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October 31, 2019

Throwback Thursday: Track site disappoints horsemen

1994: Marshall trainer Willie O’Neill says he’ll keep taking horses to Charles Town, W.Va., for racing instead of trucking them to the planned Colonial Downs track southeast of Richmond.
25 Years Ago
From The Fauquier Citizen edition of October 28, 1994


State put track in wrong place, horsemen say

From behind the wheel of his Chevrolet station wagon, Willie O’Neill watches Cross Boss stride smoothly down the stretch.

“He’s had seven starts and he’s picked up a check every time,” O’Neill says proudly as exercise rider David Bland guides the 4-year-old thoroughbred another lap around the 5/8-mile training track at Belvoir Farm near Marshall.

O’Neill rents and maintains about 150 acres of the farm for his no-frills training operation, from which he clears about $30,000 a year. After three decades of transporting horses to tracks in West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, the Marshall native had expected a reward for his hard work when the Virginia Racing Commission recently awarded the license for the state’s first pari-mutuel track.

But, disappointing local owners and trainers, the license went to a group that plans to build Colonial Downs, a track in New Kent County, southeast of Richmond.

“It sort of popped his dream,” said Marshall horseman and insurance agent James Lawrence, a long-time friend of O’Neill. “Here he thought he would be seven miles from his race track (near Haymarket). It would have been so much cheaper to get them there . . . . It’s gonna be hard on horsemen like Willie.”





Route 17 Spur on schedule

State transportation officials next month plan to open construction bids for the Route 17 Spur, estimated to cost $28 million.

Linking Route 17 north of Warrenton to the Route 29 Eastern Bypass, the 2.5-mile spur will remove through traffic from Broadview Avenue, the town’s very congested commercial strip.

The contract should be awarded in January, with work starting in the spring.


108-lot Remington subdivision finally starts

After a six-year delay, earthmovers finally have begun shaking the ground at the Lee’s Glen subdivision site just north of Warrenton.

Installation of sewer mains will begin this week.

R.D. Robinson, the developer and president of Highland County-based Sterling Homes Crop., soon will begin construction. Eighteen of the 108 quarter-acre lots will re ready by January, Robinson said.

“It feels great,” he said. “We’re in the process of getting ready to commence construction. We need to tear down an old barn, things like that. Lots should be ready right after the first of the year, depending on weather.”


Squabble leaves Liberty High bleacher funds uncertain

School officials thought they had more than enough cash to cover the $250,000 price tag for Liberty High’s football bleachers.

But, an accounting dispute with the board of supervisors could leave the school system $50,000 short.

The supervisors hope to resolve the dispute during their meeting Tuesday.

The school board had planned to use $466,000 left over from its 1993-94 budget. The surplus includes $200,000 in operating funds and a $266,000 “rebate” from the state retirement system.

But, Supervisors Georgia Herbert (Scott District) and Dave Mangum (Lee), who make up their board’s Finance Committee, claim the “rebate” should return to the county’s general fund.


Pinching pennies key to Southern Financial growth

The president and chairman of Warrenton-based Southern Financial Federal Savings Bank literally pinches pennies.

Georgia S. Derrico says almost-fanatical cost control helps accounts for the success of the thrift she started with $4 million and one branch in 1986. Southern Financial has grown to $140 million in total assets and seven branches.

“When I was at Chemical (Banking Corp. in New York), I spent money better and faster than anybody,” admitted Ms. Derrico. “I took everybody to lunch in the best restaurants and flew first class.”

But, she also grew bored with her job as a senior vice president of the nation’s largest bank, where she worked 16 years. After she and her husband moved to their weekend home near The Plains, Ms. Derrico raised the capital to start her own savings and loan — one that would operate much differently.

“It’s amazing how much costs can get out of hand if you don’t watch them closely,” she said. “I approve every capital expenditure.”

Ms. Derrico also operates seven branches with 44 employees — not one of them a secretary. Branch employees “stuff envelopes” during slow times to cut costs, she said.

“They watch every penny we spend — from the coffee we put in the offices to the amount we spend on branch operations,” said Tracy L. Damone, manager of the new Southern Financial office on Warrenton’s Broadview Avenue.


“Citizen” named top U.S. weekly

The National Newspaper Association has named The Fauquier Citizen the best weekly of its size in America.

The Citizen received three first-place awards, including one for “General Excellence,” in the category for weeklies with circulations between 6,000 and 9,900. Judges evaluated writing, design, photography and production in the general excellence category.

The awards were presented during the NNA’s annual conference in Orlando.

Since September 1990, The Citizen has earned 141 state and national awards.
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