Letters to the editor – March 16th, 2016

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Town pulled together

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    We were married in Smithfield on Jan. 23, the weekend of Winter Storm Jonas on the East Coast. We had almost 300 people in town, over a hundred hotel rooms booked, kegs of beer, cases of wine, food that had taken weeks to prepare and then — driving rain, pelting ice, drifting snow, howling winds, high tides and minor flooding!

    We began to fear that our months and months of planning would all be for naught, and our venues would cancel our events. While Plan A did turn into Plan B and eventually evolve into Plan Z, it was amazing how supportive everyone in Smithfield was to ensure that our wedding could happen while we had our families and friends gathered together (some having flown in from as far away as Venezuela, Sweden and Australia!)

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    The Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts helped us by modifying reservations for people who had to alter travel plans due to airline schedule changes. Local businesses stayed open, allowing our guests to have places to play music, shop and visit with those dear to them. The Director at Smithfield Center kept a close eye on the weather and was in constant contact with Emergency Services to help us plan for an ending time to get local people home safely. 

    Hospitality bags were still delivered to all of our guests. A shuttle service still ran for those who preferred not to drive in the potentially dangerous weather conditions. The catering crew went above and beyond to get staff and food and bar supplies to the Center early, worked on a very compressed reception schedule, and then brought our supplies back to the hotel for a two-floor impromptu lobby, stairwell and hallway after-party! 

    We honestly felt like the whole town was pulling together to help us have the most special day possible under the circumstances. It really did turn out to be the most magically beautiful day we could ever have imagined, and we are forever grateful to the good people in Smithfield!

    Steve Newman & Kelly Murphy


Cold War heroes

    Editor, Smithfield Times:

    The Isle of Wight County Museum received much praise for its Cold War presentation two Saturdays ago. But one participant did not get his proper public recognition, although the folks who attended the event did give him much deserved applause.

    U.S. Army First Lieutenant Al Coke (currently of Smithfield) was posted to the elite Berlin Brigade in the early 1960s. His presentation of his adventures during his tour of duty was truly awe-inspiring. Although the “Cold” War was not a shooting war in Germany at this time (except for the many East German civilians who were killed trying to escape) the engagements with the Soviet Russian military that our young soldiers participated in were very dangerous.

    As late as 1985, US Army Major Arthur Nicholson was shot dead by a Russian sentry while collecting information for NATO. Our own Al Coke was ordered several times to go behind the “iron curtain” on similar missions. We have many local heroes whose stories must be told.

    Although Carrollton’s Nike-Ajax Missile base is our own physical reminder of the great success of our efforts in those dark times, we have many local veterans who were deployed overseas to help prevent what our strategists termed “Mutual Assured Destruction” with the appropriate acronym MAD. With the thousands of nuclear weapons in the arsenals on both sides, one mistake could have caused an atomic “Armageddon.”

    Young people today must learn how close we were in those days to the annihilation of civilization in order to prevent such a possibility in the future.

    Another local Cold War hero, now deceased, was Colonel J. Leo Bourassa who developed and commanded the national “relocation” site for American leaders at Mount Weather that would have, presumably, assured continuity of leadership in a nuclear “worst case” scenario. We hope to tell his full story in another presentation.

    The Museum hopes to conduct similar presentations in the future to tell the stories of and honor our local Cold War veterans.

    Albert Burckard


Belay the alarm

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    IWCS is losing students, so belay the alarm sounded in last week’s editorial. The figures speak for themselves on K-12 population: Jan 2015 had 5,426; Sept 2015 had 5,375; Jan 2016 had 5,319; that’s a decline of 107. This is in concert with the slowing county population growth overall, as well as the decreasing U.S. per-family birthrate. The allegedly over crowded SHS is at 1,223 is in a school designed for 1,360.

    Even Carrollton Elementary has remained level in student #’s at 608. 620 and 612, in a school designed for 775. And this school, per the words of a former Principal when asked about expansion, replied that 2-6 classrooms could be added without creating crowding or control issues.

    The 2008 Demographic study projected 1337 by 2017. Before any new school building plans are worked on, a new demographic study is absolutely necessary to help in the decision-making. Looking forward at the number of students in the pipeline coming, thru 2022 gives school planners the ability to see the real numbers. Migration in and out of the county can be projected in a new Demographic study.

    Likewise the state of the county economy and the construction of new residences, single houses & apartments, can be projected. The overall analysis can then be used to do real planning for school facilities, leaving the emotions out of same.

    As for neglected maintenance needs, there are practical answers to try to play catch-up. Roof maintenance can be economically fixed for seven to 10 years if existing roofing material applications are used that guarantee same. As for Hardy Elementary drainage and septic issues, the answer is in the 3-D International 2000 Facilities Study that recommended the solution, though never implemented. This does not require another costly study.

    Belay Sounding the Alarm. I’m sure Dr. Thornton can lead the way to economical and effective solutions, supported by a thinking analytical School Board.

    Herb De Groft