April 2009

 Feb. 20 - March 20, 2009

The General Assembly restored enough funding to keep the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents open in Staunton.  A budget offered by Tim Kaine had called for the center’s closing. The Psychiatric Society of Virginia named Del. Chris Saxman (R-Staunton) “Legislator of the Year” for his efforts to keep the center open.

During an odd round of fighting over whether events bring people downtown or not, Waynesboro City Council voted down and then approved the Waynesboro Omnium, a bike race through downtown on Sunday, April 26. “For decades, Waynesboro has been troubled by an inability to see beyond the moment,” editorialized The News Virginian. Or to quote a real estate developer who tried to do business in Waynesboro last year, that city is “five or six funerals away” from being where it needs to be.

Minor panic ensued with a text message warning people to stay away from Wal-Mart because of a planned gang initiation made the rounds in Harrisonburg. Turns it the message was part of a hoax that started in Memphis in 2005.

Jennifer Schools Moore, 38, was arrested for obtaining a prescription by fraud and felony drug possession. The Harrisonburg dentist had been prescribing painkillers for a former employee but using the drugs herself. In a letter to patients, she confessed that she had not been serving on a mission in Chile for eight weeks as she’d said but rather been in drug rehab.

People fought and fought, but Augusta County stood by its property assessments. The county library refused to allow Augusta Citizens Against Unfair Assessments to place a petition in the county library because of a policy that that “no political candidate material, partisan political messages, petitions or similar ideas will be posted.”

Ralph Kiser, 89, died. He was an alumni of and long-time coach at Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.

Jan Wampler, 49, of Weyers Cave died from diabetes complications. She was a former teacher at McGaheysville Elementary and 1987 Virginia Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year.

Fay G. Polhill, 74, a former nationally respected special education teacher in Staunton, died. She was also a church organist and pianist in Waynesboro.

Paul Jerman, 54, died in a fire at his Stuarts Draft home.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey White, 46, died from a burst aorta in church in Texas. He was a former ROTC professor at JMU and had been back from Iraq for three week.

Jennifer Bland, 26, died. She’d been paralyzed after being shot in 2000 in Harrisonburg. The suspect in her shooting, Jose Ramon Sastre-Cintron, has not been caught despite a broadcast on America’s Most Wanted.

Mike Wiseman, 51, was charged with the stabbing death of his roommate, Chuck Moore, 41, on West Beverley Street in Staunton. Police had visited the home several times before the murder.

The Buffalo Gap High School girls’ basketball team won its second straight state title. Girls’ teams from Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby lost in the finals.

Ronnell Brandon, 18, was sentenced to 35 years in prison with all but 19 months suspended for selling prescription pain pills to his teammates on the Harrisonburg High School Football team in 2007.

Adam Greenbaum, owner of the Visulite Cinemas in Staunton, took over management of the Dixie Theater just down the street. His first order of business was to close for a few weeks and install new seats.

A car driven by an 11-year-old boy crashed in Crimora, sending four people to the hospital. The boy’s father, Michael Powell, 31, was among the injured.

Harrisonburg City Councilwoman Carolyn Frank aggravated many when she suggested closing the not-full Stone Spring Elementary School for a year or two to save money. Others appreciated her thinking outside the box. Regardless, it’s not gonna happen.

Authorities seized 34 sick horses in Waynesboro on land owned by Tory Allen Garrett of Afton.

Augusta Medical Center announced plans to hire three cardiologists thus ending an agreement that has University of Virginia cardiologists traveling to AMC every day to perform catherizations, stents and angioplasty.

Harrisonburg City Schools announced it was cutting 16 teaching and support positions to make up for budget woes.

Augusta County Schools decided to cut dozens of positions but not to cut indoor track, after a stirring hearing in which students testified to the sport’s meaning in their lives, as everyone who wants on the team gets on the team.

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Network announced that demand for food from the network was up 17 percent since July.

Apparently because Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Hot Springs and running for governor) and Del. Chris Saxman (R-Staunton) couldn’t come to agreement on whom to name General District Court Judge for Staunton and Augusta County, this year’s General Assembly adjourned without naming a permanent judge. Nominated were Waynesboro attorney Lynn Lawson; Staunton Circuit Clerk of Court Tom Roberts; Staunton Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Robertson and Staunton attorney Boyce Brannock, one of Saxman’s neighbors. The News Leader, meanwhile, pointed out that Brannock and his law firm of Timberlake, Smith, Thomas & Moses P.C. were sued in November for $1.4 million by three unhappy former clients.

Things went better in Harrisonburg and Rockingham courts where former Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Claybrook was named the county’s General District Court judge and Harrisonburg attorney David O’Donnell was named juvenile and domestic relations court judge for the city and county.

The Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce made the following awards: Citizen of the Year: Jim Perkins; Industry of the Year: NIBCO of Virginia Inc.; Agribusiness of the Year: Augusta County Farm Bureau; Sponsor of the Year: SunTrust Bank; Enterpreneur of the Year: Diane Clark with Blackhorn Academy in Fishersville; Tourism Business of the Year: Barren Ridge Vineyards; Ambassador of the Year: Seth Bokelman of Frontier Bank; Business of the Year: Augusta Medical Center; Citizen of the Year: Dr. James Perkins, outgoing president of Blue Ridge Community College.

The Virginia Department of Transportation proposed closing most of the rest stops on Interstate 81 and offices in Luray and Verona.  Citizens showed up in droves at a hearing to say this VDOT idea is a terrible one.

Bethany Lutheran Church, Valley Pastoral Counseling and St. John’s Episcopal Church were all robbed within a week in Waynesboro.

Andrew Max Eggman Jr., a former Mennonite missionary, was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but two months suspended after entering an Alford plea to Rockingham County charges that he secretly filmed teen-aged relatives having sex with international students at Eastern Mennonite University.

Wayne Edward Gill, 39, of Stuarts Draft, was charged with paying for and filming a 17-year-old girl performing a sex act on him at Gill’s Auto Repair in Staunton. His brother owns the shop. The girl, a Robert E. Lee High School student, was trying to make money to pay off a drug debt.

Andrew Traylor, 14, who is home schooled in Augusta County, won the regional spelling bee in Charlottesville. Andrew Logsdon, 13, an eighth grader at Wilbur Pence Middle School in Dayton, won the regional spelling bee in Harrisonburg.

Plan 9 Records announced it was closing its Harrisonburg store by the end of March. LaDeDa also prepared to close its Harrisonburg shop.

Construction of the high-rise (well, high for downtown Harrisonburg) Urban Exchange condo and apartment development continued to amaze, especially since it’s a wooden, not steel, structure.

A Staunton physician accused of sexual battery in his office is named Charles Weisman. This column listed his first name wrong last month.