Ben-David Warner and Friends presents “Celtic Christmas Tour.” December 18, 7:30 p.m.
Dulles Greenway bill clears House but faces uncertainty in Senate
Legislation aimed at reducing toll prices on the Dulles Greenway in Northern Virginia died in a Senate committee last week over concerns about the private toll road operator’s debt and the legislature’s ability to review any potential agreement between the operator and the state.
A companion bill in the House remains alive but will require Senate backing to go into effect.
Commuters and area residents have become increasingly concerned about rising toll prices on the 14-mile Dulles Greenway that runs through Loudoun County into Clarke County. Since 2012, tolls have risen from $4 for two-axle vehicles to $5.25.
In 2008, the General Assembly passed a law directing the SCC to approve annual toll increases as well as additional increases if necessary to cover the road’s operating expenses between 2013 and 2020.
“Our people who live in my community spend $400 to $500 a month on transportation, and if you go on that road, very few people are riding on it because it’s so expensive and other avenues are clogged,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. “We need some relief here.”
Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, the patron of the bill, said the problem has gone on “for years” and is expected to continue as the Greenway seeks future rate hikes.
The Dulles Greenway is owned and operated by a private company, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, or TRIP II, and is regulated by the State Corporation Commission under the Virginia Highway Corporation Act. Under current law, the company is allowed to ask the SCC for a toll increase once per year but isn’t permitted to negotiate those increases. Changes to state law also require TRIP II to submit extensive financial information to regulators along with any application for a toll increase.
TRIP II has not requested a toll rate increase since its last application was denied in early 2021.
Marsden’s legislation, which is supported by TRIP II, would direct the Virginia commissioner of highways to evaluate whether it’s in the “public interest” for the Greenway to be governed under a more recent law, the Private-Public Transportation Act. Under that act, the commissioner, along with the Secretary of Transportation and a body known as the Transportation Public-Private Partnership Steering Committee, would be able to negotiate a new toll agreement with TRIP II.
A new deal to lower the toll rates may require a longer-term contract between TRIP II and the state, according to Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller. The current contract ends in 2056.
Backers of the proposal say moving oversight of the road away from the SCC will give state officials more certainty and flexibility to reduce tolls and potentially implement distance-based tolls, which would charge drivers based on how far they travel. The Greenway currently bases most of its pricing on the number of axles a driver’s vehicle has, with tolls for two-axle vehicles traveling from one end of the road to the other starting at $5.25 during regular hours and $5.80 during rush hour.
But opponents said the legislation doesn’t give the legislature any authority over a potential agreement between the operator and the state. They are also concerned that Loudoun County could be impacted since it receives around $4 million in annual property taxes from the toll operator.
“What we’re being asked to do is completely cut out both [the] General Assembly and the local government that currently benefits financially from this road altogether,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, during a January hearing.
McClellan recommended Marsden consider an amendment that would delay any “public interest” determination until the chairs of the Senate Transportation and Finance and Appropriations committees review any agreement, but the recommendation was not adopted.
Miller noted the Transportation Public-Private Partnership Steering Committee includes representatives from both the House and Senate finance committees, as well as members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board and secretaries of finance and transportation.
“If we cannot deliver on [an agreement], we will walk away and leave it just the way it is now,” Miller said, “But you’re not going to get to distance-based tolling, and you’re not going to get a reduction in toll rates if you leave it in the form that it’s in now.”
Finance Committee members also expressed concern about whether the commonwealth would take on TRIP II’s “significant” debt as part of an agreement. The partnership has between $1.6 million and $1.9 million in outstanding bonds.
Miller said the commonwealth has “no intention of assuming any debt.”
The committee killed the bill on a 10-5 vote.
Companion bill faces uncertainty
The House version of the Greenway legislation, House Bill 1858, from Dels. David Reid, D-Loudoun, and Michael Webert, R-Fauquier, is poised to clear that chamber this week before heading back to the Senate for further review.
Webert said he believes some language changes can be made to the House bill, which has received broad support, to make it more acceptable to the Senate.
“This is one of those pieces of legislation that is a ‘why not try and do this’ to ensure that we have lower tolls for our constituents, rather than kicking the can down the road and doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Webert said.
Reid echoed testimony from Miller that moving the Greenway under different oversight would have no cost to the state. He also said the “public interest” consideration would involve an analysis of whether the change could lower tolls and allow distance-based pricing.
Reid introduced the same bill last year, supported by an analysis conducted by then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and continued under Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.
“Both administrations have now found that this is the way forward to being able to provide total relief to the residents of Loudoun County, as well as the residents from Fairfax, Clarke, and Frederick County in the west,” Reid said. “This is an opportunity for us to do something to reduce the cost of living and to have a positive effect with rising prices in all other aspects of the economy.”
by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
Waldo Emerson Rudacille (1943 – 2023)
Emerson Rudacille, 80, of Front Royal, Virginia, passed away on Sunday, February 5, 2023, at his home.
A funeral service will be held on Saturday, February 11, at 2:00 p.m. at Maddox Funeral Home, with The Rev. Dr. Bill Wade officiating. Interment will follow in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal.
Emerson was born January 7, 1943, in Front Royal, Virginia, son of the late Waldo Emerson Rudacille, Sr and Alma Elizabeth Hall Rudacille.
He retired after many dedicated years as a Mechanical Engineer. His family and friends will greatly miss him.
Surviving is his devoted wife of 56 years, Janice Jarrell Rudacille; one son, Michel Emerson Rudacille and wife Robin of Chantilly; one granddaughter, Megan Rudacille; and one grandson, Joshua Rudacille.
Pallbearers will be family and friends.
The family will receive friends on Saturday, February 11, from 12:00 to 2 p.m. at the funeral home.
Celebrate National Library Lovers’ Month by supporting Samuels Public Library and doubling your library LOVE!
Samuels Public Library annual Day of Giving is set for February 23, 2023, but you can double your impact throughout the month of February thanks to Lewie Moten of Code Jamboree. Moten has committed to matching all Day of Giving donations during the month of February up to $3,500!
“Our staff is always striving to provide both free and convenient access to information and ideas throughout the year. National Library Lovers’ Month gives us another opportunity to elevate new library services and make supporting our community library easy and fun,” said Michelle Ross, Director of Samuels Library. “We are grateful to Lewie Moten of Code Jamboree for recognizing the importance of local library services during National Library Lovers’ Month with his generous Day of Giving Matching Grant that will mean every dollar donated in February will go twice as far in bringing exceptional library services and programs to Warren County and Front Royal.”
Lewie Moten moved to Front Royal in 2018 to be closer to his family, and last year opened his national software consulting company, Code Jamboree. An active supporter of the Front Royal and Warren County community, and a lover of libraries himself, Moten said the Day of Giving Matching Gift Sponsorship was a perfect fit. “I loved my community library growing up,” Moten explained.
An early gamer, Moten still has his Atari 400 that he grew up with – although the 410 tape cassette drive is missing. “If you saw the keyboard, you’d clearly see why I occasionally had blisters, and I had to switch turns with my brother to program games. I would go to my community library every week and check out every book I could on programming. I am honored to be able to support Samuels Public Library with a $3500 Day of Giving Matching grant to help them provide the latest resources to our community, and help them motivate others to give during Library Lovers’ Month.”
Make your donation before February 23, 2023 and DOUBLE your impact! DONATE NOW.
You can stay up to date on the Samuels Public Library Day of Giving progress by visiting our website at www.samuelslibrary.net , following us on Facebook facebook.com/samuelspubliclibrary or stopping by your beautiful community library at 330 East Criser Road!
About Samuels Public Library
Samuels Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. A 501(c)(3) organization, last year the library added nearly 10,000 new books, media and digital resources, patrons checked out more 350,000 books, electronic and digital services and attended 566 in-person and virtual programs, staff answered 17,000 questions, expanded outreach programs into the community, added a memory lab, board game section and more all while continuing to provide essential computer access, wireless service and public meeting spaces for the community. To learn more, visit www.samuelslibrary.net or by calling (540) 635-3153.
Cline for Sheriff fundraising Dinner Party packs supporters into Fire & Rescue Company 1 Banquet Hall
Supporters of long-time Front Royal Police Officer, now Captain Crystal Cline, gathered Saturday evening, February 4th at Front Royal Fire & Rescue Company 1 headquarters for a campaign fundraising Dinner Party with live musical entertainment. It was a large crowd that gathered on the second-floor banquet room from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. to offer their emotional and financial support for Cline’s run for Warren County Sheriff in this year’s November election.
There were live and silent auctions to augment the fundraising. Musical entertainment was provided by headliner “Raised on Analog” in from Winchester and “Old Bailey and the Bondsmen”. The latter opened the musical portion of the event with a familiar face on bass, Kahle Magalis, on his personal rock-and-roll downtime, as were his band-mates, all but one in or retired from public safety professions from around the commonwealth.
Cline is challenging first-term incumbent and former Herndon Police Officer Mark Butler in what appears at this relatively early stage some nine months prior to Election Day 2023 to be a two-person, head-to-head race for sheriff. Royal Examiner asked Cline what led to her decision to run for sheriff this year and attempt to move from town to county law enforcement?
“I never saw myself running for Warren County Sheriff, I thought that I would retire at the Front Royal Police Department. However, I have spent 22-plus years in public safety in this community and have seen a lot of changes throughout the years between the town and county governments and also both law enforcement agencies. I have been absolutely dismayed about the current state of these vital relationships and will fight to do my part to improve upon this. I decided I didn’t have to wait for someone else to step up – I know I am more than qualified to be the next Sheriff and I will prove it on day one when I am elected.
“My campaign platform is crystal clear,” she added drawing on a campaign slogan based on her first name, adding, “It is my desire to serve my community utilizing my leadership experience, education, training and unwavering perseverance to make the Warren County Sheriff’s Office an agency that is respected and trusted by our community, but also the rest of the Northern Shenandoah Valley and the rest of the State once again. There is absolutely no other place than Warren County where I would rather serve and make a positive difference!”
Royal Examiner later asked Cline about the Saturday evening fundraising event. “Last night’s fundraiser was nothing short of amazing! The people came out and packed the house to capacity. We had people showing up in line an hour before the event and had to set out a couple more tables. We sold all or most of our 300 tickets (note: $65 covering food, beverages & entertainment), we had 24 silent auctions and 6 live auctions, including a coconut cake that went for $975 and 18 eggs for $140!
“Everyone had a great time and I felt honored and humbled at the outpouring of support. I really want to give a shout-out to my Crystal Cline for Warren County Sheriff Campaign Committee. They worked super hard to make this a huge success and I will be forever grateful that I consider all of them lifelong friends! Our community members are smart and informed about what has happened in the past three years and want it to improve … They have seen me being visible in the community working and volunteering for 22 years and know that I will continue to be about the people.”
Randolph-Macon Academy Middle School students give back to the community and learn about local non-profits
At the R-MA Middle School, all seventh graders participate in Global Quest, a class that follows a leadership curriculum provided by Lead4Change. Teams of students identify local non-profit organizations that they would like to support, and work together to collect donations. The following is a list of Fall Semester 2022 successes!
House of Hope: Students sold a great deal of candy bars to their fellow students to raise over $150 for House of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homelessness in the Front Royal, VA.
Humane Society of Warren County: Received many physical donations of animal food and toys to help the local animal shelter. Students delivered the donation to the humane society and had the opportunity to briefly interact with the different animals.
Able Forces: Raised over $600 for local veterans and their families. The Global Quest group received a plaque to honor and commemorate the years of donations by R-MA students and their families to Able Forces.
Semper K9 Assistance Dogs: Raised around $500 for this nonprofit which helps veterans obtain needed service dogs.
What Matters: Received 18 different pairs of cleats to donate to children in Uganda.
Christian Freedom International: Students wrote hundreds of letters to Christians all around the world who face a wide variety of persecution.
Winchester SPCA: Raised some funds for an animal shelter in Winchester, VA.
R-MA Garden: Conducted several fundraising events to gain the funds necessary to reconstitute the R-MA Garden in Spring 2023 (this is an ongoing project).
Total Funds Raised: $1,895.01
Randolph-Macon Academy is a co-ed private school for grades 6-12. We offer a superior university-preparatory curriculum with an elite Air Force JROTC program preparing graduates to pursue lives of meaning and success. Every year, 100% of our graduates are accepted to the best universities around the world with the Class of 2022 graduating 59 students who received over $16.6 million in scholarships. Visit is at www.RMA.edu.
Blue Ridge Technical Center celebrates National CTE Month
Whether aspiring students attending Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) want to be a nutritionist, millwright, industrial machinery mechanic, auto mechanic, drafter, microbiologist, electrical engineer, HVAC installer, an aerospace or nuclear engineer, a nurse, or a welder, then the Blue Ridge Technical Center (BRTC) has the requisite courses to get them started.
Through BRTC’s career and technical education (CTE) courses, students prepare for productive futures while meeting the Commonwealth’s need for well-trained and industry-certified technical workers. And according to the Virginia Department of Education, CTE programs in the state’s public schools serve more than 670,000 students in one or more CTE courses in grades 6-12.
PLTW Biomedical Science is alike those at BRTC that are focused on biomedical science, for instance.
Kelly Racey is one of the two BRTC instructors who teach the Project Lead The Way biomedical science curriculum, a project-based learning system that explores real-world issues through topics like disease, DNA analysis, prosthetic design, public health, and more. Along the way, students gain experience with state-of-the-art tools and techniques that are used by professionals in hospitals and labs every day, Racey wrote in an email to the Royal Examiner.
She provided Warren County School Board members with an overview of the CTE biomed science courses as part of recognizing February as National CTE Month during the board’s Wednesday, February 1 meeting.
The first semester of biomed includes the “Principles of Biomedical Science,” or PBS, which is open to students in ninth through 11th grade. Racey currently teaches the second year, which is human body systems, and Christina White, a patient care tech teacher at BRTC, is teaching the medical interventions section.
During the first semester, Racey said 54 kids enrolled in the PBS class, in which they explored concepts in biology and medicine as they took on the roles of different medical professionals.
Students are exposed to over 60 medical careers as they complete project-based activities, she said, and over the course of the semester, they are challenged in various scenarios to deal with real-world problems as part of the project-based learning system.
“On day one, the students walk into class where they’re asked to investigate a crime scene to solve a mystery of a dead woman,” explained Racey. “It’s a staged woman in my class — just letting people know that!”
In the forensic science unit, students collect evidence, fingerprints, hair, insects, digital phone evidence, and blood DNA. Students also have opportunities to work with the same equipment and tools used by lab professionals, everything from hospital-grade microscopes, micro pipettes, dissection equipment, blood typing equipment, phlebotomy, arms, and DNA electrophoresis, Racey added.
“I always think in ninth grade doing DNA electrophoresis is pretty special,” said Racey, referring to gel electrophoresis, which is a technique used to separate DNA fragments (or other macromolecules, such as RNA and proteins) based on their size and charge.
Students have even made their own lie detector tests and interrogated people with heart rate monitors and respiratory belts, “which was pretty neat,” she added.
Once the forensic science unit is completed, students go right into the medicine part and explore why this woman died. “They do histology of brain tissue. They examine hearts. They dissect hearts,” said Racey. “They know a lot about the heart.”
In the next PBS unit, students diagnose and treat fictional patients by learning to take vital signs manually, everything from heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, even EKGs. And they’re introduced to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.
Students also explore some sensitive topics of medicine, like genetic mutations, and go on to learn about protein synthesis and karyotypes and pedigrees. And they diagnose and predict how these mutations are passed on to families, said Racey (above), who added that “the course is packed with hands-on opportunities.”
“It’s a great program for these kids and these kids are great,” she said.
Exemplary CTE students
Every February, the CTE community across the nation celebrates CTE Month to raise awareness of the role that CTE has in readying learners for college and career success.
At BRTC, for example, Warren County students may take courses in automotive, culinary, carpentry, electricity, engineering, nursing, biomedical, and welding.
Jane Baker (above), CTE director at BRTC, told the School Board that this year’s CTE Month theme is “Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!”
“And that’s exactly what career and technical education is all about,” she said. “This month really focuses on what we refer to as the CTSOS, which are Career and Technical Student Organizations.”
In Warren County, such CTSOS include Educators Rising, which at one point was named Teachers for Tomorrow. There is also DECA, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and SkillsUSA, among others.
“Sometimes we get so caught up in a lot of the other activities and the other coursework and demands that go on in a school that we lose focus of the ability level of students who choose to engage in CTE classwork,” Baker added.
In fact, as part of celebrating National CTE Month, Racey said she and Baker also wanted to celebrate some of the biomed students who had great success in the first semester.
As part of the Project Lead The Way biomed curriculum, which consists of four classes, the students were required to take a national introductory course test at the end of the semester.
“They do some simulations on it where they have to simulate all these lab experiments and come up with data and it’s matching and labeling body parts,” Racey said.
Students’ end scores on the national test are graded from 100 to 600. Racey said that 52 percent of BRTC students in the PBS course scored in the distinguished category, which means that they were in the top 10 percent of the country.
Even more commendable is that eight BRTC students scored 600, meaning they scored in the top one percent in the country.
“It’s something to be proud of,” Racey said. “But honestly, I’m also proud of these kids because they work hard. Their critical thinking skills and their work ethic is just wonderful.”
Racey recognized the eight students to celebrate their 600-score accomplishment, “but also for just being good people and great students.”
From Warren County High School: Catherine Hulse, 10th grade; Renae Badin, 10th grade; Elizabeth Dunnet, ninth grade; Caleb Zurliene, 10th grade; and Luka Lee, ninth grade.
From Skyline High School: Scout Broadbent, 11th grade; Alexandra Hemingway, 11th grade; and Sadie Comstock, ninth grade.
At the end of the year, students are required to take an End of Course Test that measures content and lab skills where they can earn Virginia credentials for graduation.
“I think our kids can stand up to anybody in the country in science,” Racey said.
School Board kudos
Some of the School Board members commended CTE coursework in their regular meeting reports.
Board member Andrea Lo, for instance, said she visited BRTC last year, and in one of the classes she observed, students “were setting up a class all about analyzing urine samples and there were little cups of urine all over the room,” she said.
“I didn’t want to ask if it was real urine or like yellow chemicals, and I still don’t wanna know, but it does look like a very interesting class and I know they’re doing a lot of hands-on activities there,” said Lo. “It was great to see the students here who have been achieving so highly there.”
Warren County School Board Chair Kristen Pence (above), who holds a doctor of veterinary medicine and works as a vet in Warren County, said that a few weeks ago, she had the opportunity to visit with both of the veterinary science classes, which are just a few more of the programs that have been brought in under Baker’s leadership.
“And I can tell you that both of those teachers have so much excitement and enthusiasm for the courses and the things that they’re teaching,” Pence said. “Those students in those 11th and 12th grade classes are really amazing. They rival what our veterinary techs do in their schooling.”
Pence said that the BRTC students taking those CTE classes actually use the same textbooks that vet students would use when they go to tech school.
“I got to spend an hour with the students at Warren County High School and the questions that they came up with, what they wanted to know more about, and what they would do in the future, it was a really good experience to have that conversation with them.”
Pence also said that prior to her stint on the School Board, she was on the planning group for BRTC’s Project Lead The Way when it was first coming to the County.
“So actually hearing about the program from Ms. Racey and then the excitement that the students are having and the stuff that they’re learning in that program is really amazing,” said Pence. “It’s come so far in not that many years because it’s still fairly new to our County.”