Year in Review: News

Published 10:58 am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Carrsville Elementary School received a Blue Ribbon for academic excellence during the 2012-2013 school year. -- FILE PHOTO

Carrsville Elementary School received a Blue Ribbon for academic excellence during the 2012-2013 school year. — FILE PHOTO

Work continues on widening a one-mile portion of General Thomas Highway. The Virginia Department of Transportation contracted the project out to a contractor for $2 million. Increasing the two-lane stretch to five lanes is intended to better support the growing industrial presence in the area. The project runs from Delaware Road to Shady Brook Trail on Route 671.

Larry Fowler resigned after 26 years as chief of the Newsoms Volunteer Fire Department.

Jon Mendenhall, the assistant administrator at Southampton County, has resigned to become the manager for Gates County, N.C. He served 21 months.

The first New Year’s baby, Wyatt Roman Arnold, was born Jan. 2 at Southampton Memorial Hospital. His mother is Cheryl Guthrie, a licensed practical nurse at SMH. The father is Gregory Arnold, and the sister is Aubrey.

The former Hayden High School in Franklin is among 16 places listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register. Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia wants to convert the building into a 62,000-square-foot, government-subsidized housing complex for seniors. To be known as Hayden Village, the development would include 25 apartments with 10 in the original building and 15 in a new wing.

Southampton County planners are preparing for potential development in the Ivor area with the construction of the new U.S. Route 460.

Carrsville Elementary School was one of seven schools in Virginia nominated to receive the National Blue Ribbons School award. The award recognizes public and private schools that are producing outstanding results for all students regardless of race or socioeconomic status. The announcement was made in the fall of the school’s recognition.

The Isle of Wight County supervisors on Thursday voted unanimously to allow employees to work four-day weeks beginning Jan. 28.

The Virginia House of Delegates has voted to extend the state’s excise tax on peanuts — a move that will help promote the sale and marketing of one of the state’s top cash crops.

The excise tax on peanuts grown and sold in Virginia will be extended until July 1, 2016. The tax, which was scheduled to expire this July, is 30 cents per 100 pounds.

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office has turned over its investigation into an alleged case of embezzlement in the school district to the commonwealth attorney’ office. Ultimately, no charges were filed.

Approximately three inches of snow fell in Western Tidewater on Jan. 25.

A bill to allow uranium mining in Virginia has been withdrawn. Southampton County supervisors during their December meeting supported a resolution against lifting the 31-year ban on uranium mining.

Randy Blythe, a former Franklin man and front man of the Richmond-based heavy metal band Lamb of God, admitted to pushing a fan off a stage, who died two weeks later of head injuries. Testifying in Prague during the first day of his trial on involuntary manslaughter charges, Blythe said he saw the 19-year-old man stand up in the crowd after he pushed him onto a concrete floor during the concert in May 2010.

The Senate Education and Health Committee killed a bill that would’ve allowed Southampton County supervisors to choose school board members instead of a three-person, judge-appointed committee. The action surprised State Del. Rick Morris, who introduced the legislation, which the House approved 98-0 on Feb. 1. Southampton School Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish and School Board Chairman Chris Smith lobbied against the bill before the Senate Committee took its vote in Richmond, Morris said.

The 1½ inches of rain that fell from Thursday evening through Friday morning in Western Tidewater was not expected to affect the levels of the Blackwater and Nottoway rivers.

Southampton County Public Schools has turned down former professional football player Greg Scott for the head high school football coaching job. A 1998 SHS graduate who played for the Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals and arena football before retiring in 2007, Scott was told in early February that he was not a finalist.

Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative, working on a wireless, high-speed Internet system for 15 south-central Virginia counties, including Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, has filed a plan with the federal government in hopes of continuing the project.

Money Mailer will remain open a month longer than expected, with new a closing date set for March 17.

The foreclosed-on Farm Fresh shopping center was recently sold at auction for $5 million, according to a real estate transfer at the Southampton County Clerk of Courts. Bank of America purchased the Armory Drive property in Franklin from Mag II LLC Franklin.

Windsor Town Council during its Tuesday meeting voted to pay $375,000 for a vacant home on .7 acres for its police station.

Seventeen Smithfield and Windsor middle school teachers will get iPads during March as part of Isle of Wight County Schools’ plan to increase their use in classrooms.

Investigators say Dyna Lewis of Courtland set her Ivor Road home on fire Wednesday and punctured the tires on a truck after getting into a fight with her husband.

A Drewryville man was placed on two years probation for selling moonshine for $45 a gallon to undercover informants over a period of months. Shelton “Buck” Harris, 77, was charged in July after agents with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control seized nearly 20 gallons of moonshine from his home on Tennessee Road.

Southampton County supervisors during their Monday meeting voted 6-1 to go with lowest cost of replacing the Route 35 bridge outside Courtland. The $13 million project will result in the road being closed for 12 to 16 months, with construction expected to start in 2014.

Two toy guns were reportedly discovered at S.P. Morton Elementary School on Feb. 21.

The Franklin Planning Commission voted 6-1 Thursday to recommend rezoning 63 acres on South Street at the Route 58 Bypass for the possible development of motels, convenience stores, other retail or light industry.

Southampton County Public Schools has proposed a $30.9 million budget that includes two percent pay-raises for most employees and the addition of five positions.

Concerned Citizens against High Utility Bills is asking for an investigation of high utility bills on the Southside of the City of Franklin, said Dr. Lynwood Johnson, group spokesperson. The group wants to know if the electric meters are bad or if they are possibly being misread.

Valley Proteins on Route 58 in Southampton County will close its facility in early September, said General Manager Mike Anderson on Monday.

Cindy Bryant Ferguson, owner of Travel Dreams in Franklin, had all charges dismissed against her in Franklin District Court Monday. It was reported in August that Ferguson was arrested and charged with five counts of grand larceny, four counts of credit card fraud and two counts of obtaining money under false pretense.

Franklin City Council will hear a report from City Manager Randy Martin during the Monday, March 25 meeting, on his findings from energy audits and other citizen complaints.

Dozens of Franklin residents showed up to protest high utility bills, prior to and during City Council meeting March 25.

IOW School Board members Herb DeGroft announces his plan to run for reelection. Chairman Robert Eley said in early April he was not yet decided. Supervisors JoAnn Hall and Rex Alphin are also up for election. Ultimately, DeGroft changed his mind; Eley decided to run again, and won; Hall decided not to run, and Alphin was reelected.

Isle of Wight sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Jeffrey Storm was buried April 11. Sgt. Storm, 52, died when the motorcycle he was driving ran off the road on Walters Highway, ejecting him.

The South Hill company working on a wireless, high-speed Internet system for 15 south-central Virginia counties, including Southampton and Isle of Wight, has been informed by the federal government agency overseeing the project that it is partially lifting the suspension of the grant award.

During a May meeting of the IOW supervisors, IOW NAACP President Dottie Harris of Smithfield called on school board member Herb DeGroft and supervisor Byron “Buzz” Bailey to resign after revealing transcripts of emails the men had privately sent to fellow board members and county staff. The emails contained crude humor, and President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were the subjects of several of those messages. Both men apologized, but said they would not resign.

The Isle of Wight School System received a $55 million budget for next fiscal year. This and the county’s $24.2 million support came unanimously from the Board of Supervisors. The $55 million is included in the county’s $96.3 million budget for 2013-14.

The Recall Supervisor Bailey Petition Committee is formed in hopes of having Bailey legally expelled from office.

The Citizens Against High Utility Bills met June 6 and called for several actions, including a rally to be held Monday night at city hall before the City Council meeting. The Citizens group has said the protest rally planned for Monday night is because of unresolved issues surrounding high utility bills with “the latest cause for protest attributed to the city manager transferring electric department profit (revenue) to the general fund and treating the transfer as an expense.”

Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore spoke during the Citizens Comment period at a city council meeting, which incited a call to order from Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn. McLemore came down from his seat as Ward 3 councilman and spoke as a private citizen. “Citizen rules will be adhered to,” said Mayor Johnson-Ashburn, and called for McLemore to be escorted out by law enforcement. When two Franklin City police officers came forward, the mayor asked McLemore if he wanted to stay to return to his seat as a councilman.

The Southampton County School Board unanimously adopted its $30.3 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14 during Monday’s meeting, but not without some concern and discussion.

A vision to expand quality care to people with dementia issues moved forward June 13 at The Village at Woods Edge in Franklin. A groundbreaking was held for a memory care center. Furthermore, the facility will be named after Asa B. Johnson Jr., VWE board chairman since 1998.

With 301 signatures to their petition, members of the Recall Supervisor Bailey Petition Committee filed the document June 28 with the Isle of Wight County Clerk of the Circuit Court Sharon Jones. She confirmed receipt and said a hearing is scheduled for July 5 in a county courtroom. The committee and its supporters want a judge to rule in their favor, and order Newport District Supervisor Byron “Buzz” Bailey from his seat on Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors.

In early July, a petition was filed for the removal of Herb DeGroft from the Isle of Wight County School Board, where he represented the Hardy District. DeGroft and Isle of Wight County Supervisor had been heavily criticized since they were revealed to have privately circulated emails containing crude humor to other board members and county staff. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are the subjects of several of those emails. They both refused to resign.

Isle of Wight County’s credit rating was upgraded in July, from AA- to AA.

S.P. Morton Elementary School Principal Dr. Debbie Harris Rollins sent a letter of resignation in July, but then later rescinded it.

An error creating a shortfall of $14,640 in the 2013-2014 Windsor operating budget, caused by a faulty computer program, was corrected in July.

Isle of Wight County Administrator W. Douglas Caskey announced in July that he would retire effective Tuesday, Oct. 1, ending 40 years of public service.

Two local lumber divers found two bowls of what a state archeologist claimed was of Algonquian origins.

The Franklin Early Head Start Center, which is run by The Children’s Center, received a 5 star rating from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative in July.

The Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills dissolved in July and formed a new group, the Citizens United Against High Taxes.

Florida Georgia Line headed the 2013 Franklin-Southampton County Fair.

On Monday, July 29, the Suffolk Commonwealth Attorney concluded that there was not enough to go on to have Isle of Wight County Supervisor Byron “Buzz” Bailey removed from office as the Newport District representative. The request to stop the case was filed along with a 12-page investigative report filed Friday in the county’s circuit court.

Frances Joyner started as the new Head of School for Tidewater Academy in August. Joyner graduated from the school, and received her Master’s in Educational Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2007. She had most recently been an assistant principal at Hannover High School, which had more than 1,300 students.

The Children’s Center received its second five-star rating from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, this one at the Texie Camp Marks site in Franklin, and in August, it had two of the three five-star ratings in Virginia.

Isle of Wight County Superintendent A. Katrise Perera has ended her job search on Aug. 9, and decided to stay in Isle of Wight County.

The Little Miss Fair Pageant debuted this year at the County Fair. Girls ages 3-15 took to the main stage Wednesday evening, helping draw one of the largest weeknight crowds to the fair in years.

On July 28, 2013, Southampton High School cosmetology students, along with Rita Yeary and Will Melby traveled to Alexandria to compete in the National Beauty Culturists League’s Cosmetology National competition. They took home several awards.

Alexandria Grizzard, 17, of Capron, was crowned Miss Franklin-Southampton County Fair Wednesday at 9 p.m.

The Virginia Department of Education released its 2012-2013 Standards of Learning test scores on Tuesday, Aug. 20. Isle of Wight County Schools fared near or better than the state average in many categories, while Franklin and Southampton County schools were below the state average in many categories.

Constance Rhodes is stepping down as president and chief executive officer of the Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Chamber of Commerce. The date becomes effective on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

A CSX train derailed off General Thomas Highway between the Dominion Power Plant and the Ashland Chemical Plant in September. Investigators are still looking into the cause.

S.P. Morton Elementary School joined J.P. King Middle School as two of the 37 low-performing schools across Virginia receiving priority status for the 2013-2014 school year. A priority school is in the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools.

The Virginia Department of Education cited the Franklin City School District with six violations of standards of quality. These violations included failure to develop and implement programs of prevention, intervention or remediation for students who fail to achieve a passing Standards of Learning score; employing personnel who are not licensed in relevant subject areas; and failure to implement a plan to make achievement for students who are educationally at risk a division-wide priority.

Several local representatives traveled to Washington, D.C., to talk with federal officials and congressmen about a potential shortfall of the Western Tidewater Regional Jail. The jail was set to have a financial shortfall come Oct. 1 if the U.S. Marshal Service pulls inmates and moves them to a Virginia Beach jail as planned. The WTRJ would lose $2.3 million this fiscal year if the move transpires, and localities that support it, including Franklin, Isle of Wight County and the City of Suffolk, would be forced to come up with the money for that shortfall in the operating budget.

The City of Franklin and Southampton County proceedrf into the public meeting stage of a feasibility study for collaborating with wastewater treatment in September.

Persons United Methodist, whose roots go back more than 300 years when Virginia was a colony of England, celebrated 175 years of established history in September, with more than 100 members, former members and visitors attending.

The Virginia Board of Education expressed serious concerns about the failure of division-level leadership in the Franklin City Public Schools System, which has resulted in poor student performance. This took place during the state school board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 26 in Richmond.

The Marching Indians of Southampton High School won six trophies in September at the Greensville Classic Competition.

Carrsville Elementary School was named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School in September by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Isle of Wight Academy performed a groundbreaking ceremony in September for its future Early Learning Center in October. The building will have six classrooms and a commons area for pre-school through kindergarten students, said Mary-Margaret Wells, director of development at IWA. This new space for youngsters is part of a three-pronged $1.2 million ongoing capital campaign titled “Building for the Future.”

Firefighters from 38 fire and rescue departments in different jurisdictions in Virginia and North Carolina responded to a fire at a Hancock Peanut warehouse on Oct. 9.

Barbara S. Mease, Founding Executive Director of the Children’s Center, announced her retirement on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. Mease had served the center for 30 years.

Food Lion hosted a Math Night for S.P. Morton students on October 17. Math Night had students solve real life grocery store math scenarios.

Windsor and Southampton high schools hosted a Dig Pink volleyball match in October to raise money for cancer.

For the first time since 2009, Franklin’s reserve fund went above the minimum level set by councilors. The minimum reserve is set at 15 percent of the city’s annual expenditures, which is approximately $22 million annually.

The Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday, Oct. 24 to place Franklin City Public Schools under division-level public review, after a short question-and-answer session with Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle and board chairperson Edna King. The evaluation, which has started, will examine the practices of the school board and leaders at the central office. This is coming off of a school-level academic review and follow-up review, which examined the three Franklin schools this past year.

On Monday, Oct. 21, the City of Franklin hosted a public forum in regards to the situation at the Franklin City Public Schools. Several residents present demanded a change in leadership.

Don Robertson, president of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Center, announced the installment of Rosalind Cutchins as the new executive director of the Children’s Center in November. Cutchins had been acting director the past 18 months.

To adapt to a decrease in student enrollment and funding shortfalls, Paul D. Camp Community College anticipated eliminating approximately five full-time positions in November, as well as merging the business office with that of Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton. The transitions would be completed by early January 2014.

In an attempt to compete with the Virginia Beach jail that had bid on U.S. Marshal Service federal inmates, the Western Tidewater Regional Jail submitted a new proposal in November that lowers its rates, but also helps curtail the budget shortfall that would have occurred if all of the federal inmates transferred. The proposal lowers the jail’s per day rate per inmate from $65 to $55.

To help teachers get supplies that may otherwise not be in the budget, The Franklin City Educational Foundation is there to help. On Nov. 12, the Franklin City Public School Board accepted a donation of $7,971.49 from the education foundation, which formed 10 years ago.

S.P. Morton’s LEGO Team competed in the FIRST State Championship in Harrisonburg, after placing first in the Regional Tournament in Chesterfield.

Receiving the 2013 Retro Artist of the Year Award was an unexpected experience for The Scotts on Nov. 9.

The honor was presented during the American Music Guild Heritage Award ceremony in The Barn at Regent Park in Ft. Mill, S.C.

After several years with a cloud of uncertainty in regard to a potential Navy Outlying Landing Field hanging over their heads, residents of Dory, Mason and Cabin Point in Western Tidewater can sleep a little easier, said Mike Johnson, Southampton County administrator.

The Navy has cancelled the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the OLF to be located in either Northeastern North Carolina or Southeastern Virginia.

The Franklin Sportsman’s Association in its annual Hayden Reunion Breakfast, which was on Friday, Nov. 29, at 9 a.m., honored Littleton Parker, who has been with the Southampton County school system for more than 30 years, and Moses Wyche, who has served the community for more than 50 years, will be the two honorees.

Isle of Wight Academy announced in December that it has received a $1 million pledge from Smithfield Foods Inc., to be used for the school’s current “Building for the Future” capital campaign and a scholarship endowment fund.

An estimated 450 people attended the U.S. Air Force Heritage Concert Band’s appearance Thursday evening in Franklin High School’s 500-seat auditorium. The free event, sponsored by The Tidewater News, featured a variety of music for the season.

The Franklin City Public School Board voted 5-2 on Tuesday, Dec. 10 to tell Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle that her contract will be renewed come June 30, 2014, should she meet a few conditions.

The stipulations are that the school division receives a satisfactory academic review, a satisfactory division-level review from the Virginia Board of Education, and a pass rate of an average of 70 percent of the preliminary SOL achievement results across the division.

A proposal that the Western Tidewater Regional Jail made to the U.S. Marshals Service nearly two months ago to keep federal inmates at a lower rate has yet to be officially accepted, the jail’s superintendent told City Council members during their Wednesday, Dec. 18 work session.

Windsor Police Chief Arlis “Vic” Reynolds was fired on Dec. 21 at 10 a.m., according to Windsor Mayor Carita Richardson.