Make way for technology

Published 3:58 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2023

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In the mid ’90s, technology was evolving in every corner of life, and sometimes that technology caused problems. In January 1996, the City Council adopted a false alarm ordinance in response to the extra burden on emergency service units due to increasing incidents. Fees can be levied by the fire and police departments for false alarm calls. If the fire department responded to a false alarm, charges were assessed based on the fire equipment, vehicles and personnel involved according to the time the units were in service until they were available for other calls. A warning was issued for the first false alarm call, while service fees were tagged on for each thereafter. 

The city got an updated bridge in April. Replacement of the North Broad Street Bridge ended the 72-year existence of the original bridge. The structure was originally constructed in 1924 on the heels of an agreement between the city, Virginia Railroads and the Coastline Railroad Co. to close a gap between Broad Street and the old Pitchkettle Road grade crossing. Approximately 3,300 vehicles used the bridge daily, according to Public Works Director Thomas G. Hines. Features of the new bridge included concrete and steel ‘Very much like the appearance of the Kingsboro bridge,” said Hines. With a slightly higher elevation than the former present structure, the replacement bridge was wider with pedestrian lights.

In June ’96, an interview with James McBride, author of “The Color of Water,” put Suffolk on the map of readers. McBride said that he often visited Suffolk while drafting this tribute to his mother, Ruth McBride Jordan, and the accompanying story of his and 11 siblings’ lives growing up in the Red Hook housing projects of New York. 

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In Aug ’96, supporters of a local businessman’s quest to keep his property – despite the city’s intent to demolish it to make room for a $14 million court complex – protested the groundbreaking ceremony downtown. The groundbreaking included dignitaries such as City Council members, former Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. and the judicial community. William “Bill” Beamon owned “Hot Spot Record & Tapes” on East Washington Street, one of about 10 businesses that were targeted with the wrecking ball to make room for parking around the 95,000-square-foot, tri-level building. However, Beamon was the only property owner to challenge the city legally.

In the fall of ’96, the United States fired a hailstorm of cruise missiles at Iraqi air defense sites. The strike came 12 hours after President Clinton warned that a defiant Saddam Hussein must “pay a price” for his boldest aggression since the Persian Gulf War.

As school began, a report from Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine indicated that most of the nation’s schools serve much higher fat content meals than they should. Norma Frye, Food Services Director for Suffolk’s public schools, said the 16 schools over which her jurisdiction lies went beyond federal government guidelines in providing a healthy menu for students for several years. Even though there seems to be a nationwide trend to reduce fat in meals and offer leaner, healthier foods to students, the students don’t always greet the efforts with great enthusiasm. Vegetables of any kind are often not favorites. In one school, dilled carrots were greeted with “No way!” “I don’t want any,” and an adamant “Not.”Technology found its way to the hospital at the end of ’96. “He” was a perfect member of any office staff: efficient, capable, agreeable and cost-effective. He’s also polite and never sways from his appointed responsibilities. He’ll work right through the day without so much as a coffee break and won’t ever suffer from sore feet or the flu. There is only one other like him in the entire state (at the University of Virginia hospital), 80 in the United States, and 20 throughout Europe and Japan. And in 1996, he was right here at Obici Hospital. “He” is the Helpmate Trackless Robotic Courier currently on loan at Obici Hospital. Helpmate TRC had already become a big hit with the Obici staff and hospital visitors who encounter the computerized robot in the hallway as he goes about his appointed missions.