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St. Paul , Virginia
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June 18, 2009     Clinch Valley Times
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June 18, 2009
 

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~r~ -- .. .... = ? Page 2 CLINCH VALLEY TIMES, St. Paul, VA, Thursday, June 18, 2009 Of shoes..and ships..and sealing wax..by Ann Young Gregory School Board expels St. Paul Much of what those of us who'iaavesupported the retention of St. Pad High School and the other com- munity schools in Wise County have heard through- out this year and a half of trying to reason with the Wise County School Board--most of what we've heard is that consolidation will afford equity, and will allow all to be treated equally-all will have the same- -expanded--opporttmities. That has been an interest- ing concept, until the School Board showed its true colors on Monday night when it made the selection of sites on which it proposes to build the three schools in its consolidation plan. As most of us assumed, the high schools which will serve Wise and Big Stone Gap will remain pretty much within those communities--the students from Pound and Appalachia will just have to go to Wise and Big Stone Gap to get to school. We missed our estimate of where the Board plans to put the high school which will--osbensibly--serve Coeburn and St. Paul. We have assumed all along that it would be in Coeburn. Hoping the Board was serious about its declaration of achieving equity for all, we had hoped against hope that the Bull Run site would be chosen, The numbers which the Board attached to that site, however, indicated that the site preparation would exceed $11 million, even though an unofficial esti- mate by a contractor provided to the town shows that the road, figured at $5 million in the School Board's "estimate," would actually cost $1.8 million. Even so, addition to being ignored by the School Board, St. Paul and its children have apparently been all but written off by a member of the Wise County Board of Superv'isors--a one-time chairman, in fact. Bob Ad- kins said to me over a year ago that he wondered why our children don't go on and go to school in Castle- wood, a remark I felt was extremely inappropriate for a member of the governing body to make. Then, after Monday night's School Board meeting at which the sites were chosen, Mr. Adkins approached Debbie Baca, chair of St. Paul's Voice for Community Schools, who has presented mountains of anti-conso- lidation information to the School Board. To her, Mr. Adldns sang, "Happy Trails To You...", for all practical purposes dismissing not only St. Paul High School but St. Paul as well. That's extremely interesting, because I have no doubt that the Board of Supervisors fully intends to accept the inflated real estate taxes which its newest tax reassessment has dumped on St. Paul, which was apparently targeted for an excessive increase, and that it is virtually licking its chops in anticipation of taxes from the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, which, when completed, will more than double the real estate tax base of Wise County, which is currently valued at $1.3 billion (the plant will cost $1.8 billion to build.) There are some in our community who have casually mentioned that it would make sense for St. Paul to . secede from Wise County and join a neighboring we hoped that conscience might get the best of the county, remembering, of course, that the power plant School Board, and its majority would choose the Bull is within the corporate limits of St. Paul. Of course, Run site in order to be fair. We were disappointed. The School Board, at the cast-in-stone 5-3 vote, has selected another site--in roughly the same location as the old Lonesome Pine Drive In Theatre between Coeburn and Norton. The site, determined by the "trip counter" on my car, is just a touch over 15 miles from the center of St. Paul, and more than that, of course, from, say, Honey Branch, whose children also go to St. Paul. This new site is probably three to four miles from Coeburn, but interestingly, is just a little over five miles from Norton. How does that strike you for equity? Fifteen miles from a school that's already part of the Wise County Public Schools, yet only five miles from a school in another school division which the Wise County School Board, its protestations notwith-standing, has been courting. In short, St. Paul has evidently been expelled from the Wise County Schools, although I suppose the county, in order not to be in violation of the law, will still go through the motions, when and if the time comes, of building the Lonesome Pine Drive-In school to accommodate St. Paul as well as Coeburn students, and of running school buses for students from St. Paul. The majority of the Wise County School Board :~has ignored, for all practical purposes, the pages of .iresearch and the hours of testimony that St. Paul that can't happen, since all parties to such a change must be in agreement, but it's an interesting thought, nevertheless. The original point of consolidation was apparently to save money, although nothing that anybody has produced indicates that school divisions which have consolidated their schools have been able to save money--or do a lot of the other things that consoli- dation is supposed to do. We do know that larger school populations contribute to the possibility that some students "fall through the cracks," and fewer students are able to participate in extra- curricular activities. In fact, nobody has mentioned how the expenditure of somewhere between $100 and $150 million in order to save an annual $3.2 million, or whatever that figure is, makes any sense. While that's happening, we lose a significant number of Wise County school employees, teachers, admini- strators and staff members, and transportation costs will more than likely be astronomical, considering the -tumultuous fuel market today. In addition, if any students opt to go to schools outside Wise County (for example, Appalachia representatives have said for years that, should consolidation become a fact, most families there will send their children to Norton rather than to Big Stone Gap)--every child who leaves the . county will take close to $8,000+ of state and local, ~residents and other proponents of the county's com-: funding with him/her. I munity schools have presented to them showing that, Now. Do you suppose the Board of Supervisors !,cons01idation does not do the things that it's said to will authorize this incredibly large expenditure? If" accomplish--some of which are: saving money, they do, we'll have to help pay for it, even though our raising scores, offering equal opportunities, providing ,students have been virtually excluded from the expanded Advanced Placement courses, and so on. In equation. It'll be interesting to see what next. Letters tO the editor::. the time leading, to more litter on have too much county the highways and blowing in government but the bottom line Readers are invited to write letters on matters of general interest to.the pub.fie. Letters do not necessarily reflect the philosophy or editorial policy of this newspaper, which reserves the right to edit letters. The Clinch Valley Times will" not print unsigned letters. To the Editor: I would like to voice my concerns about the new trash dump law that Russell ,County has pushed on us. Maybe it's just to gwe someone a job at taxpayers expense. I don't know. But I certainly do know it isn't going to be convenient for a lot of foils. For the people who have jobs, are they supposed to revise their work schedule so they can get to the trash dump during the new limited hours a day that it is going to be open? Has the county stopped to consider that this may encourage people just to dump their trash over a hill or anywhere else that may be convenient for them at aid. The cost of the three new schools and new sports facili- people's yards? This would ertainly be wrong for them to do because two wrongs don't make a right but since the trash dump will only be open a few hours each day instead of the eleven hours a day it has been opened for years it is understandable that this may happen. Also since the dump will be closed so much of the time and no one will have to be paid to be there on the premises I wonder if the county will now lower the budget they have made for trash disposal. One more thing I wonder about. What about the many people who are now working and living in our community but their is this - "It's a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Thanks to the Clinch Valley Times for allowing us all the freedom of speech. Jessie Jones Castlewood, VA To the Editor: Wise County School Board's Message To St. Paul, Appala- chia and Pound: DROP DEADH Well, the truth is finally out. The Wise County School Board's majority never had any intention of being fair about locating three new consolidated schools in geographically con- venient places. Just as the citi- ties, more likely to be $150 mil- lion than the estimated $100 million, will result in a huge county tax increase on the heels of the recent 18 percent hike. All of this during a deep recession no less. Norton has shown remark- able leadership and foresight. Unlike the Wise County School Board, Norton's leaders know that renovation is smart and re- duces debt payments dramatical- ly. Also, the expanded elemen- tary school there will soon accommodate lots of new stu- dents from the county. Why would Norton want to give up permanent homes are in other zens of St. Paul and Appalachia states? Since they don't have predicted, the new schools are Virginia tags or a Russell County centered away from them, mak- sticker where are they supposed hag it inevitable that the three to dispose of their trash? When I small school communities will was working construction I be short changed and that hun- worked in whatever state I could dreds of them will go to Russell find work in and was never County and the City of Norton, denied using trash facilities costing Wise County millions in anywhere. I personally think we lost state and federal financial its autonomy to join the county system when the city can benefit financially, academically and on the sports field as the county makes its biggest mistake in recent history? Only the Wise County Board of Supervisors can stop this runaway train. Will they muster the political will to say "no" to the heaviest debt in the county's St. Charles Health Council, Inc. invites the community to attend the Annual Meeting On Tuesday, June 23, 2009 At 6 p.m. at Mosby's Restaurant Wise, Virginia Stone Mountain Health Services "Community-based health care for everyone" history and the literal destruc- tion of three small towns? Once the towns are out of business, the diminishing tax revenue from businesses and real estate located in them will further erode county funds and the cycle will continue, leaving the residents of the three larger towns and surrounding areas to shoulder the new tax burden. A 50 percent tax rate hike will eventually be needed to pay for this consolidation plan whether the hikes are implemented piecemeal to ease the pain or all at once, but it will happen. It is ironic that the U.S. News and World Report in its annual high school assessments found Appalachia, St. Paul and Pound to be academically more pro- gressive than any other schools in Wise County. Apparentlythat distinction is now a curse. Jean Kilgore St. Paul PAWS meets every third Thursday of the month, 6 pm at the Oxbow Center. BOUCHER ENCOURAGES POOL SAFETY Summer is now underway, and this summer many South- west Virginia residents will be taking advantage of the warm, sunny weather to enjoy a day at the pool. Many community pools across the region are now open for the summer swimming sea- son, and it is an appropriate time for all who will be visiting the pool this year to remember safety measures which can prevent accidental pool injuries or deaths. If you and your family will be spending time at a community or home pool this summer, the American Red Cross encourages you and your family to learn to swim and swim well. It is also a good idea for at least one member of your family to be trained in first aid and CPR. For information on swimming les- sons and CPR classes in your area, visit www.redcross.org or contact your local American Red Cross chapter. Even if you and your children know how to swim, it is always best to swim in areas with lifeguards. Most children are mature enough to learn to swim between the ages of four and six; however, parent and child swim classes can include registrants even younger to lay the foundation for future swimming lessons. While children are learning to swim, they should be within arm's reach of an adult at all times. When choosing water toys like water wings or inner tubes, parents should remember that the only truly safe water accessory is a personal flotation device approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Children who are not strong swimmers and rely on water wings or other inflatable toys in the pool should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD). A U.S. Coast Guard label will identify an approved PFD, and in the Coast Guard stamp, you can find the weight the device is designed to support. Even if a child is wearing a PFD, children should never be left unattended around or in the water. For adults, it is important to remember that it is never too late to learn to swim. Your local Red Cross chapter may be able to point you to an adul~-~iy swimming class. Drowning occurs most often When the victim is not planning to swim or be in the water. It is a!s0 important to remember to avoid alcohol when swimming or around a pool, Alcohol impairs your judgmem, balance and coordination and impairs your swimming ability. For safety in and around home pools, a phone should be kept nearby as well as basic lifesaving equipment such as h pole, rope and personal flotation devices. CPR instruction ahd local emergency numbers should be clearly posted near the pool area. Home pools should be enclosed by a self-locking, self- closing fence with vertical bars, and the house should not be poFt of this barrier. Pool covers should be completely removed prior to pool use. Accidents can occur around unsafe pool environments, such as pools with Uncovered drains. It is important to have many layers of protection in- and around the pool. All pool drains should be covered with antf- entrapment devices. Last year, Congress approved with my strong support and the President signed into law a pool safety measure which requires all pool and spa drain covers manu- factured or distributed in the U.S. to meet entrapment protect- tion standards. The measure also provides grants to states to undertake pool safety initiatives and requtres the Consumer Product Safety Commission to educate the public on the prevention of drowning. I encourage Southwest Vir- ginians to take advantage of the many community pools across the region and to use common sense pool safety to prevent pool accidents. For further informa- tion on water safety or swim- ming instructions, please contact your local chapter of the Red Cross. Below are the phone numbers for chapter offices in Southwest Virginia: Mountain Empire Cha- pter (Bristol): 276-645-6650 Martinsville Chapter: 276-632-5127 or 276-694-3505 for the Stuart office Montgomery-Floyd Chapter (Blacksburg): 540-443- 3606 Radford Chapter: 540- 639-2140 Roanoke Valley ct~al- pter: 540-985-3535 Castlewood man pleads guilty to selling controlled substances Provided by the communities is even more ex- Office of Russell County's Commonwealth's Attorney Bobby Joe Hawkins, Castle- wood, appearing before the Russell County Circuit Court on June 4, entered pleas of guilty to six felony indictments for distri- bution of controlled narcotics and marijuana, and one mis- demeanor indictment for the possession of controlled narco- tics. On each of the six felonies, Judge Michael L. Moore sen- tenced Hawkins to eight yeas in the state penitentiary, with six years, two months, suspended, and three years supervised pro- bation upon his release. On the marijuana possession, he sen- tenced Hawkins to 12 months in jail with 12 months suspended. The judge further granted a request by Commonwealth's At- torney Brian K. Patton that the property Hawkins used in his dlegal drug distribution activi- ties be taken from him and forfeited to the Commonwealth of Virginia. In granting the request, Judge Moore forfeited to the state three vehicles from which Hawkins had sold illegal drugs or in which he had trans- ported illegal drugs; $1,361 in proceeds from the sale of drugs; and a 30-acre farm owned by Hawkins, from which Hawkins also sold illegal drugs. Patton said the vehicles and farm will all be sold at a public auction and the proceeds will be paid to Virginia's Department of Criminal Justice Services, which retains I0 percent, and the remainder of the funds will be paid to Russell County to be used for law enforcement pur- poses. Commonwealth's Attorney Patton commended the Sheriff's Office for its work on the in- vestigation. Patton said, "Taking someone's property is an ex- treme step, but the drug problem plaguing our county and various Singing and Cake Walk There will be a Singing and Cake Walk on the stage at Dante on Friday, June 19 beginning at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. treme." He added, "Putting peo-- pie in jail and taking everything they own is the most the Com- monwealth can do, but we as a community have to do more if we are going to see improve- merits to this problem. It's time that we in Russell County say 'enough is enough' and join to- gether to fight the drug pro- blem." To report suspicious activity; call the Russell County Sheriff's Office, 276-889-8033. Clinch ..... alley Times . MEMBER VIRGINIA PRESS ASSOCIATION Published weekly in St. Paul, VA 24283, by the CLINCH VALLEY PUBLISHING CO., INC. The Clinch Valley Times serves the four-county area of Wise, Russell, Dickenson and. Scott, with offices and plant located in the CLINCH VALLEY TIMES building, 16541 Russell Street. Perio- dicals postage is paid at the Post Office in St. Paul, VA 24283. Ann Young Gregory Editor Allen Gregory Advertising Susan Trent Adv./Graphics ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTIONS: In advance: $28.50 in Wise and Russell counties: $30.00 in other 24- zip codes; elsewhere, $32.50. POSTMASTER: send address changes to: Clinch Valley Times, P.O. Box 817, St. Paul, VA 24283 SINGLE COPY - 50c Classified Advertising: Minimum charge, $6.00 for up to 20 words, in advance; 25c per word after 20 words. Display Advertising rates on application. Periodicals publication Postal ISSN: 767600