VDOT: Brief overnight closures on I-81 southbound near Harrisonburg January 23–27 for bridge demolition work
Brief “slow roll” closures of Interstate 81 southbound are scheduled for Monday through Thursday nights, January 23-27, near the city of Harrisonburg. The closures will be between the hours of 11:00 pm and 5:00 am, and each one is scheduled for 15 minutes or less. They allow contractors to remove the concrete deck on the Route 720 (Smithland Road/Old Furnace Road) bridge over I-81 near mile marker 248.8.
On each night of slow-roll closures, Virginia State Police will hold I-81 southbound traffic at exit 257 (Harrisonburg). The southbound entrance ramp at exit 251, the Harrisonburg area, will also briefly close during these times. I-81 southbound lanes and on-ramps will reopen as soon as it is safe for traffic to drive under the Route 720 bridge.
Additional I-81 northbound and southbound closures will occur in 2023 during certain phases of bridge demolition and construction. The Virginia Department of Transportation will advise motorists when these closures are scheduled. VDOT contractors are removing the old Route 720 bridge and constructing a replacement. The project is expected to finish in the fall of 2023.
Route 720 is closed between Route 718 (Old Furnace Road) and F-238 (Buffalo Drive). Traffic is using a 3.5-mile detour.
- On the east side of I-81, traffic will be detoured along Smithland Road, turning right onto Linda Lane, right onto Country Club Road, right onto Vine Street, and then right onto Old Furnace Road to the end of the detour.
- On the west side of I-81, traffic will be detoured along Smithland Road, turning right onto Old Furnace Road, left onto Vine Street, left onto Country Club Road, left onto Linda Lane, and then left onto Smithland Road to the end of the detour.
Buffalo Drive will temporarily close during some phases of construction. Buffalo Drive will be signed, “Road Closed to Through Traffic,” at the Route 724 (Trinity Church Road) intersection.
Drivers on I-81 northbound and southbound should be alerted for overnight left-lane closures as needed between mile markers 248 and 250. These lane closures allow VDOT contractors to construct a center pier for the new Route 720 overpass bridge.
The new bridge will have two through lanes and five-foot shoulders. It will be constructed in the existing bridge location but will be about three feet higher. The intersection of Route 720 and Buffalo Drive will be improved to connect with the increased elevation.
Click here for additional information about the Route 720 Project.
A contract valued at $4.9 million was awarded to Triton Construction Inc. of Virginia in April 2022. All work is weather permitting.
For updated traffic alerts and traveler information, dial 511 or visit 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 https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
WCFR 10-A-Day smoke alarm challenge
The Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services has renewed our partnership with the American Red Cross – West Virginia Region, Central Appalachia and will participate in their “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life” campaign. The department will conduct a “10-A-Day Campaign” to assist in their endeavor.
Our “10-A-Day Campaign” will challenge each of our staffed stations to complete the following activities for each day during the week of April 2 through April 8, 2023, with the focus on:
- Visiting a minimum of 10 homes each day.
- Providing lifesaving education on smoke alarms to a minimum of 10 people each day.
- Inspecting a minimum of 10 existing smoke alarms for their appropriate operating condition, placement, and adequate date.
- Replacing a minimum of 10 out-of-date alarms or installing new alarms where needed.
Warren County Fire and Rescue is proud to collaborate with the American Red Cross and to have been part of the success of the “Sound the Alarm, Save A Life” campaign. The American Red Cross and its partners have installed over 2.5 million free smoke alarms, making over 1 million homes safer. The department plans to continue to assist with their goal of 50,000 smoke alarm installs during April by challenging our staff to install 80 smoke alarms a day, every day, during the week campaign, for a total of 560 smoke alarm installs.
According to the American Red Cross, “Home fires claim seven lives every day, but having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half.” Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue is committed to further reducing this number by partnering with the American Red Cross, educating the community, and providing free smoke alarm installs.
For a free fire and life safety home evaluation and to receive your free smoke alarms, please contact us at 540-636-3830 or visit www.warrencountyfire.com.
McDonald criminal cases change of venue motion denied – Front Royal, Warren County residents will be excluded from federal jury pool
On Monday, March 20th, United States District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon entered an order denying Jennifer McDonald’s motion for a change of venue to Charlottesville for her criminal trial slated for Harrisonburg in a federal court in the 10th Western District of Virginia. That trial, on 34 criminal indictments related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority “financial scandal,” is scheduled for over a month from May 15 into June.
Federal court-appointed defense counsel for McDonald, Eric Trodden, filed the change of venue for trial in February. He asserted that his client is not likely to get an unbiased jury in Harrisonburg due to Shenandoah Valley regional media reporting about McDonald and other related civil cases in which she was a witness or topic of legal arguments pointing a finger at her alleged role as the central figure in the estimated $26-million financial embezzlement and misappropriation of FR-WC EDA and municipal funds scandal.
However, after a detailed review of applicable law and circumstances of the press coverage by local and regional media, specifically citing Royal Examiner coverage dating back to 2018, the judge ruled the coverage as essentially non-biased and factually based. The judge did rule that residents of the Town of Front Royal and Warren County would be excluded from the federal jury pool.
“It is HEREBY ORDERED that defendant’s motion to transfer venue (Dkt. No. 45) is DENIED, but the court will exclude residents of the Town of Front Royal and Warren County. Warren County has no cities, and only one recognized town, Front Royal, from the jury pool. The clerk of court is directed to transmit a copy of this order to all counsel of record,” Judge Dillon wrote in concluding her review of the issues surrounding the defense motion.
In examining the circumstance of media coverage, Judge Dillon wrote: “Press coverage of this matter has been primarily from the Royal Examiner and the Northern Virginia Daily. (Dkt. No. 47.) Both papers are local to the Strasburg/Front Royal Area. The majority of the press coverage is from 2019, two years before the indictment in this case, although the media covered this case and related civil lawsuits into 2021. Defendant herself initiated the press coverage in 2018 when she reached out to a local reporter (yours truly) with an allegedly false story about winning money at a casino.
EDA Director Jennifer McDonald parlays casino winnings into real estate investments
In her analysis of the McDonald defense motion, Judge Dillon observed: “Rule 18 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs the appropriate place for trial. ‘Unless a statute or these rules permit otherwise, the government must prosecute an offense in a district where the offense was committed. The court must set the place of trial within the district with due regard for the convenience of the defendant, any victim, and the witnesses, and the prompt administration of justice.”
And Judge Dillon ruled that with the exclusion of residents of Front Royal and Warren County, about an hour north of Harrisonburg, who have been most exposed to media coverage going on five years, McDonald can get that fair trial from jurors further south in the Federal 10th Western District of Virginia, in a City of Harrisonburg federal courtroom.
McDonald faces 16 counts of money laundering, 10 counts of bank fraud, 7 counts of wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft, the latter related to the Truc “Curt” Tran/ITFederal case.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Golden Eagle
This immature Golden Eagle was found down in a field last week, very close to the Center. Staff followed the property owner to the found location and easily contained the extremely weak bird.
The intake exam revealed no obvious fractures or trauma, yet the eagle was very thin and covered in mites and lice.
In-house testing ruled out lead as the cause of the signs, though there was some lead in this bird’s system, but revealed a heavy burden of blood parasites, anemia (low red blood cell count), and an extremely high white blood cell count indicating infection. While we awaited results from additional laboratory testing, we supported this eagle with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
Shortly after placing an intravenous catheter and starting fluids, this patient perked up a bit. We were hopeful they would continue to improve.
After hours of receiving fluids, this eagle attempted to stand, though you can see the bird was still too weak to lift their head.
Sadly, this eagle passed away within about 24 hours of care despite treatment.
While some diagnostics are still pending, we have since learned that this eagle was negative for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The patient did have mildly elevated levels of lead and mercury, but both were too low to be the cause of the signs we noted. In addition to the extremely high white cell count, indicating infection, the liver values were also astronomically high.
Based on the liver biopsy we obtained and a minimally-invasive examination of the surrounding tissues, we believe that this eagle died from coelomitis, an infection in the body cavity likely caused, in this case, by liver trauma and necrosis. This eagle was simply too far gone to recover by the time they were admitted.
Often mistaken for immature Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles can be identified by a few key characteristics.
Golden Eagles have smaller heads than our more common Bald Eagles, with more proportional beaks, golden feathers on the nape that do not change with age, and a bright yellow cere (base of upper beak).
Golden’s have feathers all the way down to their feet (unlike Balds that have naked legs). They are also more closely related to hawks than Balds, who are classified as “fishing eagles”. Check out the insane talons on this bird – no surprise they are a fierce hunter and predator!
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.
Former FRPD Chief Richard Furr remembered fondly
A Celebration of Life and Memorial Service for former Front Royal Police Chief Richard Furr was held Sunday afternoon, March 19th on the eve of the Spring Equinox, at Riverton United Methodist Church. Friends and colleagues – often both – and family bid a fond farewell to a friend and servant to his community and his family. Furr passed away February 27 at the age of 66.
Scheduled speakers in order of appearance included Chaplain Jackie Thurston of the Virginia State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, Chaplain Roger Vorous of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Captain, retired, Clint Keller formerly of the Front Royal Police Department, Sgt., retired, Jim Nicholson formerly of the Page County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Richard “Ricky” Furr Jr., son of the departed. A free, catered meal at the church, provided by employees of Samuels Public Library, awaited attendees following the ceremony.
As noted in his Obituary, the Page County born-and-raised Furr: “reached the pinnacle of his (law enforcement) career in 2009 when he was appointed Chief of Police (in Front Royal where he had served since 1982). Although Richard retired from duty in 2012, he remained active in law enforcement by continuing to serve in the Fraternal Order of Police at local and state levels. Richard is survived by his wife, Ruth; children, Richard “Ricky” Jr. (Amy) and Danielle; mother-in-love, Willie; sister-in-love, Robin (Gary); and half-siblings, Brenda (Larry), Christine (Jack), and David (Lori).”
The family has created a website for those who knew Richard to share stories and memories. It can be accessed at richardfurr.wixsite.com/memories.
Rest In Peace, Richard Harvey Furr Sr.
Warren County Public Schools Kindergarten registration information for the 2023-2024 school year
This is a reminder to parents with children that will be 5 years old on or before September 30, 2023.
- Children who will be 5 years old on or before September 30, 2023
*Register at the school in which you are zoned to attend
WHERE AND WHEN:
Starting March 27, 2023 – Register online @ www.wcpsva.org
- March 28, 2023
4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Individual Elementary Schools – *Register at the school in which your child is zoned to attend
WHAT TO BRING:
- Certified Copy of Birth Certificate
- Parent/Guardian Photo ID
- Physical Form (physical must be within the last 12 months prior to the first day of school)
- Proof of Residence (utility bill, lease, mortgage statement)
- A notarized residency affidavit is required if living in another household
PLEASE REGISTER YOUR CHILD EVEN IF ALL OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION HAS NOT BEEN OBTAINED.
If you have any questions, please call your child’s school:
A.S. Rhodes Elementary School 540-635-4556
E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School 540-635-4188
Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School 540-622-8090
Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School 540-635-3125
Ressie Jeffries Elementary School 540-636-6824
Amy Himes (540) 635-2171, extension 46125
Kendall Poe (540) 635-2171, extension 34230
Belle Grove Plantation opens for the 2023 season
On Saturday, March 18, Belle Grove Plantation will reopen daily to the public. Guided tours of the Manor House are offered Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. at 15 minutes past each hour. The Belle Grove grounds and the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center (including the Museum Shop and exhibits) are also open during these hours.
Manor House tours include touring the permanent exhibit, Unearthing Enslaved Lives at Belle Grove, which features the archaeology conducted at the Enslaved Quarter Site from 2015 to 2019. The 60,000 excavated artifacts and supporting archival research reveal details about the more than 270 men, women, and children the Hite family enslaved.
Also, on Saturday, March 18, Belle Grove will open a .75-mile walking trail that connects to existing trails on Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation’s property. Visitors may start the trail either at Belle Grove or the 128th New York Monument (on Route 11 near the intersection with Water Plant Road). The path is largely wooded and follows trenches dug by the US 19th Corps as they prepared for a possible attack. This ultimately happened in the initial stages of the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864. Hikers on the Belle Grove property should follow the yellow blazes along the trail. A map is posted at the trailhead and will be available in the Museum Shop.
In addition to offering daily tours, Belle Grove hosts school and group tours, event rentals, and special events. Belle Grove has a full schedule of events for 2023, including the “Of Ale and History” Beer Festival on May 13. Now in its 28th year, this festival is Virginia’s longest-running Beer Festival, and tickets will go on sale in April. For more information about Belle Grove events, visit www.bellegrove.org/calendar
As a partner in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, Belle Grove is the site of free, 30-minute programs led by National Park Rangers. Cedar Creek & Belle Grove in a Box gives an overview of the Park at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, March 18 and April 8, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays, March 26 and April 2. Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life of the Enslaved Cook Judah, which discusses the life of Judah, the enslaved cook of Belle Grove, will be presented on Sunday, March 19, and Saturday, March 25, at 2:30 p.m. More information about the Park is at www.nps.gov/cebe.
About Belle Grove—Belle Grove Plantation is located off Route 11 at 336 Belle Grove Road just south of Middletown, Virginia, and is conveniently situated to I-81 (exit 302) and I-66. Belle Grove Plantation is a non-profit historic house museum, a National Trust for Historic Preservation historic site (www.savingplaces.org). It is also one of the partners in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/cebe).
Wind: 8mph SW
UV index: 5