Good Home Owner Association (HOA) property maintenance practices can keep a community looking vibrant and livable. Autumn Glen is a 52-acre community in Stephens City, composed of mostly senior citizens who prefer to have a lawncare contractor manage their lawn and snow removal requirements. The homeowners have also tasked President Joan Callahan and the HOA Board of Directors to maintain their reputation as the best-looking community in Stephens City.
“The goal of every HOA is to protect property values, and one way of doing so is to invest in quality landscaping and lawncare,” said Callahan. Attractive design and lush greenery can have an enormous influence on the overall appeal of a neighborhood. And with increased appeal comes enhanced property values. “Our HOA Beautification Committees work with the lawncare service provider to protect the property value and create enjoyable living spaces for Autumn Glen homeowners,” she said. A greener community provides a higher overall level of positivity and vibrancy.
A Cut Above Landscaping and Lawncare located in Winchester has been maintaining the common grounds, clubhouse and 169 residences at Autumn Glen HOA for 5 years now. “The contract operates year-round to provide a vast array of services, including: lawncare, landscape, and snow removal services,” said A Cut Above Vice President Travis Streit.
As spring quickly approaches, lush with hints of natural greens, A Cut Above works diligently to prepare HOA properties for the growing season to begin by removing sticks/debris and any residual leaves that fell from the trees since their previous fall clean-up. They continue the lawn maintenance throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall on a weekly basis so the property always remains pristine. According to Turf Manager Brian Tavenner, qualified spray technicians work consistently to fertilize lawns to promote healthy root development throughout the growing season. “An application of balanced granular fertilizer with pre-emergent crabgrass control is applied before ground temperatures reach 55 degrees. The next round is liquid broadleaf weed control with pre-emergence, to help mitigate any uninviting weeds during the Spring and Summer months. A grub and tick suppression is applied in conjunction with fertilizer, to combat the influx of evasive pests like Japanese Beetles in early to mid-July,” Tavenner said.
During the Summer months, spray technicians apply another round of balanced granular fertilizer to promote better overall health of the turf. “We adjust our services, (dependent on the weather) to prevent any damage to the turf or landscape. When conditions are relatively dry, we tend to raise our cutting height and reduce cutting frequency to allow the turf plenty of time to recuperate in between cuts. If we’ve had a significant amount of precipitation than we always proceed with caution or wait for the property to dry out,” Lawn Division Manager/Safety Coordinator Frankie Dunlap said. Dunlap’s safety coordinator duties include providing proper Personal Protective Equipment (chainsaw chaps, safety glasses, closed toed shoes, etc. worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause workplace injuries), documenting incident reports, and monthly safety meetings.
During October, core aeration eliminates soil compaction which allows air, water, and fertilizer to better reach the root zone. Overseeding the freshly cored soil, allows for seed to drop into the holes and help thicken the stand of turf. Thickening the existing stand of turf will naturally defend against weeds being able to survive, as it creates a naturally shaded soil bed where the seed gets choked out before it ever has the chance to survive.
An additional round of Winterizer fertilizer is applied in late fall, to promote root development. This nitrogen-based application permits the roots to absorb and store nutrients during the dormant months of winter; in turn, the turf will be noticeably more vibrant in color as spring approaches. A granular liming application is applied during winter, (when weather permits) to help repair soil levels back to a neutral PH balance or slightly acidic. Autumn Glen’s Tall Fescue lawns prefer this soil PH to thrive.
Brian Tavenner knows the importance of employing experienced spray technicians. Every A Cut Above employee who applies lawn fertilizers and pesticides must obtain a Registered Spray Technician license which includes documenting 20 hours of training from the Applying Pesticides Correctly Core Manual, and 20 hours of field training on the safe and proper application of pesticides under direct on-site supervision of a Certified Commercial Applicator. The license is required because technicians must adjust the ratios of commercial mix so an ecological approach based on the life cycle and habitat of the pest is provided. “Spray Technicians are required to attend an approved category specific recertification course every 2 years,” Tavenner said.
Autumn is such a beautiful time of year, bringing another patchwork of color. However, as the leaves begin to fall, it can create an unpleasant sight for most homeowners. A Cut Above bulk leaf collection system consists of removing all leaves from landscape beds, turf, and any hard surfaces. Using backpack blowers, rakes, and tarps, just about virtually every leaf is collected into an area where they are either sucked up using a bagging system on the rear of a commercial sized zero-turn vehicle, or by using a leaf vacuum along the street curb to sweep up and shred those unwanted leaves. Autumn Glen homeowners say leaf removal is one of the most popular services offered. All common ground and front yard perennials are cut back, and final landscape edging is completed; this allows for the community to maintain a neat and pristine look throughout the dormant season.
Snow removal is a major concern in the winter months for seniors. The goal during any snowstorm is to keep home walkways, driveways, and parking lots as clear and safe as possible. Autumn Glen regulations requires three inches of snow to accumulate before requesting A Cut Above services. Since the streets in Autumn Glen are the property of VDOT, the Autumn Glen Board of Directors wait for VDOT to clear the streets before contacting A Cut Above to plow driveways and the clubhouse parking lot. Once VDOT has finished their first sweep, A Cut Above has multiple crews engaged working in unison to remove snow and allow for safe ingress/egress for homeowners throughout the snowy event.
Snow removal staff shovel the snow 10-15 feet away from the homeowner garage doors to allow equipment to pull in the driveway and back drag snow out into the street. Staff operate trucks, tractors, skid steers etc. to push snow to specified areas. Using ATVs, A Cut Above clear home sidewalks and driveways throughout the community quickly and efficiently. “There is nothing better than waking up after a snowstorm, opening your garage door and seeing a freshly plowed driveway,” said Architectural Review and Covenants Committee Chair, Mary Sturm.
The Autumn Glen HOA Board has the responsibility of developing and managing activities and performance related to the service providers they employ. The main objective is to build a strong relationship that motivates service providers to deliver excellent maintenance throughout the contract period. The HOA Board worked closely with A Cut Above on the property management and snow removal services proposal to identify clear and concise provisions regarding the timeline for the work, the scope of the work, and how the work should be performed. This enabled both Autumn Glen and A Cut Above to be aware of their respective obligations toward each other. “The job is made a lot easier when you have good collaboration between HOA and service provider,” said Callahan. Likewise, the A Cut Above Vice President believes the feeling is mutual. “It is imperative that the management staff of A Cut Above work in unison with the landscape committee from Autumn Glen to ensure we are all on the same page with realistic expectations and accountability from both parties,” Streit said.
Virginia’s Creative Harvest: Celebrating Farming with Hay Bale Art
Hay Bale Decorating Contest Showcases Agricultural Pride and Community Talent.
As autumn colors adorned Virginia, the state’s agribusinesses, community groups, and educational organizations displayed their creativity and agricultural pride in the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s (VFBF) annual Hay Bale Decorating Contest. Now in its ninth year, the contest has become a cherished tradition, drawing a record number of 59 entries, each telling a unique story of Virginia’s rich agricultural heritage.
The competition invited participants from across the state, including county Farm Bureaus, FFA chapters, 4-H clubs, and individuals, to create imaginative displays using hay bales. The themes were as diverse as Virginia’s agricultural landscape, depicting farm animals, idyllic farmscapes, horticulture, farm machinery, and a variety of Virginia-produced commodities.
Faye Hundley, VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee chair, expressed her excitement over the record participation. “The imagination and ingenuity everyone puts into the hay bale displays is always so impressive,” she said. More than just a fun activity, these hay bale artworks serve a dual purpose – they are not only visually appealing but also play a significant role in fostering discussions about farming and connecting communities with their agricultural roots.
Local businesses and organizations, including farmers’ markets and school agricultural groups, were encouraged to participate, highlighting the contest’s role in strengthening community bonds. The winners, spanning various categories, were awarded a $100 cash prize and a trophy, with their accomplishments celebrated on the VFBF Women’s Leadership Program Facebook page.
The winners of this year’s contest were:
The VFBF, with nearly 135,000 members across 88 county Farm Bureaus, stands as Virginia’s largest farmer advocacy group. This non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization remains dedicated to supporting and promoting the state’s vital agriculture industry.
The Hay Bale Decorating Contest is more than a display of creativity; it’s a testament to Virginia’s agricultural spirit and community involvement. Through these artistic expressions, participants have showcased their talent and highlighted the importance of agriculture in their lives and those around them. It’s a colorful reminder of the state’s deep-rooted connection to the land and the people who cultivate it.
Samuels Public Library Rewards Young People’s Talent with Holiday Writing Contest
On Thursday, December 7, at 6 p.m. at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, the library held its annual Holiday Writing Contest, rewarding young people’s talent at every grade level with first, second, and third place for each level, assigned by teachers and other volunteers from the community who served as judges.
A packed room revealed how important this event is to the community. Each child seemed to have his or her own support group present, as in many cases, cheers erupted from a specific part of the room when the announcement was made for the winner of a particular slot. All the winners, individually, walked bravely to the front of the room, where they stood with children’s librarian Michal Ashby, who recognized them, and sometimes read their contributions aloud in the case that they did not want to read it themselves. At the end of each child’s reading, Ashby distributed a prize and encouraged the audience to give applause once again as the winner returned to his or her seat.
The contributions demonstrated insight and maturity, due in part, perhaps, to the books the young people have been reading. The attendance of family and friends implies that the young people are not reading in isolation. Certain reoccurring themes were present in the stories these children told: the importance of family and friendship; the importance of leadership, often exercised by a child; the importance of home as a warm center that offers shelter from the beautiful but sometimes overwhelming elements; and the power inherent to receiving a gift. The stories were not unacquainted with conflict and war; but in each case that this darkness was acknowledged, the main character rises above that evil to bring the magic of Christmas to his or her community. Each story or poem was a testimony to the partnership between the library and parents, dedicated to nurturing the imaginations of tomorrow’s leaders. Looking at the structure, which is Samuels, this reporter was reminded of the words of Audrey Hepburn in the classic film War and Peace: “You’re like this house. You show your wounds, but you’re still standing.” Indeed, Samuels is still standing.
The holiday writing contest is one of Ashby’s favorite parts of the year. She looks forward to it, even during what has been a difficult year. “I’ve been doing it for eighteen years,” Ashby explained, “And it’s, in my opinion, one of the most heartwarming events we have throughout the entire year because the kids get so invested in their work, and they’re so proud of what they’ve done. And then the parents and the grandparents and the siblings, they’re rooting them on. So, it’s a time that I see their self-esteem raised. A lot of them share the most beautiful, heartwarming messages and if you actually listen to their stories and their poems, they really know the essence of what Christmas and Hannukah and all the winter holidays are about.”
Going on to speak about that evening specifically, Ashby said, “I was so touched by some of the poems and the stories.” Ashby hears in these award-winning pieces the indomitable spirit that overcomes differences and brings people together. “What touched me so much this year were the messages of peace and unity, and I think that’s what we need in this society.” She added, “It’s a wonderful way to bring in the winter holidays in the most positive way because you’re getting together two hundred people from the town, and it’s this community, and they’re all proud and joyous for their children, or their siblings, or their grandchildren, and to feel that positive energy is just exquisite.”
The evening ended with refreshments and winners posing for pictures in front of Samuels’ Christmas tree.
School Board Bids Rinaldi Farewell; Votes to Lengthen Contract for Truancy Prevention Officer
The Warren County School Board on Wednesday, December 6, unanimously voted to extend the contract length for a secondary truancy prevention officer from 10 months to 12 months and said goodbye to one of its own members, who is leaving at the end of the year.
School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins were present during the board’s final meeting of 2023.
The meeting was Rinaldi’s last as a School Board member as his term expires at the end of the year, and he decided against running for re-election.
“It’s been a great four years,” Pence told him. “I don’t think either of us could have known when we sat in our training in December of 2019 exactly what the four years were going to look like.”
Pence acknowledged Rinaldi’s passion for WCPS, the students, and the teachers. She also highlighted his work on the board’s Facilities Committee and his input on the renovation project at Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) Elementary School.
“We’re all very appreciative of all of the work and dedication that you’ve done here,” said Pence, who presented him with a wall clock made by students at the Blue Ridge Technical Center and a brick of dedication from the LFK project.
Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Christopher Ballenger thanked Rinaldi for his efforts.
“I want to say thank you for your leadership,” the superintendent told Rinaldi. “I appreciate the wisdom you’ve been able to share and your dedication to students and to the schools of Warren County.”
Rinaldi told his colleagues he appreciated being part of a “good team.”
“It’s great to work with people who are on the same page,” he said. “And this board has been on the same page.”
While he admitted the board has faced some “rough spots,” Rinaldi said the School Board has achieved many goals and it’s been his pleasure to serve on it.
“Dr. Pence and I came on, and then COVID hit, and then we had to hire a superintendent,” he said. “I mean, we were really kind of slammed. So, I appreciate her leadership more than you know.”
Tom McFadden, Jr., elected to replace Rinaldi as the School Board member representing the Shenandoah District, spoke during the community participation portion of Wednesday’s meeting to introduce himself to the community and thank residents for their votes.
McFadden (above), the vice president of enrollment at Christendom College since 2014, has lived in Warren County for 23 years with his wife and 11 children. He noted that prior to his election in November, “there was a lot of chatter on social media about me — continues to this day — and what agenda I may hope to bring to the schools here in Warren County.”
McFadden said that while people didn’t ask him what his agenda was, they assumed certain things about him “due to my affiliation with the Catholic Church.”
“The fact that my children are homeschooled and I did not have any children enrolled in the school system, they wondered what agenda I might be trying to impose,” McFadden said. “I’m here to tell you that my only agenda is to provide a quality education opportunity for every student to achieve their highest academic learning potential, develop positive core values, reflective of our community, and enter higher education or the workforce, their choice, being well-prepared.”
The incoming board member said he also wants to help further the mission of WCPS by enhancing the community’s support of sports, increasing active parental involvement, and providing “clear, concise, and frequent communication.”
During the last few weeks, McFadden said he has met with WCPS principals and learned what they think the School Board can do to assist them with policies or what topics the board should be focused on.
“I’ve told each of them the same thing: my only agenda is to help them,” McFadden said. “I look forward to our working relationship over the next four years.”
The School Board also took several actions during its meeting, including unanimously approving the Secondary Truancy Prevention Officer position from a 10-months to a 12-month contract effective January 1, 2024, and scheduling its 2024 organizational meeting on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, at 5:30 p.m., in the Board Room of the Warren County Government Center.
To watch the December 6 School Board meeting in its entirety, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/283684#
Wildlife Center’s ‘Patient of the Week’ highlights importance of protecting region’s wild animals
It’s been a few years since Royal Examiner representatives visited the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center (BRWC) in Boyce, and most of that time our online newspaper has been pleased, and honored, to publish each week the photo and story behind injured animals that are delivered, now by the thousand each year, for treatment and, unfortunately for some, the benefits of euthanasia.
Many of these animals, however, are treated by not one, but now two, on-site veterinarians and their helpers, some volunteers among them, as the center has developed from its original old, old house, to a modern hospital enabling staff to admit and provide urgent medical care for hundreds more animals, birds and reptiles annually. Staff has increased exponentially over the past decade also, including the doubling up of veterinary care, as earlier mentioned.
Many of these unfortunate wild animals, indigenous to our region, are struck by vehicles or by victimized by garden tending materials accidents, others are poisoned by the effect of hunters’ lead bullets left in abandoned portions of carcasses left in the wild. Readily available unleaded ammunition is recommended regularly by BRWC. The injured may be operated on for the most serious and painful of injuries, and hopefully recover enough to be released back into the wild.
Some that are left with tended injuries that nevertheless make them unable to return to their habitats, are carefully housed in outside viewing areas, in airy cages, are labelled “ambassadors” and are used as educational tools in schools, service and other organizations, taking to the road almost weekly to spread the word about what the center, which is not subsidized by government entities but operates only on donated funds, does and how it does it. The weekly publication of the “Patient of the Week” and its photograph, has steadily shown the public the how and the why protection of our local wildlife is so important to ours and neighboring counties, and perhaps why we should give consideration to donating to the cause.
We’ve noticed over the months how owls appear to be one of the more common intakes among all animals, birds and reptiles, including the handsome old boy featured in the following “Patient of the Week” report from the center. We take the opportunity to wish him well, and welcome his eventual release to his home environment. Important to his recovery was the center’s new X-ray machine that a spokesperson said “could never have been purchased without the amazing donations made at this past fall’s fundraising gala!”
This owl, with broken metacarpals (“fingers”), is expected to recover well enough not to join others of his kind as a permanent resident “ambassador”. As with all the wildlife that arrives at the center, the vets and the center staff rejoice upon their patient recoveries that allow them to be released back to their natural habitat to begin life anew. So, off he will fly in the New Year.
We hope you will read through and study the photographs of this wise old owl, and follow our weekly series with interest and feeling for our native animal friends.
To contact BRWC, at 106 Island Farm Lane, Boyce, VA 22620, call (540) 837-9000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Malcolm Barr Sr., contributing writer for the Royal Examiner, is a lifelong friend of all animals, wild, domestic, great and small!)
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Barred Owl
This Barred owl was brought in to us after being found down along a roadside with broken metacarpals (“fingers”) on the left wing.
This is the “before” radiograph, showing that both the major AND minor metacarpal bones are fractured and badly displaced.
Due to the owl’s critical condition at intake, surgery was not possible until the following day.
After 24 hours of pain medications and fluids, this patient was in far more stable condition and our veterinary staff was able to perform surgery to place an external fixator to stabilize the metacarpal bones.
This year we were able to purchase a much-needed brand-new X-ray machine to replace our older unit that had recently broken down.
Not only is this new machine more reliable, it is also mobile, which allows us to take radiographs mid-surgery in our operating room without having to move the patient back and forth between radiology and surgery.
This was our pre-op setup. The x-ray detector plate is placed directly on the surgery table, then a heat pad and towel laid on top.
Because x-rays can penetrate easily through fabric, this does not create any issues with the images.
This was taken intraoperatively, as you can see owl’s body overlying the wavy heating element of the heat pad. Because it can sometimes be difficult to correlate what is palpable to actual bone orientation, the surgical clamp seen was used as a landmark. Comparing its physical location to what is seen on the radiograph can help improve alignment.
It is simply amazing to be able to do this without having to break sterile field or otherwise disturb an anesthetized patient, which would be the case with a typical standing x-ray machine.
The “after” photo: both metacarpal bones are well-aligned!
Having access to a reliable x-ray machine is critical to treating a large portion of our patients that come in with broken bones, swallowed hooks, or gunshot wounds.
This x-ray machine, and other critical medical equipment, could never have been purchased without the amazing donations made at this past Fall’s Gala.
This owl has been recovering well and has finally begun to eat on their own.
They’ll require bandage changes and cage rest for the next few weeks while the bone continues to heal, and then will require a bit of time in our outdoor pre-release enclosures for reconditioning.
We’ll be monitoring recovery closely and we hope to have them released and back home early in the New Year!
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.
Invitation to Bid: E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School Gymnasium Conversion
You are invited to bid on a general contract for Warren County Public Schools, E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School Gymnasium Conversion for the Warren County School Board. This project generally consists of converting an existing auditorium with sloped floor to an elementary gymnasium. All bids shall be on a lump sum basis.
Bids shall be received until 2:00 P.M. local prevailing time on December 18, 2023, to the attention of Dr. Chris Ballenger, Superintendent, in the Board Room of the Warren County Public School Administration Building, 210 N. Commerce Avenue, Front Royal, VA 22630, at which time they will be opened publicly and read aloud. Bids received after this time will not be accepted. All interested parties are invited to attend.
Drawings and specifications may be examined at the Office of the Architect/Engineer, the Warren County School Board office, and at the following locations:
Valley Construction News
426 Campbell Avenue SW
Roanoke, VA 24016
The Blue Book Bldg. & Construction Network
800 E. Main Street
Jefferson Valley, NY 10535
Builders Exchange of Tennessee
300 Clark Street
Knoxville, TN 37921
DODGE Data & Analytics
3315 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, AR 71913
30 Technology Parkway South
Norcross, GA 30092-2912
400 SW 7th Street
Stuart, FL 34994
Plans and specifications can be obtained via download from ShareFile at no cost. Contact email@example.com for ShareFile access. Upon receipt of valid email address, ZMM Architects & Engineers will provide a password with instructions on accessing and downloading plans and specifications. Hard copies of plans and specifications can be obtained from ZMM upon receipt of a nonrefundable check in the amount of $75.00. Plans and specifications can be shipped for additional charge. Contact ZMM for further details.
Bids shall be accompanied by a bid guarantee of not less than 5% of the amount of the bid, which may be a certified check or cashier’s check, or a bid bond of 5% of the amount of the bid, made payable to Warren County School Board. A performance bond, payment bond and a material and labor bond will be required and the cost shall be included in the bid price.
Bidders are required under Title 54.1, Chapter 11, Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, to be licensed as a “Class A Contractor” before submitting a bid of one hundred twenty thousand ($120,000) dollars or more; or to be licensed as a “Class B Contractor” before submitting a bid of ten thousand ($10,000) dollars or more but less than one hundred twenty thousand ($120,000) dollars; or be licensed as a “Class C Contractor” before submitting a bid of no more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000). Each Bidder will be required to give their State Registration Number on their proposal. All non-resident contractors and subcontractors bidding the work described herein shall register with the Department of Labor and Industry under the provisions of Section 40.1-30 of the Code of Virginia.
The Owner reserves the right to waive irregularities and to reject any or all bids.
A pre-bid conference will be held on December 3, 2023 beginning at 10:00 A.M. at the Warren County Public School Administration Building, 210 N. Commerce Avenue, Front Royal, VA 22630 with a tour of the school afterwards. The school is located at 40 Crescent St., Front Royal, VA 22630. This will provide an opportunity to answer questions and explain any items requiring further clarification.
Bids shall be binding for a period of sixty (60) days from the date on which bids are opened.
Warren County School Board
Dr. Chris Ballenger