Amber Alert Plugs Into Virginia Lottery

Governor Bob McDonnell announced today a new partnership between the Virginia Lottery and Virginia State Police aimed at increasing the chances of Virginia law enforcement locating a missing and endangered child during a Virginia Amber Alert. The new concept is a result of a suggestion submitted by a citizen to the governor by email.

“When the Virginia State Police issues an Amber Alert, every second counts and the message needs to be spread quickly,” said Governor McDonnell. “Thanks to a great idea from Christopher Divers of Virginia Beach and the collaborative efforts of the Virginia Lottery and our State Police, thousands of Lottery retailers in the Commonwealth will be able to notify customers of a Virginia Amber Alert activation.”

The Lottery’s in-store electronic display systems will indicate the locality of the alert and instruct the public to go to for details concerning the missing and endangered child and any information regarding the abductor. The Amber Alert messages will scroll across the top of the self-service Lottery Express vending machines and along the display screen above the clerk-operated Lottery terminal.

Under normal circumstances, these display systems show jackpot amounts and marketing messages. While the alert is scrolling, no marketing messages will be displayed. Retailers do not need to do anything; the messages are generated by the Lottery’s data center, which receives the notification from Virginia State Police.

Currently the Lottery has more than 5,000 clerk-operated terminals and approximately 700 Lottery Express self-service vending machines at retailers across the Commonwealth.

“We are delighted to be able to use the Lottery’s equipment and partnerships with retailers across the Commonwealth to assist the Virginia State Police,” said Paula Otto, Virginia Lottery executive director. “While we hope this help will never be needed, we want to respond quickly and effectively when it becomes necessary.”

The Virginia Amber Alert Program was established by the General Assembly in 2002 and been used to issue 29 alerts for missing and endangered child cases that meet the criteria for activation. The Amber Alert notifies the public of a missing and endangered child via broadcast media through the Emergency Alert System, Virginia Department of Transportation electronic message signs, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Amber Alert website, the Virginia State Police Facebook page, and the non-profit A Child Is Missing Program. Major public utilities and the Virginia Realtors Association also help spread the message of an alert to their employees statewide.

It’s Spring! Rain, Sleet & Snow Forecast For Clarke County

The next few days are shaping up for a sloppy encore to the snow and rains that swamped the county over the weekend. Weather conditions similar to the storm that hit our area are in place again and could offer a repeat of snow, rain and flooding over the next few days.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch from 12:00 pm est today through Thursday evening. Periods of moderate to heavy rain will move into the region ahead of a cold front this afternoon into Thursday. By the time  the front clears the area Thursday evening up to 3 inches of  rain will be possible.

The NWS says that the forecasted rainfall amounts likely will cause flooding of low lying areas as well as cause small streams and creeks to  rise out of their banks. The runoff would then create significant rises on area rivers.

Levels on the Shenandoah River are already elevated due to the nearly two inches of rain followed by snowfall received on Sunday night.

Although metrological spring occurred on March 1st, sleet is in today’s forecast with snow predicted for Thursday night.

Motorists are urged to slow down if foul weather conditions occur.


The National Weather Service Forecast for Berryville, Virginia:

Today: A chance of rain, snow, and sleet before noon, then rain. High near 44. Southeast wind between 8 and 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Tonight: Rain. The rain could be heavy at times. Low around 44. Southeast wind between 11 and 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.

Thursday: Rain. The rain could be heavy at times. High near 54. Southeast wind 5 to 14 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible.

Thursday Night: A chance of rain before 1am, then a chance of rain and snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 37. West wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.


(Click to enlarge)


Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years, says new UN report

GENEVA, 8 March 2011 – Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods, a new UN report* shows. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agro-ecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.

“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live — especially in unfavorable environments.”

Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.

“To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects,” De Schutter says. “Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.”

“Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today,” De Schutter stresses. “A large segment of the scientific community now acknowledges the positive impacts of agroecology on food production, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation — and this this is what is needed in a world of limited resources. Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/ha to 2-3 tons/ha.”

The report also points out that projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh recorded up to 92 % reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to important savings for poor farmers. “Knowledge came to replace pesticides and fertilizers. This was a winning bet, and comparable results abound in other African, Asian and Latin American countries,” the independent expert notes.

“The approach is also gaining ground in developed countries such as United States, Germany or France,” he said. “However, despite its impressive potential in realizing the right to food for all, agroecology is still insufficiently backed by ambitious public policies and consequently hardly goes beyond the experimental stage.”

The report identifies a dozen of measures that States should implement to scale up agroecological practices.

“Agroecology is a knowledge-intensive approach. It requires public policies supporting agricultural research and participative extension services,” De Schutter says. “States and donors have a key role to play here. Private companies will not invest time and money in practices that cannot be rewarded by patents and which don’t open markets for chemical products or improved seeds.”

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food also urges States to support small-scale farmer’s organizations, which demonstrated a great ability to disseminate the best agroecological practices among their members. “Strengthening social organization proves to be as impactful as distributing fertilizers. Small-scale farmers and scientists can create innovative practices when they partner”, De Schutter explains.

“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

“If key stakeholders support the measures identified in the report, we can see a doubling of food production within 5 to 10 years in some regions where the hungry live,” De Schutter says. “Whether or not we will succeed this transition will depend on our ability to learn faster from recent innovations. We need to go fast if we want to avoid repeated food and climate disasters in the 21st century.”

(*) The report “Agro-ecology and the right to food” was presented today before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This document is available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian at: and


Town Gives School a Pass on Temporary Entrance to High School

Planned extension of Mosby Blvd. -Images courtesy of VDOT

Progress on the new high school continues at a pace that is well ahead of schedule and Shockey Construction wants to know if a temporary entrance mandated by the Special Use Permit will really be needed.   According to Town Manger Keith Dalton, representatives from Shockey contacted the town regarding the planned temporary entrance off of Main Street near Tom Whitacre Circle to determine whether it actually needs to be constructed in order to meet the Special Use Permit conditions to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the school.   The Special Use Permit granted for the new Clarke County High School contained a specific condition regarding access to the school property. It was intended to ensure that the new school would be served by three permanent points of vehicular access, one from West Main Street and two from Mosby Blvd. A subsection of that condition provides for construction of a temporary entrance off of Main Street to serve as the third entrance until a second Mosby entrance can be built.

The temporary entrance is part of the High School bid and Shockey is willing to construct it. However,   if the Town Council determines that the second permanent access from Mosby Blvd. will be completed in a timely manner, the temporary entrance could be eliminated from the project. The elimination of the temporary entrance would provide a significant cost savings to the Clarke County Public Schools.

At their Tuesday March, 8th meeting the council needed to determine the likelihood that Mosby Blvd. would actually be completed.

All signs from VDOT indicate that Mosby is indeed on track to be completed, but Keith Dalton pointed out that, “No one will really know until the bids are unsealed for the project.” This is because there is a very limited budget available for construction of the road and if bids are over the budget for the project, there will be no additional funds and the project could be scuttled.

The Town Council does have the flexibility to permit occupancy of the High School without the temporary entrance if, according to the language in the Special Use Permit,   “Town Council determines that the second permanent access from Mosby Blvd. will be completed in a timely manner.” If all goes as planned VDOT says they expect to have Mosby Blvd. substantially complete in August 2012.

Even if the road was not completed, the Special Use Permit would still require the addition of a third permanent entrance off of Main Street by 2016.

A motion was made by Town Recorder,   Jay Arnold and was seconded by Ward Three Council Member, Mary Daniel. The council passed the motion unanimously. The School Board will now have the option to delete the temporary entrance from the project.

In other news:

  • The U.S. Census data is in and according to the numbers, the Town of Berryville grew 42% in the last decade. This places the Town’s population at 4,185. Virginia laws change significantly when a town’s population exceeds 3, 500. Town Manager Keith Dalton said the town staff was reviewing the specific requirements and would present detailed information at the next town meeting.
  • Council approved a motion to pursue a $5K Virginia Commission for the Arts Local Government Challenge Grant in matching funds for Berryville Main Street.
  • The Business Incubator also moved forward as the council approved the lease for the second story space above the Firehouse Gallery.
  • Also, capital improvement projects are moving right forward as construction on the sewage treatment plant proceeds on schedule and all of the pipe has been laid for the outfall line. Remaining work on the pipeline consists of restoration of property affected by the work.


County Population Increase Means Election District Changes

Information recently released from the U.S. 2010 Census shows that Clarke County has gotten a little more crowded over the last decade. Aside from more cars on the road and longer lines and the check-out counter, the population boom also means that election voting districts have to be reviewed and, if necessary, redrawn to ensure that all districts hold a similar number of voters.

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors got their first look at proposed election district changes, commonly referred to as re-districting, on Monday.

Clarke County’s population increased from 12,652 to 14,034, an 11.4% increase over the previous census count in 2000. Federal election law mandates that the number of voters assigned to each election district be computed by totaling all election districts and then dividing the total voter population by the number of voting districts, five in the case of Clarke County.

Using the election district voter formula, each Clarke County voting district must contain 2807 based on the new census figures. ( Election Districts are allowed to vary by plus or minus five percent (2667 to 2947 voters)

On Monday Clarke County Planning Administrator Chuck Johnston presented the Supervisors with maps showing voting district changes that will meet the letter of voting laws. It will be up to the Supervisors to determine the final election district boundaries.

“Virginia law requires Election District Boundaries to be ‘clearly defined and clearly  observable boundaries’” Johnston said. “This section defines “clearly observable boundary” to include roads, rivers, and other perm anent physical features recognized on official maps. Several segments of  the Berryville Election District boundaries followed the Town corporate limits in 2001. Town  corporate limits have changed since 2001 and the expansions of the Berryville Election District  are shifts away from former corporate boundaries to new corporate boundaries or specific  physical features.”

According to Johnston, the Berryville, Buckmarsh and Russell voting districts now exceeds the voter target range while Millwood and White Post fall below the required voter threshold.

Election Population Adjustment
District 2000 Increase 2010 Areas NEW % from mean
Berryville 2631 +712 3343 - 451 – 85 + 18 + 17 + 10 2852 + 1.6%
Buckmarsh 2488 +376 2864 - 10 2854 + 1.7%
Millwood 2518 +106 2624 - 81 + 142 + 85 – 18 – 17 2735 -2.6%
Russell 2429 +158 2587 - 142 + 451 2896 + 1.7%
White Post 2586 +30 2616 + 81 2697 - 3.9%
Mean 2807
-5% 2667
+5% 2947

However, drawing new district voting lines are only part of the challenge facing the county’s Supervisors. With fall elections approaching, candidates face petition filing deadlines that require signatures from voters in the candidate’s election district.

Knowing exactly where each district’s boundaries are could mean the difference between having a valid filing petition and not. Several steps, including certification by the U.S. Department of Justice, must occur before the new district lines are finalized. At Monday’s meeting, Supervisors discussed a target submission to the Department of Justice for May, 2011. DOJ will then have 60 days to review the new district lines before responding.

“The deadline for filing a nomination petition is August 23rd” General Registrar Barbara B. Bosserman told the Supervisors. “We need to have everything approved by the Department of Justice before I can certify the nominees.

Clarke County’s Primary Election is currently scheduled for August 23, 2011 with the General/Special Election locked in for November 8, 2011.

Proposed election district changes are shown below:

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Street Lighting Under Consideration for Mosby School Extension

The Clarke County School Board said Tuesday night that the new high school construction project is under budget (Click to enlarge)

With construction of the new high school 40% complete and running below its budget, School Board members turned their attention to the planned horticultural greenhouse and lighting issues on Mosby Boulevard.

With an original price tag of just over $23M, the net of project change orders so far have saved the county $86K. The savings have been derived from the substitution of aluminum electrical conductors in place of copper feeders and through the installation of a foundation slab rather than running the lines overhead.

The School Board is also implementing another cost avoidance strategy moving forward with drilling wells for irrigation. The well water will allow the school system to avoid purchasing the irrigation water from the Town of Berryville. In moving forward with the strategy the School Board has ordered that the greenhouse design include a water-well irrigation system.

At Tuesday night’s School Board meeting design sketches of the greenhouse, including landscape shrubbery and privacy fencing were presented.

According to documents presented at last night’s meeting Virginia Department of Transportation anticipates design approval for Mosby Boulevard in March 2011. Although VDOT says Mosby plans are continuing to be refined and detailed, it still on schedule for an April field inspection.

VDOT says that it is currently developing a construction schedule for the project and a refining cost estimates. As part of the cost estimate process, VDOT says that it is proceeding with lighting design for the entire project, including the roundabout and Mosby Blvd. VDOT has met with utility companies and provided a lighting design layout for review and comment.

CCHS greenhouse design will include shrubbery and privacy fencing (Click to enlarge)Three board privacy fence design to be used for the new greenhouse (Click to enlarge)

Berryville School Board member Jennifer Welliver expressed support for lighting the entire length of Mosby Boulevard even if it means providing additional easement space to VDOT on the north side of the roadway.

“This is a safety issue for students and residents that will be walking along the road” Welliver said. “Kids will be walking there at night after football games and in the morning on the way to school. Mosby really needs to have streetlights.”

Berryville Police Weekly Report 2/27/2011 – 3/5/2011

Date / Time Address Call Type
2-27 00:20 Page St Open Door
2-27 00:50 Battletown Dr Open Door
2-27 01:30 Ridge Rd Open Door
2-27 08:30 Fremont Ct 911 Hang up
2-27 15:44 First St Suspcious Activity
2-27 17:55 Cobbler Dr Juvenile Issues
2-27 18:41 Acadmey St ATV incident
2-27 18:53 Ritter Pl Cat in tree
2-27 19:28 Henderson Ct 911 hang up
2-27 22:00 S Buckmarsh St Public Service
2-27 23:30 Lord Fairfax Hwy Assist Sheriff’s Office
2-28 01:28 Mosby/Archer Missing Street Signs
2-28 12:23 E Main St Phone Threats
2-28 16:05 Police Department Harassment
2-28 17:30 Montgomery Ct Suspicious Activity
2-28 22:45 W Main St Fraud
3-1 10:22 Ritter Pl Dog Running at Large
3-1 11:48 Rice/Walnut Dog running at large
3-1 14:39 Moore Dr Code Enforcement
3-1 14:55 Byrd Ave Alarm
3-1 20:13 Academy St Civil Matter
3-2 03:55 Millwood Assist Sheriff’s Office
3-2 10:15 Ritter Pl Dog Running at Large
3-2 16:05 S Buckmarsh Public Service
3-2 23:40 S Buckmarsh Public Service
3-3 06:00 Mosby Blvd Alarm
3-3 11:45 E Fairfax St Abandoned Vehicle tagged
3-3 12:05 E Main St Suspicious Person/Trespassing
3-3 16:04 Chalmers Ct Assist Rescue Squad
3-3 17:30 Page St Attempted Warrant Service
3-3 18:23 Page St Warrant Service
3-3 19:50 W Main St Welfare Check
3-3 18:55 Rockcroft Dr Dog Running at Large
3-3 23:45 W Main St Fight in Progress/Drunk in Public
3-4 03:48 Beydler Dr Assist Sheriff’s Office
3-4 10:47 Buckmarsh/Main Funeral Escort
3-4 14:49 100 blcok N Buckmarsh Traffic Hazard
3-4 17:29 Montgomery Ct Suspicious Activity
3-4 22:29 E Fairfax St Attempted Warrant Service
3-5 00:16 Henderson Ct Suspicious Activity
3-5 12:18 Rt 340 S Assist Sheriff’s Office
3-5 13:26 S Buckmarsh Welfare Check
3-5 15:44 S Church St Public Service
3-5 15:46 Moore Dr Vandalism
3-5 18:11 W Main St Open Burn Permit
3-5 18:42 Ritter Pl Civil Matter
3-5 21:20 W Main St Assault
3-5 22:46 S Buckmarsh St Welfare Check

New Mobile Repair Service is Built Lean to Thrive in a Tough Economy

Sometimes the ideas born out of hardship provide the best solutions to tough problems. Such is the case with Greg Davis’ nascent equipment repair business in Clarke County. After being laid off from his previous job, Greg Davis had a front row view of the economic difficulties facing our community but he also had a clear perspective on the challenges that businesses face that rely on diesel trucks and heavy equipment.

Business owner Greg Davis

Greg said, “If your equipment fails you in the field you have to call and have it towed to get it fixed. Towing is expensive, so I thought wouldn’t it be nice to have someone come to you for a change.”

So instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of his layoff, Greg decided to launch a new service to cater to the needs of small to mid-size businesses in Clarke County who need diesel and heavy equipment repairs.

“Some companies don’t do road side services, job site repairs, or farm calls and most of the locals have to go to or be towed to Winchester for repairs or servicing because there just isn’t anyone in Clarke County doing this type of work.” he said.

He launched Davis Mobile Repair Service LLC and provides the parts and labor to fix any type of mechanical failure on diesel trucks, heavy equipment and farm tractors. As the owner and sole employee, Davis can offer very affordable repairs through his niche repair service. His business also provides the added benefit of returning equipment to service quickly. Repairs in the field mean the equipment is back in service and generating revenue for the owner as soon as it is fixed. He also can provide regular maintenance and said, “Fixing the smaller problems when they appear, will help equipment run better and last longer, which will prevent bigger problems caused from lack of maintenance and upkeep.”

Greg started his career in diesel mechanics at the young age of 13 and for the past 20 years has honed his skills repairing and maintaining every type of heavy equipment from trucks to bulldozers. He holds a degree in Automotive and Diesel Technology and has certifications in Air Conditioning and Electrical Services as well as Truck Brake Systems. He also holds a   Class A CDL license.

He can be reached at 540-535-6782 Mon-Sat. from   6am-7 pm. Calls after 7 pm will be returned as soon as possible and no later than the next business day.

Storm Dumps Rain then Snow

A powerful storm that soaked Clarke County with rain during much of Sunday left the area with an unexpected covering of snow overnight before moving up the coast. Unofficial rainfall totals for the event were just over 1.5 inches. Snowfall totals ranged from a trace of snow in Berryville and the northern Shenandoah Valley to nearly four inches of snow on the Blue Ridge in the eastern sections of Clarke County.

Area snowfall totals from Sunday night's snowstorm (Click to enlarge map)

What began as a steady rain early Sunday morning quickly turned to sleet and snow as temperatures fell after sundown on Sunday evening. Snowplows along Blue Ridge Mountain Highway (Route 601) struggled to stay ahead of the heavy, wet, frozen precipitation. The snow was accompanied by strong gusty winds that created snow drifts of about a foot in height across road surfaces.

The Thompson Wildlife Management area just south of Clarke County, Virginia logged 4.8 inches of snowfall. Wind gusts of 29 miles per hour were recorded overnight just north of Mount Weather.

Temperatures will remain seasonable for the remainder of the week with highs in the upper 40’s according to the National Weather Service. The chance of rain returned on Wednesday and Thursday.

Snowfall - Route 601, March 6, 2011 in Clarke County, Virginia - Photo Edward Leonard

Snowfall - Route 601, March 6, 2011 in Clarke County, Virginia - Photo Edward Leonard

Snowfall - Route 601, March 6, 2011 in Clarke County, Virginia - Photo Edward Leonard

Obituary for Joan Mercedes Banks

Joan Mercedes “Dee Baby” Banks, of Millwood, VA, departed this life on March 5, 2011 at her home in Millwood, VA, surrounded by her beloved family.

She was born January 15, 1933 in Millwood, VA., the daughter of the late David Marshall Banks and Mary Charity Banks.

Dee attended Elementary and Secondary Millwood County Schools.   She graduated from Johnson Williams High School in 1952 and worked as the school’s secretary for several years.   She loved her family and cherished her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.   She was a loyal and devoted fan of the Washington Redskins and the L.A. Lakers.   She was actively involved with the community and the Clarke County School system.   Her hobbies included cooking, playing Pokenoe, Bid Whist, and entertaining her family and friends.

She leaves to cherish her memory, her lifetime companion, David “Chuck” Thornton; four children, Tyrone Banks of Millwood, VA; LaVerne Wright (George) of Alexandria, VA; Sue Banks of Alexandria VA; David Banks (Sharon) of Winchester, VA; stepdaughter, Deborah Davis of Richmond, VA; one sister, Mary V. Walker of Winchester, VA; two brothers, David Banks Jr. of Millwood, VA and William Banks Sr. (Cynthia) of Winchester, VA; 9 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and her beloved pet dog L.B.

One brother, Madison Alfonso Banks preceded her in death.

Funeral services will be held 1:00 p.m. Saturday, March 12, 2011 at the Enders & Shirley Funeral Home Chapel, Berryville.   Burial will follow in the Little Chapel Cemetery, Millwood, VA.   The family will receive friends one hour before the funeral.

Pallbearers will be Darren Banks, Jonathan Wright, Jerrell Wright, Gerrod Wright, Robert Finley, Williams Banks Jr. and Vernon, Duffy Banks.

Honorary Pallbearers will be George Vernon Wright III, Welby Reid, James Banks, Robert Mason, John Townley, Christopher Paugh, and Matthew Paugh.

The family wishes to thank The Blue Ridge Hospice nurses, Nelia Alachay and Ruby Dokes, caregivers Toni Finley and Barbara Stewart for their compassionate and loving care during Dee’s illness.

To view obituary or send condolences online, please visit