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Not happy with policies

Forty three years ago I came to Bedford County and fell in love with this small town. I remember how billboards dominated every inch of Tidewater in the 1960s, a real culture shock from Europe. Bedford, however, was full of only mountains and fresh air. This area has changed quite a bit since then, but it still retains its charm ....

I would like to express my dissatisfaction with current policies in our county. I'm concerned to find out that our educators are being neglected. Teachers are the foundation of any civilized society and must be held in the highest regard.

Anyone who has the necessary qualifications and is willing to teach for such low compensation is a rarity today ... Good teachers who meet federal and state standards, achieve high levels of graduates and produce college material are irreplaceable.

Bedford County has one of the highest turnover rates for teachers in the state, mostly because of higher pay scales in surrounding counties. I've heard countless stories about good teachers feeling unappreciated and moving elsewhere.

When we lose good teachers, they must be replaced and retrained. This leads to more discipline problems in the schools which leads to more administrative time being devoted to these problems, more time in the court system and so on.

Students are the real losers when effective, well-liked teachers move elsewhere. It is cost effective to keep the well-qualified, productive teachers we currently have in our county. These veteran educators deserve more than an occasional "slap on the back" to show appreciation for a job well done.

Bedford County is no longer only a quiet farming community, but a destination for many. The Blue Ridge Parkway, D-Day Memorial and Smith Mountain Lake attract people from all over the U.S. and the world. Our tax base continues to grow as development encroaches from the surrounding cities of Roanoke and Lynchburg.

Our Bedford County Commissioners must make it their number one priority to approve the proposed five percent pay increases over the next three years for our school teachers just to bring them into the average pay of our region. After all, American society is based on remuneration for a job well done; our teachers should be treated the same.

Let's be proud of Bedford County by leading the surrounding school systems into the 21st century, not only in test scores, but in fair pay for our hard-working teachers.

Lyditch Morton

Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Protect the integrity of zoning

We Bedford taxpayers have spent many hours and much money studying the impact of the proposed Oakwood Villas Multifamily Building Complex of over 100 units in the beautiful R1 North Hills neighborhood on narrow two lane Oakwood Street. The proposed Oakwood Villas Project would be adjacent to the busy Bedford Hospital Emergency Room and adjacent to the Bedford Hospital Heliport.

We taxpayers are not paid for our time... We receive no thanks or prestige for the hours we have worked. Yes we have worked many, many hours. These have been hours of pleading with our elected officials to listen to us; hours of writing letters; hours of calling our elected officials and city and county employees.; hours of study; hours of talking to neighbors, hours of consulting attorneys and hours of attending ?Hearings? called by our elected officials. Should taxpayers have to spend so much time trying to protect their homes and their neighborhoods and their city and their county?

In regard to RESEARCHING THE IMPACT of the proposed building of the Oakwood Villas Multifamily Housing, we have nothing to gain by spending so much of our personal time but the hope of preserving our lovely single family neighborhoods and our beautiful Bedford.

Oakwood Villas promoters who suggest building quadraplexes and duplexes as Multi Family housing in the beautiful North Hills R1 neighborhood behind Bedford Hospital have for some reason, received the support of Bedford City Council against the wishes of hundreds of Bedford taxpayers. (Do the wishes of taxpayers count in Bedford anymore?) At every public meeting only a few people have come forward to speak in favor of changing R1 zoning for the Oakwood Villas Project in the R1 North Hills neighborhood. Hundreds spoke against the R1 North Hills location chosen.

There have been absolutely no marketing studies done as to whether proposed Oakwood Villas Multifamily Units located behind a heliport , behind a hospital emergency room, and on a narrow dangerous heavily trafficked street would sell to anyone at all, be it seniors, young couples with families, or potential landlords. (Notice how many foreclosures we have today and how many people are forced to rent. Over 100 units that could be rented would be a bonanza for realtors and landlords, and a disaster for homeowners in an R1 North Hills area of our beautiful city/county.)

Large numbers of Bedford taxpayers have attended every public meeting to protest building the Oakwood Villas in the proposed location in the R1 North Hills neighborhood. Hundreds of taxpayers have signed a petition against building Oakwood Villas multifamily units in the proposed Oakwood North Hills location.

To mention just a few logical and valuable reasons for objections to Oakwood Villas behind Bedford Hospital, the Bedford taxpayers have presented factual information regarding safety problems, street problems, engineering problems, water problems, drainage problems, traffic problems, and problems regarding changing R1 zoning when there will be no public benefit but a public loss.

Bedford taxpayers expressed concerns that the proposed Oakwood Villas could become in time, subsidized housing. Bedford taxpayers are concerned that multifamily units around a hospital can in time become a SLUM.

Although the planners of Oakwood Villas try to make it sound as if their proposed multifamily units are for seniors, indeed, absolutely anyone with $255,000 to invest could buy one of the units, and rent it out if they wanted to.

The developers are alluding to their kindly, altruistic intentions to provide housing for senior retirees who can no longer maintain their homes and have no place to go. They repeatedly mention the need for Senior Housing, but as of the last meeting that I attended, they have done absolutely nothing to plan for senior housing only.

I repeat, this is a very important point! Oakwood Villa planners and the Bedford City Council?s big selling point is the need for senior housing, yet there is absolutely no provision in plans that it will be senior/retiree housing only.

Anyway, would many seniors pay $255,000 to live in multifamily housing, next to a helicopter pad, next to a hospital emergency room, in a place where they would have great difficulty exiting safely to a main street, and next to a family of renters? I don?t think so. There are too many other choices for them. What can possibly happen is that these units, if built, will house primarily renters.

We have the Elks Home, as well as the nearby Summit and Westminster Canterbury apartments and homes, to name only a few choices available to seniors nearby. In addition, PRD housing plans for Independence Boulevard and for Route 460 in Bedford sound like better and safer and more convenient locations for seniors and retirees.

Since the big selling point for Oakwood Villas and for the city and the county to change our existing R1 zoning to PRD is that we need senior housing, why not plan just for senior housing, rather than leave Oakwood Villa plans open to possible rental schemes?

Bedford Taxpayers have made it clear that they are not against Oakwood Villas planners or Council, or the Board of Supervisors approving these units in another location zoned for multifamily housing. We do, however, believe with certainty that such multifamily units with rental potential do not belong in Bedford R1 North Hills Neighborhood. Single family homes belong at this site.

We taxpayers beg them to look to the future of our beautiful city and county. Keep our single family neighborhoods intact. Don?t take a chance that the Bedford taxpayers who voted for them to represent them and who do not receive the support of their elected officials will take their concerns regarding zoning change issues to court as others are doing throughout the country.

They should do the right thing. Support the requests of the many taxpayers who elected you. Do not approve building multifamily units in an R1 neighborhood.

Tell the Oakwood Villas planners, and any other planners who try to undermine intelligent existing zoning to find a more appropriate site for their multifamily units than an R1 neighborhood.

Sandra Boyes


A thanks to firefighters

I wanted to personally thank all of the volunteer firefighters who worked so hard this weekend to help keep the fire in Montvale under control.

I think many of us take those volunteers for granted. Many of us sat in our warm homes while they were out in the freezing cold and horrible winds for hours at a time. They were there to warn families and even assisted in moving animals that were in harms way. When you see a volunteer firefighter, be sure to thank them for being there when we need them the most.

My dad is on the Montvale Fire Department and has been for many years. He loves nothing more that being able to help out others.

Tina D. Toms


Mandatory evacuation

Our power was already out when the phone call came through on our one non-cordless phone.

We knew of the possibility of an evacuation order coming, as the wind is blowing 50 M.P.H. across the Montvale fire and our roofline weather vanes pointing directly toward the fire. Kathy and I developed a ?list? of things to take in the event an evacuation order was issued. It was quickly clear to us both that there were things that were valuable, other things that were important.

It?s easy to distinguish between important and valuable. Jewelry is valuable, pets are important and important comes first. So, cats into the cat carriers, followed by a few photo albums, necessary medications for us older generations, cat food and litter pans. Packing clothes, important stuff, was easy. Being fresh from the dryer, these items were high on the will need list, a wife?s logic kicking in.

Next I packed a friend?s picture that needed to be returned. It was something more important than our ?valuable? Moss prints on the wall. Next was the LP tank on the barbecue and the spare LP tank from the garage. If it came to pass that fireman were at our home trying to save it, they need not have LP tanks about to complicate matters. Likewise, stored gasoline cans were emptied into the truck and car, the rest joined the LP tanks in the bed of the truck. The jewelry finally made it along with our insurance records, family documents, personal phone books, etc.

The fun part came when I asked for assistance getting my newly built 13? wooden skiff from the basement, through the double basement doors, onto a boat trailer not yet set up for the boat, maneuvering the package around a tight curve, to attach same to our garden tractor. It?s like asking to take your pet elephant with you that has hidden in the attic and doesn?t want to leave. Well, trooper Kathy muscled the saw horses from under the boat, resting the bow on a ?T? roller stand, pushed from the stern with me as the boat?s bottom slid across the table saw extension on an old quilt, till the trailer bunks were reached.

A garden tractor tow through the side fence gates and the boat trailer was finally hooked to the trucks ball hitch. At 4:48 p.m. Sunday, our tires passed the end of our driveway, heading toward Kathy?s brother?s house in Lynchburg. He happened to be in Florida, so he missed tripping over the cats that don?t get along, two in the basement workshop, two in the kitchen.

The second evening we were able to return home, electric on, wood stoves heating, happy cats. Now I have to listen to ?Mom, you?re kidding, he took the boat?? Our thanks to the firefighters for help keeping the ?important things? safe. We pray for their safety in their efforts to control these fires.

Ed Wennerstrom


Grateful for firefighters

I?m sure we speak for all those living in the Cedar Key community, when we say how grateful we are for all the firefighters who battled the blaze on Smith Mountain beginning on Feb. 10.

We understand that units from different areas responded to help control the fire. We are thankful for each and every one of you. With fires all over Bedford County and neighboring counties the situation could have been much more devastating had it not been for the effort of all the firefighters and everyone pulling together.

It?s an eerie feeling to look out your back door at a mountain that?s practically in your back yard and see smoke boiling up just the other side of the mountain. We knew it was bad and were ready to evacuate if the fire breached the top of the mountain, but watching the lights of fire trucks and other vehicles patrolling the ridge of that mountain to make sure the fire didn?t jump to our side, gave us a more secure feeling that just maybe everything will be all right.

We understand that no injuries were reported and no homes were lost. That?s an amazing outcome with the winds blowing so hard and for such a long time. We?ve never experienced a situation like this and it certainly won?t be forgotten. Those firefighters and the effort they made and the efforts they make each time an emergency occurs, will not be forgotten. They have our sincere gratitude for what they do.

Hopefully, when the next annual fund drive begins, we all remember how much it cost to fight this fire and all the other fires. Maybe contributions will be just a bit more this year, to help repair or replace damaged or lost equipment, etc.

Again, thanks to all the firefighters and emergency crews. God bless and keep you safe.

Jerry and Carol Downey


Parents helping Bedford County/City Schools be the best

We being Concerned Parents for Bedford County/City, ask for support in helping us make a difference in our children's education. We are a group of parents who formed a group in October 2007 to understand what was happening in our schools and to play a more proactive role by working with the school administrators on all levels.

We published a letter in several papers at that time and have gained several members from all over the county. We have meet with the Bedford County School Board and have spoken at several school board meetings regarding issues that we believe to be concerns.

Here is a list of our top concerns that we are addressing:

(Please note, they are listed in no order of preference)

*Increasing the capital debt cap to allow for construction/renovation of our schools before 2018 (This includes updating the existing HVAC systems, updating currently out grown athletic fields, a much needed gym for Bedford Primary, reduction of the number of trailers at schools, renovations and additions to older and over crowded schools etc.)

* Salary increases for all staff including substitutes and aides. The Bedford School System currently ranks as 89 out of 134 districts in Virginia for teacher salaries. (We need to keep our teachers from going to other districts and keep the salaries in-line with the surrounding counties)

* Adding high school testing coordinators to help our guidance counselors. Currently our counselors are not able to the job they trained for due to lack of testing coordinators.

* Adding additional buses as needed to relieve overcrowding on middle/high school buses.

* Adding staff/resources as needed to ensure adequate custodian and maintenance resources. At most schools the custodial staff maintains the fields and provides a clean school for your children. Have you ever looked at what is expected out of the number of custodians we have per school?

We realize that there are many more issues at hand and hope in the future to address the remaining needs.

If you want to help and be a part of helping Bedford County/City be the best, then attend the school board meetings, write your supervisors and state legislators to support funding for education and go to our Web site www.parents4bedford.com and read what else you can do.

We have members of our group speaking at the Feb. 25 Board of Supervisors meeting. Please come and show your support. It is time to help Bedford School Systems move up in ranks and not be #134 out of 134 districts in the state for education spending.

Patty Kiser

Barbie Hicks

Vanessa Gable

Loama Perkins

Co-founders of Concerned Parents for Bedford County/City

In response

I wish to respond to Zeki Gokce's letter (February 6, 2008) specifically with regard to the writer's implicit disputation of the horrors committed by the Turkish authorities upon its Armenian population during the years of World War I.

For the sake of presenting a more balanced perspective on this issue to your readers, since the writer brought it up, I would note that my Armenian grandparents emigrated from the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey to America between 1905 and 1910. The reason for their leaving was that there had been serious atrocities already committed against the Armenians in 1894-1896, and my grandparents were aware through various Turkish activities and provocations that a new pogrom against them was imminent.

Indeed, the events of 1915 and the years following proved them right. The deportations, the confiscation of property, the forced marches of the Armenian population through the Syrian deserts, the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children along the way as part of the attempt to diminish if not exterminate the Armenian population (by definition, genocide) is corroborated by the many eyewitness accounts and the official international condemnations which were recorded and heaped upon Turkey even as these events were happening.

Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey at the time, was at the forefront of those protestations to the Turkish government. An eyewitness account of the atrocities was published by Viscount Lord Bryce of England, who also recorded the compassionate help given to the suffering masses by many, including German missions, along the routes of their deportations. Let us also not forget that even Adolph Hitler acknowledged and referred to these events when, prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, he proclaimed, "Who, after all, speaks today about the annihilation of the Armenians?", as if to justify the holocaust he was about to unleash upon the people of Europe.

As we all very well know, there will always be so-called "holocaust deniers," those who cannot accept that there can be such inhumanity inflicted by human beings upon other human beings, but unfortunately, as presently is occurring in Darfur, reality tells us otherwise.

Edward Krikorian


A look at the work

I read Kevin Stevenson's response to my 12/26/07 letter with keen interest.

He is critical of the 200 scholars of the Jesus Seminar who are actively and with great legitimacy making comprehensive efforts to determine the authenticity of the historical Jesus. He is critical of their voting methodology and particularly of their findings that only 18 percent of the words and even fewer of the deeds actually occurred. Further, he appears upset that there is wide acceptance in the scholarly community for their intensive work.

While the Seminar acknowledges that "voting" does not determine "truth," I would ask Mr. Stevenson what other mechanism would be more useful. After all, that's how the Bible was written in the first place. Those who had the most votes, i.e., the most power, controlled the content of the Bible. Contrary to Mr. Stevenson's comments, the Jesus Seminar scholars are not my heroes. I just have great respect for them.

Closer to a hero is Bishop John Shelby Spong who attempts to drag Christianity into the 21st century with his books, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and Why Christianity Must Change or Die. But, more importantly, my point was certainly not just about the Jesus Seminar. It was more broadly focused on the Bible itself.

The hundreds of successive translations of the Bible among various languages is but one of the factors for the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the almost 200 different versions of the Bible. Hebrew--in the original text--did not possess vowels or punctuation or word divisions. It was only a line of consonants. Could you translate GODISNOWHERE? Even with the added vowels, which translation is correct? Without adequate context, there are two entirely contradictory messages. So it was with the Bible.

Scribes who copied Biblical text, evolved an elaborate system of abbreviations. As the writings were read aloud to the copying monks, they misheard a word, or the word was misread or mispronounced, or it was wrong in the first place, or they remembered an earlier version and substituted it for what had been read, or they copied it twice. All this introduced error to the Septuagint, the Vulgate and other versions of the Bible as they gradually became confused and corrupted and thus separated still further from the original Bible in Hebrew.

The fourth and fifth century "voting" conferences that determined the divinity of Jesus were truly the result of power politics much more so than the Jesus Seminar. There was little interest in truth; only in legitimizing the views of a few mortals. Guttenberg and his printing process helped enormously, but by that time, the damage was done.

In modern times, the Reformation split Western Christiandom along fault lines built around political, historical, and ecclesiastical divisions, which caused new and ever widening schisms. These factors also included ambition, greed, misunderstanding, a lust for power, as well as human pride. Bibles became ever different. In subsequent years, the enlightened historical-critical method for studying Jewish and Christian scriptures attempted to resolve differences yet this was perceived by many--particularly the fundamentalists--as a threat to their version of Christianity. So continuing through to the present, Bibles differ.

Mr. Stevenson is entitled to "rejoice in his God's wisdom." He and I just have a major difference in how truth is derived. If he looks to the Bible as his source of truth, I would just ask: Which Bible and whose interpretation?

David McLoughlin