Ah, the feel of autumn is in the air as the kids have gone back to school, the nights are getting a little cooler and fall sports have begun.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Cougar, a Mountaineer or a Charger (we can’t forget Bath County).
We all need to support these kids, no matter what sport they play — whether it’s football, volleyball, cross country or golf — or whether they are focused on their academics or are involved in some form of the arts.
These kids give their all every time they step on their respective fields-of-play and deserve our fullest support.
Not to make a cheap plug (OK, I’m making a shameless cheap plug) but you’re not going to find the amount of local sports from any other news source — and in a couple of cases around here, I use the term “news” very loosely — in the Highlands that you’ll find in The Virginian Review.
Sports Editor Mark Pifer goes above and beyond to make sure each school is featured and our kids are highlighted for their efforts on and off the field.
Let’s get started, shall we?
The Boss (Mr. Crosier) has been approached by several of the movers-and-shakers about town in the past few days wondering where I’ve been.
Well, to be honest, I’ve been biding my time, as I’ve wanted to see how things played themselves out on a couple of fronts before I chimed in.
There’s been a lot, and I do mean a lot, to write about, think about and talk about in our area since I last wrote about a month ago.
The area recently received three economic development-related grants in one week.
It boggles my mind the effort put into getting these grants and a lot of praise should be rightfully showered down upon Marla Akridge and Terri McClung at the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation for all of their work in locking in these grants for us.
The city of Covington and Alleghany County are in the midst of working out the final touches on a plan to move forward with a joint emergency services communications system.
This is a huge step in and of itself, because the naysayers will tell you that the city and county are mortal enemies and can’t agree on how to buy coffee together, much less work together for the betterment of our area.
Those naysayers are typically the ones that gripe the loudest and do the least.
Truth be told, I couldn’t care less what the naysayers say, and you shouldn’t either.
Today, I want to focus on another storm that’s been brewing in Clifton Forge.
Actually, I like to think of this issue as a pressure cooker about to explode if someone doesn’t find a way to release some steam through the pop-off valve.
I love Clifton Forge.
I love its people.
I love its atmosphere.
I even love those who serve in leadership roles in the town of Clifton Forge.
It’s unfair and irresponsible to bitch and moan about people who take time away from their families and, in most cases, volunteer or make little-to-no money to try and better the lives of others.
I’m convinced if more people would shut their mouths, engage their ears and get off their butts, we could have a lot less division and much more progress.
That being said, in looking at what’s going on in Clifton Forge it amazes me that we’re still talking about the special use permit request from the Clifton Forge Rescue Squad.
This should have been a done deal by now.
If you haven’t been following this issue, the Clifton Forge Rescue Squad has asked the town of Clifton Forge to allow it to redevelop the former radio station property on Ingalls Street for a new rescue squad facility.
In July, the Clifton Forge Planning Commission voted against the request after a few of the neighbors and property owners turned out to speak against it.
Although the planning commission voted against it, Clifton Forge Town Council has the final say and can ignore the planning commission’s recommendation; which it had the ability to do last month.
Unfortunately, town council couldn’t take a stand on the issue, one way or the other, and voted to table it until this month.
That, I think, is the part that really amazes me; but that remains to be seen.
The most recent chapter in this saga came this past Tuesday, when town council and members of the Clifton Forge Planning Commission held a work session to discuss the squad’s request.
The Virginian Review has stayed away from getting in the middle of this issue, outside of reporting what happened last month when town council tabled the squad’s request.
In retrospect, though, that may not have been the best idea, seeing the chaos that has been created by the reporting of our dear friend Mr. Used Car Guy.
Well, actually, his brand of information dissemination is nowhere close to anything that could be construed as subjective reporting, especially in this situation. He really gives a new meaning to the worn-out phrase “Fake News.”
You see, despite my intense fear of being called “The Shallow” again (Really, that’s all you can come up with?), Mr. Used Car Guy, while taking his Blair Witch camera and sticking it up in people’s noses at meetings, has also been knee-deep in making this issue much more convoluted than it really needs to be.
It seems Mr. Used Car Guy has two lots that he has been actively trying to pawn off on the squad.
He even made it clear in one of his Facebook posts that he is trying to sell his used car lot and a lot behind Family Dollar so he can move his little media empire elsewhere.
The squad has stated many times those two lots not only come with exorbitant price tags, way out of the squad’s price range, but neither one is suitable to meet the squad’s needs.
Unfortunately for our Facebook aficionado, his narcissism and constant use of third-person reporting didn’t go over too well with Clifton Forge Rescue Squad supporters following his exclusive report of what happened at Tuesday’s meeting.
One squad member, Bobby Wright, commented, “So now we see how the media will spin context to fit their needs and pad their pockets by making public opinion against the squad.”
Another squad member, known on Facebook as Rebecca Faith, put it better than I can, “I have tried really hard to be respectful to you, both on this platform and in public when I see you. But quick question, just for knowledge, when is the last time that you volunteered for something that helped out the greater good? I never thought this would have been a fight that a volunteer organization would fight. But it seems the times have changed, and this online gossip group you have going on is doing nothing but giving you a place to stir the pot and be an online bully. Shame on you.”
Yet another person commented, saying, I’ve never seen an area so resistant to positive progression. I hope everyone following this gets 100 percent of the story and not just what is chosen to be broadcasted on this glorified gossip site.”
I could go much further, but I think you get the idea.
The Boss told me this morning that he has talked with both sides and is going to be meeting early next week with Clifton Forge Rescue Squad Captain Matt Booze and Clifton Forge Town Manager Darlene Burcham to get to the bottom of this issue, straight from the sources, and put together a report for The Virginian that will tell everything — the good, the bad and the ugly, straight down the middle.
But just when it appeared that both sides were at loggerheads and a resolution could not be found, Councilman Jeff Irvine swooped in Tuesday night with what I feel is a fine idea that will give the squad exactly what it needs.
Several years ago, the squad approached the town about purchasing three acres of town-owned property on Hickory Street.
At the time, the town turned down the request.
Since that time, a professor at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College has come along and said there is a wetland in that area that harbors evidence of prehistoric shrimp and similar such oddities.
I was told that the Army Corps of Engineers has been doing tests in the area to see if it would be considered a wetland, but I’m not sure where we stand as far as results from those tests. We’ll talk about that in a later column.
To be honest, I thought the only fossil in Clifton Forge sold used cars and talked in the third person.
I could be wrong, though.
Anyway, Jeff’s idea is to sell the rescue squad two acres of that property – two acres that do not include the potential wetlands.
That wasn’t mentioned in our friend’s Facebook reporting of Tuesday’s meeting.
Jeff said that he has spoken to Captain Booze, who said two acres would fit the needs of the squad very well, but also told me that the squad is in negotiations with DSLCC for some land near the college campus.
I know what the argument against this idea would be – that the town will be selling town property (I’d say both acres would be sold for somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000, but I’m no realtor by any stretch of the imagination) and lose a potential site for future commercial or retail development.
And that’s true.
The town would be forfeiting future tax revenues if this property is sold to the squad.
But, on the other side of the coin, unless the town can lure a large manufacturing industry to that site, the reality of it is that even if a business did locate there, the town wouldn’t see anywhere close to $40,000 in tax revenues from it for a 10 to 20 year period.
The only exception to that might have been had the Kroger fueling station plan come to fruition, but that’s a different topic for a whole different day.
At this point, if I were a member of the town’s leadership, it would appear to be more beneficial to sell the property and use the income for something that it needs now.
That might seem a bit shortsighted, but while none of us have a crystal ball to know what the future holds, I really don’t see a long line of potential businesses looking to locate at that site at the present time.
The only think I know for certain is this: The members of the Clifton Forge Rescue Squad do a fantastic job in making not only the town of Clifton Forge but almost the entire east-end of Alleghany County a safe place to live and we all need to be thankful that there are still individuals throughout the Alleghany Highlands that are willing to give up their time and talents to serve the needs of others. Maybe those that are against the rescue squad’s plan can come off of their egos and walk in our local volunteers’ shoes for a while and see how easy it really is.
That’s the very least we can do to show these unsung heroes our support.
And, it wouldn’t hurt if Clifton Forge gave the squad unmetered water access again.
That’s just my opinion, though.
Got a rumor you’d like to share with me?
Don’t agree with something you’ve read in The Shadow?
Send an email to TheShadow1914@aol.com and tell me all about it.
You can also snail-mail me at: The Shadow, c/o The Virginian Review, P.O. Box 271, Covington, Va. 24426.
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
Only the Shadow knows…”