[excerpts, January 1999]
Winter weather finally settled in for a while, just in time for the solstice, and there was a dusting of snow and ice for Christmas. Here's some of what happened last month.
A hastily called rally draw a crowd of about 75 to Hopkins Green to protest the vote to impeach Bill Clinton. "We need to take the country back from those idiots who think they know what's best for us," said the Rev. LaVert Taylor, who plans to carry local petitions opposing the impeachment up to Washington. "Do we need to call upon the Constitution ...to protect ourselves from the Chief Executive's improprieties with an intern and the English language?" asked James Leva. "Or, is the Constitution more threatened by ideologues and political hacks who use the Constitution as a flyswatter to rid themselves of political pests?" The three area local governments began to finalize a regional program to run the visitor centers in Lexington, Buena Vista and at the Virginia Horse Center. The plan calls for an independent board to govern the tourism program, and for hiring a $35,000 a year marketer. The tourism director will still be hired by Lexington's city manager and the workers will technically be city employees. The program will be funded through a formula that will give it the equivalent of 0.8% of the area's food and lodging business gross receipts. So the county's share will more than double - up to nearly$110,000 a year, while the cities' shares will fall a bit. Lexington now spends about $227,000 a year on tourism. Buena Vista spends about $34,000. The local governments are hoping the plan will cash in on the governor's push for regional tourism promotion. In light of the recent unpleasantness involving some Lexington firemen, Lewis Tyree suggested that the city put off a decision on where to build a new firehouse for a year. Tyree made the suggestion at a public hearing on the apparently dead Spottswood Drive fire house location. Mayor Buddy Derrick cut him off, saying the hearing Was not the place for talk of the firemen/arson scandal. There were about 45 people, including a handful of firemen, at the hearing. The firemen had to rush off to answer a call. There had been a wreck up Route 11. The county cut a check for $746,000 for this year's revenue sharing payment to the City of Lexington. The payment is part of an agreement that keeps the city from even thinking about annexing any part of the county. Lexington's SWAT team, a Virginia State Police SWAT team, a drug dog and the Drug Task Force searched a house at 547 Poplar Hill Road, seized a pound of pot, a bunch of bongs, and some highway signs. Two W&L students and a townie were arrested. Buena Vista officials toyed with the idea of getting a grant to see what could be done with the old Reeves Brothers plant, if the company can be talked into giving the wreck to the city. A crowd of more than 150 volunteers packed up Christmas baskets at VMI for 657 Rockbridge area needy families. Calvin Paitsell shot a 204 pound bear in his front yard on Blacks Creek. After voting down a motion to build the new Lexington firehouse on Spottswood Drive and a motion to have a study done of the Edwards Paving site on Route11, Lexington City Council unanimously endorsed putting the firehouse at the old Crestar bank branch site on South Main. The site is the second choice - behind Spottswood -of the firemen, but it is a distant second. LaVert Taylor brokered the vote for the Crestar site. Once the city secures an option, there will be more public hearings. Some opposition is expected, particularly since the site is next to a funeral home. One thing became clear in all of the discussions about the Spottswood Drive site. Despite the best efforts of supporters, there is little sentiment on council to use the property to expand Stonewall Jackson Cemetery. Central Elementary School principal Harry Stone put an end to an RCHS special education student's job working with pre-school students at Central when he learned that the boy had been convicted of sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl. The boy had been assigned to the school by the high school's special ed job skills program. County school superintendent Glen Stark said he will try to find out just how the boy's record apparently went unnoticed. An attempted murder charge against Jesse James Carter, 61,was reduced to assault and battery, and Carter was given six months to serve in jail. Carter had put a pistol to Shelia Barner's head and pulled the trigger - twice. Inexplicably, the gun didn't go off. Carter's only previous brush with the law was a speeding ticket, and by all accounts, he is usually the nicest guy in the world. Eric Ellers, 38, of Santa Fe, was given 18 months to serve in prison on charges of possession of 17 pounds of marijuana and transporting it across state lines. For a few days last year, Ellers was quite a popular man in town, handing out $50bills as if they were candy, paying $1,000 for a "haircut," and buying lots and lots of drinks for his instant friends. n The Buena Vista Christmas parade was bigger than ever, with88 entries, including a fine Grinch float. The county supervisors asked the General Assembly for permission to double the county's lodging tax to 4%. a Christopher Rhoades and Christopher Kirby became the first Southern Virginia College students to be hauled into circuit court here since the school was turned into a Mormon run institute. They were each given a suspended sentence after being found guilty of the Sunday night theft of a computer from a W&L student. With the new 911 central dispatch system up and running for just a few months, the director, Tom Snead, was hired away by county supervisor Bobby Berkstresser's Lee-Hi Travel Plaza. The 911 director's job pays up to $37,000 a year. The grandparents of switched baby Rebecca Chittum agreed - again - to share custody of the child, avoiding a court battle. Pete Shaner asked the county planning commission to allow new off-premise signs like the one he put up (and was ordered to take down) last year for his family's greenhouse. A Rockbridge County jury recommended a four-year prison sentence after finding Michael Thornton, 29, guilty of six counts of marijuana distribution. The total amount of pot involved was by all accounts less than three ounces. Thornton's attorney, Robert Armstrong, attempted to portray the narc, Jerry Branch, as a pill-popping, grenade wielding, paranoid schizophrenic, which Branch, with a wry smile, rapidly denied -though he did admit to a felony record. The Drug Task Force, on the other hand, tried to portray Thornton as a purveyor of harder drugs, though pot was all they could pin him with. Thornton, who had confessed to the marijuana sales, never took the stand. Both Armstrong and Commonwealth's Attorney Gordon Saunders had asked for the jury trial. A big bunch of buzzards - or a bunch of big buzzards - took up housekeeping in the woods by the W&L law school. Danny Fink won the 39th annual Buena Vista to Lexington 10K road race with a time of 34:36. Emily Pulsifer was the fastest woman in the race, finishing with a time of 43:31. Clay Allen Sherer of Natural Bridge Station, a 17-year-old Parry McCluer senior, killed himself by jumping off the Route 60 bridge onto the southbound lanes of 1-81. Sherer, an honor student, had planned to be a veterinarian. He left a series of suicide notes. Minutes before jumping, he stopped at The Subway in Buena Vista and called 911 to report that something "bad" was about to happen on the interstate. State and local law enforcement officials were nearing the interchange by the bridge when Sherer jumped. Stephen Neil Sambrook, 14, was killed in a head-on collision at the intersection of Route 261 and Evergreen Drive. Sambrook was riding in a car driven by his grandmother, Jane RiCharde, when it drifted into the path of a pickup truck driven by Curtis Nole. The boy was flown to U.Va. Hospital, where he died of massive injuries. Buena Vista city manager Dan Collins renewed a suggestion that the city hire a planner. The city's last official planner, Bob Lee, was defenestrated in what was then Yugoslavia, a few months after playing Frank Zappa records at his farewell party in Buena Vista city hall. Congressman Bob Goodlatte voted to impeach the President on all four counts and leveled the charge of partisanship at Democrats who didn't jump on the Republican bandwagon. The Lexington school board gave itself a 100% pay raise. The members will each be getting $600 a year beginning next year. Richard Hastings voted against the raises. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bucky Joyce charged Penny Rae Angus, 21, with perjury after she denied under oath that the man she lives with had hit her or her baby or spat on her in a quarrel. Joyce's boss, Gordon Saunders, insisted that the charge does not mean that his office plans to go after everyone who lies in domestic disputes. There have been two perjury trials in the county in recent years. One was of a woman who lied to protect her boyfriend in a reckless driving case. The other was of a woman who lied to protect her boyfriend in a drug case. Both were convicted. The revised edition of Winifred Hadsoll's Roads of Rockbridge was published by the Rockbridge Historical Society. The book has been expanded to include all 640 of the county's private lanes. In a blow to good music in Virginia, four songs written by Rockbridge area musicians did not make the General Assembly's list of finalists for the new official state song. Helen and Michael Ohleger bought the Food Euphorium and made plans to re-open it as Main Street Market. Representatives from the Waffle House came back to the county supervisors and all but said "Pretty please with ersatz maple syrup on top." The company wants to build a waffle emporium next to the Super8. It riginally asked for a 75-foot high sign. When that didn't fly, it asked for a 50-footer. The county offered to allow a 35-footer, but the company said that wouldn't do any good. The supervisors took the company at its word, leaving the company with a 15-foot sign. Now, the company says 35feet would be swell after all. The supervisors were split on the idea - Bobby Borkstresser abstained - and so, tiebreaker Danny Snider will be called in this month to resolve the question. The old county building on Washington Street was transformed with a new coat of paint and a set of 43 dark green plastic shutters. The initial reviews were generally terrific. A photograph on the W&L colonnade by Patrick Hinely was chosen to grace a new postal card being issued by the US Postal Service to celebrate W&Ls 250th anniversary. Ed Patterson died at the age of 77. He was a former deacon of the New Providence Presbyterian Church, a past president of the Brownsburg Ruritan Club, and a director of the Bank of Rockbridge. He knew as much as anyone about Brownsburg history. The Lexington Tree Committee planted two oaks: one at the Jordan House and one between the Stop In and Deavers Alley. The editor of this paper accepted an offer to teach a journalism class at VMI. To get paid, he had to prove that he is not an illegal alien. The Green Village Restaurant at the Keydet General closed. There were more Christmas lights up this year than ever around the county. As usual, they ranged from the tastefully elegant to wonderfully garish extravaganzas that looked like they had been loaded into cannons and kaboomed.