Wednesday, January 18, 2017

SpeakUp Gloucester

Gloucester County, Virginia's local government is currently promoting SpeakUp Gloucester. SpeakUp is a way for the People of Gloucester to publicly bring their complements, concerns, suggestions and opinions to the attention of our local government. It is likely input provided by the People on SpeakUp will be considered when our local government employees and elected representatives make decisions. I am personally encouraging all Gloucester People who do not want to see larger local government, higher taxes, an out of control public school system or more local government control over what you can do with your land to visit and become familiar with SpeakUp Gloucester and sign up by providing a user name and password. To visit SpeakUp click on this link: SpeakUp Gloucester or copy and paste the following in the address bar of your browser:

Kenny Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point, Virginia

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My experiences while serving as an At-Large member of the Gloucester County, Virginia Public Utilities Advisory Committee (PUAC) (The 3rd in a series of articles about my experiences and findings)

Our Water Treatment Facilities

We all know having access to safe, drinkable water is a necessity in sustaining human life. When we think of drinking water we think “clean”. Don’t we? Shouldn’t the plant our water comes from be clean and the water from it clean when we consume it? Of course it should. And “safe”? It has to be “safe” beyond reproach; Right? Heck yes it does. Do you know where your water comes from? Do you know what is in it? Are we paying a fair price for our water? In this and other articles I will share what I know about our local government operated public water supply system and sewer system. This article is about my first visit to our water treatment plants.

In Gloucester County, Virginia, some residences and businesses obtain water from private wells while others obtain this life sustaining element from our public water supply system. Some of our public schools obtain water from private type wells while others obtain it from our public water supply system. Many people with private wells and their children are likely to consume water from our public supply system at schools, at church, in restaurants, at the hospital, in doctor offices, at a friend’s house and so on. There are a lot of people who come to Gloucester County to visit family and friends, enjoy our historical attractions and attend various events. Many of these people also consume water from our public supply system. With so many people drinking our public water one would think our local government would do everything necessary to insure the safety, quality and availability of the water so many of us consume. That certainly “was not” the impression I was left with after my first visit to our water treatment facilities.

Our local government obtains water from two different types of sources and operates two different types of treatment plants that are located next to each other. Treated water from both sources are combined together to make up the water provided in our public supply system. Our first water source is Beaver Dam Reservoir, which began being used to supply our public water system when our surface water treatment plant was constructed in 1990. Our second source of water is the Potomac Aquifer. We have two deep wells near the water treatment plants that pull brackish (salt containing) water from the aquifer and sends it to our second type of treatment plant; our reverse osmosis plant that was placed into operation in 2003.

When I first visited our water treatment facilities in 2014, I was given a tour by then plant manager Brent Payne. Mr. Payne has since been promoted to Assistant Director of our Utility Department; in my opinion, a well deserved promotion. I have visited several such treatment plants over the years, but I have to say, our plant was without doubt, the absolute worst of them all. Most plants I have visited appeared very clean and well maintained, yet I found our surface water treatment plant to be just the opposite. Mr. Payne showed me various pictures of what areas of our plant looked like when he first began working there and it was even worse than what I was seeing as I walked through the plant. It was evident by the pictures, Mr. Payne and his people had made numerous improvements, but there was still a lot of work to be done to return our plant to an acceptable, up to date condition.

One of the larger rooms in our surface water treatment plant contains numerous large water pipes, valves and pumps that are used to control the flow of water during treatment processes and subsequent implementation of disinfected water into the public supply system. It was evident recent repairs had been made to some of the components within this room, but there was a lot that still needed attention. There were trails of water running into floor drains that were coming from small leaks in various places. There were bolts in valves and other components that were corroded and needed to be replaced several years before I first saw them. It looked like no preventive maintenance had occurred for many years. The only items in the room that looked like they had been painted in the last 20 years were items worked on by Mr. Payne and his crew. Not long after my first visit, a leak occurred in this room which sprayed water onto an electrical panel that was not designed to resist water. A short occurred in the panel, equipment was damaged and our facility and employees were placed in harms way because our local government ignored safety requirements that are diligently enforced upon private citizens and businesses.

I saw rooms inside our surface water treatment plant that were filled with various items that were piled and mixed together with zero thought of accountability, organization or value. Most of the walls throughout our plant looked dingy and as if they had not been painted for many years. The lighting was poor and ventilation seemed inadequate in most areas as it was very humid with the continuous smell of chlorine in the air. 

I went into another larger room that is primarily dedicated to storing and adding various chemicals and compounds used in the surface water treatment processes. Within this room was a smaller room that is dedicated to adding activated carbon (essentially charcoal dust) into the water treatment process. The activated carbon is contained in bags that resemble plastic lined paper grass seed sacks. These bags are periodically dumped by hand into a hopper by our employees. When they dump the bags, black dust fills the air unless there is an adequate exhaust and filter system to collect it as it comes out of the bag. No such system existed at the time of my first visit. The walls and everything else in the room were black from years of carbon dust buildup. When asked, Mr. Payne said he could not guarantee every employee utilized dusts masks, eye protection or other safety devices every time carbon was dumped into the hopper.

Activated Carbon is relatively safe to use, but prolonged exposure to carbon dust has been found to cause pulmonary disorders. For this reason OSHA has established airborne exposure limits and is the reason I wasted no time in bringing my concerns about potential health risks to the attention of our BOS and County administration. A rudimentary exhaust system has since been installed, but I have no knowledge of its make up or effectiveness.   

After visiting our surface water treatment plant we headed to the reverse osmosis plant. This newer plant appeared, at first glance, to be in much better shape than our surface water plant. Mr. Payne explained about the water for this plant coming from two nearby wells that tap into the Potomac Aquifer. He also explained that one of the wells is not used as much as the other because it was positioned in a place containing high iron content. He further explained that iron greatly shortens the life of the plant’s expensive filters. The only way to correct this problem is to drill at another location, verify the water quality and then construct the well pump house. It looks like someone previously skipped the “verify the water quality” step. I wonder how much that screw up will eventually cost us.    

Residents, businesses and others, who obtain water for human consumption from private wells, are responsible for monitoring the safety and quality of water drawn from “their” wells. Samples of private well water can be tested by our local, state government run, Health Department or by private labs like Reed and Associates in Newport News. Our local government is primarily responsible for monitoring the public system water, but the Health Department plays an “oversight” role in the monitoring process. Our public school system is responsible for monitoring water drawn from wells at our schools that are not connected to our public supply system. The Health Department also plays an oversight role in this monitoring process. Considering instances like Flint Michigan; in which local and state government monitors hid substandard test results, coupled with some of the things I have seen and learned about our public water system; I am not convinced our local government has always done the job we have paid or elected them to do.

I will share more of what I have learned about the quality of our public water in later articles. Before I close I want to share this: So far, the picture I have painted of our public water and sewer department is fairly negative. I guess it appears that way because there have been so many years of neglect. In all fairness to the people currently leading our Utilities Department, I have to say they are dedicated, knowledgeable and capable employees. They did not create the mess I am sharing with you in these articles; in fact, they have made some improvements. Our Utilities Department could use more support from our Board of Supervisors, but Utilities and the PUAC could do a much better job of publicly providing our BOS and us with an accurate, nonpolitical and complete picture of the condition and capabilities of our water and sewer infrastructure. More on that later.
Feel free to share this article at your discretion.

Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point, Virginia  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gloucester County, Virginia Board of Supervisors Deny Mr. Tabb Bridges’ Rezoning Request

Image result for zoning pictures gloucester virginia

During the December 13, 2016 Gloucester County Board of Supervisors meeting, a Public Hearing was conducted pursuant to a request from Gloucester County developer Tabb Bridges, to have a lot located in an established single family dwelling neighborhood in the courthouse area rezoned, so he can build a duplex rental unit.

During the Public Hearing it was revealed that Mr. Bridges had spoken to someone employed by Gloucester’s Planning Department, about the possibility of having the property rezoned before he purchased it. According to Mr. Bridges’ public comments, he understood there were no guarantees that the rezoning would be approved by the BOS. Anne Ducey-Ortiz with the Planning Department conducted a presentation suggesting Mr. Bridges’ intentions of building a multifamily dwelling fit the objectives of the BOS’s comprehensive plan and the Courthouse Village plan that was created by the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust. Neither of these plans have ever been approved or consented to by the taxpayers of Gloucester County, yet the taxpayers are forced to fund their visions of grandeur.

Several people spoke during the public comment portion of the Public Hearing, most of who were against Mr. Bridges’ rezoning request. Those people who spoke against the rezoning all seem to have at least one desire in common. They do not want to see Gloucester County turned into the high density type places they live here to avoid; or at least not in their neighborhood. Those who spoke in favor of the rezoning fit more in the category of the voice of business interests. As far as this category of folks goes, they would just as soon see sky scrappers and chemical plants in Gloucester than to consider the impacts on those of us who have historically enjoyed our bedroom community culture.

For once, it appears the voices of the people were heard and Mr. Bridges’ proposal was denied by the BOS in a five to two split decision, but were those voices really what caused five supervisors vote in a way that is contrary to their comprehensive plan and the village plan? It is kind of hard to tell because this type of road has been traveled by our local elected representatives numerous times before with completely different outcomes.

Not so long ago, a rezoning application submitted by York River Crossing Associates (The Freeman’s) was approved by the BOS to allow approximately 120 apartment units to be built next to Food Lion at Hayes. The apartments will be situated on ten and a half acres of land and will share some parking with the adjoining theater and shopping center. These apartments will be built directly in front of several single family homes that are part of an existing single family home neighborhood. When the Public Hearing on this high density development was held, numerous people spoke against the rezoning and expressed the same reasons for denying the request as those who spoke against Mr. Bridges’ request. There was a different outcome for the Freeman’s, as their rezoning request was approved by the BOS.

Another instance that comes to mind is the rezoning request submitted by Charles Records of Zandler Development on behalf of our local American Legion Post. In this instance the BOS approved Mr. Records’ request to rezone property to allow for the construction of over 200 apartments. There were adjacent single family homeowners who were against this rezoning also, but like those who spoke against the apartments next to Food Lion, they were ignored.

So was it really the people’s voices that caused the BOS to deny Mr. Bridges’ rezoning request? I don’t think so. I believe there is a double standard in this County when it comes to rezoning and other requests. I believe those who voted against Mr. Bridges’ proposal were doing nothing more than appeasing the people in the courthouse area as has become typical and are setting a precedent of preventing smaller developers from achieving success while they cater to the whims and desires of larger developers; no matter what the people have to say about it.

I also believe our current BOS is just another part of our local government that thinks and acts like they have the power and control to tell people what they can and cannot do with their land. In Mr. Bridges’ case, he is the one who is being negatively impacted by the BOS decision to deny his rezoning request. I further believe, had Mr. Bridges waited until after the 2017 BOS election, he would have received a more favorable outcome.

I grew up and currently live in the Water View subdivision at Gloucester Point. Several duplex apartments were built into Water View and the other adjoining neighborhoods over the years and have not caused any negative impacts on the single family homes located around them. In this instance; I believe Mr. Bridges was treated unfairly. I believe he should have at least been offered the opportunity to swap his property for County owned property, like it appears Mr. Kerns’ did in order to prevent rental units from being built at the entrance to Supervisor Meyers’ estate.     

Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.

Gloucester Point

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My experiences while serving as an At-Large member of the Gloucester County, Virginia Public Utilities Advisory Committee (The 2nd in a series of articles about my experiences and findings)

Utilities' Equipment Storage Yard

As I previously shared; I visited Utilities’ office, equipment storage yard and water treatment plants after being appointed to the PUAC. I began by visiting the equipment yard first and was astounded at its’ dilapidated and unorganized condition. Being retired from the military and from the dirt work side of the construction industry, I am well aware of what an equipment and vehicle storage yard should be like and why. Utilities’ equipment yard is located in the courthouse area, behind Southern States and behind Main Street Center. Access to the yard is limited as it is gained through the Southern States shopping center parking lot and along narrow roads behind the shopping centers. The floor of the yard is made up of various slopes covered in dirt, gravel and grass/weeds. One of Utilities’ heaviest used and oldest sewer pumping stations is located in the rear of the yard. Beyond the pumping station are wetlands with a stream that flows to the Ware River

Inside the yard I observed several portable emergency pump units stored under a pole shed with various usable and unusable pipeline fittings and other items and debris. These pumps are necessary when one or more of the sewer pump stations become inoperable and they vary in price from $35,000 to $50,000 or more. Many of the hoses and fittings to the pumps, which are not cheap either, were lying on the ground in the dirt. Several of the pumps had flat tires and were missing various components. The batteries, like the rest of the pump units, looked like they had not been maintained for a very long time. When I asked Utilities’ employees how many of the pumps actually worked; they said probably none. They said all of the pumps’ batteries were likely dead because they had no way of plugging in chargers to keep them charged. They said when a pump is needed they take what is needed from the other pumps to get one running. I did not find this hard to believe due to the un-maintained appearance of the pumps and other items stored in the yard.

I was shown what was called “Utilities’ repair shop”. This “shop” consisted of what appeared to be an old portable wooden storage building with a ramp at the entrance. There was a riding lawnmower sitting in the middle of the floor with hardly enough room to walk past it on any side because of everything else being stored in the building. I was also shown a small recently built storage building where the employees said mostly copper and brass fittings were stored. I guess the intent was to better secure items that tend to walk away on their own or deteriorate rapidly when left outside on the ground. This building was the best looking and most organized area in the yard.

Utilities has a vactor truck which is essentially a huge shop vac on a truck. The truck is used primarily to vacuum up sewer water and debris and to flush out sewer pipelines. Vactor trucks are necessary pieces of equipment in utility departments like Gloucester’s. Utilities’ vactor truck, which likely cost $150,000 or more when new, was parked under another pole shed type structure. Like the other pole shed in the yard, there is no electricity. This would not be a problem for most any other truck type piece of equipment, but because vactor trucks have water tanks along with numerous fittings and lines that contain water; storing in such conditions during periods of freezing weather will cause many of the water containing components to freeze and burst. Utilities does a pretty good job of minimizing damage due to freezing; but don’t you think there should have been a heated facility for the truck to call home, before it was purchased?

There was no restroom facility or drinkable water located at Utilities’ equipment yard. When I first visited, there was a single user cinderblock outhouse facility inside the chain link fencing and to the right when you first enter the gates. The outhouse no longer had a door or place to sit; in other words it was unusable and appeared to have been like that for a long time. The outhouse has since been torn down and removed. I first thought there may be restrooms in the small cinderblock building that is to the left as you enter the gates. That was not the case, as there were no restrooms or drinkable water anywhere in the yard. An employee said they would typically urinate somewhere out of sight or go to the main office or somewhere else to relieve themselves.

There was a dump truck, backhoe, water trailers and others types of utility related equipment parked in Utilities’ yard. Even though all of the department’s equipment was not present, the yard appeared too small and uneven to safely move and store such equipment. There is also a lack of space to store pipe, fittings and other supplies necessary to repair and maintain our public water and sewer systems. The small amount of storage space within the yard is inadequate and does little to protect supplies from the weather.

Utilities has been in need of a new storage yard and office for a long time. (More about the office later in the series) Several years ago several million dollars were borrowed to, in part, design and construct a new yard. Tens of thousands of dollars was spent to have the design work done and drawings created. Unfortunately instead of making adjustments to the plans and continuing forward, the whole idea was pretty much scrapped by the current Board of Supervisors in 2013. The director of Utilities at that time wanted to buy land for the new yard, but the BOS did not agree and directed Utilities to search properties already owned by the County, to see if there was a parcel suitable for their needs. There was not much of a selection and the only suitable parcels are owned by our school system, so everything pretty much came to a halt. From that point forward I continually suggested constructing a new utility yard and office on the old Page Middle School property as the first step in consolidating certain County and school system functions. (More about the utilization of the old Page property will come later in the series)

The last I heard about Utilities’ yard from one of our Supervisors is they were thinking about building a temporary yard close to the school bus garage to establish a presence on the property; in hopes that someone will want to develop the property and, be willing to pay to relocate Utilities and the school bus garage to another property they hope the developer will purchase; all in exchange for the bus garage property and old Page property. I told the Supervisor nothing should be done if taxpayer money was going to be wasted on such speculative nonsense. Now the BOS and the school board have consented to spending tens of thousands of dollars on a study to determine the best place for the school bus garage facility and Utilities’ facilities to be located. Study after study, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy “so called” expert opinions. What a waste of tax dollars.

After visiting Utilities’ yard I notified appropriate County staff and the BOS of the following safety concerns:

-No restroom facilities at the yard
-No potable water at the yard
-Unsafe equipment maintenance area at the yard
-No eyewash apparatus at the yard
-No readily accessible fire extinguishers at the yard

I did not perform an in-depth safety inspection by any measure. The concerns I noted were nothing more than first glance observations.

In my next article I will describe my visit to Utilities’ water treatment facilities. In upcoming articles I will also share some of my concerns about safety, accountability, water and sewer rates and a few other topics. If you pay taxes or pay for water or sewer in Gloucester County; you should not miss any of the articles in this series.

The third article in this series will be published after the new year begins. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!!

Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point, Virginia

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Schools: who's the master of the plan?

On the afternoon of November 28th, the Gloucester School Division's three Superintendents hosted a tour of the high school and a viewing of a movie titled "Most Likely To Succeed" after which there was a presentation and discussion among those attending. While the seating was limited to 350, according to accounts "less than 100" attended, and of that number who were parents of children in the system, "maybe two dozen." The movie, a Sundance Festival entrant, has made the circuit around the country and is yet another attempt by education management elites to foist yet another methodology on the tax paying public's check book and patience. The mantra is "project based learning" but the echo is "college and career." What's all that mean?

If you follow this stuff and you should because lots of money is at stake, the other side of the school day coin with its inventive curriculums and testing regimen includes "life ready" and "later-life outcomes." That's the "what will I be when I grow up" part of the equation. But parents need to know that all the research in the world hasn't been able to connect what happens in a public school including all the test scores that your kid accumulates, with any correlation to their success in life. What does count is what happens at home. The best place for a child to be raised and taught is with their biological parents in a stable family, learning the virtues necessary for and the joys that spring from the pursuit of the truth. There's no "winter break' on that calendar.

Government Departments of Education get giddy with the possibilities of technology but forget that it threatens to take away the human to human connection essential to the learning of truths that lay beyond the dull drone of today’s culture that rob kids of their imaginations and threatens the victory of reason.

So why are parents forced to send their children to public schools? Well, they aren't as long as they provide learning at home or at a private or parochial school; and more are doing that every year. But it can be expensive and a lot of parents organize their life expecting that government will be there with child care of some sort while one or both parents pursue their day's activity. It's a heck of a conundrum, but there are helpful tools and good meaning people with advice and help if anyone is interested. Heck, there are even some great old movies and books that teach character, and heroism, and civic history. That's a start!

In a newspaper account of Gloucester High School deficiencies and a master plan, the author said the students were "herded" into hallways that were crowded and noisy. It's been a long time but I recall school classes being dismissed and me walking unassisted into halls and the next class, or lunch, or gym. No one shooed me through a door. So what's really going on? Read this carefully. The Gloucester School Division has an operating budget of over $60 million a year for around 5,500 students. Hypothetically that's almost $11,000 per student and a class of 30 kids represents gross operating revenue of $330,000 per classroom per school year. Say the teacher and their salary, retirement and benefit account takes around $80,000. of that gross. That leaves $250,000 per classroom for maintenance, supplies, phone bills, electricity, loan payments and non teaching staff. Again, that's $250,000 a year per classroom. Are any business owners with accounting skills paying attention? Does the $250,000 seem excessive when the crucial relationship is teacher-student?

So now the superintendents have hired a consultant for a fee of $100,000 to tell them how to go forward with AC and heating problems and some remodelling. I think the entire Gloucester community -- hey Supervisors, I'm talking to you too -- should be yelling "Stop" and then asking why anyone would use the word "herd" when talking about schools. If that word applies at all, it's to the taxpayers and the money they are forced to ante up.

Coincidentally on the Monday following the school tour, Gloucester property taxes were due. How much was your tax bill?

Ken Larson
Ware Neck, VA

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My experiences while serving as an At-Large member of the Gloucester County, Virginia Public Utilities Advisory Committee (The first in a series of articles about my experiences and findings)

I was appointed to the Gloucester County Public Utilities Advisory Committee (PUAC) in August 2014, as an At-Large member. From the outside looking in, it appeared to me that Gloucester’s Utility Department (Utilities) was not being managed very well. Being that I am now retired due to disabilities and possess knowledge and experience in water, sewer, and many facets of business management, employee and equipment utilization, safety and a few other areas; I was looking forward to and excited about the opportunity to give back to the community where I grew up.

From the very first meeting I began to realize the PUAC did not serve any realistic purpose and had no true sense of direction. From my very first visits to Utilities’ office, equipment and storage yard, water treatment plants and sewer pumping stations, I could tell everything had been neglected for numerous years. I also noted numerous workplace safety violations which I immediately shared with the Board of Supervisors and appropriate members of County staff. After thinking about the situation for a while I decided I would offer some suggestions to make things better, instead of trying to place blame on those responsible for the excessive neglect of Gloucester taxpayer's and utility customer's infrastructure.

One of my first suggestions as a committee member was the development and implementation of a Utilities enhancement program. The following was my proposal:

Gloucester County Public Utilities Enhancement

As we all know Utilities is not financially self sufficient, numerous areas have degraded for one reason or another over the years and systems expansion is stagnant.  Developing and implementing an enhancement plan utilizing an ownership approach will help considerably in turning Utilities into an efficient and self supporting department.  In order to establish an ownership relationship with Utilities, each committee member would have to look at Utilities as if it were their own personal investment or business.

Each committee member would have to become familiar with Utilities’:
-intradepartmental roles in completing missions
-growth potentials

Collectively the committee would have to identify the areas in which each member has experience or expertise so those talents can be applied accordingly throughout the enhancement process.  For example; if one or two committee members have experience in office management they could focus on areas related to such.

All intradepartmental leaders would need to give a short briefing to the committee in which they define their areas of responsibility, statistics related to their areas, their manpower, etc.  After such briefings, there would need to be an open discussion period for all of the leaders and the committee.  The primary purpose for such briefings and discussion period would be to establish professional, face to face relationships among those responsible for the functionality and care of Gloucester’s utility assets.

Each committee member would need to visit the varying sections of Utilities at least one time per month.  Such visits would serve to educate committee members on what is entailed in performing day to day operations and will help instill the ownership concept.  When employees see people taking interest in what they are doing they tend to perform better.  Such visits would need to be completely observational and educational in nature and all observations and suggestions would need to be presented to the committee before shared with others.  The only exception to this would be for safety concerns.  Situations where a person or persons’ safety is at risk should always be brought to administration’s attention immediately, through whatever means available.

A high level of participation and dedication would be required from all Utilities employees and the advisory committee to insure success of an enhancement program.  The frequency of committee meetings would have to change from bi-monthly to monthly and there would likely be frequent special meetings as well.  Increasing the number of committee meetings would be necessary to heighten focus, enhance the committees’ knowledge base, expedite the enhancement process and establish and maintain forward momentum through all process phases.

Once the above steps are in motion, the committee would then be able to begin to establish concise goals and desired results of the enhancement plan.  That is when the real work would begin.

No interest was shown in developing such an enhancement plan as it never even made it off the table. Changing the frequency of the meetings did not fly either, as it was unanimously voted down by my fellow committee members. I sensed my fellow committee members were unwilling to dedicate the necessary time to fulfill such a plan. From that time forward, the PUAC basically continued along the same path I can only assume it was traveling prior to my appointment; one of no direction or purpose. There will undoubtedly be those who will claim the PUAC has and continues to serve a worthwhile purpose and that everything is fine within Gloucester’s Utility Department. If that were the factual case, none of the articles that will be contained in this series would be necessary. In upcoming articles I will share some of my concerns about safety, accountability, water and sewer rates and a few other topics. If you pay taxes or pay for water or sewer in Gloucester County, you shouldn’t miss any of the articles.

Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point

What the Heck is Happening to Gloucester’s Public Education System??

On Monday, November 28, 2016, I and some other folks attended an open house and viewed a film at Gloucester High School. The school system appeared to be prepared for 350 or so people, but only 60 to 65 people showed up. I believe more Gloucester People would have attended if the school system had scheduled it for a Saturday event from, say 9AM to 3PM and advertised it vigorously within the community. Instead, the event began at 5:15PM and lasted until around 8PM, on a Monday. Aren’t most people either still at work or driving home at 5:15PM on weekdays? The event time was also during dinner hours for most folks.   

Having attended GHS for a couple of years shortly after it was built, I was amazed at the great condition of the schoolhouse. After hearing stories for the last several years about how bad of shape GHS is in; I was expecting the place to be in shambles. That was absolutely not the case.

There likely needs to be a significant amount of money spent on our schoolhouse, but not as much as our school administrators are trying to make us believe. One of their complaints is the undependability and inefficiency of the heating, ventilation and cooling system. Considering the schoolhouse was built in the mid 1970’s, it is probably time to replace the entire system. The administrators complain the roof needs to be replaced. Well, roof maintenance is part of maintaining any building, so if there is a need to replace the waterproofing components of the roof, then it needs to be replaced before other components are damaged. If a future replacement account for major schoolhouse components had been started when the school was built, money would be available when needed. Every year monies could have been added to the account as part of the schoolhouse’s operating expenses. When a school system builds a schoolhouse it is provided with information that identifies the life expectancy of such things as HVAC and roofing systems. Our local, state and federal governments choose to wait until something falls apart, then borrow money to fix and replace things. Operating this way is costing us far more than investing money in a replacement fund every year. Just let it accumulate interest each year and then pay cash when things are needed. Maybe someone needs to look into who is benefiting from all of the interest money we pay each year.

During our tour we spoke with teachers who said noise transfer from neighboring classrooms and hallways interferes with teaching and learning. I asked if changes in the methods of teaching had increased the noise level in today’s classrooms. The answer was along the lines of “probably”. Upon asking more questions it became apparent that a lot of the noise is generated by small groups from varying classes being sent in the hallway to work independent of the rest of their class. I found all of this odd because when I attended GHS, we had 25 to 30 students per class and we broke down into small groups at times, but we remained in the classroom. Everyone was taught and expected to be conscious of the volume of their voice and to respect each other by not disrupting the class. As a matter of fact, most of the classrooms didn’t even have doors. (Doors were installed some years later though.) We as students were expected to keep the noise level down and for the most part we did. If noise transference is a problem, there are ways of fixing the problem without reconfiguring the entire inside of the building.

Speaking of reconfiguring; that appears to be our school system’s ultimate objective. After touring several areas of the schoolhouse we were directed to the auditorium to watch what I consider an indoctrination film titled, “Most Likely to Succeed”. Chuck Thompson published a review of the film on GVLN and can be found at this link  I must say I agree with Mr. Thompson’s opinions.

America’s public education system has been under siege for a long time; the ultimate objective being to lower America’s educational standards and success in order to bring our Country inline with the objectives of the United Nations/New World Order. Every aspect of their objectives entails weakening the strong and empowering the weak, on a global scale.  

America used to have the most robust and successful public education system in the world. Our public education system significantly helped make America the country with the strongest economy and military in the world. Though there have always been efforts to compromise America’s educational success, none triggered a rapid decline in American public education quality like George H.W. Bush’s commitment of America to the provisions and objectives of United Nations Agenda 21. Don’t get me wrong; there were efforts prior to 1997 to implement Socialism/Communism into America’s public education system. It wasn’t until Old Man Bush sold America out that everything really began to snowball. Mr. Obama further committed America to U.N./New World Order Rule when he committed “OUR”  Country to U.N. Agenda 2030 which has set the efforts of implementing Socialism/Communism into our public school systems into overdrive.

Gloucester County has not been immune to what our so called Presidents have done to our public education system since old man Bush committed America to Agenda 21. We never see those we elect at the local level truly fight back against the plague that is engulfing our country. We elect them to be our voice and all they do is remain silent. They remain silent because we allow them to by not speaking up and telling them we are not going to allow the federal and state government to herd us down the road to Socialism/Communism.   

Former Gloucester Public Schools Superintendent, Howard B. (Ben) Kiser was successful in steering our elected representatives into pushing the Socialism/Communism envelop, by shoving the design of Page Middle School down this community’s throat. Now Mr. Kiser is in a position to influence all school districts in Virginia as the Director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. The schoolhouse designs Mr. Kiser and others who I consider to be Socialist/Communist oriented traitors to America are pushing on us, were created after thousands of America’s so called educators like Kiser visited Finland on indoctrination trips. They claim Finland’s way of educating is the best way because Finland currently has one of the best rated public education systems in the world. Rated at what measures and by whom; other New World Order propagandists? What our elected leaders and school administrators don’t tell us is; Finland is a Socialist Country where the government foots the bill for everything including educating teachers. They don’t tell us that Finland educators say they have equal success in older box style schoolhouses as they do in modern, more expensive designed schoolhouses like Page Middle School. They don’t tell us the personal income tax rate in Finland averaged 52.96% from 1995 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 62.20% in 1995 and a record low of 49.00% in 2010. (How would you like the government taking over half of what you earn?) They don’t tell us Finland’s schools practice collectivism. They don’t tell us collectivism is a trait of Communism and Socialism. They don’t tell us that in collectivist cultures, identity is based on the social network to which one belongs and with the implementation of collectivism in our public schools, individualism will be erased. Everything will be about what is good for the group and completely ignoring what is best for each individual. This will erase the potential of there being other great individuals like George Washington Carver, Louis Pasture, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison and so on. The only way to achieve the goal of collectivism is by “leveling the playing field”; in other words the strong must be weakened and the weak must be empowered. In the education spectrum that equates to lowering standards to make it appear more students are successful in academia land.

I believe we need to take back control of our public education system and return it to an educational institution that reflects the values, morals, traditions, customs, quality and superiority that empowered America to become the greatest and freest nation in the World. Common Core must go, but more importantly, the federal government must be stopped from blackmailing our public education system into submitting to the Socialist/Communist ideology of the United Nations.

Look for a future article on, “where the money will come from to pay for our school administration’s $100,000,000 vision”.

Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point, Virginia
Parent Warrior 

Friday, December 2, 2016

All About Vodka

Vodka.  Almost everyone you ask what Vodka comes from, the typical answer is that it comes from potatoes.  Well, that answer is both correct as well as incorrect.  Yes, you can make Vodka from potatoes, but you can also make vodka from any ferment-able substance or biomass.  Vodka can be made from sugar, corn, wheat, rice, sorghum,  rye, barley and the list goes on.

  What a distiller is doing is creating as pure a form of ethanol as possible from a base alcohol.  When this is done, there is pretty much nothing left from the base flavors in the final product.  In other words, you will not get any flavors of potatoes in Vodka nor any base flavors of whatever base is used to create Vodka.

  So what gives Vodka it's flavors?  As a pure ethanol, vodka only has 5 known flavors.  Those flavors only come from two components.  Those two components are the local water supply of the distillery when the distiller proofs down the Vodka, which means watering down the Vodka, and the yeast that was used in fermenting the base mash for making the base alcohol.  There are hundreds of variations of yeast out on the market today and each one has a different flavor.  Those yeast flavors do in fact transfer to the final product.  It does not matter if we are talking about Vodka, Whiskey, Gin, Rum, Brandy or and variations of liquors.

  With that note, what is the difference between a $10.00 dollar bottle of Vodka and a $100.00 bottle of Vodka?  $90.00.  Marketing.  That's mainly it more than any other aspect of the product.  Now there are some other variables that can distinguish a good Vodka from that of a bad one and that is all dependent on the distillery and their practices.

  What is distilling though?  It is merely the concentration and at the right distillery, the purification of alcohol.  What is done in a distillery is, a base, either liquid or a full mash, that has been fermented to produce a base of either beer or wine, is entered into a still.  The still heats the base alcohol up to where alcohol becomes a gas and travels upward in the still.  It then goes through a cooling process to come out as a concentrated liquid spirit.  For Vodka, you run the still at about 190 proof or better which is a near pure ethanol, stripping out the base flavors and smells.

  The first thing out of a still is the lightest forms of alcohol known in the industry as heads.  Heads have some nasty chemicals in them known as hexitones, acetone, and methanol.  These chemicals are very bitter tasting and is the stuff nasty hangovers come from.  Not what you want in your main product.  But, there is no legal requirement to take them out.  These chemicals are in your beer and your wine and there is no real way to get them out except through distillation.  A good distillery will take out these nasty chemicals.  Other distilleries leave them in which will give the final product some very nasty flavors.

  But this is not the only area where nasty flavored chemicals can come into play during the distillation cycle.  At the very end, as distillation is coming to a close, the last part coming out are the heaviest forms of alcohol that are referred to in the industry as tails, which are lighter in taste but again contain some nasty flavors.  Most distilleries separate the tails from the main product, but again, there is no legal requirement to do so.

  So if you leave in both the heads and tails in the main product, you are going to get a rather nasty tasting product.  Are there ways to remove these nasty flavors?  Yes.  Charcoal filtering is probably the most commonly used tactic to rid the product of the nasty taste of these other alcohols.  My own preference is to buy and consume products where the distillery takes out the heads and the tails from the main product.  How do you know which one's do this?  You don't.  There are no requirements to report this information to the public.

  This aspect of heads and tails is true of all spirits produced, not just specific to Vodka.  So these are some of the other aspects that differentiate one product from another.  Finding an inexpensive Vodka that is just as good, if not better than, a very expensive one isn't all that hard when dealing with Vodka.  That isn't the case with other spirits.  Other spirits have many more variables to factor in.

  Pictured at the top of this article is Platinum Vodka.  It's inexpensive and fully agreeable.  Not considered the best out there, but I have no issues with it.  It's 7 times distilled.  What does that mean?  It has more marketing meaning than anything else in my own opinion.  There are two ways to achieve 7 times distilling or 3 times 5 times or whatever anyone wants to claim for their product that seems to separate them from everyone else on the market.  But let's cover the bases here anyway.

  There are a number of different stills out on the market from which to make spirits.  The three main types of stills are the continuous still, the pot still and the column still.  We won't cover the continuous still as that would not be used for this type of statement in production.  That leaves the pot still and the column still.  If you are using a pot still, 7 times distilling means you have put the alcohol through the distilling process 7 different times which is a real time nightmare.  In a column still, one only needs to put on 7 heads on the column.  Each head on that column produces it's own distillation and the 7 heads covers the term, distilled 7 times.  Another term would be a 7 times re-flux system.  One run still equals 7 times distilled.

  At present, Vodka sells more cases nationwide as well as worldwide than any other spirit on the market according to Beverage World.  Whiskey produces more revenue, but bottle volume, right now Vodka is number one.  That changes a great deal.  Usually whiskey is the number one consumed spirit throughout the world.  Flavored Vodkas have had a massive impact on the market which is starting to soften according to industry insiders.  Most of the flavored Vodkas are referred to as Candy Vodkas by many in the beverage industry.  Vodka takes just about any flavor well as again, Vodka has little in the line of flavor profiles on it's own.

  Now here is some fun.  How many people know what Vodka means?  It has a number of meanings from little water, to burnt water to even burned wine.  Vodka as we know it today is mostly a 20th century product dating back to only 1934.  Earlier products called Vodka were usually strong flavored spirits of all kinds and from various bases for production.  The name Vodka goes way back to the 8th Century and possibly even earlier.  No one is sure and research still continues.

  Enjoy responsibly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Propaganda Film Most Likely To Succeed Shown At Gloucester High School

This is only a clip from BYOD, whomever they are, that praises the propaganda film, Most Likely To Succeed, the film that was shown at the Gloucester High School last night.  It's a positive promo spin for the film that does not seem to be available to the public and that is no surprise that it is being hidden from the public.  Tried to research this Lip, BOYD entity and nothing other than what you see above could be found.  Again, not a surprise.

  Here is a link to the Daily Press article on the subject.

  Now the link to the film makers website.  Film not available for viewing unless you are a collectivist school board member and want to host a viewing, or it comes down from above and you have to host a viewing because some elite collectivist has dictated that you do or get a new job somewhere else.  (The enemy is entrenched from within).

  Collectivists always hide what they don't want you to find out until it's to late and you can't fight it anymore.  Then they can say that you had the opportunity, when chances are high you didn't, so therefore silence gives consent.  This is not about the children, it's about the takeover of our freedoms.  Make no mistake about that.  We will continue to dig and publish any new findings.