Most read stories of 2019 on theprincegeorgejournal.com

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: January 7, 2020 | 1:00 p.m.

PRINCE GEORGE – Throughout the course of 2019, theprincegeorgejournal.com shared hundreds of news stories, ranging from concerns about the health and safety of students at Walton Elementary School, to the board’s decision to Prince George County a Second Amendment sanctuary county, and many other topics in between.

These were some of the top stories read by the community on our website during 2019.

‘Irreplaceable’ Coach Mickey Roberts leaves legacy of success in PG upon retirement
August 15, 2019 – LINK: Click Here

After 36 years of working side-by-side with Prince George High School’s baseball teams, 23 of those years as head coach, Mickey Roberts has formally retired. Mid-August was one of the first times in a very long time that Roberts could no longer officially be called “coach,” although it’s a good bet that the title may be with him for a very long time, if not for the rest of his life.

“Coach Mickey Roberts’ retirement is a well-deserved phase in his life, but will leave PGHS with a major void to fill,” remarked Hezekiah Butler, Athletic Director, Prince George High School. “The entire Roberts family has been a part of this community and school for nearly four decades, as teachers, coaches, and students. The commitment they have made to the kids and activities is really unprecedented. Coach Roberts has truly built a premier program in Central Virginia that can serve as a model for all high school sports.”

Roberts’ professional accomplishments, accolades, and highlights as head coach for Prince George High School are truly exceptional, extensive, and somewhat legendary. Roberts was six-time Central District Coach of the Year. He was two-Time Conference 12 Coach of the Year. He was two-Time Group 5A South Region Coach of the Year. Roberts was the 2018 VHSL Group 5A State Coach of the Year. He was the 2018 & 2019 VHSCA All-Star Game Coach. He was the 2018 NFHS State of Virginia Coach of the Year. He was the coach of the 9th District/Conference Championship Teams and Regional Championship Teams. Coach Roberts was the coach of the 2018 State Championship Team. His coaching record is 338-151.

“I want to thank the many baseball families that I have had the pleasure of working with over the years,” Roberts said. “These are the people who have helped build the tremendous program that we have at Prince George High School, and I am grateful to each and every one of them.”

Volunteer firefighters ‘bullied, harassed’ by paid staff, longtime member alleges
January 17, 2019 – LINK: Click Here

Allegations of bullying and harassment within the ranks of the county’s combined fire and EMS department prompted one of its longtime volunteers to speak to county leaders and ask them to take action.

During their first meeting of 2019, supervisors heard from Kevin Foster, not in his role as a member of the county school board, but instead as a volunteer firefighter with over three decades of service to Prince George and, during his remarks, he alleged that a number of volunteers were concerned about the department’s state of affairs when it comes to “day-to-day management, counterproductive management, financial, physical, and human resource mismanagement” of the fire and EMS department while also expressing concern about a perceived culture of bullying and harassment of volunteer firefighters by paid career staff.

“I am disappointed that I am part of a system that encourages paid employees to bully, harass, and file false allegations against us and those folks are rewarded with jobs, promotions, and overtime,” Foster said to supervisors. 

He added, “I am disappointed that paid employees are allowed to criticize and take cheap shots at volunteers with social media posts, social media shares, and even face-to-face bullying of our young volunteers.”

Foster would further allege that decisions by “management has allowed daily operational decisions by employees that allow freelancing and, at times, have placed employees and the general public in harm’s way by racing apparatus to calls that shouldn’t even be on the road.”

He went on to say that the culture of the department has shifted to become that which “hides behind policy instead of communicating to those with facts and knowledge.”

“We have volunteers with vast book knowledge as well as vast experience when it comes to the fire service but, we have a culture now that says, ‘We do it this way now,’” Foster said. 

He also questioned the staffing decisions made by the department, ranging from paramedic placement at specific stations, to the character traits of some who have been employed with the department.

“There are a number of highly qualified and respected employees in this system, but like any organization, there are a handful of toxic employees who don’t have the county or citizens’ best interests at heart,” Foster detailed. “Several have been hired who are known troublemakers and proven liars and they continue to keep the pot stirred up and are rewarded for doing so.”

Foster’s comments were delivered during the public comment portion of the meeting, which traditionally doesn’t see supervisors offering responses to citizen remarks. Following the meeting, County Administrator Percy Ashcraft didn’t address the allegations specifically but he did say he appreciates Foster’s right to express his opinion.

“He has a right as a citizen and as a longtime firefighter to express his opinions and what he views as concerns,” he said. “We will take what he said to heart and look into strengthening our fire and EMS organization by not only talking to him and his company, we will also be reaching out to the other companies to see if there are similar concerns,” adding last January’s comments was one of the first times a matter involving volunteer firefighters came before the board in that way.

“I have been here almost eight years now and I guess this is the first time that this point of view has been so strongly stated,” he said. “There is certainly a daily dialogue with the volunteer companies as well as our career personnel. If there are some things that we have to address, we will address them and I think the board of supervisors expects that to happen.”

Hopewell Moose Family Center destroyed in fire
February 28, 2019 – LINK: Click Here

The Hopewell Moose Family Center in Hopewell, a longtime venue for community events and the home of Hopewell’s Loyal Order of Moose chapter was destroyed in a massive blaze in late February.

According to fire officials, just before 5 a.m., Hopewell fire crews responded to the lodge building located at 4701 Western Street just off Oaklawn Boulevard to find the building ablaze.

The strength of the fire necessitated mutual aid response from neighboring Fort Lee and Prince George to help knock down the intense flames and smoke. Once that smoke had cleared, the devastation revealed itself in the morning light as much of the building was destroyed, with only exterior brick walls remaining in portions of the decades-old facility.

No one was injured in the fire, emergency crews reported and the building has been considered a total loss and the remnants were eventually demolished.

The lodge served as the home of the Loyal Order of Moose Chapter 1472 and as the venue for a number of community organizations and gatherings, such as the annual Tri-Cities Law Enforcement Memorial Breakfast, where members of local law enforcement and their families come together to honor officers who died in the line of duty from across the Tri-Cities, Fort Lee, Prince George, and Dinwiddie County.

That event would be hosted at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Petersburg last year.

Officials said they plan to rebuild the lodge as its former home remains vacant nearly a year after the devastating fire.

Driver charged with manslaughter after crash kills PGHS students
March 14, 2019 – LINK: Click Here

Jeffrey Rose was charged with aggravated manslaughter in March following a crash along James River Drive that left several people seriously injured and claimed the life of Prince George High School student Trevor Aldridge. He would later be indicted by a Prince George grand jury and sentenced in December to 20 years behind bars with 14 years of that sentence suspended.

In addition to his six-year prison term, Rose’s driver’s license was indefinitely suspended and once released, he will remain on probation for an indefinite amount of time.

The case involving Rose ties back to an early March crash along James River Drive a short distance from the Benjamin Harrison Bridge where, according to Prince George Police, a 2003 pickup truck driven by Rose was traveling westbound in the 15000 block of James River Drive when he ran off the road to the right. Through the local police department’s investigation, it was revealed that Rose overcorrected to the left and entered the eastbound lane, into the path of a 2003 Acura, with the two cars colliding.

The driver of the Acura, identified as Trevor Aldridge, a student at Prince George High School, died at the scene. Two other passengers inside the sedan and Rose were all transported to VCU Medical Center in Richmond with serious injuries.

In a later interview, Prince George Commonwealth’s Attorney Susan Fierro said, “Signs of Rose’s potential intoxication were noted by first responders” on the scene of the fatal crash, with the man later admitting to police he had been drinking earlier in the day.

“The hospital records that were obtained pursuant to the search warrant contained results of a blood test,” she said. “The toxicologist from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science would have converted the results of that test into a BAC result of approximately 0.19-0.20 at the time of the accident,” nearly three times the legal limit.

In addition, local authorities obtained a search warrant for Rose’s truck in order to obtain its event data recorder, which tracks various driver inputs and can provide key information in the time immediately prior to a crash or similar significant impact. According to the data gleaned from the device, it was revealed that Rose was traveling 75 miles per hour along James River Drive three seconds before the crash.

Along with his prison term, Rose’s license has been suspended for an indefinite period of time and he will remain on probation indefinitely. 

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