RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today released a joint statement with the leaders of the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, outlining shared plans and priorities for distribution of more than $4.3 billion in federal assistance the Commonwealth expects to receive through the American Rescue Plan.
Joint Statement of
Governor Ralph Northam
House Speaker Eileen Filler Corn, Majority Leader Charniele Herring,
Caucus Chair Richard ‘Rip’ Sullivan,
Appropriations Chair Luke Torian, Vice Chair Mark Sickles
Senate President pro tem Louise Lucas,
Majority Leader Richard Saslaw,
Caucus Chair Mamie Locke,
Appropriations & Finance Chair Janet Howell,
Vice Chair George Barker
Virginia expects to receive more than $4.3 billion in federal funds in the coming days through the American Rescue Plan. Like most states, Virginia breathed a sigh of relief when President Biden signed this into law in March.
On Monday, we received further guidance on how these dollars may be used. They are to help states respond to acute pandemic-response needs, fill revenue shortfalls, and support communities that COVID-19 hit hardest. Virginia intends to follow these rules, and we are eager to move forward.
It’s important to understand the magnitude of this $4.3 billion package. This is one of the largest economic recovery efforts ever. It is one-third larger than the $3.2 billion CARES Act funding Virginia received last spring. And the Commonwealth chose to immediately distribute half of those dollars to help local governments. This new law funds cities and counties separately with about $2.7 billion in new funds, for a total of nearly $7 billion coming into Virginia state and local governments.
Virginia is unique: This package comes at a time when state revenues are rising, more people are working, and unemployment is declining. Few states can say this, but it is no accident. This is the result of careful stewardship.
This is a unique opportunity to invest in Virginia’s long-term future. We intend to be good stewards of these taxpayer dollars, in full compliance with fiduciary guidelines. We reject calls to refuse these federal dollars, and we support the law’s prohibition on cutting state taxes to substitute federal dollars. We embrace this rare opportunity, and we choose to invest.
We stand united on how to position Virginia for the future. We intend to meet in special session this summer for the express purpose of allocating federal dollars to five specific needs:
• Help public health. The pandemic highlighted the need to upgrade state and local public health services, which have been long underfunded in Virginia, as well as the need to help people with the cost of housing and utilities.
• Help small businesses. Virginia’s small businesses need help—especially those that were first to close and last to re-open. We intend to fully fund the Rebuild Virginia small business recovery plan and augment relief dollars for the hardest-hit industries—restaurants, hotels, museums, gyms, and theaters. We will invest in Virginia Tourism’s work to recruit visitors back to Virginia, and help our Housing and Community Development team invest in Virginia’s main streets, small towns, and industrial revitalization.
• Help workers. The Unemployment Trust Fund needs a major infusion of new dollars to keep relief funds available for workers who lose their jobs—and avoid increased costs on Virginia businesses. The Virginia Employment Commission needs to continue upgrading its computer systems and hiring staff for a system that historically has been one of the lowest-funded unemployment systems in the country.
• Help public schools. The pandemic highlighted the need to modernize public school buildings across Virginia. This includes rehabilitating and upgrading existing facilities, improving air quality and HVAC systems, and improving safety. We expect that other federal dollars will enable additional future investments.
• Fully deploy broadband across Virginia. The pandemic highlighted a fundamental economic reality: People without broadband get left behind. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Let’s accelerate a 10-year plan over the next 18 months—and bring broadband to all of Virginia’s cities and rural areas.
Virginia has two options: Invest these dollars in Virginia’s future, or reject them and let Congress use our dollars for some other federal purpose. We choose the future.
President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law in March. It is a $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan that includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments. All Republican members of Congress voted against the law, including those representing Virginia.
Kwon’s Champion School in Front Royal announces second-degree black belt achievements
On Saturday, August 13, 2022, two Front Royal, Virginia natives achieved their second-degree black belts in mixed martial arts self-defense worldwide.
Pearl W. Nickens Jr., age 69, and Aries W. Nickens Bolanos, age 13, attend Kwon’s Champion School in Front Royal. They study mixed martial arts under World Grandmaster H.Y. Kwon. Pearl and Aries have been studying mixed martial arts for over six years and have exceeded many expectations.
Grandmaster Kwon states that both students had almost perfect scores for passing. Pearl strives to accomplish every task set before him. He’s very open-minded, physically fit, and knows that martial arts are not just for fighting but for helping others in many different ways. Grandmaster Kwon then asked Pearl’s wife, Donna Nickens, and daughter, Dominique Nickens, “How much has Pearl changed?” They both stated that he’s become more passionate about working with others and more willing to listen to the situation before passing judgment. “Overall, he’s grown more than we ever thought he would.”
Grandmaster Kwon then talked with Aries, who asked his family about his schoolwork and listening. Aries spoke to his mother, Dominique Nickens, asking, “How often do I listen to you, Mam?” She then responded, “100% of the time.” “How is my schoolwork, Mam?” “School work is excellent. He’s got straight A’s and is in all advanced classes.” Grandmaster Kwon asked Aries’s grandparents, Pearl and Donna Nickens, “How much has Aries changed since he began?” They responded, “Aries is more respectful and open to trying new things. He stands up for all the little guys. He doesn’t like bullies and doesn’t let bullies pick on anyone when he’s around. He knows everyone deserves a chance in life, sometimes more than one.”
Grandmaster H.Y. Kwon’s Champion School teaches you many skills and techniques, such as self-defense, confidence, respect, and an all-around healthy way to express stress and manage weight. All goals are achievable if you take them one step at a time.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Barred Owl
This is the difference a bath (or three) can make!
One of Loudoun County’s amazing Humane Law Enforcement Officers truly went above and beyond to rescue this Barred Owl after it was found down in a wastewater management facility.
The owl was found covered in thick, slimy waste material. With soaked feathers, flight and thermoregulation (maintaining body temperature) was difficult to impossible for this bird. It is shocking that it was able to get out of the tank and onto land!
Upon arrival to BRWC, the owl was given fluids and warmed so that we could safely sedate for the first bath. Once bathed, we could see the burns on many areas of the skin from the waste material.
After three baths and lots of care, the patient was moved to an outdoor enclosure. The team still monitored the owl closely as its burns healed and it worked to recondition its feathers.
After five days in care, we are happy to report that this patient had a successful recovery and has been released!
We are lucky to have so many amazing animal control officers in our area who help rescue wildlife everyday – special thanks to Officer Bremy of Loudoun County Animal Services for this amazing rescue!
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.
Medical Examiner: Ralph Ennis died of ‘natural causes’
On Monday, August 15, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manassas released the cause and manner of death for Ralph Ennis, 77, who died on April 15, 13 days after a traffic stop by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office during which he was injured and then hospitalized.
In an email response, Arkuie Williams, Northern District Administrator of Virginia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told Royal Examiner that: “The cause of death is complications of Alzheimer disease, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and hypternsive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The manner of death is natural.”
Royal Examiner responded with the following questions to Williams:
“Does that rule out that his head trauma injuries suffered 13 days earlier had no impact on the below stated causes, most particularly cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and hypternsive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease?
“Is there any possible debate that the brain bleed and shock-trauma of April 2, could have aggravated his pre-existing conditions and these combined natural causes of death? – Thank you for any clarification.”
Williams responded, stating, “Our office is unable to provide any additional information to the public. We are restricted to only providing the cause and manner of death for our death investigations.”
Several weeks prior to the traffic stop, Ennis had been the subject of a Silver Alert on March 11, 2022, following an endangered, missing person report issued by Pennsylvania State Police on behalf of Ennis’ wife, Linda. Deputies located Ennis in downtown Front Royal at his longtime friends Ralph and Sue Waller’s East Main Street pawn shop. The Wallers offered to let Ennis stay there until his son Ian could travel to Front Royal from his Staunton home and take his father home.
Mr. Ennis died on April 15 under the care of Blue Ridge Hospice in Winchester, where he had been transferred several days earlier by the affiliated Winchester Medical Center.
“All we know is he was in good health and he never got out of the hospital after that happened – and that’s a FACT,” Ralph Waller said of the Medical Examiner’s finding Ennis died of natural causes less than two weeks after his injuries incurred during the traffic stop.
Contacted, Ennis’ son Ian said he had received the medical examiner’s report but declined further comment at this time. Ralph Ennis’ wife Linda also stated that she had received the report today but had no further comment.
On April 2, 2022, Ennis was stopped by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) for traveling eight miles over the speed limit and driving erratically on Winchester Road southbound toward Front Royal, the Sheriff’s Office stated in a previous media release.
The pursuit continued for about 3.75 miles, with Ennis eventually pulling into the 7-11 convenience store at 251 Crooked Run Plaza, where he parked his truck. By this time, the Sheriff’s Office release stated, “additional WCSO deputies and a Front Royal Police Officer were on scene, or just arriving as the high-risk traffic stop was underway.”
Video footage from the bodycam of a Front Royal Police Officer, who was called to assist with the traffic stop, shows the 77-year-old Ennis moving slowly toward deputies with his keys held out. A first deputy grabs Ennis and roughly pulls his hands behind his back cuffing him and slamming his head into his truck cab. A second Warren County Sheriff’s Office deputy then charges the scene, tackling both Ennis and the first deputy, taking both to the ground with the elderly Ennis on the bottom, apparently striking his head hard on the paved parking lot.
WCSO Major Jeffrey Driskill previously stated that Ennis was taken to Warren Memorial Hospital where Emergency Department physicians suspected “signs of an internal head hemorrhage” after which Ennis was transported to Winchester Medical Center. Driskill previously stated that Mr. Ennis was “exhibiting signs of cognitive issues consistent with dementia or Alzheimer’s.”
Former Northern District Administrator Jennifer Smith, of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, first told Royal Examiner in a May email, “This case is pending. Currently, cases are taking roughly 12 -16 weeks to complete, as with all cases the OCME goal is to complete them within 90-days.” Each subsequent inquiry regarding the status of the autopsy and lab tests yielded the same information.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has been tight-lipped regarding an internal investigation into the traffic stop. Sheriff Mark Butler previously told Royal Examiner that a “board of inquiry” comprised of WCSO senior officers and a member of an outside law enforcement agency had been formed, but no information has been released about who is on that panel.
After the traffic stop, one of the two involved deputies was reassigned to administrative duties; another was placed on administrative leave with pay. When asked if one or both of the deputies had left the employ of the WCSO, Butler declined to comment.
Contacted Monday by Royal Examiner, following the Medical Examiner’s release of information in the Ennis case, Sheriff Mark Butler stated, “My heart and prayers go out to all families involved in a trying time for all. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work and hold itself in a professional matter at all times. “
When asked about the employment status of the deputies involved in the traffic stop, Butler stated that he could not discuss personnel matters.
Virginia State Police Investigator Adam Galton was assigned to investigate the circumstances related to the incident and subsequent death of Ennis. Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell referred the case to a special prosecutor; consequently the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is overseeing the VSP investigation and will decide whether to charge the deputies once the investigation is complete.
Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office Chief of Staff Anthony Kostelecky previously told Royal Examiner that he had no comment regarding the investigation or when it might conclude.
Tree Stewards announce a welcoming addition to the Royal Shenandoah Greenway
If you drove along South Street in Front Royal last Friday or Saturday, you may have noticed a lot of activity along the section of the Royal Shenandoah Greenway that crosses Royal Plaza. On Friday, the crew from the Department of Public Works was busy digging holes in preparation for a major tree planting. On Saturday, August 13th, members of the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, the Front Royal Warren County Tree Stewards, the Front Royal Warren County Anti-Litter Council, and citizen volunteers came together to plant 18 Crepe Myrtles (Natchez variety) and 4 native SweetSpire shrubs along the greenway.
This idea to create a “boulevard” of trees sprang from a meeting in March, with groups sharing their missions and hopes for planting more ‘greenery’ along the Greenway. For this project, an allée of Crepe Myrtles was anticipated to be a win-win, creating a better experience for greenway users as well as beautifying both the Plaza and South Street that are so well-traveled by locals and visitors.
The project was made possible through funding from the Beautification of Front Royal Committee and with kind permission from the management of Royal Plaza. Jim Osborn, the Town’s Arborist, guided the project from tree selection to planting day, and the Public Works crew will follow up with watering needs to assure these new trees get off to a good start. The Department of Public Works also added an additional street light for safety along the path prior to planting. Our thanks to the DPW crew; Eric Ebling, Bill Simmons, John McDonald, Allen Pack and J’son McConnell.
Plans are underway for more collaborative projects of this type around Front Royal. We invite you to drive by South Street and take a look at this welcoming addition to our lovely town!
A view from a bench on Main Street: Sue Laurence, White Picket Fence
On Saturday morning, our publisher Mike McCool joined White Picket Fence proprietor Sue Laurence on a bench in front of White Picket Fence, on the 400 block of Main Street in Front Royal, and discussed all the events going on in Front Royal this fall, from Octoberfest, Festival of Leaves and Zombie Walk to name a few – all happening in Front Royal.
The big news is the 50th Annual Festival of Leaves happening on October 14-15, 2022 in downtown Front Royal. The Festival of Leaves has been reorganized and is now under the direction of the Front Royal Independent Business Alliance (FRIBA).
On October 14, 2022, the Town of Front Royal will kick off the festival with a “block party” at the Town Commons, providing music and fun for all ages. More information is available at FestivalofLeaves.org. There is still room for vendors, and applications are available on the Festival website.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for August 15 – 19, 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.
Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).
Mile marker 8 to 7, westbound – Right lane closures for utility work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Shoulder closures for utility work in the area of Route 664 (Whipporwill Road), 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through Friday.
No lane closures were reported.
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.