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Sups Propose 4.5-Cent Tax Hike

  • Written by Ed Smith


A 4.5-cent increase to Rockbridge County's tax rate is contemplated in a proposed budget that's being taken to a public hearing.


The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted 5-0 to advertise a real estate tax rate of 71.5 cents per $100 assessed value. There's actually quite a bit of uncertainty over the budget because of an impasse on a spending plan at the state level.


“The Board agreed to move ahead using the most conservative state figures,” said County Administrator Spencer Suter, who prepared a budget document with Steve Bolster, the county's director of fiscal services.


The budget includes step increases for eligible county employees that would take effect July 1, and 1 percent raises for all county employees, effective Dec. 1. The latter of these proposals is based on the latest proposed pay hikes for state employees.


Among the planned new expenditures in the county are $71,737 for a human resources officer that would cover salary and benefits, $400,000 for contracted ambulance services and $110,000 for a major upgrade to the Lake Robertson pool.


A more detailed account of the proposed budget will be in the April 16 print edition of The News-Gazette. A public hearing hearing on the proposed budget will take place Wednesday, April 23, at 6 p.m. Adoption is scheduled for the following week on April 30.


Ex-BV Fire Chief Pleads Guilty

  • Written by Roberta Anderson


Former Buena Vista fire chief Butch Lawhorn pleaded guilty Monday in Buena Vista Circuit Court to 22 charges relating to the fraudulent certification of other first responders in swiftwater rescue.


Lawhorn pleaded guilty to 11 counts of taking money under false pretense and 11 counts of forgery.


Buena Vista Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Russell told the court that Lawhorn had represented himself as an instructor certified by the California-based company Rescue 3. He accepted approximately $21,000 in payment for courses that he had taught to both individuals and to fire departments from neighboring jurisdictions between 2011 and 2013. Lawhorn used course materials from Rescue 3 without the company’s permission, Russell said; and forged course completion certificates from Rescue 3.


Lawhorn had originally been indicted on 50 counts of forgery and 27 counts of taking money under false pretenses following an investigation by the Virginia State Police.


Attorney David Natkin who represented Lawhorn told the court that Lawhorn had been certified by Rescue 3 in 2007, but had not renewed his certification when it expired in 2010.


Sentencing in the case has been set for June 20.


Plogger Resigns From BV Council

  • Written by Ed Smith

Lewis Plogger on Thursday night tendered his resignation as a member of Buena Vista City Council. Plogger made the surprise announcement at the end of Council’s regular meeting.

After the last item on the agenda had been dispensed with, Plogger said he’d like to make a statement. Saying it has been an honor to serve on Council the past six years, “the last two years have felt more like a job than service.” Since he retired as police chief seven years ago, he’s been able to do what he wants to do, but lately the duties of Council have been hard on him and his family, he said.

“As of tonight, I resign my seat on City Council,” he concluded.

“That came out of the blue,” responded Mayor Frankie Hogan, who turned to City Attorney Brian Kearney for advice on what Council’s options were in regard to Plogger’s announcement. Kearney said Council could either accept the resignation or not.

Hogan opted to postpone having Council make a decision until its next meeting.

Fooling Around The R.E. Lee

  • Written by Claudia Schwab



Mark Cline does some serious “monkey bSee no Evilusiness” for April Fools Day as he attaches one of his three monkey installations to a platform on the balcony of the R.E. Lee Building above Main Street in Lexington Monday evening. Cline is the subject of a feature-length documentary to be featured in the April 5 Weekender. (Claudia Schwab photo)


BV Police Chief, Assistant Retiring

  • Written by Ed Smith


Buena Vista's police chief and assistant chief are both retiring. City Manager Jay Scudder said Friday morning that Darrell Slagle and Jay Patterson, chief and assistant chief, respectively, are stepping down.


Both officers have spent decades with the department. Scudder said neither is being forced from his job. “They're very much in good standing,” said the city manager. “They're honorable, dedicated gentlemen. They're very good people who served Buena Vista very well.”


The retirements are effective in July but because of unused leave, both will be departing well before then. Slage's last day is Friday. Patterson will be in charge of the department until he leaves in May, or until an interim chief is hired. Scudder said he's working with Mayor Frankie Hogan to find a “well-respected retired chief” to assume the post on a temporary basis.


Scudder recalled a similar set of circumstances a couple of years ago when Jack Gross, a retired local government administrator, was brought in to be Buena Vista city manager on a temporary basis. Scudder said a retired police chiefs association is being contacted in the search for prospective candidates.


“Somebody very professional will come in,” said Scudder. “We'll take our time. We'll not be in a hurry [to hire someone].”