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2005 #110; A year to remember

January

The year in news got off to a fast start with Councilman Charles Brown blasting the city administration over the fact that just 13 percent of the 166 men in the Suffolk Fire Department are black.

Blacks account for 44 of 171 – or 26 percent – of the Suffolk Police Department’s employees. &uot;That is out of tolerance,&uot; said Brown, who is black. &uot;Those departments stand out like a sore thumb. &uot;These figures are not equitable…and they are not acceptable for me,&uot; he continued. &uot;We need to do a much better job of having our employee population mirror the city’s population.&uot;

The Suffolk Chicken Wars got under way as Chick-fil-A opened a restaurant across the street from KFC and Popeyes. Several mentally challenged individuals camped out overnight to be among the first customers in line. The drive-through lane has been packed since.

Constance Road and North Main Street are closed for months as they are prepared for the opening of the Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center. Work takes longer than planned as city workers learn the subtleties of paving with gold.

The Suffolk City Council is expected to approve its $28 million capital budget for 2005-06. Nearly half of the proposed budget – $12.3 million – will be used to complete construction of Creekside Elementary School. The remaining $15.7 million will be spent on downtown projects.

After three months of closed-door meetings, Suffolk City Council voted to enter the real estate development business by purchasing the 25-acre former Obici Hospital site for $4.5 million.

Still miffed at being ousted as mayor in a coup six months earlier, E. Dana Dickens resigned his Chuckatuck borough seat to take the helm of Hampton Roads Partnership.

All-around good egg Joe Barlow appointed to fill Dickens seat.

The Suffolk City Council got its first look at a proposed tax relief program for the elderly that, if adopted, would be the most generous offered in Hampton Roads. Not only is there no relief, but increased burden, for everyone else.

Somewhat historic Birdsong Recreation Center torn down so motorists can have an unobstructed view of Cultural Arts Center.

Attorney Johnnie E. Mizelle, a former Suffolk mayor and community leader, was arrested on charges that he propositioned a client for sexual favors in exchange for legal fees and committed assault.

February

Planters Peanuts and the city have struck a deal on eight acres of downtown property essential to the Fairgrounds redevelopment project. After more than a year of discussions, Planters has agreed to turn over seven of the 8.3 acres it originally leased from the city in 1993. In return, the city deeded the remaining 1.2 acres to Planters to use for a planned expansion.

No criminal charges will be filed against city public utilities workers fired in October 2003 after being accused of mishandling public money, Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson said. Neither his office nor the FBI was able to turn up evidence of criminal activity during an 18-month investigation, largely because of poor record-keeping and accounting procedures used by the city of Suffolk public utilities department. &uot;The accounting processes and procedures make it difficult – if not impossible – to track the money…or show if the city even suffered a financial loss,&uot; Ferguson said. &uot;We couldn’t determine if money was missing.&uot;

Ronald Daughtrey, an agriculture education teacher at Lakeland High School, has been named the 2005 citywide Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools.

March

The decrepit King’s Highway Bridge is closed, forcing commuters between Driver and Chuckatuck to add several miles to their commute. The closing is entirely the fault of bridge area dimwits who opposed a VDOT plan to replace the bridge six years earlier and persuaded council members to back them up. Now there is no money to replace it.

The Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center opens for business, amazingly surpassing occupancy expectations for the year in the first month.

Suffolk Police Officer William Drew Henley dies in the line of duty.

United Way files for divorce from Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless, citing irreconcilable differences.

April

An all-day party held to dedicate Constant’s Wharf Park.

Peter Pruden Jr. dies at 87.

Downtown Development Coordinator Elizabeth McCoury announces she will be leaving her job with the city.

Mr. Peanut statue at Character Corner replaced by statue of McCoury.

Council presented a whopping proposed $312 million budget which calls for the tax rate staying the same. This despite the fact that every city around Suffolk reduced rates substantially because of soaring real estate assessments. Officials say residents would just squander their money on things like food and gasoline, anyway.

City Council votes to take over maintenance of roads from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Officials later try to change their decision when they find out that Suffolk has 430 square miles, not just the two-square miles of downtown.

Joining the mayors of such sophisticated metropolises as Margaret, Alabama, Smakover, Arkansas and Natchitoches, Louisiana, Mayor Bobby Ralph proclaims April Confederate Heritage & History Month in Suffolk.

Gov. Mark Warner, who refused to proclaim April as Confederate Heritage and History Month in Virginia, visits to open $35 million, 50,000-square foot Lockheed facility in north Suffolk.

Suffolk Recreation Department officials propose $46.2 million sports complex be built in Driver. Amenities to include equestrian center, polo field and yacht club. Officials hail project as blow against discrimination of the wealthy. In a related move, city proposes tax relief for the wealthy program.

Rotary honors Curtis Milteer as First Citizen.

PDCCC Work Force Development Center will be moving downtown.

May

Suffolk School Board members protest a planned appearance by a bluegrass band called Special Ed and the Short Bus at the Constant’s Wharf Park, contending the name is an insult to special education students.

Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless executive director Terry Miller abruptly resigns, coincidentally, a week before state authorities announce an investigation into shelter finances. Among the shenanigans being looked at: Miller had submitted, and been paid, more than $12,000 in mileage reimbursements in 2004.

Three people and two dogs are all that turn out for a forum on the proposed direct election of the mayor.

June

It’s announced that the city has contracted with a firm to conduct a survey to convince residents what a great job their elected representatives are doing.

School Board members, apparently fearing that they may not be viewed by everyone just yet as utterly humorless, uptight sticks in the mud, decree that girls who do not wear dresses and boys who do not wear suits to graduation ceremonies will not be allowed to participate. The initiative is successful.

All three Suffolk high schools receive SOL accreditation. School board members fail to pass tests.

Whaleyville borough council member Curtis Milteer raises a stink over the city’s failure to provide automated trash removal service in rural areas. Officials tell Milteer that providing the service would not help downtown in any way.

City officials are presented awards from the Virginia Downtown Development Association for their commitment to revitalizing downtown. These are displayed proudly in the municipal building alongside the slew of awards the city claimed earlier in the year from the Virginia Defecate on Rural Areas Association.

July

After years of preaching smart growth and touting the benefits of the Unified Development Ordinance, the city inexplicably hosts a meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn at which urban planner Ray Gindroz proposed adding thousands of new homes to the area south of downtown at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Go figure.

The woman who made national headlines when her son was videotaped playing with a gun in 2004, was back in the limelight in 2005 when she was accused of child neglect after the then 4-year-old fell from a ladder inside a two-story garage under construction, suffering broken bones in his arms and face.

Suffolk School Board votes to ban dancing.

No new restaurants open in Suffolk.

Selena Cuffee-Glenn joins city government as an assistant city manager, leaving only a dozen assistant city manager positions unfilled.

Pat Winter, director of nursing for the Western Tidewater Health District, was named the recipient of the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) 2005 Public Health Nurse of the Year Award.

A ruckus was raised over an effort by city officials to sell the Jefferson School building to developer Mickey Garcia at about 15 percent of its assessed value. A new assessment was ordered and it was found that the property had been over assessed by more than 400 percent. The fiasco prompts a citywide reassessment of all real property which shows similar over assessments, lowering everyone’s tax bill by 85 percent.

Councilman Charles F. Brown is challenging city officials to live up to its word to increase recreational opportunities in the East Suffolk community. Brown, during a Suffolk City Council’s work session on Wednesday, said the city appears to have neglected a promise of eight years ago to focus on recreation along the East Washington Street corridor. Brown said city officials made the commitment in the late 1990s, when the city was discussing plans to turn the former Suffolk High School into the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts. All the community has gotten since that time has been a couple or three new ball fields, Brown said. He said he was registering the complaint because it had been at least a month since he had accused anyone with the city of racism.

Douglas Naismith retires after 16 years at the helm of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

August

In the biggest surprise since summer followed spring, it was announced that the city of Suffolk would likely have to help fund the operation of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts once it opens next year.

Historic marker installed to commemorate African American oystermen in Hobson.

Nansemond Indians have their inaugural powwow at the dazzling new Mattanock Town development. Tourists flood to Suffolk to see authentic 17th century Native American village and casino.

Goobers give way to garlic for a day as Italians descend on Suffolk for Sister Cities Commission-hosted Festa Italiana.

City officials decide to stop forcing taxpayers to

fund campaign rallies for council members after objections raised to city spending $7,000 on Councilman Charles Brown’s annual Lake Kennedy Boosters’ Community Day. Taxpayers will continue to fund telemarketing, direct mail and local access cable televisions campaigns on behalf of incumbent council member re-election efforts, however.

September

Obici announces merger with Sentara Healthcare System.

After concerns expressed by some on council that Suffolk residents can’t walk down the street without being shot at, council members are treated to a presentation that shows people in some cities, specifically Portsmouth and Fallujah, are killing each other at a faster rate than are Suffolkians.

Disregarding the likely negative impact on long-standing, expensive plans to revitalize communities of Whaleyville and Holland, School Board members formally endorse a plan to close Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools, replacing them with a single school lat an undisclosed location. City council members rightfully offer a suggestion…in a place where the sun does not shine.

Suffolk Sheriff Raleigh Isaacs installed as president of Virginia Sheriff’s Association.

October

With fears of declining popularity, Peanut Fest officials decide they need to shake things up in 2005 by doing something really different. Reaction among the public to the first Underwater Peanut Fest was mixed.

Suffolk School Board adopts resolution that earth is flat and sun revolves around the earth.

An 18-year-old Suffolk man was charged with burglarizing and setting fire to St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Two-year-old Jonathan Martin is mauled to death by two pit bull mixes in his Whaleyville home.

Gov.-to-be Tim Kaine visited Art’s Kitchen for a rally days before the election.

November

Isaacs wins reelection as sheriff

The Suffolk City Council, during its work session Wednesday, voted 6 to 1 to ask the 2007 General Assembly to change the city charter to allow residents to give input on issues through a referendum. It’s determined that there may be things coming up in 2006 that residents are not responsible enough to vote correctly on.

Homearama coming to Suffolk

Construction finally begins on North Suffolk Library.

Construction on library halted after officials realize library won’t be downtown.

December

Herb Brinkley died at 77, ending a half-a-century run at Herb’s BBQ.

Barr Brothers liquidating inventory after more than half-a-century adorning Suffolkians with jewelry.

Cedar Hill Cemetery added to state historic landmarks registry

In what is always the most anxiously-anticipated announcement of the year, the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts will be the subject of the 2006 vehicle sticker. Residents love the stickers, which have become hot items on eBay. Poll finds that removing stickers from windshields listed by residents among favorite activities, ranking between root canal surgery and shaving their heads with cheese graters. Neighboring communities have stupidly discontinued using them.

A stabbing victim in north Suffolk was the city’s seventh homicide victim of the year, the highest number of homicides in the city in seven years. A presentation is held at last council meeting of year showing that while suicide car bombings may be on the increase in Suffolk, most Iraqi cities have a higher incidence of them.

Main Street Jazz Club was expected to open. City finally realizes its goal of having a restaurant for every man, woman and child in Suffolk.