Delegate wants sales tax to apply to motor fuels

The 5 percent general sales tax would be partially offset by reducing the fuel tax by 5 cents per gallon.

RICHMOND - It's a long shot, but at least one state lawmaker is trying to head off the impending re-tolling of tunnels in his area by raising taxes on gasoline sales statewide.

Del. Kenny Alexander, D-Norfolk, has submitted legislation that would apply the state's 5 percent general sales tax to motor fuels, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for Virginia's overburdened transportation infrastructure.

If passed, Alexander says, his measure could provide an alternative means of financing the planned expansion of the Midtown Tunnel and rehabilitation of the Downtown Tunnel. That project is now slated to be funded by the reimposition of tolls on the two Elizabeth River crossings later this year.

Alexander's proposal, HB892, is unlikely to get traction in the current political climate. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and the Republican-led General Assembly have consistently opposed any new taxes for transportation.

If tolls are imposed on the two tunnels, Alexander said he at least wants motorists to have the option of paying them in cash.

To that end, he has introduced another measure, HB889, that would enable drivers to pay the tolls without the use of automated or electronic devices.

Current plans call for collecting the tolls only via the electronic E-ZPass system, eliminating the need for toll booths.

Cash or E-ZPass, the tolls will impose a burdensome cost on his constituents, Alexander said.

The tunnel project is being undertaken by a public-private partnership. The toll for cars during peak hours will start at $1.84 and could be increased up to 3.5 percent a year for 58 years.

For many area residents, the tunnels are essential for getting to jobs, medical services and government offices, Alexander said.

"Hampton Roads is one community," he said. "To toll those roads, to me, is problematic because we're so interdependent."

Alexander's funding proposal would generate an estimated $800 million a year by imposing the 5 percent general sales tax on motor fuels. He would partially offset that by reducing the current fuel tax from 17.5 cents to 12.5 cents per gallon, reducing revenue by $250 million a year.

The remaining $550 million in new revenue would be dedicated to highway construction and distributed according to this formula: 38 percent to Northern Virginia, 31 percent to Hampton Roads and 31 percent to the rest of the state.

The bill also authorizes the issuance of $5 billion in bonds to be repaid from the net new revenue.

Another lawmaker, Del. Algie Howell, D-Norfolk, has introduced a bill, HB393, to raise the existing fuel tax by 10 cents per gallon.An identical bill from Howell last year was killed in committee.

WRABA Spreads Christmas cheer

This is the eleventh year of a project we at WRABA call Christmas Cheer. This program is a partnership with the four schools in our area, Round Hill, Preston Park, Monterey and Burlington, to provide children with a Merry Christmas. WRABA’s Executive Director receives the wishes of several children from these schools and WRABA Members then adopt the Angels and provide them with Christmas gifts out of their own generosity and pockets. In addition to gifts, WRABA members also donate to the project so each child also receives a stuffed stocking containing toiletries, snacks, coloring books, crayons and a stuffed animal to cuddle.

This has been a project WRABA is extremely proud of. We feel that the children are our future customers, employees and possibly business owners! In short, they ARE our future. Additionally, we feel strongly that everyone should have a positive holiday experience. It is times like this we can make a difference in the life of a child and, in addition to adding happiness today, maybe introducing them to the fact that others care and there is a reason to work hard and succeed! If you wish to participate in this program, feel free to call the WRABA office for details.

Click here to view the entire Winter 2011 Newsletter

Roanoke Greek Festival’s 6th Annual Event

The Greek community of SW Virginia invites you to the 6th Annual Roanoke Greek Festival to be held on September 16th, 17th and 18th. The festival will be held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 30 Huntington Boulevard rain or shine.

Last year, over 24,000 people attended the three day cultural event. Although taking place in Roanoke, the festival boasts a regional draw with supporters from Blacksburg, Lynchburg, Harrisonburg and other nearby communities. Our festival is a cultural event that shares our wellknown cuisine such as souvlaki, gyro, pastichio, moussaka, dolmades, spanakopita, tiropita, baklava and other delicious pastries. We also feature our Greek drinks including wine, beer and coffee. The Kosta Kas- tanis Band will be our featured Greek band this year along with traditional dancing performed by our young dance group. Visitors are also able to purchase a variety of imported items in our ―Agora‖ (marketplace) which has vendors selling fine gold, silver jewelry, clothing, pottery, artwork, music and a variety of foods in our mini Greek grocery store.

In addition, church tours are also offered. The Holy Trin-ity Greek Orthodox Church is the only place to see and learn about authentic Byzan- tine iconography, the centu-ries old fresco painting seen in some of the oldest churches in the world today.

In a hurry? Please stop by our drive-thru located at 3815 Williamson Road. Orders can be called in at 362-3601 or faxed to 362-3038. Admission is free. Portion of proceeds will benefit the Res-cue Mission, Center in the Square and Apple Ridge Farms.

Click here to view the entire Fall 2011 Newsletter

10th Anniversary Star City Motor Madness Cruise Night June 24th

Star City Motor Madness once again comes to Williamson Road, Friday, June 24th from 6pm to 10pm. This is the biggest single event on Williamson Road each year. Many Williamson Road retailers say this is their best day of the year.

In its 10th year, Star City Motor Madness is a massive “cruise-in” on Williamson Road on Friday followed by a 500+ car show in downtown Roanoke the next day from 10am to 4pm. Williamson Road has long been the road for cruising, especially in the 1950s and 1960s when Williamson Road was virtually the only way into and out of the north side of Roanoke.

Cruises occur throughout the U.S. as a celebration of America’s passion for the automobile. Typically cruises consist of antique cars and customized cars. Star City Motor Madness however is open to any auto enthusiast whose car evokes a feeling of nostalgia or excitement.

WRABA is a Diamond Sponsor of the 2-day event. WRABA has been the premier sponsor since Star City Motor Madness’ first year in 2002.

As anyone who has attended the cruise can attest, Williamson Road and its businesses are in the spotlight the evening of the cruise as literally thousands of cars cruise the road and thousands of spectators set up lawn chairs along the sidewalk from Civic Mall all the way to Happy’s Flea Market. In an effort to reduce congestion, beginning this year outside lanes of Williamson Road will be open only to cruising vehicles and inside lanes for through traffic.

Throughout the evening cruisers can park and spectators may enjoy the vehicles up close at Berglund Credit Line. Food and entertainment will be available.

By 2010 Star City Motor Madness had achieved national status as one of the premiere automotive events in the United States. This was due to the Roanoke event being featured on nationwide TV on the SPEED Channel program, “My Classic Car,” with Dennis Gage. You can view the episode online at www.myclassiccar.com/ episode/15/07/

Star City Motor Madness draws from throughout the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. Through fees from the participants and donations from sponsors, the event raises money for the Virginia Museum of Transportation. For spectators all activities are free. For car enthusiasts there is no charge to cruise, though parking at Berglund Credit Line is $10 and across the street from Berglund is $5. To show a car downtown the next day the fee is $25.

Click here to view the entire Summer 2011 Newsletter

Williamson Road Post office Closes March 2011

What has been a concern for businesses and residents of the Williamson Road Area for the past ten years becomes a reality in March 2011. The Williamson Road branch of the Post Office is closing.

This location has been on the list of possible closings for about ten years now. As recently as a year ago businesses and residents alike again waged the battle to save this branch. Actually, it was thought the battle was won when, after much opposition and strong support from Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Office, the branch stayed open through a round of proposed cuts. This time it is for real and came with no prior notice to the local Postmaster or the Congressman’s Office.

If you have a post office box at this branch that renews in January, February or March of 2011, your box will not be renewed. You can choose to receive your mail at your street address or get a different box at another branch. The Main Post Office and the branch in Brookside Plaza are your closest options.

If your box rental at the Williamson Road branch renewal occurs between April and December of 2011 your box will be moved to the Main Post Office and used until renewal time when you will have to make other arrangements such as a different box at that or another branch or receiving at your street address.

Once you have made your decision as to where you would like to receive your mail, be sure to change your address with vendors, the IRS and banks. Don’t forget to let us know!

Click here for the entire Spring 2011 Newsletter