The I-81 sinkhole, Staunton sales tax, and 'skill games': THE DIGEST

Have an event or announcement you would like featured in THE DIGEST? It’s welcome! Please send an email to Time sensitive announcements should be sent a week ahead of time.

Staunton supports new legislation on sales tax, 'skill games'

STAUNTON – As highlighted in last week's edition of The Agenda, Staunton City Council voted to support Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 805, both on allowing a 1% sales tax to be put on the ballot for voters.

Much of the discussion on the resolution was questioning what the practical result of the ordinance would be. Councilmember Mark Robertson noted he was against implementing a tax but would be in favor of handing the decision over to Staunton residents with an election. This is exactly what the bills would do — allow local governments to place a 1% sales tax for school construction or renovation projects on the ballot.

"This just supporting the referendum," said Councilmember Alice Woods. "That means we're saying that we support a referendum to be presented for the tax. ... It's not saying that we are in support of a one cent tax."

Staunton itself is not able to pass these bills. Both are in the Virginia Legislature right now – the city can only tell the legislature, through a resolution, that it supports their passage.

In a similar vein, another resolution on "skill game" machines was approved. "Skill games," called such in spite of pseudo-gambling mechanics played for real money in the games, were previously banned by the legislature, but House Bill 590 is looking to legalize them again in Virginia.

The resolution does not state whether or not council wants skill games in Staunton or not, but asks the Virginia Legislature to give local governments the power to approve or deny them. An amendment to House Bill 590, which could relegalize these games, would give a state board the regulatory power over them.

After both resolutions were presented by City Attorney John Blair, he joked, “I’ve got one more on firearms.” The council members laughed, with Michele Edwards jokingly responding, “I move we go into closed session to discuss the performance of an employee."

Both are available to read in the Feb. 22 agenda packet.

New food pantry opens in Staunton

STAUNTON – The Valley Community Services Board dedicated a new free food pantry in front of its office at 85 Sanger's Lane.

According to a press release from the organization, the pantry has already distributed more than 500 pounds of food "since its unofficial opening in January." It offers "solely" food and personal hygiene items and is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The need at the VCSB location became apparent when Sara Catterton, Prevention Specialist, spoke with a man who asked for something to eat outside the offices," reads the press release. "She gave him what she could and approached VCSB leadership with the idea of a free food pantry."

The board partnered with Neighbor Bridge to design the pantry, and Bear Creek Outdoor Living built it.

"The other Pantries are located at the Augusta County Library in Fishersville, the Waynesboro Library in Waynesboro, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Staunton, Gospel Light Baptist Church near Dooms, and Augusta Regional Dental Clinic in Fishersville," the release notes.

VCSB Director of Administration Tammy Dubose places food in the new pantry
VCSB Director of Administration Tammy Dubose places food in the new pantry

Shenandoah National Park begins youth art contest

LURAY – School age artists wanted!

The Shenandoah National Park’s Youth Wildflower Art Contest calls on young artists to “be inspired by the beauty of Shenandoah’s native wildflowers.” The winners will be displayed in the park.

According to the press release, judging is split between kindergarten to second grade, then third through fifth grade, then sixth through eighth grade, and finally high school freshman through seniors. The contest is open to public, private, or city school students and home-schooled students in Virginia and Washington D.C.

Submissions should be submitted between Feb. 17 and April 7. Each student can only submit one piece.

“Artists must submit works that lay flat and are approximately 8.5 by 11-inches in media such as acrylic, crayon, watercolor, fiber, pencil, charcoal, small crochet or knit projects, etc. Three-dimensional pieces and photographs of flowers will not be accepted. A wildflower list and a reference photo gallery are provided on the Shenandoah National Park website.”

More can be found on Shenandoah National Park’s website and on the contest page.

Staunton calls for board volunteers

STAUNTON – Staunton City Council is calling for volunteers to get involved with the city.

Currently, there are vacancies on a number of boards, including:

  • Tourism Advisory Board

  • Library Advisory Board

  • Redevelopment and Housing Authority

  • Valley Community Services Board

  • Joint Industrial Development Authority of Stafford County and Staunton

  • Agricultural-Forestal Advisory Committee

To apply, visit the city's website.

Virginia ranked fourth most similar to United States demographics

According to WalletHub's Electorate Representation Index results, Virginia ranked as the fourth most similar state to the United State's collective demographics.

The state came in third behind Illinois, Florida, and Ohio.

The purpose of the report is to ask where the first United States presidential primaries should be held. Wallethub Analyst Cassandra Happe explained, "Instead of basing the order on tradition or political favor, we should consider putting the most representative states first during the presidential primaries.”

When looking solely at "sociodemographics," the state ranked second. This category included how many women there are compared to men, what percent of the population is what age, race, their family relationships, whether or not they have health insurance, and whether or not they live in the same place they were born. The state also ranked sixth in both "religion," defined by which religions the population identifies with and how important they are to the person, and "public opinion," including party affiliation, political ideology, and views on abortion and guns.

In other categories though, Virginia didn't break the top 10. It ranked 30th for economic comparisons and 18th in education comparisons. Whether that is because Virginia is doing better or worse than the national average is not covered by the data presented.

VDOT projects and road work for Feb. 26 through March 1

AUGUSTA COUNTY – According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), crews will be repairing a sinkhole on Interstate 81 at the Weyers Cave/Grottoes exit, number 235.

"VDOT has been monitoring the sinkhole for several months," reads the press release. "Initial measurements show it is about five feet across and eight feet deep. Sinkhole repairs include excavating the hole to determine its size and the stability of the surrounding ground before backfilling it and making any needed roadway repairs."

The work is expected on Feb. 28, beginning at 7 a.m., with only a right shoulder closure, with a possible temporary closure of the exit 235 on-ramp to northbound I-81.

The list of highway work that might affect traffic this week includes:


  • No lane closures reported.


  • *NEW* Mile marker 206 to 205, southbound – Mobile right shoulder closures for survey work, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday.

  • *NEW* Mile marker 212 to 214, northbound and southbound – Overnight single lane closures for maintenance to Route 11 bridge, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday nights (Feb 25-28).

  • *NEW* Mile marker 212 to 223, northbound and southbound – Overnight mobile lane closures for sign inspections, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday and Monday nights (Feb 25-26).

  • *UPDATE* Mile marker 221 to 227, northbound and southbound – Overnight southbound right lane and shoulder closures along Exit 221 off-ramp for shoulder strengthening, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday nights. Overnight northbound right lane and shoulder closures for shoulder strengthening, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. February 26 – March 15 nights. Daytime shoulder closures for tree removal and maintenance operations, 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through March 14. Work is related to I-81 widening project.

  • *NEW* Mile marker 226 to 230, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures including along Exit 227 off-ramps for sign work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

  • *NEW* Exit 235, northbound – Right shoulder closure along acceleration lane (on-ramp) for sinkhole repairs, beginning 7 a.m. Wednesday. VDOT will advise if additional traffic restrictions become necessary.

  • *UPDATE* Mile marker 236 to 235, southbound – Left shoulder closures for tree removal operations in the median, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through March 5.


  • Route 11 (Lee Highway) – Northbound right lane closures between Route 940 (Dick Huff Lane) and Staunton city limits for sidewalk installation, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through May 24.

  • *NEW* Route 262 (Woodrow Wilson Parkway) – Overnight northbound and southbound mobile lane closures for sign inspections, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday and Monday nights (Feb 25-26).

  • Route 262 (Woodrow Wilson Parkway) – Eastbound and westbound left shoulder closures due to widening project in the area of the Route 252 (Middlebrook Avenue) interchange, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. through April 30.

  • Route 256 (Weyers Cave Road) – Flagger traffic control near Rockingham line for maintenance to bridge over South River, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday.

  • *NEW* Route 340 (Eastside Highway) – Shoulder closures between Route 672/619 (Patrick Mill Lane/Turk Mountain Lane) and Route 619 (Purple Cow Road) for sign work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.


  • Route 624 (South Delphine Avenue, Waynesboro) – Shoulder closures between South Oak Lane and Chinquapin Drive for work related to construction of Waynesboro Southern Corridor, through May 30, 2025.

  • Route 635 (Barterbrook Road) – Closed between I-81 frontage roads (FR-217 and FR-218) for bridge replacement as part of I-81 southbound auxiliary lane project. Follow posted detour. Expected completion summer 2025.

  • Route 664 (Mount Torrey Road) – Shoulder closures and occasional flagger traffic control between Route 624 (Lyndhurst Road) and Route 894 (Mount Torrey Road) for water line installation, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through March 29. Estimated completion summer 2024.

  • Route 664 (Lyndhurst Road, Waynesboro) – Shoulder closures between Miami Avenue and Purdue Street for work related to construction of Waynesboro Southern Corridor, through June 30, 2025.

  • Route 675 (Broadhead School Road) – Flagger traffic control between Route 11 (Lee-Jackson Highway) and Route 604 (McClures Mill Road) for utility work, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Thursday.

  • *NEW* Route 778 (Knightly Mill Road) – Middle River bridge closed beginning Wednesday, February 28. Traffic can use nearby Route 774 (Cline River Road) bridge.

  • Route 795 (Entry School Road) – Flagger traffic control between Route 608 (Long Meadow Road) and Route 640 (Old White Bridge Road) for utility work, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Thursday.

  • Route 796 (Kiddsville Road) – Flagger traffic control between Route 797 (Miller Road) and Route 608 (Long Meadow Road) for utility work, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Thursday.

  • Various roads – Mobile traffic control for mowing operations. Flagger traffic control for drainage work, tree removal, shoulder repairs, pavement patching and brush cutting, 7:30 to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: The I-81 sinkhole, Staunton sales tax, and 'skill games': THE DIGEST