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The Rockingham County Sheriff confirms his office is investigating a shooting on Wednesday night. Deputies were dispatched to the area of Union Springs Road and Clover Hill. While details are limited, Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said everybody involved is accounted for and there is no threat to the community. Earlier in the night, the 8000 block of Union Springs Road was closed for an ‘active emergency situation,' however, the road has since reopened to traffic. Hutcheson did not immediately provide information on if anybody was interested or who was involved. This is a developing story. Stay with WHSV News for updates.
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Officials have ruled that the cause of a house fire that occurred on September 9 on Southfork Drive in Waynesboro was accidental in nature. According to a press release from the City of Waynesboro, the Waynesboro Fire Department responded to a report of a structure fire near River Run Circle. The first engine arrived at approximately 3:57 a.m. and reported extensive fire throughout a single-family home. Officials say that at the time of the fire, there were four people living in the home. One person did not survive and a second person was transported to VCU with serious burns. According to the press release, the home was “a total loss.”
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James Madison University is working to address a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, and leadership may consider temporary salary reductions or furloughs for some employees. According to a letter sent to JMU employees this week, the university is facing a $31.4 million deficit because of decreased student enrollment and the associated loss of tuition, fees, housing and dining revenue. “This year, a record number of students committed to become members of JMU’s first-year class, but to date, hundreds of students, across all class years, have either deferred their admission to a later semester, withdrawn from the university, or not yet paid their bill,” read part of the letter obtained by WHSV. Earlier this month, JMU transitioned to online-learning less than two weeks after the fall semester began when hundreds of positive COVID-19 were reported within the JMU community. President Jonathan Alger, along with top administrators at the Harrisonburg campus, said the university reduced spending by freezing new hires, raises and bonuses as well as reduced all discretionary spending and eliminated travel which will last for the foreseeable future. They added the university has carried forward savings from the previous fiscal year, leveraged interest earnings and are using cash reserves to help mitigate the budget shortfall. At the moment, JMU said it’s unclear how much the university will have to scale back its budget based on funding from the commonwealth of Virginia. There’s no indication if JMU will receive any new money from the Commonwealth for the Education and General budget which covers costs for academic operations. Another unknown for leadership is the changes in enrollment. JMU officials said they will not know the fall semester’s shortfall until Oct. 10, which is the final date for students to withdraw from the university and get a pro-rated refund. Because of these factors, JMU said it may consider temporary pay cuts and limited furloughs for employees whose salaries exceed a certain threshold. “As an institution, we will continue to prioritize our educational mission and academic progress for our students, as well as protection of employment for our faculty and staff,” the letter stated. University vice presidents are working with staff on strategies and budget reduction plans with the hopes of further savings. “As we have said since the start of the pandemic, we are all in this together and will persevere together. Never have we all been more interconnected, and all of us have a role to play in keeping one another safe. We look forward to a successful return to a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online learning on Oct. 5, made possible by your dedication, determination and support,” the letter to employees read. You can read the full letter sent to JMU employees below: Dear Colleagues, The work each and every one of you has contributed in the past months to maintaining campus operations, helping our students learn in new and innovative ways, and keeping people safe and healthy has been remarkable, tireless and impactful. As at many other institutions, however, the pandemic has taken a significant toll on the university’s operating budget. We wanted to share a sense of where we are at this point in time, along with some of the uncertainties we currently face. This year, a record number of students committed to become members of JMU’s first-year class, but to date, hundreds of students, across all class years, have either deferred their admission to a later semester, withdrawn from the university, or not yet paid their bill. This is a trend at universities across the country as students and families reconsider their plans for this school year. As a result of this decreased student enrollment, and the associated loss of tuition and fees as well as housing and dining revenue, the university is facing a budget shortfall of at least $31.4M this academic year. Since March and the start of the pandemic, the university has reduced spending across the board. We have frozen almost all hiring, raises and bonuses, paused new construction, reduced all discretionary spending and eliminated travel. These measures will be maintained for the foreseeable future. Additionally, the university has carried forward savings from the previous fiscal year, leveraged interest earnings and utilized cash reserves to help mitigate the budget shortfall. University vice presidents are currently working with their colleagues on targeted divisional strategies and budget reduction plans to realize further savings. It is unclear at this point exactly how much the university will have to reduce its budget as two key unknowns remain: • Funding from the Commonwealth: We do not yet know if JMU will receive any new funds from the Commonwealth for the Education & General budget, which funds our academic operations. This is an issue currently before the General Assembly as part of their ongoing special session. State legislators will work this week to reconcile the House and Senate budgets. The House budget would allocate $12.8M to JMU, $6.1M of which would be federal CARES Act funding. CARES Act funding can be used only to reimburse COVID-19 expenses that have already occurred, as well as to cover new pandemic-related expenses. The Senate budget does not specifically allocate any funds to JMU. However, the Senate budget includes $65M in federal CARES Act funding, which has not been allocated by institution. JMU could receive a portion of that funding. The reconciled budget will then have to be approved by the Governor.It is also important to note that while the Governor’s recent announcement regarding debt restructuring for higher education provides helpful financial flexibility and some relief with regard to the Auxiliaries budget (which addresses areas such as housing and dining that are not covered by tuition, and which has taken a heavy hit in terms of room and board fees), it does not make the operating budget reductions mentioned above any less necessary. The university is actively engaged in dialogue with the Virginia Department of Treasury regarding refinancing options that satisfy our short-term needs while minimizing overall debt-service costs. • Variations in Enrollment: The full extent of the fall semester shortfall will not be known until after Oct. 10, which is the final date for students to withdraw from the university and receive a pro-rated refund. Questions also remain with regard to what Spring Semester enrollment will look like. Depending on the factors noted above, we may also need to consider additional options to address the budget shortfall, such as temporary salary reductions or limited furloughs for employees whose salaries exceed a certain threshold. As an institution, we will continue to prioritize our educational mission and academic progress for our students, as well as protection of employment for our faculty and staff. We are working with colleagues across the university to review the budget and our options. The colleges are working with their governance bodies on this front, and leadership from all divisions of the university are consulting with their teams. We will continue to be in touch as the details become clearer. As we have said since the start of the pandemic, we are all in this together and will persevere together. Never have we all been more interconnected, and all of us have a role to play in keeping one another safe. We look forward to a successful return to a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online learning on Oct. 5, made possible by your dedication, determination and support. Thank you for everything you do for this institution, for our students and for our community. Sincerely, Jonathan Alger, President, James Madison University Heather Coltman, Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs Donna Harper, Vice President, Access and Enrollment Management Charlie King, Senior Vice President, Administration and Finance Nick Langridge, Vice President, University Advancement Tim Miller, Vice President, Student Affairs
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Harrisonburg’s five city council candidates will talk about issues in the Friendly City on Oct. 21. The forum will feature Democrats Mayor Deanna Reed, Laura Dent, and Charles Hendricks, as well as Independent George Hirschmann and Republican Kathleen Kelley. The forum will be live-streamed for viewers at home, but as of now, organizers are unsure if candidates will be meeting in a socially distanced fashion, or meeting over a video call. The forum will be hosted by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Association of Realtors, Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition and the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Association of Realtors and Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition have collaborated for political forums in the past, but local United Way Executive Director Laura Toni-Holsinger said this is the non-profits first time. “The three pillars of the United Way have always been give, advocate, volunteer," Toni-Holsinger said. "We have just worked really hard lately to lean into the advocacy part and so helping people be informed about who candidates are in one of the localities that we serve, we think is really important.” Toni-Holsinger said a major topic of the forum will be around Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) individuals, affordable housing and transportation. “We look forward to making that a forefront issue for all the candidates and getting to know their understanding of what the issues are in the community and how they can address them if elected,” Toni-Holsinger said. The forum will be moderated by Dr. Lori L. Britt, who is a James Madison University professor, as well as the director of the Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue at the university. “Lori Britt has moderator for years prior. She is really great at [moderating] professionally,” Toni-Holsinger said. “She also lives in [Rockingham County] and so she doesn’t have any personal bias here and can’t vote for any of these candidates.” Toni-Holsinger said people can register ahead of time to virtually attend and also submit their own questions for the candidates before the forum.
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Over the last several months, Mercy House, a non-profit in Harrisonburg that helps with affordable housing, has been looking for a new home for an additional thrift store. The organization uses sales from its three thrift stores to help fund services they provide to the community. Shannon Porter, the executive director, said their lease for the thrift boutique on University Blvd. was coming to an end, and after losing some business with an absence of JMU students, he decided it was time to move. “The new property really did fall into the right time and right place for us,” Porter said. To continue to better serve the area, the organization found a little spot on North Main Street in Timberville that will now serve as their third thrift store location. Porter said just last week they closed in on purchasing the bank building, which features retail space and six apartment units upstairs. “The retail space is obvious for us. We’re going to put a thrift store in that location,” Porter said. "But we’re also going to be taking those apartments over and putting affordable rents in place and being able to eventually provide some private subsidies for people who need affordable housing.” The executive director said over the next few weeks vendors will be coming in and out the building to clean up the retail space after nothing has occupied it for the past several years. Porter said with a new store, they also hope to hire more people to help out. “We also use our retail operations as an extension of our mission," Porter said. "We provide affordable clothing and low-cost items to survival shoppers that need that and provide good jobs to people that have come out of our shelter operations.” Porter said they’re excited about the move and hopes the Timberville community will see the positivity they can add to the community. The thrift store is expected to be open by the end of November.
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A local bed & breakfast has officially changed its name from Stonewall Jackson Inn to the Friendly City Inn. The owners shared the news on their Facebook page Wednesday morning, saying they fell in love with Harrisonburg because “it truly is the Friendly City,” and they wanted a name that reflected it. The new flower logo is designed by Jeff Guinn at “The Mark-It.” The names of the rooms and suites have also been changed. The new sign was put up Wednesday and the blue tape will hold the new letters in place for 24 hours.