beds and wouldn’t let his deputies drive over them. The Fire Department couldn’t get its equipment to calls.
“Our community was called ‘where the sleaze meets the trees’ in a local newspaper article,” Longo said of the myriad issues he had not been unaware of when he moved into the Shenandoah Farms subdivision. Becoming aware, Longo said he got involved with the POSF Inc. to try and help address the subdivision’s image and reality.
Eventually, during the POSF’s initial run as the Sanitary District’s hands-on management entity Longo noted he became the Sanitary District’s first manager: “I picked up trash, cut back trees, cut grass and did repairs on the community center and the docks. The creation of the Sanitary District made this possible, as well as road construction and road repairs … and as the roads became drivable the local contractors started building. The revenue increased and we were able to repair more roads,” he said of the experience and improvements wrought through the Sanitary District designation.
However, everything wasn’t rosy back then either he observed.
“When I was out working people would stop and threaten me – and they would accuse me of all kinds of things. So, what you’re doing is not new to me and it’s not new to the long-term board members,” Longo said pointedly to the supervisors.
“Until the last couple of years the county government has been a willing and helpful partner in the improvement of our community. We were all shocked at the EDA scandal. We’re now being treated like we’re a part of that somehow. You came in and got rid of all the people who knew what they were doing in this county for the past two decades,” Longo said appearing to reference without specifically citing the forced departure of long time County Administrator Doug Stanley followed shortly by the resignation of Deputy County Administrator and Sanitary District Manager Bob Childress, the latter who brought an earlier career with VDOT to the table of his Sanitary District responsibilities.
“Now you are lost, without a clue. You don’t know how to make this county work. And since you took control our road construction has stopped. We have no clue where our tax money is. We’re still getting road maintenance; we’re still getting snow removal – but we were getting that for $50 a year,” Longo said of Sanitary District fees of 20 or more years ago.
Earlier in his remarks Longo observed that during that earlier time Sanitary District lot fees were $50 per year, compared to $350 now. He also said that between those early days and now, 1700 homes had been added in the Farms to increase the lot-fee Sanitary District tax revenue base.
“Our community has paid millions of dollars in road construction taxes and nothing to show for it. And now you want to do a hostile takeover. You want to bring the same incompetent mismanagement to Shenandoah Farms that you brought to Warren County,” Longo said as Board Chair Cheryl Cullers attempted to get the speaker to wrap up with an expired time notice.
However, Longo was just getting up a head of steam as he continued.
“You’re stealing our road tax money and that’s embezzlement – you’re taking it and using it to pay Warren County bills. And that makes you a criminal organization,” Longo told the “reform board” of his theory of how the Farms Sanitary District money was being misdirected, as Cullers tried again, telling the speaker, “And your time’s up, sir. Thank you,” to which Longo concluded with a flourish, “We’ve invested too much into our homes and our community to let you screw it up,” as he turned from the podium.
“Anyone else, Mrs. Ciarrocchi?” the chair asked the board clerk, which led to three more speakers coming forward to carry the same pro-POSF management theme forward, if somewhat less aggressively perhaps, to the 7:30 PM cutoff for the evening public hearings on scheduled agenda items.
Those speakers were Ryan Messinger, Kathleen George, and Jesse Lepinsky. From their individual perspectives, each addressed themes previously mentioned that revolved around the current supervisors seeming to have taken the side of a few, often vocal POSF critics who admittedly don’t generally bother to become directly involved with POSF meetings on Sanitary District management issues, but choose to criticize and accuse of financial or procedural improprieties at distance.
Some POSF supporters might have wondered if earlier assertions of intentional financial misappropriations of Farms Sanitary District tax revenue by current county officials, and an attempt to cover such misuse up, was the bottom line of the County’s moves against POSF or could it be something more obtuse. Obtuse as in a psychological identification with critics at a distance who scapegoat those in the trenches of day-to-day Sanitary District or County management for removal over alleged, if unproven, misdeeds, as fellow “reformers”.
But we all may have to be on “the couch” way too long to ascertain an answer to that looming question.