Tag Archives: Staunton

There’s More to the Courthouse Issue Than Many Realize

David KaraffaBy David Karaffa
Guest Post

[Editor’s Note: The ongoing Augusta County courthouse issue is once again in the news. The Staunton News Leader’s articles (see County approves courthouse referendum petition, Staunton responds to county courthouse decision, County approves courthouse referendum petition, and New courthouse would not serve the greater good) are helpful for background in the ongoing discussion as well as those from LynnRMitchell.com writers (see Augusta County Courthouse: ‘This is the song that doesn’t end‘ and Augusta County Courthouse moving forward, Staunton counters and The Augusta County Courthouse decision and Augusta County: Renovate courthouse in Staunton or build new one in county?) in this two-year-old issue. Former supervisor David Karaffa, who was very involved in the courthouse issue, provides background in a less-confined way than when he was on the board. Originally published May 16, 2016.]

I have been reading the online News Leader and other news sources as the Augusta County Courthouse issue heats up again and I feel the need to tell the truth about the discussions that have been taking place for years between Staunton and Augusta County about it.

First, the News Leader is incredibly biased (if you didn’t know that already). When I was in my first or second year on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, we opened a dialog with Staunton to discuss the overwhelming issues we were having with the courts. We also reminded the Staunton City Council of the many promises and deals that were made in good faith to keep the facilities up and running and in Staunton at a shared expense.

The Board of Supervisors, the courts, and the citizens of Augusta kept up their end of the deal for decades (yes — decades; you read that right), and the Staunton City Council never moved forward on their end of the deal. Shameful. Now, of course, over the decades many of the people on the council and board have moved on, but some are still there. So that is some deep background.

Augusta County CourthouseNow for the more recent history that needs to be told….

As I said before, I was on the Board when we reminded Staunton of its past agreements with the county. We invited Staunton into the discussion as we moved forward with Frazier & Associates on what the cost would be to renovate the court building to provide another couple of decades of use. The numbers were out of this world high and still didn’t address all the issues. The Board of Supervisors gave all the information to the Staunton City Council and they basically said, “It’s not our problem.” (Thanks for that, by the way.)

At that point and after many discussions the idea was dusted off that the courthouse should be and was always planned to move to Verona when the county’s other services moved there (novel idea!). So the board hired an architect to look into what it would cost to move and build a new courthouse that could last for some 75 years (remember our current one has been in use for more than 110 years).

A plan was delivered. It was also shared with Staunton, and another round of talks with them about other options took place.

Staunton then hired Frazier & Associates to come up with another plan (yes, the same firm the county hired). Another plan was delivered, more tailored towards Staunton’s requests. We all got to see it and it included a SKYBRIDGE! Wait … what? A SKYBRIDGE that was going to cost like a MILLION dollars or something (I cannot remember the exact figure but it was out there; like, in orbit out there).

Staunton City Council’s Miss Dull said she couldn’t justify spending Staunton taxpayer money on the Augusta County Courthouse, but she was sure willing to spend it on a SKYBRIDGE! Then it involved demo of other buildings downtown at even more cost. Needless to say, it was not a plan that the Board of Supervisors could sign on to and not a good fiscal plan for the county taxpayers.

Now we have arrived at the current plot. The county exhaustively has discussed this with the City of Staunton, an agreement cannot be made because all the options to staying downtown don’t meet all the needs, and the costs are way too high for the short amount of time that it could all be jury rigged (pun intended) to work in downtown Staunton.

The best option is to build a new courthouse in Verona. It will save a ton of money in the long run, be better access for the public, safer for the citizens with more secure transfer of prisoners, and consolidate services for Augusta County residents all in one place, and you don’t have to pay to park. Ah! That’s nice.

Now it’s up to the citizens of Augusta to answer the Board of Supervisors’ question: Would you like a new courthouse in Verona?

Just one more thought. The News Leader opinion piece that basically demoralized every citizen of Augusta County was absolutely inappropriate and rude toward you all. I was very disappointed. Funny thing is, if Staunton City Council had just kept up their end of the deal DECADES ago we wouldn’t be talking about this at all. Just goes to show you, keep your promises…. (Drop the mic.)


David Karaffa is a former Augusta County supervisor for the Beverley Manor District (2011-15) who now lives with his three daughters in Palm Coast, Florida.

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Friday Thoughts

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It’s a sunny, warm August morning in the Shenandoah Valley with hot summer temps on tap through the weekend. Local public school children returned to classes this week in a new school schedule for Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro that begins earlier and ends by Memorial Day.

Some Friday morning thoughts….

Watching the skies: Did you see the Perseid meteor showers last night, the most prolific in 20 years? No, we didn’t either, but we all have another chance tonight for the most prolific showers in this annual event. We didn’t have artificial light issues here in the Shenandoah Valley and the skies were clear but the moon was bright enough to dim the stars. With competition from the Olympics, the meteors lost out in our attention span. Maybe we’ll check back tonight….

Watch out for the bears: If you’re heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains, keep an eye out for the black bears. Last weekend’s activity centered around the Humpback Rock picnic area along the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 5-9) after a bear broke into a vehicle parked at Dripping Rock overlook which is a connector to the Appalachian Trail. Other reports of active bear activity caused authorities to close the Humpback Rock picnic area with trail warnings. See more here. Enjoy the mountains but stay safe out there.

Staunton area activities: If you’re heading to the central Shenandoah Valley, be sure to check out my 40 Things To Do In and Around Staunton for tips on historic areas, restaurants, hotels, and more.

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Day 3: Clean up after the Blizzard of January 22-23, 2016

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Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

By Lynn R. Mitchell

8:30am: Good morning from my snowy corner of the world west of Staunton. It was a frigid 10 degrees overnight with clearing skies after the snowstorm moved out, and a full moon. There’s between 18 inches and 3-4 feet of snow (from drifting) … a winter wonderland with snow-flocked trees and piles of the white stuff along the road and driveway.

To see photos from throughout Virginia during the blizzard, see Day 1: Live-blogging the January 22-23, 2016 blizzard and Day 2: Live-blogging the January 22-23, 2016 blizzard.”

The snowplows came through in the middle of the night to clear the road. Our thanks to VDOT. And our thanks to Dominion Virginia Power for their part in keeping the lights and heat on through the blizzard.

By this time yesterday we had been up for 3.5 hours as the snow continued to fall and the wind howled. Today we have awakened to a cold sunny morning after the full moon came out overnight and illuminated everything. I woke up briefly sometime in the early hours to see the moon and then went back to sleep.

Our neighbor — bless his heart — is out there again clearing our driveway for the third time during this storm. Today neighbors will check in on each other, clear driveways, and make sure everyone is okay.

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Day 2: Live-blogging the January 22-23 Blizzard of 2016

2Saturday morning before sunrise.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

See also Live-blogging the January 22-23, 2016, historic Virginia snowstorm with photos from around Virginia of Friday’s snow.

Day 2 of the Blizzard of 2016 in our corner of the Shenandoah Valley: We’re not going anywhere with the forecast calling for heavy snow to continue all day along with high winds and temps in the 20s. Our neighbor made two runs at the driveway yesterday so I suspect he will be back his morning in his effort to prevent the snow from building up too much. What would we do without neighbors?

Since we are west of Staunton, the winds coming through Buffalo Gap and off the slopes of the Appalachians cause snow drifts across our road. It’s nothing unusual … we’ve been dealing with it as long as we’ve been here. Same with driveways as drifting snow buried them under feet of snow. So our neighbor is just trying to keep the drifts broken up.

5:10am: The power blipped making our smoke alarm chirp and waking us both. Nothing like the threat of no electricity to make you spring out of bed and get moving before it goes out for good. For now (5:30), it’s still on. Mr. Mitchell is cooking bacon and eggs and brewing coffee.

5:35am: The wind began howling last night and we could hear it throughout the night. This morning, it continues. Peering through the snow-caked door onto the deck, the amount of snow has increased significantly overnight. It’s 18 degrees out there with a high of mid-20s expected during the storm today. It appears WHSV TV-3 is off the air — no power? — so the Weather Channel is on and Jim Cantore is reporting live from D.C.

NBC-29 has The National Weather Service’s latest winter storm warning issued at 4:16am:

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Day 1: Live-blogging the January 22-23, 2016, historic Virginia snowstorm

Snow 2016By Lynn R. Mitchell

I have never live-blogged a snowstorm. However, this is being touted as a possible historic storm with monster amounts of snow predicted — everything from one to three feet — with icing in North Carolina. Virginia is at the epicenter.

Blizzard warnings, dire alerts to stay home — not to mention that Virginia is under a state of emergency that was declared before it hit. As a snow lover, I’m excited about the white stuff but also cautious as they call for higher and higher amounts.

These are my observations of the storm from our home in the Shenandoah Valley, west of Staunton in Augusta County. Be safe and warm….

Friday, January 22, 2016
4:30am: Awake and checking Facebook and weather news outlets for the latest on a storm that has been building all week. Storm is still on track and moving a little faster than originally expected.

6am: Snow flurries reported in Lexington.

6:30am: Snow flurries reported in southern Augusta County. Temperature is 16 degrees.

I’ve got the crock pot started with Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken, a favorite and requested by Mr. Mitchell. Here’s the recipe if anyone is interested:

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Staunton’s Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot raises funds for traumatized children

TurkeyBy Lynn R. Mitchell

It’s the fourth annual Turkey Trot at Ironwood on Thanksgiving Day.

Residents of Staunton and surrounding areas will do a good thing that morning. Well, yes, they will run to earn the extra calories at the dinner table later in the day, but they will also be donating to benefit the Valley Children’s Advocacy Center, a nonprofit to help children traumatized by physical abuse. The event is expected to pull in several hundred people. Join the fun and help kids all at the same time.

What: 4th Annual Club at Ironwood Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk
Date: Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2015
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Place: Club at Ironwood, 62 Country Club Circle, Staunton
Cost: $25/ages 14 and under; $25/ages 15 and up.

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Bojangles coming to Staunton and Waynesboro

Bojangles Cville

Charlottesville Bojangles at Pantops. (Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Stopping by the brand new Bojangles in Charlottesville’s Pantops (I-64, exit 124) on Rt. 250) area on Tuesday, we got the low-down on future Bojangles locations in the area from the owner himself. He confirmed the rumors that have been circulating in the Staunton area.

He is opening a Bojangles in Staunton on Richmond Road near the Sheetz and Frontier Culture Museum. From I-81, that’s exit 222 — WalMart, Lowe’s, Starbucks, Rowe’s, Cracker Barrel, Texas Steakhouse, Chili’s, and Martin’s Food Market. He mentioned that plans also call for a Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s (replacing the one in the service station on the east side of the interstate) that will locate in that same area along with a hotel and restaurant. Exit 222 has been begging for development along the strip of Richmond Road between the interstate and Frontier Drive.

He said he also plans to open a Bojangles in Waynesboro at the location of the old Ladd Elementary School located off I-64’s exit 96. That area of Rt. 340 also has WalMart, Martin’s Food Market, Applebee’s Ruby Tuesday’s Starbucks, Cracker Barrel, Target, Kohl’s, and other restaurants and hotels.

Many in the area have been asking for a Bojangles and Chick-fil-A so it looks like we won’t have much longer to wait, Staunton. Perhaps in 2017….

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Bath County leaf report as of October 17, 2015

58By Lynn R. Mitchell

I had an email this morning from friend Barb who said she was sending a leaf report for areas west of Staunton in Bath County, Virginia:

We spent the last 5 days camping at  Douthat, great weather, good for campfires.  It has not reached peak in that area. Falling Spring was still green as was other areas but yellow hickories and dogwoods were pretty.  Warm Springs Mountain was colorful, almost peak.  All should be good next week, just giving you a report in case you want to roam over there.  I hope to get up on Skyline for a short run.

There you have it … an up-to-the-minute leaf report from Bath County. The next week will see many changes especially since frost has hit the Shenandoah Valley for the first time this season. We’ll be watching.

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Autumn travel and leaf peeping in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley

By Lynn R. Mitchell
Originally published in the Washington Examiner, October 4, 2010 – Updated

17Now that autumn has arrived in the Shenandoah Valley, October’s calendar is full of festivals and events for those who wish to enjoy cooler temperatures and colorful leaves. If waiting until the fall color show hits its peak, be sure to check out Virginia Tourism’s Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-424-LOVE or check the Fall Color report.

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October 2015 … 20 things to do in and around Staunton, Va.

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                                    Staunton’s historical Wharf District.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Voted as one of America’s Top 20 Main Streets by Travel and Leisure magazine, the central Shenandoah Valley city of Staunton was also recently named one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America by Smithsonian magazine as well as Virginia Living magazine’s Best of 2012. Known as the Queen City, Staunton was founded in 1747 and was named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of Virginia’s Governor William Gooch.

With views east toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and west toward the Appalachians, Staunton is an historic slice of Virginia that offers restored Victorian homes, cozy downtown shops, and small-town atmosphere. Patriotic holidays find her streets lined with American flags, and the always-popular Christmas parade takes place each year on Beverley Street, the main thoroughfare that is lined with restaurants, store fronts, the Dixie Theater, the city courthouse, and old-fashioned lamp posts.

There are many things to do during the leaf season that peaks in October so here are some places and events you may find interesting. Check back often … this list will be updated throughout the month. It’s autumn in western Virginia.

1. Trolleys
A great way to get around downtown, Staunton’s two trolleys cost 25 cents to ride, and pick up and discharge passengers at stops located throughout the city. More information can be found at the Staunton Visitors Center on New Street.

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Pat Haley: ‘We smiled as we left Staunton, Virginia’

Pat Haley 2By Patrick Haley
Guest Post

Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

We did, in a sense, go home again, at least for seven days. Staunton, Virginia, is not our hometown, but was home to Brenda and me for twelve of the happiest years of our lives. We spent the whole week in Staunton. We saw old friends and journeyed to the Gypsy Hill Park, Staunton Braves Stadium, and Wright’s Dairy-Rite where car hops still come out and take your order. Little has changed from the day it opened in 1952.

As we walked the winding hills in town, up past Trinity Church, and up the street to Mary Baldwin College, wonderful things began to happen. We remembered our motor scooter rides around town, and how Doc Haley, our poodle, used to sit under our large maple tree and listen to the Robert E. Lee High School band practice. The memory made us smile and nod.

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Pyles op-ed: Augusta-Staunton consolidation may not save money

By Lynn R. Mitchell

After 25 years of plans by Augusta County to consolidate its government services in Verona, it finally looked as if the Augusta County Courthouse issue was moving toward a resolution by putting the question on the November 2015 ballot to allow county citizens the opportunity to decide if they wanted to see the courts moved to the Verona.

All forward momentum unexpectedly stopped at the last supervisors meeting when a vote to put the referendum on the ballot was ignored, a new motion to further study the issue was made, and five supervisors voted for the study. Two supervisors voted against it. There are questions as to whether all supervisors knew of the change before the public meeting.

Supervisor Tracy Pyles had an op-ed in Sunday’s Staunton News Leader addressing the issue that seems to never end. Here are his thoughts:

Courts consolidation won’t save local money
By Tracy Pyles
Supervisor, Pastures District, Augusta County

Can Staunton afford an equitable arrangement with Augusta County on the courthouse? Mayor Carolyn Dull’s January letter to the Board of Supervisors was pragmatic arguing against anything more than minimal help for Augusta.
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Augusta County Courthouse: ‘This is the song that doesn’t end’

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Remember the children’s song called, “This is the Song That Never Ends,” that was made famous by the late Shari Lewis’ puppet characters, Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse?

The words go like this: “This is the song that doesn’t end, yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that doesn’t end” … and it goes on and on and on.

That’s what the Augusta County Courthouse issue feels like especially after Wednesday night’s surprising vote by supervisors to enact a five-month negotiating period with Staunton, thereby ending any hopes for a referendum in 2015.

It’s the issue that never ends. It began 25 years ago when Augusta County bought the Smith Transfer complex in Verona with plans to consolidate all of the county government departments in one location. The purpose was for the convenience of county citizens with plenty of parking and plenty of space to expand. The original goal included the court system.

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Augusta County Courthouse moving forward, Staunton counters

David KaraffaBy David Karaffa
Guest Post

Augusta County Supervisors are looking at court services like any other county service, with a business mind.

Supervisors spent money more than a year ago to research and gather solid data and plans for both the current historic courthouse and the proposed new Verona courts building. On the other hand, Staunton City Council spent a little money and gave Frazier & Associates two weeks to put together something that could curb the growing momentum to move the courts to a new Verona location. Supervisors will decide Wednesday whether or not to continue moving forward with putting the decision in the hands of the voters this November.

Here are some facts:

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Traveling the back roads from Staunton to Blacksburg offers a slice of America

By Lynn R. Mitchell

1Thursday road trip! With SWAC Daughter and her husband now living less than two hours from Staunton, it was time for a day trip to meander the back roads and take the kids to lunch. With maps and a cooler in the car (the places we go aren’t GPS-friendly), we headed out to begin our trip to the land of Virginia Tech and expansive mountain vistas. It was time for a road trip to Blacksburg. Following Rt. 11, we traveled from Augusta County into Rockbridge where we passed through Natural Bridge and its scenic Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop.

2On the back roads it’s easy to pull over and read historical signs with information about those who settled the area, nearby landmarks, and other events from the past. This sign is a reminder that the Shenandoah Valley was once the western frontier of the New World with outlying forts that protected settlers in this once-wild land.

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