Local Government, Civic Affairs and Education

(Ferrum Facebook photo)

UPDATE: Ferrum has issued an “all clear” message.

Ferrum College enacted “Shelter in Place” procedures this morning. Twitter messages from the college say a bomb threat was emailed. Students and staff have been told not to leave classrooms.


The Salem VA Medical Center and Goodwill Industries of the Valleys are partnering to collect new and gently-used adult bikes that will be given to veterans who don’t have cars. Goodwill is accepting the donated bikes for veterans at the thrift store on East Main Street in Salem through April 30. About 20 have been collected so far – they will all be given away on May 16. T.J. Thacker was a Marine – he now works at the Salem VA Center and says getting to work is a chore in itself.

4-9 Vet Bikes#1-WEB

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Twenty years of service in the Navy earned Clyde Cooper a GED, college degrees for children and grandchildren and health care.

In the 40 years since he was discharged as a senior chief radioman, Cooper, 81, said the Department of Veterans Affairs has helped him handle progressive supranuclear palsy, a form of Parkinson’s, and knee replacements, but in recent weeks, he’s struggled to get adequate medical supplies for his ileostomy.

“I cannot say enough how wonderful the VA has been, until I had this problem,” Cooper said.

In an ileostomy, the large intestine is removed and the small intestine is diverted to an opening cut into the abdomen, called a stoma. Every other day, Cooper replaces a plastic pouch that is taped to his stoma and catches his digested food.

For decades, the department has provided Cooper with ostomy bags, o-rings and strips needed to replace the bags and keep them clean and secure. He typically needs 40 bags each month. But in January, the department cut him down to 20, which is the standard number for patients on Medicare.

“I found out that my doctor had no say over it,” Cooper said. “Once the technicians got involved and their attention was drawn to how many bags I was getting, they cut me down.”

With only a half supply, Cooper slowly began to run out. He tried supplementing the supply with Ziploc bags. He called the department, his doctor and the supplier, begging for more. Finally, he found himself with a full bag of feces and no more bags.

“It was terrible,” Cooper said, his voice becoming hoarse. “It burned and stung, and it was so humiliating.”

Cooper’s husband, Michael Fitzgerald, tried to find ostomy bags at medical supply stores. One box of supplies containing a bag, rings and strips costs about $50; he had to purchase several. Since Cooper qualifies for Medicare and the department considers him 100 percent disabled, Cooper says he should not have to pay for any of his medical care.

The next month, despite a trip to Richmond’s Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center to meet with his doctor and a technician, another half supply arrived. Cooper said his nurse practitioner, Gerald Montoya, wanted to give him more bags, but his request was blocked.

“My doctor knows, and he agrees with me,” Cooper said. “I have no complaints with him. But it’s beyond him — they decided how much we get, so that’s what we get. I think the doctor ought to have more control. They ought to let the doctor decide.”

Cooper said he is pleased with Montoya and with his department-provided wheelchair and scooter.

A spokeswoman for the VA’s North Atlantic District said that the number of ostomy bags provided to veterans is determined by a veteran’s local facility, and if a veteran requires more, a physician should be able to request them. Montoya did not return requests for comment.

The department has been working on new programs to streamline how medical centers buy supplies for treating 7 million veterans. According to a November report from the Government Accountability Office, the department’s new procurement system was confusing, lacked clinical input and didn’t save any money. But the spokeswoman said that ongoing procurement battles should not affect Cooper’s issue.

“More and more people say they know someone with an ostomy, whereas 10 years ago someone might think they were the only one,” said Joann Plencner, an ostomy nurse at Continuum Home Health in Charlottesville who runs a local support group. “But it’s still kind of hush-hush compared to other conditions, and that needs to change.”

Plencner said most of her patients get by on the Medicare standard of 20 bags per month, but diet, weight and medical conditions could require more frequent use.

Cooper’s house, with peach walls and rainbow-colored yard decorations, is full of photos of him and Fitzgerald. They met at a club and ran Charlottesville’s first openly gay bar, originally known as The Silver Fox, and then as Club 216, for 20 years.

“I loved the gay bar; it used to be the only place I could be myself,” Cooper said. “Now I don’t give a s(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk).”

When they retired, the couple traveled the country and visited national parks. Cooper chuckled, remembering teetering up the steps of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

Without help from Fitzgerald and a neighbor, Loretta, Cooper fears he would have to move to a nursing home.

For now, he confines himself to teaching his husband to cook and testing medical supplies. He ordered a range of ostomy bags from a supply company, Hollister, and found the bag he likes the best. If he can get the department to approve 30 or 40 7/8-inch bags each month, he’ll be set.

“I don’t want to be pitied for my situation, but it’s not fair,” Cooper said. “I love my country. I served, and I’d like to live out my life well.”


Joe Cobb has been involved in social justice and activism in both faith-based communities and the non-profit world of the Roanoke Valley for nearly a decade. He’s also co-authored a book titled “Our Family Outing” with his former spouse Leigh Ann Taylor… a memoir about Joe coming out as a gay man after being married and having children. He’s now married to his husband James and is running for Roanoke City Council.

4-5 Full Interview Joe Cobb

From Press Release: The Business Leadership Fund (BLF), a political action committee representing the regional business community, is pleased to announce its endorsement of the following Roanoke City Council and Salem City Council candidates:

Roanoke City Council

Councilman Ray Ferris

Councilman Bill Bestpitch

Mr. Joe Cobb

Salem City Council

Mayor Randy Foley

After hosting interviews with candidates in both localities, the BLF voted to endorse Foley, Ferris, Bestpitch, and Cobb as representatives of the PAC’s pro-business, pro-economic development, and pro-regionalism platform.

“The Business Leadership Fund’s support for Ferris, Bestpitch, and Cobb fosters a unique blend of experience and fresh ideas that will help build on Roanoke’s momentum and recent successes,” said Chairman Rick James. “In Salem, the BLF voted to endorse incumbent Randy Foley for Council. We strongly believe Mayor Foley’s proven leadership and vision for Salem, including the Downtown Plan, will continue to strengthen the city’s economic climate and make it an even better place to call home.”

BLF Board of Directors

Vickie Bibee, Abney Boxley, T. Joseph Crawford, John D’Orazio, Edwin C. Hall, Dr. Victor Iannello, Rick James, Stan Lanford, Robert C. Lawson, Mark Lawrence, G. Michael Pace, Bittle W. Porterfield, Ken Randolph, Bob Sells, Cynthia Shelor, W. Lee Wilhelm, Neil Wilkin, Barton J. Wilner

Roanoke County school officials say this morning’s lockdown at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology was initiated when large stage flats that were being moved got caught in wind gusts and slammed to the ground. That made a loud, sharp sound that someone thought sounded like gunfire. Police were called, and lockdown procedures were put into place. The all-clear was sounded about an hour later.

From Roanoke County Schools: Earlier this morning, some students were moving some large wooden theater structures outside that got caught by a breeze and fell to the ground, creating some loud, sharp sounds that were similar to the sound of gunfire. Upon hearing the sounds, a student called 911 to report the sounds. Immediately, as a precaution, the school went on lockdown and the Salem and Roanoke County police responded. During their response, the Salem Police Department evacuated some students to the Salem Civic Center as a further precautionary measure. The lockdown lasted about a little over an hour and then students returned to class to resume the day. At no point were any students or staff in danger.

PREVIOUS: The Burton Center for Arts & Technology was placed on lockdown this morning due to a report of a sound “similar to gunfire”. A Roanoke County Schools spokesman says this is just a precaution. Salem and Roanoke County police have responded. Officials say all students and staff are safe, and parents are asked not to come to the Burton campus.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – Seven people who pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme involving Virginia Department of Transportation officials and snowplow contractors say corruption is endemic to the agency. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the officials and contractors alike indicated that corruption extended beyond the scheme that put all seven behind bars for terms ranging from three months to seven years. Even prosecutor Samantha Bateman said in court that corruption “is a more pervasive problem in the Virginia Department of Transportation than is known.” Agency spokeswoman Jennifer S. McCord said in a statement the department is conducting reviews and internal control to better safeguard procurement and contracting processes. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema has said the snowplow scheme, which also involved drugs, didn’t hurt taxpayers, but did undermine faith in the system.