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City Matches Downtown Facade Grant

  • Written by Roberta Anderson

Lexington City Council Thursday night appropriated an additional $10,000 to the city façade grant program as a match to the $10,000 that was recently contributed by Historic Lexington Foundation.

A letter to Council from HLF director Donald Hasfurther reported that the most recent $2,000 grant from the joint city/HLF fund has been awarded to First Baptist Church for the repainting of the steeple.

Other downtown renovations completed with matching grants from the fund to the owners have been the exterior painting of the Books & Co. building and extensive exterior work on the Campbell House belonging to the Rockbridge Historical Society.

In making his recommendation for the city to continue to contribute to the façade repair program, City Manager Jon Ellestad noted that a total of $16,500 in funds have been contributed to downtown repairs.

Judge Hears Motions In Hansel Case

  • Written by Kit Huffman

Several pre-trial motions were heard Wednesday morning in Rockbridge Circuit Court for the upcoming Aug. 25 trial of Nicholas Perry Hansel.

The former Washington and Lee student has been charged with a number of offenses, with the most serious being aggravated involuntary manslaughter. He’s also charged with two maiming offenses.

In the early hours of Dec. 3 last year, Hansel was driving an SUV back to Lexington containing 10 other W&L students after attending an off-campus party. The SUV overturned on Turkey Hill Road. Three students were hospitalized and Kelsey H. Durkin died of injuries sustained in the crash.

Hansel, who was released from jail on bond, was present in Judge Michael Irvine’s court Wednesday, along with three defense lawyers. Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert “Bucky” Joyce is prosecuting the case.

In one of the motions, Joyce requested that the jury, once selected, be transported to the scene of the accident in order to see for themselves the grade and topography of Turkey Hill Road, where the accident took place.

Judge Irvine ruled that he would take the transportation request under advisement, but he advised Joyce to have potential travel arrangements in place during the time of the trial.

A defense lawyer then made several motions, the first being for a change of venue for the trial. He said he was “concerned about the very substantial amount of publicity” the case has received, as well as the “broad issues about alcohol.” There had also been coverage regarding the W&L president, who had made a number of communications to the community, the lawyer said. He also cited a prior accident “alleged to be a similar event, as though there’s an ongoing problem.” He said the reporting may be accurate but that it’s by nature inflammatory.

But Joyce countered that “we’re in a fast-paced world and the collective memory is short,” and that he had “good confidence that we can seat a suitable jury.”

Judge Irvine said he must try to seat a jury (locally) but that he would take the motion under advisement. He also granted leave to the defense team to file any additional support for their motion.

The defense also moved for the chance to interview jury members individually in a sequestered setting in order to find how they felt about such issues as drinking and driving, young people and other “deeply personal issues, especially alcohol and substance abuse.” Joyce said other options are possible, such as interviewing smaller panels of jury members. Judge Irvine said he would take the defense motion under advisement, but that he anticipated a voir dire of the entire panel, though the smaller-panel option could be used, with panels of three or five, based on the proposed questions from the defense. He asked that the proposed voir dire be submitted seven days prior to the jury selection.

“I want both sides to get a fair trial,” Irvine declared.

Irvine denied a defense motion to submit a draft questionnaire to jurors to “streamline the process.” He said the court would conduct a very thorough voir dire to screen out people who know about the case, have preconceived biases or have connections to either side of the case. He felt the questionnaire would not be helpful and could be cumbersome and invasive.

The last motion filed by the defense concerned the showing of “prejudicial nature of the autopsy photographs.” Joyce confirmed that there are 55 autopsy photographs, “some of which are not attractive,” and that he had not thought to introduce them. However, if any became “probative as to the severity of the crash or the location of the person in the SUV,” then he might show these.

“The commonwealth is allowed to show the mechanism of death,” he ruled, though 55 photos would be too many to show. However, if photos are necessary to show the mechanism of death, then that would be done, he said. He did caution that there would be “no redundancy” in the showing of the photos.

Bridge Named For Trooper Hines Dedicated

  • Written by Darryl Woodson

Virginia legislators, state and local law enforcement, the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Department of Transportation, family and friends gathered Monday, July 14, 2014, in Lexington to dedicate a portion of Interstate 81 in memory of slain Virginia State Police Master Trooper Jerry L. Hines. During the 2014 General Assembly session, Sen. Creigh Deeds and Del. Ben Cline sponsored legislation to designate the I-81 bridge over the Maury River in Rockbridge County - the Master Trooper Jerry L. Hines Memorial Bridge.

Hines, 48, was shot and killed at approximately 11:55 p.m. on Feb. 20, 1989, during the course of a traffic stop in the southbound lanes of I-81 near the I-64 interchange in Rockbridge County. Hines’ line-of-duty death occurred during an eight-hour rampage that started in Shenandoah County when Dennis W. Eaton, 32, of Mount Jackson, Va., killed a neighbor and a male friend of Eaton’s girlfriend. Following those shootings, Eaton stole his neighbor’s car and was traveling along I-81 when Hines initiated the traffic stop. After shooting Hines, Eaton and his girlfriend fled the scene. They were later spotted by a Salem police officer. A high-speed pursuit ensued and ended when Eaton crashed into a series of utility poles. Immediately following the crash, Eaton shot and killed his girlfriend, exchanged gunfire with the Salem police officers, and then wounded himself. Eaton was finally taken into custody.Hines-DedicationHines Bridge dedication Hines FamilyHines Memorial Bridge dedication CreighHines Bridge dedication unveiling

W&L Removes Flags From Lee Chapel

  • Written by Ed Smith


The battle flags of the Confederacy that have been on display inside Lee Chapel have been removed. Washington and Lee University Kenneth P. Ruscio explained why the flags were removed in a message to the community on Tuesday.

The flags, actually reproductions, were removed earlier this week.  One or more of the original flags, now in the possession of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, are to be displayed on a rotating basis in the Lee Chapel Museum below the chapel. The original flags were removed from Lee Chapel in the 1990s because they were in a deteriorating condition. The flags have now been fully restored.

Removal of the flags from Lee Chapel was one of the demands made this spring by a group of W&L Law School students who refer to themselves as The Committee. Other demands made by the students included acknowledging W&L's past ties to slavery and cancelling undergraduate classes at W&L on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The complete statement released by Ruscio on Tuesday is as follows:

Continuing the Community Conversation

President Ruscio's Message to the Community on July 8

To: The University Community

From: President Kenneth P. Ruscio

Date: July 8, 2014

In a message to the Washington and Lee community on April 21, I indicated that I would continue to communicate with you as necessary about issues raised this past spring by some law students and covered extensively in the media. (See my previous messages to the community on this topic on the President's web page:

Ever since the students' letter to me and to members of the Board of Trustees became public, misinformation and erroneous assumptions have combined with emotionally charged reactions to create more heat than light. The often divisive nature of the conversations may have occasionally diverted our attention from these essential questions: How do we sustain a community that is based on mutual respect for everyone? How do we effectively celebrate our varied backgrounds and experiences as well as what we have in common?

As we examine these questions and the broader issues, though, I want to report here on several specific questions. In considering them, I have tried to call upon our principal values at Washington and Lee - our respect for one another, the civility we accord each other even when we disagree, our appeals to reason rather than emotion, our reverence for history along with our courage to examine it critically and learn from it, and our focus on the future even as we draw strength from the past.

These qualities complicate rather than simplify the resolution of these issues. That is the price an institution with a firm set of values and a complex history should willingly pay. These are legitimately complicated matters, and they are often uncomfortable, too; I fervently hope that one of the outcomes of these deliberations is that we become more comfortable dealing with them than we have been before.

1. The question about the regimental battle flags in Lee Chapel requires us to clarify the purpose, meaning and history of the flags, as well as the purpose and meaning of the chapel and the museum below the chapel. In 1930, several original and historic battle flags - "colors" that had been captured or surrendered to the Union army - were placed near the statue of Lee. The University did not own them. They were the property of the Museum of the Confederacy, now part of the American Civil War Museum, which asked us to return them in the 1990s because the manner of display in the chapel was causing their deterioration. They were replaced with reproductions, which are not historic and are not genuine artifacts.

The purpose of historic flags in a university setting is to educate. They are not to be displayed for decoration, which would diminish their significance, or for glorification, or to make a statement about past conflicts. The reproductions are not genuinely historic; nor are they displayed with any information or background about what they are. The absence of such explanation allows those who either "oppose" or "support" them to assert their own subjective and frequently incorrect interpretations.

Consequently, we will remove these reproductions from their current location and will enter into an agreement with the American Civil War Museum, in Richmond, to receive on loan one or more of the original flags, now restored, for display on a rotating basis in the Lee Chapel Museum, the appropriate location for such a display. In this way, those who wish to view these artifacts may do so, and the stories behind them can be properly told. You may view a history of the flags in the chapel at

2. I will urge the undergraduate faculty to decide this fall whether to cancel classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The faculty have authority over the academic calendar. I trust their judgment and will support their decision. I will recommend, however, that they not cancel classes. The question has never been whether or not we "fully recognize" King Day; the question is how we choose to honor Dr. King. For many years, we have offered both the W&L and Lexington communities an impressive array of presentations, service projects and performances to commemorate Dr. King's life. I worry that this compelling series of events would give way to an uneventful three-day weekend. Canceling classes may have symbolic significance; I prefer the substance of our current programs over the symbolism of a day off.

3. The University will continue to study its historic involvement with slavery. We acknowledge that this was a regrettable chapter of our history, and we must confront and try to understand this chapter. At Washington and Lee, we learn from the past, and this is an episode from which there is much to learn. In 1826, Washington College came into possession of between 70 and 80 enslaved people from the estate of "Jockey" John Robinson. Until 1852, the institution benefited from their enslaved labor and, in some cases, from their sale. Acknowledging that historical record - and acknowledging the contributions of those individuals - will require coming to terms with a part of our past that we wish had been different but that we cannot ignore. We are committed to telling the University's history accurately, including the stories of many individuals who should not be overlooked. That process is now underway through a special working group that was initially convened last fall and has begun to develop a timeline of the history of African Americans at the University and to explore other ways in which we can illuminate and recognize this history. See

4. Groups not affiliated with the University may continue to use Lee Chapel for events so long as they do so in accordance with our established policies and guidelines. This includes such non-University events as the annual lecture sponsored by an outside group as part of the statewide Lee-Jackson Day observance in Lexington. (W&L does not observe that state holiday.) As a private university, we are not bound by the same legal and constitutional First Amendment constraints as public institutions. As an educational institution devoted to free and open inquiry, however, we are bound by these values. We can and do impose conditions for Lee Chapel's use and for the use of all campus facilities. For example, a group may not "march" on our campus or use our campus as a platform for its own displays or statements. If it wishes to use the chapel for a lecture and adheres to our policies, however, it may do so.

5. In five years as president of Washington College (and in three as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy), Robert E. Lee displayed his estimable skill as an innovative and inspiring educator. I personally take pride in his significant accomplishments here and will not apologize for the crucial role he played in shaping this institution. Affection for and criticism of historical figures living in complicated times are not mutually exclusive positions, however, as the scholar Joseph Ellis concluded after his study of Thomas Jefferson. Ellis found it difficult to "steer an honorable course between evisceration and idolatry" when it came to Jefferson. As I have listened to and read comments about Lee these past few months, I have felt the same way. Lee was an imperfect individual living in imperfect times. Lee deserves, and his record can withstand, an honest appraisal by those who understand the complexities of history. His considerable contributions to this institution are part of that record.

These important conversations will continue, as they should; they will be fruitful only if those on all sides are willing to listen to one another with respect. As challenging as these issues are, I firmly believe there is considerable common ground that we will find if we work together in a spirit of cooperation rather than confrontation. I regret that the conversation seemed to begin with what divides us rather than what unites us. I hope the future is one of continued careful examination and further defining of our common purpose.

This is also an opportunity. I cannot imagine another institution more challenged by the complexity of history while at the same time more capable of illuminating not just our own history but the wider scope of our nation's. Our own arc of history traces that of our nation, from the founding period through the painful divide of the Civil War and up to the present time. We cannot and should not avoid these issues. Indeed, we ought to lead in addressing them.

I hope that will be the case.


Waddell Project Moving Forward

  • Written by Darryl Woodson



By Kit Huffman

“We’re working on it,” said Lexington Superintendent Dr. Dan Lyons Monday, when asked about the effort by the school division, OWPR architect and engineers and general contractor Nielsen Builders to bring down the cost of the new Waddell Elementary School building.

Nielsen’s apparent low bid for the project, based on a redesign by OWPR, came in at $13.394 million. However, Lexington City Council had previously agreed to fund the project at $12 million, obtaining the money through the spring bond sale by the Virginia Public School Authority. At its most recent meeting, which followed the bid opening, Council held the line at $12 million, leaving the division and its architects and contractor to find a way to cut at least $1 million.

When the redesign bids were opened last month − an earlier set of bids had been rejected as too high and the plans were quickly redrawn to find savings in construction time and materials − Lyons and the OWPR architect hypothesized that the subcontractors contributing their estimates to the bids hadn’t really looked at the redesign and realized what savings were to be found. Lyons vowed to “push” Nielsen to achieve a lower cost by negotiating with their subcontractors and through “value engineering,” a process in which less expensive materials are substituted for costlier ones.

Lyons said Monday that the parties concerned had first “sat at the table together” just five business days earlier and that the previous week had been a “short” one, due to the holiday. He said an update on cost reductions would be provided at the upcoming July 14 School Board meeting. A report will follow to City Council at its meeting on Thursday, July 17.

Meanwhile, the old Waddell building is “close to empty,” Lyons reported, and was hoped to be entirely emptied of classroom and other school materials by the end of this week. That will allow for the beginning of asbestos abatement, or removal, which should start next week. The low bid on that job came from Southern Environmental Services out of Richmond, for about $72,500. Asbestos, widely used through the early to mid-1980s for insulation and other purposes, is mostly found at Waddell in the glue under the floor tiles, as well as on the roof, said Lyons.

Teaching materials have been taken to the temporary classrooms behind Lylburn Downing Middle School and, in the case of the fifth grade, to the LDMS rooms to house that grade. Some materials, however, have been put aside to be placed in storage binds, Lyons said.

The classroom “pods” have been painted, the access ramps completed and the sidewalks leading to the middle school building done, he said. When electricity is hooked up, the air-conditioning can be started and the tile floor laid. The data cables are being installed this week, to be followed by plumbing.