On July 29, 2021, the Warren County Republican Committee (WCRC) held a candidate forum for the upcoming Warren County School Boards seats in the Happy Creek, North River, and Fork Districts.
The candidates vying for an endorsement from the Warren County Republican Committee are Antoinette Funk and Stephanie Short (Happy Creek), Melanie Salins (North River), Andrea Lo, and Al Gunn (Fork). Andrea Lo was not in attendance at the forum.
As event moderator and former Committee Chairman Steve Kurtz noted that the committee can only endorse, not nominate. That has essentially been legally interpreted to mean that a candidate cannot carry a political party designation by their name on an election ballot. That does not prevent them from carrying one on sample ballots handed out by political committees outside polling places to reflect a Party’s endorsement.
The Royal Examiner will be having each candidate on an upcoming “Meet the Candidate” Town Talk in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
After the forum, the WCRC voted and choose to endorse Antoinette Funk, Happy Creek District, Melanie Salins, North River District, and Al Gunn, Fork District. Al Gunn is the only candidate that is a write-in candidate. The others names are on the ballot in the upcoming November election.
Citizens Voice Frustration at Special School Board Meeting
The Warren County School Board convened a unique session on October 3, 2023, featuring an elongated time for public feedback.
Several parents raised concerns about safety issues, with bathrooms identified as a particular problem. One mother said her son was assaulted in a bathroom at Skyline Middle School, but administrators did not properly address it. She asserted the school has a bullying problem tied to the principal.
Other parents lamented increased fear-mongering and social media attacks against the schools, arguing issues are not unique to the county. A few speakers vouched for Superintendent Chris Ballinger’s leadership, with one teacher saying most staff support him despite a looming no-confidence vote from the board.
Tensions escalated when board member Melanie Salins was directly called out for previous “prison-like schools” comments. A teacher said Salins has not been supportive, and her words set staff back.
The public comment section displayed intense emotions around problems in the schools, proper solutions, and accountability. Speakers on all sides urged more open communication and collaboration between officials, educators, and parents to address challenges.
Several commenters referenced political agendas and national groups they felt were inappropriately influencing school policies. Others asked the board to focus on students’ health and safety first and foremost.
The session spotlighted just how deeply issues in Warren County schools are impacting families and dividing the community. As one speaker noted, cooperative solutions require stakeholders to work together instead of attacking each other.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Woodland Box Turtle
Can a turtle get an ear infection?
Although the weather is cooling, we are continuing to get many turtles in for care. On Saturday alone, we received and performed surgery on FIVE new turtle patients!
One of those patients was this woodland box turtle who came into care with a severe aural abscess (an ear infection that causes internal swelling). These abscesses can sometimes be caused by trauma, but many are associated with vitamin A deficiency, which changes the tissues that make up the ear lining and predisposes these turtles to develop abscesses.
In captive turtles with abscesses, this is often due to a lack of dietary vitamin A. In the wild, some pesticides are known to alter the metabolism of vitamin A and have been linked to these abscesses.
While ear infections in mammals often travel from the mouth to the ear canal via the eustachian tube, turtles lack an open, external ear canal. When an infection reaches their ear, it can’t escape, leading to the accumulation of pus with a firm, cheese-like consistency.
This unusual characteristic means that pus doesn’t readily drain back into their mouth, resulting in the formation of a substantial pocket within the ear. Without treatment, these abscesses and will often cause turtles to stop eating, which could lead to death.
This patient is healing well and will be spending the winter at our Center, and we expect him to be ready for release on May 1st!
Where do turtles go in the winter?
Woodland box turtles undergo a period of dormancy called brumation during the winter months, characterized by reduced activity and metabolic slowdown in response to colder temperatures and reduced daylight.
They seek shelter in burrows or natural cavities, becoming lethargic and unresponsive to stimuli, conserving energy and not eating or drinking. While they continue to breathe, it’s at a much slower rate, and they can absorb oxygen through their skin.
As the weather warms in spring, they gradually emerge, becoming more active and resuming their usual activities.
In our area, wild turtles brumate in the fall and winter months which is why the law in Virginia does not allow rehabilitators to release reptile patients between October 1 – April 30. Luckily, we were able to release nine turtles on September 30!
Any turtle we can’t release before October, or who came to us within that time, overwinters with us at the Center. We keep them in a warm and humid room so they don’t fall into brumation and can continue to be rehabbed.
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.
Valley Health Touches the Future with 5,000 Robotic-Assisted Surgeries
Pioneering Progress: The Evolution of Robotic Surgery in Winchester.
In a major stride towards medical excellence, Valley Health recently celebrated its 5,000th robotic-assisted surgery using the acclaimed da Vinci Xi robot. This accomplishment underscores the institution’s commitment to delivering top-tier medical services in the Winchester region.
Jorge Posadas, MD, a distinguished board-certified general surgeon with Valley Health Surgical Partners, highlighted the significance of this achievement. “The advantage of having this capability is that surgeries like robotic cancer surgery, or complex ventral hernia surgeries can be done in town. Otherwise, people would be traveling to Northern Virginia, at least, for the same surgeries. Now they have the same care they get in larger places right here in Winchester,” Dr. Posadas said.
The da Vinci Xi robot is a groundbreaking surgical apparatus that enhances the dexterity and precision of a surgeon’s hands. It equips surgeons with high-definition 3D visuals, magnifying the operation site to unprecedented degrees. “We have more range of motion in a patient, compared to laparoscopic surgery, and we see a lot more detail. We are now able to perform superior surgery, and as a plus, it is ergonomically better for the surgeon,” stated Dr. Posadas.
The advantages of robotic surgery are multifold: reduced incision size, accelerated recovery, diminished pain, and minimized risk of complications. Notably, this technology has transformed the landscape of surgeries, allowing complex operations, like colon and hernia surgeries, to be less invasive than they were years ago.
Valley Health’s pioneering journey with robotics began in 2016 when they welcomed their first robot. Their inaugural robotic surgery was a gynecologic oncology procedure. “It was really great to be on the crest of the [robotics] wave as it was coming in,” remarked Devin Flaherty, DO, a fellowship-trained surgical oncologist. Today, Winchester Medical Center proudly houses five da Vinci robots, making it a standout facility in the state. With around 20 surgeons skilled in robotic surgeries, the institution has solidified its reputation in various specialties.
The commitment to this technology extends beyond regular hours. Valley Health ensures round-the-clock patient access to robotic surgery. “This milestone shows the work the surgeons, staff, and administration have put into making this possible. It’s impressive how quickly it happened. I think where it goes from here, it will be twice as fast to the next 5,000 cases,” observed Nicole Rogers, Valley Health’s robotics coordinator.
Concluding on a forward-looking note, Dr. Flaherty emphasized the broader implications of this milestone, “Five thousand is a good number, but more importantly, we need to look at the growth rate of the program, which is just exponentially increasing. We may hit 10,000 cases within the next two years. Valley Health has really bought into the program, and we’ll continue to strive to offer patients the most advanced, top-level care.”
Valley Health is a nonprofit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, and western Maryland. As a healthcare provider, employer, and community partner, Valley Health is committed to improving the health of the region. The system includes six hospitals, more than 70 medical practices and Urgent Care centers, outpatient rehabilitation and fitness, medical transport, long-term care, and home health. www.valleyhealthlink.com
Virginia DMV Rolls Out Permanent Farm Use Placards
Seeking Safer Roads and Clearer Use of Farm Tags.
Farmers across Virginia have something new to be thankful for. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced that permanent placards for unregistered farm vehicles are now available. These placards come as a response to a legislative decision aiming for safer roads and better regulation of farm vehicle identification.
Virginia’s DMV now offers permanent farm use placards for unregistered farm vehicles at all customer service centers. Applications for the permanent farm use placard are available on our newly redesigned website, dmv.virginia.gov.
This move has been met with support and encouragement from key officials. DMV Commissioner Gerald Lackey expressed his optimism about the new system, stating, “It is our hope that these placards will help ensure the proper use of farm use tags and, most importantly, make Virginia’s roads safer.” Farmers can avoid lines and long waits by mailing their applications in advance, which Lackey highly recommends.
Beginning July 1, 2024, these DMV-issued placards will be mandatory for unregistered farm-use panel trucks, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. This new requirement emerges from legislation the 2023 General Assembly passed, aiming to replace unofficial farm use tags often bought at local stores. Unlike the informal tags of the past, these placards are priced at $15 and last for the vehicle’s entire lifespan. However, it’s essential to note that they can’t be passed between vehicles. In cases where the vehicle’s title isn’t already with the owner, an extra $15 charge will apply.<br><br>
For those considering this service, the application will ask for several details, including:
- Vehicle owner’s name and a corresponding FEIN, SSN, or DMV customer number.
- Specific vehicle details such as the year, make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Detailed information about the farm’s location, its size, and the agricultural products it produces.
- A promise, through signatures, that the vehicle will strictly serve the purposes covered under the farm use exemption and that the vehicle is properly insured.
However, this new convenience doesn’t extend to online transactions for placards. Applicants are advised to either mail their forms with enough time for processing or set an appointment at the DMV to handle the matter in person. Further information about the right plates or placards for farm vehicles is available on the DMV website.
With the introduction of these placards, Virginia takes a step forward in ensuring safety on its roads and clarity in farm vehicle identification. As the 2024 enforcement date approaches, the state’s farmers are equipped with the information and tools they need for a smooth transition.
Honoring Old Glory: A Flag Retirement Ceremony in Middletown, Virginia
SAR Chapter Conducts Reverent Farewell to Worn U.S. Flags at Historical Inn.
On a memorable day at the historic Wayside Inn in Middletown, Virginia, the air was thick with nostalgia and reverence. The Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) convened to perform a solemn duty: retiring U.S. flags that had served their time with honor.
Dating back to 1797, the Wayside Inn holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating inn in the nation. Its foundations, laid in the 1740s, resonate with tales from America’s history. In such a place, what could be more fitting than paying homage to the flag that embodies the nation’s spirit and pride? When a flag becomes worn out, the United States Code mandates its respectful destruction, preferably by fire.
Chaplain Tom Reed’s invocation heralded the ceremony’s commencement, paving the way for a vibrant display of colors by a combined Virginia State Color Guard, marshaled by Commander Sean Carrigan. With the stage set, Emcee Dale Corey led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance. A weighty silence descended as attendees prepared for the ritual’s crux: the flag’s formal retirement.
The audience listened, spellbound, as a tribute penned in 1933 by Master Sergeant Percy Webb of the United States Marine Corps echoed through the space. Titled “I Am Old Glory,” the piece captures the flag’s journey through America’s evolution, its significance during times of war and peace, and its enduring representation of national unity and freedom. Its words reminded everyone of the timeless values the flag stands for and the sacrifices made to preserve them.
I Am Old Glory
I am old Glory; for more than ten score years, I have been the banner of hope and freedom for generation after generation of Americans. Born amid the first flames of America’s fight for freedom, I am the symbol of a country that has grown from a little group of 13 colonies to a united nation of 50 sovereign states. Planted firmly on the high pinnacle of American Faith, my gently fluttering folds have proved an inspiration to untold millions. Men have followed me into battle with unwavering courage. They have looked upon me as a symbol of national unity. They have prayed that they and their fellow citizens might continue to enjoy the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness which have been granted to every American as the heritage of free men. So long as men love liberty more than life itself, so long as they treasure the priceless privileges bought with the blood of our forefathers, so long as the principles of truth, justice, and charity for all remain deeply rooted in human hearts, I shall continue to be the enduring banner of the United States of America. (Originally written by Master Sergeant Percy Webb, USMC.)
In a poignant moment, sergeant-at-arms Richard Tyler presented a flag to Corey for inspection. Deeming it no longer fit for service, the presiding officer oversaw its respectful and dignified disposal. As flames consumed the flag, a three-round salute rang out, punctuated by the somber notes of Taps, played by Tyler.
The ceremony became interactive as attendees, which included members from SAR, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Girl Scouts, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, stepped forward to retire their flags. It was an eclectic group of representatives, from Virginia State SAR President Ernie Coggins to DAR representatives Anita Bonner and Anne Simmons, reflecting the wide-reaching impact of the flag on diverse groups.
As the flames of the ceremony died down, they left behind not just ashes but a renewed sense of unity and appreciation for the flag’s enduring symbolism. Through ceremonies like these, we are reminded of the importance of traditions, the sacrifices made for our freedoms, and the perpetual flame of patriotism that burns in American hearts.
Virginia’s Attorney General Opposes Planned Dulles Greenway Toll Hike
A Hefty Price for Daily Commuters: Proposed $2.00 Increase During Peak Hours.
If you’re one of the many Virginians traveling the Dulles Greenway, be prepared: your commute may get a tad costlier. The Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II) has put forward a proposal to jack up the tolls on this vital 14-mile stretch northwest of Washington, D.C. But not everyone’s on board with this increase, especially Attorney General Jason Miyares.
In a move signaling support for daily commuters, Attorney General Miyares has lodged a formal notice with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), indicating his intention to participate in TRIP II’s application process for the toll increase. His engagement in this case illustrates the office’s commitment to standing shoulder to shoulder with Virginia ratepayers, Northern Virginia’s denizens, and regular commuters who would be directly impacted by such a hike. A complete objection will be presented at a fitting moment down the line.
To break down the numbers, right now, Virginians are shelling out $5.80 during those bustling peak traffic hours and $5.25 during the more tranquil off-peak hours for a standard 2-axle vehicle. With TRIP II’s proposal, these tolls would jump to $8.10 and $6.40, respectively. That’s a sizeable leap for folks using the toll road, especially considering the cumulative cost over weeks, months, and years.
Speaking out on the matter, Attorney General Miyares voiced the struggles of the everyday commuter: “Traffic in Northern Virginia is a daily challenge, and rising inflation only adds to the costs of commuting to work.” He emphasized his office’s position of standing beside Virginia’s commuters, understanding their daily grind, and promoting fairness by pushing back against toll hikes. For Miyares, every penny earned by Virginians holds immense value, and his goal is to shield them from unwarranted financial strains.
The Dulles Greenway toll increase, while seemingly a matter of a few dollars, has a broader implication for the countless individuals using the road daily. As inflation continues to press down on households, any additional financial burdens can be distressing. Thankfully, with Attorney General Miyares stepping into the ring, Virginia’s commuters have a vocal advocate in their corner. It remains to be seen how this toll tug-of-war unfolds, but one thing’s certain: the fight for fair tolls has indeed heated up.