Blue Ridge Muse News, views and musings from Southwestern Virginia Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:57:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Supervisor Allen quitting; DeVito seeking seat Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:28:41 +0000 Retiring Little River Supervisor Virgel Allen

Retiring Little River Supervisor Virgel Allen

Whatever the voters decide in local elections for 2015, one thing is certain:  The Little River District in Floyd County will have a new Supervisor.

Virgel Allen, the current representative of that district, told the Board Tuesday night that he will step down at the end of next year after two terms.  Hospitalized with heart problems last year, Allen said health is the overriding reason for his departure from the board.

At the same time, Realtor Linda DeVito, also an announcer for Floyd County girls’ basketball games on Citizens TV and other events, announced this week that she is seeking election next year as Little River’s new supervisor.

DeVito made the decision before Allen’s announcement and met with the Floyd Press last week. She is running as an independent for a seat on the all-Republican board.

Allen worked for the county for 26 and a half years before stepping down as animal control officer in 2002.  He defeated incumbent supervisor Kerry Whitlock in 2007 GOP canvass and then won a narrow election by 60 votes over Cynthia Babb in the general election later that year.

He ran unopposed for re-election in 2011.

Details on both Allen and DeVito are in today’s Floyd Press.  More here on Linda’s plans Friday.

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Budget public hearing May 27 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 08:55:39 +0000 Part of the crowd at the budget public hearing last year

Part of the crowd at the budget public hearing last year

A public hearing on Floyd County’s proposed $30.5 million budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1 of this year, is officially set for May 27th at 7 p.m. at the County Administration Building on Oxford Street.

While the budget is not final, a decision not to raise taxes to fund increases is set in stone.  The board is holding the line on taxes and that decision, once made, cannot be changed.

But those who want extra money for areas of the budget like the school system can urge supervisors to move funds around.  In tight budget like Floyd County’s, that means that any shift to provides more funds in one area means reductions and cuts in other.

Overall, county departments this year requested just over $4 million in increases for the next fiscal year.  The bulk of that increase came from a $2.2 million increase for county schools.

Officially, the proposed budget gives the schools $20,504,201 for the new year, an increase of $310,741 over the current year’s $20,193,463 funding.

But School Superintendent Kevin Harris says the funding actually leaves the school system short because the current budget including over $900,000 in “carryover” funds from the previous year and the system will not have anywhere near that amount left when the current fiscal year ends on June 30.

Speakers at public comment periods at recent meetings of both the school board and supervisors overwhelmingly supported a tax increase to fund the school system’s request but supervisors, citing what they say is heavy opposition from county residents in comments directly to each of them, decided to hold the line this year but warn that an increase is all-but-certain next year.

Some of those opposed to the supervisors’ decision say they will have the final say a year-and-a-half from now when supervisor seats for Burks Fork, Little River and Locust Grove come up in local elections.

Little River will see a change because incumbent Virgel Allen is stepping down.  Joe Turman of Burks Fork and Lauren Yoder of Locust Grove have not announced yet but both could see opposition in a county where Supervisor elections were unopposed last year.

Those who wish to speak earlier can do so at the public hearing on May 17. If a large-enough crowd appears the hearing will be moved to the auditorium at Floyd County High School.  That’s what happened last year.

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‘Pave Vaughn’s Mill Road’ Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:59:39 +0000 "We live on a mud road. You can call it a gravel road if you want but it's really a mud road."

Jerry Hill: “We live on a mud road. You can call it a gravel road if you want but it’s really a mud road.”

Residents on or near Vaughn’s Mill Road in the Indian Valley section of Floyd County have a message for the Virginia Department of Transportation:  “Pave it.”

As one of the county’s many unpaved roads, Vaughn’s Mill is a sometimes muddy, sometimes dusty and always problem-plagued road, five speakers told VDOT at a public hearing on the county’s six-year road plan Tuesday night.

Four other speakers at the hearing asked for relief on other roads. One wanted signs banning trucks on Oxford Street in Floyd restored along with another sign warning that children were playing in the area. Two wanted the access road to the Slatemont area near the Blue Ridge Parkway added to the road system.  Another said the county couldn’t improve gravel roads in the county until VDOT found a company that delivered road filling that wasn’t more dirt than gravel.

Also on Tuesday night, Supervisors set a public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget for May 27 at 7 p.m. the county administration building on Oxford Street

Details in Thursday’s Floyd Press.

Ann Turman: "I would like to see it paved."

Ann Turman: “I would like to see it paved.”

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Losses at home, but victory on the road Wed, 23 Apr 2014 10:07:11 +0000 Soccer action against Auburn

Soccer action against Auburn

A day after coming back from a deficit in the sixth inning to win, Floyd County High School’s varsity Buffaloes baseball team fell victim to the same kind of comeback by Auburn’s Eagles, who overtook an early 2-0 lead by Floyd to win 9-3 under threatening skies.

On the soccer field at home in Floyd, the Lady Buffs fell 1-0 to Auburn.

But the varsity softball team took a 6-0 victory on the road in Riner, also against Auburn to bring their record to 5-3 overall and 2-0 in district play.

A tennis match at home was postponed Tuesday and rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Travis Cox delivers a pitch and also drove in one of Floyd's three runs

Travis Cox delivers a pitch and also drove in one of Floyd’s three runs


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Decision time on fiscal 2015 budget hearing Tue, 22 Apr 2014 07:36:45 +0000 Supervisors Lauren Yoder (left), Joe Turman and Case Clinger

Supervisors Lauren Yoder (left), Joe Turman and Case Clinger

Floyd County Supervisors vote formally Tuesday night on a public hearing date on a fiscal 2015 $30.7 million dollar budget that keeps current tax levels the same and does not come close to giving the school system the close to $1 million in extra funding it says is needed to avoid layoffs and reductions in programs.

The real battle of the budget effectively ended at the board’s first meeting this month when supervisors decided by consensus to not raise taxes and notified county treasurer Missy Keith to prepare tax bills for June that reflect no increase in rates for real estate owners.

Keith had to know no later than April 18 to meet a deadline for getting the bills out.  Once the board makes a decision to not raise taxes, it cannot reverse that decision at a later date.  Had Supervisors decided to raise rates, they could have lowered them in future actions.

The decision to keep tax rates the same and give the school an increase of about $170,000 over current levels of county funding for education has brought sharp rhetoric from superintendent Kevin Harris, who says the decision really means a reduction of more than $900,000 in funding from last year because the current year’s budget included that much in carryover funds that aren’t available next year.

The county wiped out its reserve fund for next year to grant the increase in school funding and pay for other items like an employee retention fund for the Sheriff’s Department, a part-time assistant prosecutor for the Commonweath’s Attorney, a new ambulance for the rescue squad and the first of two new tankers for the fire department.

The issue has generated lots of interest and debate in the county between those who say a tax increase, however painful in tough economic times, is necessary to assure a quality school system and others who say the schools, whose $20.4 million in funding account for three-quarters of the county budget, has enough funds to operate.

Harris has presented a list of options to the school board that includes using reserve funds from the teacher retirement system, reduction of some programs, including 8th grade athletics, and elimination of some teaching and assistant positions that will lead to larger class sizes.

The issue has brought charges from opponents who say the school system is increasingly comprised of teachers and administrators who live outside the county, including superintendent Harris, and criticism of what is called “wasteful” spending, including $85,000 for a football field irrigation system.

Supervisors say the decision to hold taxes to current levels was sparked by reassessments of property currently under way and the hardship of many county residents who must work more than one job to cover current expenses and who still struggle.  Taxes, they say, will most likely increase next year.

School officials point to a student transportation system with buses that have 100,000 to 200,000 miles on them, a crumbling infrastructure in a system where the newest school is more than a half-century old and a loss of qualified teachers to other systems that pay better and offer more benefits.

It is a continuing public debate with much anger, many negatives and few positives.  In the end, few — if any — will be satisfied with the outcome.

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Escalating problem of child pornography Tue, 22 Apr 2014 06:18:03 +0000 042214childpornChild pornography is a growing problem nationally, in Virginia, and in Floyd County.

In Charlottesville Monday, a former assistant dean at the University of Virginia pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing, receiving and distributing child pornography.

Federal officers said Michael G. Morris, 50, had more than 4,000 sexually explicit files of children stored on three computers and four hard drives found in his home in November of last year.

Morris entered guilty pleas Monday to one count of possessing child pornography and two counts of receiving and distributing files through a peer-to-peer web site.

He resigned as associate dean of graduate programs and professor at UVa in January.  Morris faces 20 years in a federal prison.

In Floyd County, the former head of the local Farm Credit office and his Iraq war veteran son face hearings in Circuit Court on multiple charges of child pornography in a case handled by the Virginia State Police and a special prosecutor.

Greg Claubaugh faces 17 charges of possession of child porn, three charges of reproduction of such images and a a charge of “conspiracy to commit a felony” and his son Mark was indicted on on five counts.

Their cases go before the judge in Circuit Court on May 6.

An employee of the county electoral board lost his job last year after State Police found child pornography images on the county-owned computer he used in the board’s office in the courthouse in Floyd.  That case is listed as “still under investigation” and has not been presented to a grand jury.  Because he has not been charged, his name will not be published here or in the Floyd Press, although WSLS, Channel 10, in Roanoke did broadcast his name in a newscast.

The images were discovered as part of a new investigative unit of the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department and turned over to the State Police for investigation.

Those who engage in child pornography are considered pedophiles under the law and are often people who don’t fit the usual stereotype of those who engage in other forms of pornography, writes Dr. Ryan C. Hall and Dr. Richard C.W. Hall in Psychiatry Online.

“A pedophile is no longer seen seen as the isolated ‘dirty old man’ in a raincoat preying on unsuspected children,” they wrote in 2009, adding that those exposed include “our friends, neighbors, and, with the recent allegations from the House of Representatives that a U.S. Congressman engaged in ‘cybersex’ and possibly physical sex with underage congressional pages, even political representatives.”

Virginia defines possession of child pornography as a “sexual offense” and production or distribution of such porn as “a violent sexual offense.”

Upon conviction, sexual offenders are usually required to register, for life, with the state’s Sexual Offender Database.

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Close calls in a lopsided JV loss Mon, 21 Apr 2014 23:31:58 +0000 A close call by the umpire at first base

A close call by the umpire at first base

In a game with a number of close calls by the umpires and missed opportunities by the Floyd County Buffaloes junior varsity baseball team Monday, Carroll County cruises to a 10-1 victory on the FCHS home field.

A missed line drive to right field that went to the fence or a call at first base by the umpire at first base that could have gone either way might have made the difference in a run or two in the final score but the decisive outcome meant little change in the won or loss column.

Still, a hard-fought game under a bright sun on an afternoon when the thermometer climbed above 70 and Spring appeared to be in the air.

And the varsity game that followed was both closer and had a different outcome.  A three-run double by Matt Bary in the sixth inning led to a 7-5 win by the Buffaloes over Carroll.

A line drive just past the player's glove in right field

A line drive just past the player’s glove in right field

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Quiet, laid-back little town? Not really Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:09:38 +0000 Tick...tock...tick...tock...tick...


Looking at the schedule this week blows away the myth that there is little or nothing to do in quiet little communities like Floyd.

Let’s see.

Varsity and junior varsity baseball (Floyd against Carroll County) at FCHS today starting at 1 p.m. Monday.

Floyd County Circuit Court Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Varsity baseball, softball, soccer and tennis (Floyd vs. Auburn) at FCHS Tuesday starting at 4:30 p.m.

Floyd County Supervisors meeting starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.  Lots of public comment expected over the Great Budget Debate of 2014.

Of course, rain forecast for Tuesday could put a damper on outdoor events but it will not affect court or Supervisor coverage for the paper.

A little breathing room on Wednesday, which is good because I need a full day to work on a project.

Then a flurry of 8th grade athletic activity on Thursday, including baseball, track and softball, plus a rescheduled boys varsity match and varsity softball.

Varsity track, junior varsity baseball and boys tennis on Friday.

Times, they say, is fleeting.

Fleeting hell. Long gone is more like it.

But I love it.

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Easter Bunny: One of parents’ 3 great lies Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:19:42 +0000 The "three great lies"

The “three great lies”

Besides the religious implications of Easter, this particular Sunday is also dedicated to one the “three great lies” that parents tell their children.

That lie, of course, is claiming that an “Easter Bunny” lays eggs.  A rabbit laying egg? Oh, please.

The remaining two of these “three great lies” are the existence of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

Those who pay attention to such cultural trends have long debated whether pushing the myths of such fantasy creations harm our children.

Writes Victoria Metcalf of Lincoln University in New Zealand:

Many parents promote belief in these fantasy figures as harmless fun, part of upholding the innocence of childhood or even that they help fantasy play and critical thinking.

Others question whether promoting such deceits is in children’s best interests. There has been surprisingly little research conducted to look at impacts our societal investment in these figures has on children.

In 1994, a book by researchers Carl J. Anderson and Norman M. Prentice, both PdDs, studied the effects of the three great lies on children.

In “Child Psychiatry & Human Development,” they that finding out such mythical characters were lies from their parents found:

  • 50% of surveyed children felt bad
  • 48% felt sad, disappointed or tricked
  • 42% felt confused
  • 35% felt angry
  • 33% felt upset
  • 29% felt sorry
  • 13% felt hurt

The researchers found that some children suffer “ill effects” from discovering that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus don’t exist and the discovery left others feeling that not telling the truth to others was not only OK but acceptable in everyday practice.

So, are you a good parent or a bad one when you hide Easter eggs and send your kids out to find them on this day?

Opinions apparently vary.

My mother chose to tell me the truth about Santa Claus when I was a first grader at Floyd Elementary School. Being a precocious child I could not wait to impart this discovery to my classmates the next day.

Some of my fellow students broke down and cried.  Others called me a liar and at least one wanted to settle the debate with fists.

My teacher took me aside, scolded me, and demanded I tell my fellow students that I made up the story about what my mother told me so they would calm down.

When I refused, she sent me to the principal and I was forced to write “there really is a Santa Claus” on the blackboard many times. That action brought an angry visit from my mother to the school.

That’s when I learned that telling the truth can get one in trouble and it was a lesson that would be repeated many times once I became a newspaperman.

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Going to church? You’re a minority Sun, 20 Apr 2014 13:37:13 +0000 (Photo by Doug Thompson)

(Photo by Doug Thompson)

In polls over recent years, statistics on how many Americans go to church have ranged from 20-40 percent.

If you are a church goer, you are a minority in this country.

Church attendance, and giving to churches, is on a decline.

A recent study by Evangelical Covenant Church, which began collecting data on church attendance more than 30 years ago, said recent attendance is down to 17.7 percent.  The study looked at attendance in “orthodox Christian churches,” which include Catholic, mainline and evangelical.

“We know that over the past 30 to 40 years, denominations have reported a decline in their numbers,” says Penny Long Marier in The Journal for Scientific Study of Religion.

Pollsters like Gallup report that respondees say they are seeking alternative, non-traditional ways, of practicing religion — small group gatherings that meet in places like school libraries.

“About six million people meet weekly with a small group and never or rarely go to church,” says Ed Stetzer, director of the Center for Missional Research at the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  “This is a significant movement happening.”

Stetzer’s group released a study of spiritual behavior that found 24.5 percent of Americans now claim their primary form of “spiritual nourishment” is found in meetings of small groups of 20 or less people on a weekly basis.

I’ve talked to a number of people in Floyd County who abandoned churches in favor of small group meetings at someone’s home or other locations.

Most are reluctant to admit such activity publicly because of a fear of retaliation from a local religious community that they feel “looks down” and scorns those who do not practice religion in a traditional way.

“I left the church because my pastor felt he had to dominate how we felt and in what we had to believe,” said one.  “Organized religion approaches many social issues today with an attitude of exclusion, not inclusion.”

Another left a local Presbyterian congregation because that church sought to separate itself from the national Presbytery because it was becoming too “gay friendly.”

“What I was hearing from the pulpit was insulting to those of us who believe in love and tolerance,” she said. “I could not stay there.”

Some religious leaders say that while attendance and membership in organized religions are declining, it does not mean a drop in belief in a supreme being.

“An individual’s relationship with God is a personal one,” says Lutheran minister Roger Baxter. “Americans live in a country founded on the belief of individual choice and that choice includes religious freedom.  Acceptance of God is far more important than membership in any denomination.”


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