WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Nearly all emergency experts agree that effective communication is the key to properly managing any type of disaster situation.

Over the past several years, Wythe County’s emergency management team has feared that the nation was becoming too reliant upon modern communication technologies, including landlines and satellites. Such dependence, they feared, would leave the nation and local residents vulnerable should the region’s communications infrastructure suffer a hit.

As part of the county’s multimillion dollar commitment to emergency management, county leaders reached out to local HAM radio enthusiasts to serve the county in the event of a catastrophic emergency.
Thanks to grant funding made possible by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the county has purchased HAM radios, capable of broadcasting anywhere on the globe, to be used in the event of an emergency.

“Virginia’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) constantly monitors all radio frequencies. Should all phone lines and internet go down in Wythe County, we will still be able to stay connected to emergency leaders in Richmond and in Washington,” said Ikey Davidson, the outgoing Wythe County Emergency Manager.

Overseeing the program is longtime amateur radio specialist, Mike Farris.

Farris has received the highest level of license available to amateur radio operators by the FCC – authorizing him and his team of radio operators to broadcast on all frequencies.

County emergency leaders tested the radio system Tuesday morning, which is stored at an undisclosed location, and were pleased with the radio’s capabilities.

“The radios work as good as any radio I have ever seen,” remarked Farris, adding “We can reach – even without repeaters – way down into Carolina and far north into West Virginia.

With the aid of repeaters and other boosters, Farris has access to frequency allocations throughout the RF spectrum to enable communication across the region, state, country, world, or even into space.

Though emerging technologies are a vital part of their emergency management plans, officials also acknowledge that each new technology is subject to new and more complex threats.

“With all of the technology available to emergency officials, it is fascinating to see a return to the time tested communication methods which date back to the late-1800s,” noted Jeremy T.K. Farley, Wythe County’s Public Information Officer.

“Though we certainly don’t wish for any terrible disaster or attack, in this line, you have be imaginative and prepared,” said Davidson.

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – This weekend, county officials from Wythe and Bland will be hosting a household hazardous waste collection event, at the Kents Lane Transfer Station, just east of the Wytheville town limits (169 Kents Lane, Wytheville, VA).

The annual hazardous waste day event will provide local citizens with an opportunity to dispose of chemicals and other items deemed hazardous in a safe and environmentally friendly way – completely free of charge.

The event, which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 27, between 8 a.m. and noon, is sponsored by the Joint Public Service Authority of Wythe and Bland Counties.

Ikey Davidson, who serves as Wythe County’s hazardous material coordinator, said that the annual event is an important component of the county’s overall environmental policy.

“This event allows local residents the opportunity to dispose of items they’ve collected throughout the year that are not accepted at the county’s convenience centers.”

Davidson said that acceptable waste items include pool chemicals, automotive fluids, mercury products and other common household chemicals. A complete listing of all acceptable and non-acceptable items may be found on the county’s official website, www.WytheCo.org.

The event is open to residents of Wythe and Bland counties only. Refuse from businesses, including home-based businesses will not be accepted.

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – As mid-term congressional elections approach, the Wythe County General Registrar is seeking to remind local residents of important rules concerning voting in the county.

According to Carolyn J. King, the county’s General Registrar, the deadline for citizens seeking to register to vote is Tuesday, October 14. Other deadlines King says voters should keep in mind is the deadline to receive absentee ballot applications by mail, which is October 28, and the deadline to vote by absentee ballot in person, which has been set for November 1.

In addition to their Monday through Friday hours of operation, Kings says her office will be open for absentee voting on two Saturdays leading up to the election, on October 25 and November 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Polls throughout the county will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on the day of the election, Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

In addition to casting their votes in a contested U.S. Senate race and congressional elections, Virginia residents will be given the opportunity to vote in favor or against of a proposed amendment to Commonwealth’s Constitution, which will allow the General Assembly the right to “exempt from taxation the real property of the surviving spouse of any member of the armed forces of the United States who was killed in action, where the surviving spouse occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence and has not remarried…”

In a written statement, King also sought to remind county voters going to the polls to bring proper identification.

“The law requires that you show photo ID when voting, either in the office or at the polls. If you do not have a photo ID, you can have a free one made at the registrar’s office Monday through Friday; the office is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” said King.

King’s office is located at 245 South Fourth Street in Wytheville.

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Earlier this week, the Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation announced that the department will be offering a Bob Ross Painting Class, slated for Sunday, October 12, 2014.

The class, which will be instructed by Judy Moore-Gist, a certified Ross Instructor, will be held at the Max Meadows Ruritan Building and last for five hours — beginning at 2 p.m. and continuing until 7 p.m.

Participants in the class will paint a snow covered landscape scene featuring a wooden structure and trees capped with ice. The painting, “In the Midst of Winter,” is the same painting legendary artist Bob Ross painted on Episode 12 of the thirty-first season of his long running television show, “The Joy of Painting.”

Kevin Williams, Director of the Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation, said that last year’s class was very well attended and that his department has received excellent feedback from those who attended the event.

“This has been one of the most popular events offered by the county’s parks and recreation department in recent years, which is why we’re seeking to expand this program,” said Williams, adding, “This coming spring, the county hopes to offer two additional Bob Ross painting classes, one in Rural Retreat and another in Max Meadows.”

The charge for attending the afternoon class has been set at $65 per person and will include all materials needed for the day.

Williams says that space is limited for the event and the deadline for registering has been set for October 6.

Individuals wishing to register for October’s class are urged to contact the Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation as soon as possible (276-223-4519) or email Kevin Williams at [email protected].

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Residents of Wythe County will have a full slate of recreational events to choose from this Saturday, as local organizations bid farewell to summer by offering a full litany of events.

The Max Meadows Heritage Day, sponsored by the Max Meadows Ruritan Club, is set to begin at 10 a.m. at Max Meadows Community Field.

The free-admission event will provide numerous live displays, including antique tractors and tools, black smith demonstrations, soap making and apple butter production, as well as a children’s petting zoo.

Event organizers say in addition to live displays, visitors to the festival will find numerous venders, including food and drink concessions – offering “everything from pinto beans and corn bread to hot dogs and hamburgers.” Games and children’s events have also been scheduled.

“Max Meadows Heritage Day is a great way for people to enjoy a lot of fun activities, free of charge,” said Joe Hale, Fort Chiswell’s representative on the Wythe County Board of Supervisors.

In addition to Max Meadows Heritage Day, Virginia State Parks will be hosting the annual New River Trail Challenge this Saturday. The challenge has a 40-mile bike ride, 12-mile kayak leg and half marathon along southwestern Virginia’s 57-mile-long New River Trail State Park.

At noon, a special event will begin inside the town limits of Wytheville, as motorists from across the region ride into town at the Dickie Boyles Memorial Cruise-In.

The late Dickie Boyles was a longtime employee of the Town of Wytheville Parks and Recreation Department and avid car enthusiast.

“Dickie Boyles was very instrumental in starting cruise-ins on Main Street. Attaching his name to the festival is a great way to honor his memory,” said Teresa King, owner of Petals of Wytheville.

The cruise-in is slated to end at 5 p.m. and will include classic and antique vehicles, food and other concessions, as well as children’s activities. The Beach Nite Band and Whiskey River Band will also be performing in downtown Wytheville.

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Uninsured Wythe County residents are eligible for a free prescription discount card, part of a joint effort between the county and the National Association of Counties (NACo).

Through the program, county residents who are without prescription coverage may be eligible for a discount when purchasing their prescribed medications from local drug stores.

Though the program is aimed specifically for uninsured citizens, local officials say the program has potential to be beneficial to all county residents, regardless of their insurance status, “County citizens who do have prescription drug coverage may find that the discount card will offer prescriptions their existing plans do not cover at reduced rates,” said Wythe County spokesman Jeremy Farley.

County leaders stress the fact that the discount card is not insurance and should not be used in the place of prescription insurance; however, they do hope the national program will help ease the burdens associated with rising healthcare costs.

The free prescription discount cards are available to all county residents – free of charge – at the county administrator’s office, located at 340 S. Sixth St. in Wytheville.

According to NACo’s Rx website (www.nacorx.org), the prescription discount card is accepted at 9 pharmacies located in Wythe County and at 9 out of 10 pharmacies across the nation.

Program leaders say county residents should present the discount card at a participating retail pharmacy along with their prescription(s).

NACo officials say that holders of the card save an average of 24% on their prescribed medications, adding, “There are no limits on how many times the card can be used. You can use it for the whole family. Even use the card for your pets. If your pet is prescribed a medication that is also used for humans, ask your veterinarian for a prescription to use at a participating pharmacy.”

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RURAL RETREAT, Va. – Campers in southwest Virginia will have one final weekend to enjoy Wythe County’s Rural Retreat Lake Campground, as the campground is scheduled to close for the season this weekend.

Long celebrated as a favorite camping destination for local residents, the park’s crowning attraction is the 90-acre lake, which is home to a variety of large fish, including Muskee, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass and Channel Catfish. On its western end, the park has a fully stocked trout pond, which plays host to the annual Wythe County youth fishing day event.

Managed by the Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation, the park boasts of several attractions, including walking and bicycle trails, a nine-hole Frisbee golf course, multiple children’s playgrounds, picnic shelters, horseshoe pits, volleyball court, junior Olympic sized swimming pool and adjoining kiddy pool.

The park’s campground offers a plethora of wooded campsites ranging from primitive sites to locations with full R.V. hookups.

The 2014 season was an especially busy one for the park, earlier in the season county officials unveiled a new website for the park, www.RuralRetreatLake.com.

Additionally, the county pool featured three dive-in movies, courtesy of local sponsors. Wythe County Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Williams said he would like to see the dive-in movies continued next year.

Lake officials wish to remind the public that although the campground will be closing this weekend, the shelters will remain open throughout the month and the lake is open to anglers year-round.

Camping at Rural Retreat Lake will re-open to the public next year.

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – The Wythe County Sheriff’s Office held a luncheon Friday afternoon to say good bye to Deputy “Randy” Mitchell, a long serving county deputy and school resource officer.

Prior to his employment with the county’s sheriff’s office, Mitchell served in the Virginia Department of Corrections, where he began his career in law enforcement.

Mitchell was hired by the sheriff’s office in 1995 and became one of the county’s first school resource officers.

Though the deputy served in schools throughout the county, Mitchell may best be remembered for his service at Fort Chiswell High School, where he served during the final years of his assignment.

Robbie Patton, Fort Chiswell High School Principal, described Mitchell as being well known among the students, adding “We’re going to miss him – he cared about the kids.”

Patton’s sentiments were echoed by Wythe County Sheriff Doug King, Friday afternoon.

“Randy has shown great personal integrity. He’s been steadfast, loyal and hard working,” said King.

When asked about his plans for retirement, Deputy Mitchell said that he is excited about the thought of spending more time with his family.

“I’m going to miss the kids and staff at the schools, as well as my family at the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office,” said Mitchell.

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Carolyn King, Wythe County’s registrar, is notifying local citizens that the county is in need of election officers for the upcoming midterm Congressional election.

“For years, the county has enjoyed a full roster of dedicated poll workers, however, we’re now reaching a point where it’s time to begin seeking additional people to help us with this very important job,” stated King.

King said that election officers must be registered voters and will attend an election workshop prior to working the polls. The workers, she said, will receive compensation for their time.

Mary “Sis” Cassell, chairwoman of the Wythe County Electoral Board, stated, “The work they do is tough, but extremely rewarding.”

Cassell, who formerly served as Wythe County’s longtime Commissioner of the Revenue, added “The electoral process simply cannot take place without the help of local citizens.”

Individuals interested in serving as an election officer are encouraged to fill out an officer of election interest form at the state’s Department of Election’s website: www.voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov/OnlineForms/OfficerofElection or stop by the county registrar’s office, located at 245 S Fourth Street in Wytheville.

In addition to voting in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives races, Virginia voters will also be determining the fate of a proposed amendment to the state constitution.

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