Traveling south on Route 522/340 into Front Royal at the end of January and early February, motorists have encountered support beams for the final two-lane section of the South Fork Bridge parked on the side of the road.
NOW we know it’s getting serious, as it was when we saw similar beam work to support the first four-lane section two years ago.
VDOT has said when completed later this year, the South Fork Bridge over the Shenandoah River on the north side of the Town of Front Royal will be the longest and widest bridge in VDOT’s Staunton District comprising much of the western and northwestern portion of the state.
But about those traffic backups, sometimes well past the North Fork Bridge backing up toward the I-66 interchange – they are largely unnecessary, kids.
“Construction Ahead” does not necessarily translate into “Lane Closed” – and even when it does, this driver’s experience has been that the lane closure has been occurring at some distance, usually half way across the South Fork Bridge.
SO, how best to proceed? Modern traffic theory being adopted in a number of states is that two lanes of traffic continuing to flow until a “Merge” sign appears shortly before the lane actually closes, followed by an orderly “Zipper Merge” facilitates the smoothest traffic flow with the least, unnecessary backup.
What is a “Zipper Merge” you may ask – it is where each driver in the lane that remains open, allows one car from the closing lane in front of them. And I know all you courteous Front Royal and Warren County drivers are perfectly capable of executing this maneuver. In fact, having accomplished it along with the one or two other cars that have traveled the right lane to the “Merge” sign with me, I KNOW you can.
Having traveled southbound into Front Royal on Route 340/522 every day for a week and a half recently, following the above theory I know I have beaten some cars into town by a good 10 to 15 minutes. And on a couple of those days the right lane NEVER did close and I made it all the way into town in a largely empty right lane.
So remember – be POLITE on the road, but don’t prematurely anticipate a lane closure; it’ll save you a lot of aggravation.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for July 4 – 8, 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 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through July 30.
*NEW* Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight single lane closures for pavement marking, Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am.
Mile marker 8 to 7, westbound – Right lane closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through July 30.
Mile marker 300 to 299, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through July 30.
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Flagger traffic control for safety improvements between Shenandoah County line and Front Royal town limits, 7:00 am to 7:00 pm through July 29.
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Shoulder closures for utility work in the area of Route 664 (Whipporwill Road), 8:30 am to 3:30 pm through July 15.
Various roads – Flagger traffic control when needed for debris cleanup. Weekdays during daylight hours. Estimated completion July 22.
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.
Town man charged with 20 felony counts of child pornography possession after lengthy investigation
Following an eight-month investigation, Front Royal Police officers have arrested a town man for possession of child pornography.
Richard E. Jones, 41, of Front Royal, was arrested on Thursday, June 30, and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail, where he was charged with 20 felony counts of Possession of Child Pornography.
A Friday media release from Police Chief Kahle Magalis states that detectives, on Oct. 12, 2021, executed a search warrant on an Accomac Drive home, where “several electronic devices were located and seized for evidentiary purposes.” The release says, “Over 400 images of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) were extracted from the seized electronics.”
Jones went before the magistrate and was ordered to be held without bond. He has an initial court date for the listed offenses on July 28, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
FRPD Detective T. A. Smith is the lead investigator in the case. Anyone with further information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective Smith at (540) 636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.
The Front Royal Police Department is an active member of the Northern Virginia/DC Metro (NOVA/DC) Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is coordinated by the Virginia State Police. Anyone with information regarding the solicitation or exploitation of a minor is encouraged to contact the Front Royal Police Department.
Front Royal Police investigating an unattended death in Town
The Front Royal Police Department is investigating an unattended death after responding to a Thursday night, June 30 call around 10:30 p.m.
Upon arriving at First Bank, at 1729 North Shenandoah Avenue, officers located a deceased white male, 41, in the grassy area between First Bank and United Bank parking lots. The Front Royal man, whom the FRPD has not identified, appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A media release from FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis said the victim was not affiliated with the bank and is believed to have walked there from a nearby hotel. This incident is under investigation with assistance from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The release states, “Due to the pending nature of this ongoing investigation and respect for his family, no further details can be provided at this time.”
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective T. A. Smith at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
School Board approves reduced FY23 operating budget ‘to keep the doors open’
While the local school district’s new budget isn’t exactly what the Warren County School Board originally sought, they voted 5-0 on Wednesday, June 29 to approve it so that Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) may continue operating uninterrupted.
During the School Board’s special meeting, School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins unanimously adopted the WCPS fiscal year 2022-2023 budget, which totals roughly $69 million and includes approximately $53.2 million for its operations fund, almost $12.4 million for capital improvements, and nearly $3.4 million for the cafeteria fund.
The new operations budget is less than what the school district initially adopted and then sought approval from the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) because the BOS on Tuesday, June 28 unanimously voted to temporarily fund WCPS operations at 75 percent due to fiscal concerns. So, while WCPS had requested almost $71 million for its school operating fund for FY23 — which brought its total FY23 budget request to nearly $92 million — the school division for now, agreed to adopt the total $69,007,344 budget for the upcoming school year.
That amount, said WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger, is enough to allow the district to continue operations starting on July 1. “If we did not have a budget of course on Friday we would not be able to open our doors,” he told the School Board. “This at least allows our doors to stay open.”
As part of the FY23 budget, WCPS employees will receive a 5 percent salary increase, inclusive of an experience step, as well as $1,000 bonuses provided by the State of Virginia. WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine said employees can expect to receive those bonuses by the end of the year.
The state bonuses will be in addition to the pandemic-related bonuses for WCPS employees. Full-time employees who worked during the 2021-2022 school year — and who are returning for the upcoming school year — will receive a net bonus of $1,500; this includes recent retirees. Part-time WCPS employees during school year 2021-2022 will receive $750, while employees hired after Dec. 31, 2021, are eligible for half of the full-time and part-time bonuses.
After some back and forth during the last month between the boards, the BOS on Tuesday agreed to allow WCPS to transfer $125,000 between School Board budget categories to help cover its one-time employee bonuses, which are expected to total about $1.7 million and are majority funded by leftover funds from the last school year’s vacant positions, mid-year turnover, new employees entering on a lower pay scale, etc.
The approved FY23 WCPS operating fund also covers funding for 15.5 new positions, grounds maintenance, pupil transportation, and technology, among other items, according to the supervisor’s budget document.
The School Board and the BOS plan to continue working together to finalize the FY23 budget for WCPS. Both Pence and Ballenger told the Royal Examiner earlier this week that they remain hopeful for improved communication between their boards.
“I’m glad we now have the opportunity to talk about this budget in more detail and discuss how this will impact the school system so that a sound decision can be made concerning the division’s FY23 budget,” Ballenger wrote in an email.
“I look forward to the conversations that lie ahead between the School Board and Board of Supervisors budget subcommittee,” wrote Pence.
During the School Board’s special meeting on Wednesday, Funk said that the board’s budget committee members are discussing the budget and the options presented during the BOS meeting on Tuesday and hope to meet with BOS budget subcommittee members next week.
Lo said that School Board budget committee members also discussed how to build better communication between them and the BOS budget subcommittee members “to ensure our goals are aligned with the goals of the supervisors so that we’re working together.”
Rinaldi said there should be a timeline developed and adopted to have the FY23 budget settled. “I think that’s important to start our plan for the fall,” he added.
The School Board unanimously agreed to request that the BOS increase the WCPS technology category in the FY22 budget operating fund by $140,476. WCPS has received a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grant to install Wi-Fi connectivity on its school buses. To spend the grant money, an additional appropriation must be received by the BOS. Ballenger said the grant money is for a Wi-Fi radio system being installed to allow direct communications between the buses and the schools. “We’re getting close to having [this system] fully implemented for this year,” he added.
In circling back, Pence said, the School Board during a previous meeting had voted to approve the purchase and the use and to date had not made this additional appropriation.
For this type of grant, WCPS Finance Director Ballentine explained that WCPS must spend the money first before getting the federal reimbursement, “which is in the pipeline right now,” he said.
Because of that, the County has already fronted, so to speak, the money to pay for it. So, this request would basically be paying back the County for those local funds that were advanced to pay for the system, and then WCPS will get reimbursed with the federal funds, said Ballentine.
In a proactive step, School Board members asked Ballentine if they should change how they make such requests of the BOS. For instance, when informed of receiving a grant, should the School Board then go to the BOS and explain that the grant is forthcoming, what will be done with the funds, and at that time make a request to increase an appropriation by that specific amount. Then the School Board would be in a position to issue a contract and accept the grant.
“The way that I look at it, that would be, in an ideal world, the best way to handle that,” Ballentine said. “It’s asking for permission rather than forgiveness.”
Following a motion by Rinaldi to request that the BOS increase the School Board’s fiscal year 2021-2022 operating fund budget category 68000 Technology by $140,476, with a second by Funk, the board voted 5-0 to approve.
Additionally, WCPS Director of Personnel Shane Goodwin (above) presented the 2022 Personnel Report to the School Board on Wednesday for approval.
“We’ve all been working hard to make sure we find the very best candidates for our students to be in our classrooms and in each one of our facilities,” Goodwin said.
Prior to the vote on the personnel report, School Board member Salins asked if board members could be present during exit interviews for outgoing WCPS staff. Goodwin said he’d like to ask Dr.
Ballenger to work with the group “and we’ll find a way to present that in a format that you’d like.”
Salins again asked: “Is there a way for us to heed the advice the [Warren County] Board of Supervisors gave us [during its June 28 meeting] and actually do physical interviews with staff that is leaving in the hopes that we can stop them from leaving and just settle any issues that they might be having?”
“The practice that is in place now goes back some time,” Goodwin answered. “I’m sure there’s an opportunity for us to adjust that as you may see fit or as needed.
“Of course, I would love the opportunity for us to retain people because we wouldn’t have to recruit,” said Goodwin. “We’d be glad to look into that as long as it fits into our policy that you all have approved. If needed, we could create a new one. We would be happy to do that together.”
Following a motion by Funk with a second by Salins, the School Board voted 5-0 to approve the 2022 Personnel Report, which included four resignations, one retirement, and 12 appointments.
To watch the meeting in its entirety, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/176504
St. Luke’s Community Clinic shares medical supplies with locals and third-world countries
Often, following the death of a loved one, families are left wondering what to do with items no longer needed, such as medical equipment and supplies. Some organizations
St. Luke’s Community Clinic in Front Royal, which serves low-income and indigent patients, will happily accept all types of medical equipment and supplies.
St. Luke’s Executive Director, Vicki L. Davies, says that the clinic frequently gets donations when medical equipment and supplies are no longer needed. Many of the donated items go to local residents who have expressed a need and can be kept permanently or returned when no longer needed.
Davies says typical items donated to St. Luke’s include walkers, wheelchairs, shower chairs, etc. When there is an overabundance of items, (which typically happens about every three months) the clinic has three loyal volunteers who show up and transport the surplus equipment to the Manassas Medical Missionaries facility. From there, the supplies are loaded onto a boat or airplane for shipping to third-world countries, where all medical equipment is in short supply.
The volunteers, affectionally referred to by Davies as “our cellar rats,” pack all the supplies into boxes and label them for shipment. The Shenandoah Area for Aging helps with the donation of supplies by driving the equipment to the Manassas location.
Davies says items typically sent overseas include dressing and wound care supplies, medical equipment, C-Pap machines, tube feeding supplies, and this month a prosthetic leg. She said, “I think it’s wonderful how non-profits work together to help others so that expensive medical supplies do not go to waste.
St. Luke’s Community Clinic strives to serve eligible residents of Front Royal/Warren County. For more information on new patient screening requirements or ask how to donate medical equipment and supplies call: (540) 636-4325. St. Luke Community Clinic, 316 North Royal Avenue, Front Royal, Virginia or visit the website https://saintlukeclinic.org/.
Celebrate smart, safe & sober this July 4 holiday weekend
Independence Day traditions include backyard barbecues, festivals, family gatherings and fireworks. To keep all those living, working, visiting and traveling through Virginia safe during the extended holiday weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging Virginians to play it smart and plan ahead to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sober.
“Summer days are filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “With fatal traffic crashes on pace this year to mimic last year’s record number, I urge all Virginians to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk or under the influence. Together we can make this Independence Day the safest on record!”
If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely. Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 a.m. Friday (July 1, 2022) through midnight Monday (July 4, 2022) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt.
During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were 12 traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 61 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 4,025 speeders and 1,434 reckless drivers, and issued 510 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,550 disabled/stranded motorists.
With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.