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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Updated 9/30/14 @ 9:50 am

Amthor to expand Pitt. Co. facility:
(Gretna, Va.) -- Amthor International will increase production at their Gretna plant---that will mean 30 new jobs immediately. Brian Amthor, Vice President of Marketing, says they want to meet higher demand.  Amthor operates an 86,000 square foot plant and employs over 100 people in Gretna.  They opened in 1992.  Amthor says they won’t need to add new space…but the additional jobs will allow the company to operate its existing two shifts at full capacity.  Amthor is also exploring transportation options for potential employees who live outside of the immediate Gretna area.  They’re looking into a park-and-ride service for their workers who live in Danville, Martinsville and South Boston.

DCC gets $2.5 million to expand precision machining program:
(Danville, Va.) -- The precision machining program at Danville Community College is getting some help from Washington.
      The U.S. Labor Department has awarded a $2.5 million grant to DCC to expand its job training capabilities and advanced manufacturing program.
      DCC President Dr. Bruce R. Scism says the money will “take training to a whole new level that is not seen in this area of the country -- if anywhere in the country -- with respect to precision machining." He said the "real benefit" is that "this kind of enterprise can lead to new jobs... and they'll be good paying (jobs) and they'll be permanent."
    He says the infrastructure is already in place for a multi-million expansion. He said "a fair" amount of the $2.5 million is in equipment, including several "major equipment manufacturers (that) have pledged to contribute $1 million worth of equipment to this project."
   The grant is part of $450 million in awards to colleges across the country. DCC and four other Virginia schools will share $14 million.
     Scism says this will position the college and the region for “some important improvements.” According to Scism, the program will allow the college to "work with folks in terms of their experience levels" with a program structured to train students who have experience in precision machine work, as well as those who are just starting out in this field.  
     The money is part of $2 billion included in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program, which is part of the 2009 Stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama.
     In a news release, Vice President Joe Biden said the grants focus on building relationships between businesses, educators and the workforce.

Hurt outlines Healthcare Consumer Privacy Act:
(Danville, Va.) -- A year after it’s launch a new study shows many of the privacy and security risks in the Government’s Health Care website are still not fixed.
          A local lawmaker last week introduced a bill that would protect people who are not enrolled in Obamacare from having their information remain on the wesite.
          A constituent recently contacted Fifth District Congressman Robert Hurt, saying he could not delete the profile he created on Healthcare-dot-gov---even after he decided not to purchase a plan. Hurt wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services asking them to delete the profile, but they refused to comply.
          Healthcare.gov has been plagued by security issues since its launch nearly a year ago.  In July, the website was hacked, and that was not even discovered for weeks.
          Hurt last week joined a Georgia Democrat in sponsoring the Healthcare Consumer Privacy Act.  It would allow people who choose not to enroll in Obamacare to remove their personal information from the government website.

Hannah Graham suspect linked to Morgan Harrington murder:
(Charlottesville, Va.) -- The man suspected of kidnapping Hannah Graham from the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville earlier this month has now been linked by forensic evidence to Morgan Harrington, the Virginia Tech student who went missing in 2009 and whose remains were later found in rural Albemarle County.
     Virginia State Police confirmed the link in a statement Monday. State Police Public Relations Director Corrine Geller said Matthew’s arrest “provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue. There is a still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation and we appreciate the public’s patience as we move forward."
    Harrington went missing from a concert in Charlottesville in October 2009. Her body was found on a farm in Albemarle County the following January.
    Graham was last seen September 13. Jesse Matthew Jr. was arrested last week in Texas and charged with abduction with the intent to defile in the disappearance of Graham, who was a student at the University of Virginia.

Teen killed in Halifax Co. crash:
(Nathalie, Va.) -- A Halifax County teenager died in a single-vehicle crash over the weekend.  It happened shortly after four-thirty Saturday afternoon on Route 40, in the northern part of Halifax County.  Troopers say 18-year old Brittany Massie of Nathalie was driving a 1998 GMC SUV, headed east on Route 40.  The vehicle ran off the right side of the highway. Massie overcorrected, the vehicle then ran off the left side of the road, hit a ditch and overturned. Massie was partially ejected ---she was taken to Halifax Regional Hospital --- she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Road salt in short supply nationwide:
(Danville, Va.) -- While some regions of the country are having problems getting road salt because of last year’s brutal winter, that isn’t the case in Danville.
      Public Works Director Rick Drazenovich says he’s received a bid from Morton and is awaiting a price from a cheaper supplier, Cargill, but the initial bid was for $116 a ton. That compares to about $92 a ton last year.
     While higher, many cities have seen the price double from last year. In some cases, the price is five times higher.
      That’s if they can find the salt. Many areas are experiencing shortages as they attempt to stockpile supplies for the coming winter.

     Drazenovich says Danville generally places two orders for 1,200 tons and has received no reports of any shortages from its suppliers.

      He says past prices in the past have risen as high as $108 per ton, depending on the severity of the weather.

Flashing yellow arrows to replace green lights:
(Richmond, Va.) -- 91 intersections in Southside and Southwest Virginia will soon feature flashing yellow allows for left turns---rather than a solid green light.
          The Virginia Department of Transportation says studies have shown that after a short learning period, flashing yellow signals are better understood, better obeyed and are safer.
          Those studies show a flashing yellow arrow reminds drivers of the need to yield to oncoming traffic than a solid green light.
          Work on the one-and-a-half (m) million dollar project begins this week---it should be finished by the end of the year.
          In Pittsylvania County, three intersections will get the flash yellow lights--- Route 29-Business and State Route 40 in Gretna; at 29-Business and County Road in Hurt, and Route 58 at Callahan’s Hill.

Wounded Warrior to move into new home tomorrow:
(Nathalie, Va.) -- A Patrick County veteran severely wounded in Afghanistan will get the keys to his new home this week.
          The so-called “smart home” for former Marine Corporal J.B. Kerns of Ararat will be dedicated tomorrow.
          Kerns was a combat engineer and was on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan in April 2011 when he lost both legs and his right arm to an improvised explosive device.  He has undergone dozens of surgeries since the injury and has artificial legs.
          Two years ago, the Gary Sinise Foundation and his Building For America’s Bravest program bought land to build a “smart home” for Kerns to allow him to live independently. It includes retractable cook tops, cabinets and shelving, elevators and other items, all accessible via an iPad.  A 30-acre site overlooking the Ararat River was purchased for the home. Construction began a year ago.
          Fundraising efforts for the home included a local concert. Sinise’s band, called the Lt. Dan Band after the character Sinise played in the movie “Forrest Gump,” held a concert to raise money.

Commission approves million-dollar grant for "Project Tire":
(Bristol, Va.) --  A $1,000,000 grant could clear the way for a recycling business code named “Project Tire.”  The Tobacco Commission approved the money yesterday---but with some significant changes from an earlier request.
          Delegate Danny Marshall says Danville and Pittsylvania County originally wanted to use the money to build a 40,000-45,000 square foot building for a recycling company to locate to the Cane Creek Center.  But the company now says they want to build on their own.   Marshall says the (m) million dollars will now be used for water and sewer work at the site.
          Marshall says the project would create 111 jobs. The company is promising a $16.3 million investment over a three-year period. Pittsylvania County is in competition with the states of New Jersey and Georgia for this project.  The company has not been identified.  Marshall says they're hoping for an announcement before the end of the year.


NTSB releases report on fatal plane crash at VIR:
(Halifax County, Va.) --
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety board have filed a preliminary report on last weekend’s fatal plane crash at Virginia International Raceway.  It confirms the pilot was trying to perform aerial maneuvers when his plane went down.
          46-year old Jon Couch was flying a single-engine, World War Two-era plane with his 72-year old mother, Frances on board. Both were from Annapolis, Maryland and were headed to VIR for motorcycle races.  Jon Couch owned one of the teams. 
          The plane went down in the middle of the Patriot Course.  The preliminary report quotes a witness---a member of Couch’s race team.  He got a text from his boss that he would be there in about six minutes.  The witness saw the plane flying low over the track.  It then turned, made another pass, and attempted a barrel roll.  The witness could see the plane did not have enough altitude to make it.  The plane clipped some trees and crashed---leaving a 300-foot debris field.  No one on the ground was hurt.



Averett's Nursing Program marks a milestone:
(Danville, Va.) -- Averett University’s Nursing Department recognized its first class of seniors Thursday with a special white coat ceremony.
     Averett began a bachelor of science in nursing and an RN to BSN program four years ago. Since then, the school has been approved to offer a bachelor of science in nursing degree.
     Stormie Kirks of Danville will be among the program’s first graduates and was one of 13 seniors recognized for her achievements.
      She plans on working in pediatrics before continuing her education.
      Senior Lauren Wilkins said completing a nursing degree is the realization of a lifelong dream. She plans to work in trauma or ICU and eventually become a nurse practitioner.  
     Averett President Dr. Tiffany Franks says this would not have been possible without the vision of community investors who helped the university raise $2.6 million to start the program.
      116 students are currently enrolled in the nursing program and the first group of RN to BSN students should complete the offerings in January 2015.

SVHEC to start IT Academy:
(South Boston, Va.) -- The Tobacco Commission last week approved a grant application to establish an IT Academy at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston.
          It’ll be a short-term, non-credit training program to give students the skills and certifications needed in the growing Information Technology sector.
          The ITA will pair classroom instruction with hands-on exercises in a lab that replicates an actual data center environment. SVHEC is working closely with regional IT firms Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, Microsoft, and HP to plan and implement the IT Academy.
          Also yesterday, the commission approved more than $7 million for its tobacco region scholarship program---it’ll now be available to more students.
          The commission voted to open up awards to any student in its service area. Until this year, awards were only available to students whose families had some connection to tobacco farming. The scholarships give $2,700 annually for tuition and other costs.

Local schools to receive security upgrades through state grant:
(Danville, Va.) -- Schools here on the Southside will be the beneficiaries of a $6 million grant announced by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
     The School Security Equipment Grants are designed to protect students and teachers in 100 school divisions and six regional educational programs. The grants will pay for video monitoring systems, metal detectors, classroom locks, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems, direct communications links between schools and law enforcement agencies, and other security upgrades in 373 schools and other buildings.
    Area schools receiving the grants include the Danville Public School system, which is getting $99,990 for George Washington High.
     In Pittsylvania County, $86,948 has been earmarked for Chatham High, Dan River High, Dan River Middle, Gretna High, Gretna Middle, Kentuck Elementary, Stony Mill Elementary and Tunstall High. Another $1,120 will pay for security upgrades at the Pittsylvania Regional Alternative Center.
     Halifax County will receive $16,390 for the Governor’s Career and Technical Academy and Halifax County Middle.
      The criteria for making the awards — developed by the Virginia Department of Education and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services — gave priority to schools most in need of modern security equipment, schools with relatively high numbers of offenses, and schools with equipment needs identified by a school security audit.

Wal-Mart buys new van for local food pantry:
(Danville, Va.) -- A $50,000 grant from Wal-Mart has paid for a new van for God’s Storehouse in Danville.
     Director Karen Harris says the grant was awarded earlier but the agency has just received the van.
     Harris says they were able to purchase the van and have it wrapped with their logo with money left over from the award. The remaining $14,000 will be used to purchase food for needy families in the Danville area.
     God’s Storehouse has already helped more than 2,800 households this month, with fifty new families asking for assistance.

Duke Energy pledges $10 million for clean-up:
(Danville, Va.) -- Duke Energy has pledged $10 million to clean up the Dan River and other waterways.
     Duke President Paul Newton was in Danville Tuesday and addressed a large crowd at Abreu-Grogan Park. The park was closed most of the summer while Duke contractors cleaned up a large collection of coal ash that had accumulated at the base of the Schoolfield Dam. The ash was released in a massive spill in February at Duke’s former Dan River Steam Station in Eden.
      Newton says their $10 million Water Resources Fund includes $1.5 million for projects specifically in the Dan River Basin, along with "eight seed grantees from the Carolinas and the Dan River region." Newton says the grantees "represent the types of projects we're looking for from the Water Resources Fund."
     In Danville, that includes $250,000 towards the new Riverbank Fund established with the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region.  Duke Energy is also investing $500,000 in enhancements at Abreu-Grogan Park and is forming a local stakeholder group to give residents more input on what more can be done to restore the river.
Duke's Water Resources Fund will also pay for improvements at other waterways in North and South Carolina, along with Georgia and Tennessee.

Teen sentenced in violent home invasion:
(Chatham, Va.) -- Judge William Alexander has upheld the sentence recommended by a Pittsylvania County jury in a home invasion, sentencing 19-year-old Angel Hernandez to 46 years in prison.
     The panel found Hernandez guilty of statutory burglary, aggravated malicious wounding and two firearm charges at the conclusion of his two-day trial in June. He was found not-guilty of robbery.
     The incident happened last September on the Halifax Road. The victim said he was washing dishes when he heard a knock at the door and asked who was there. When he didn’t get an answer, he began walking toward the door as two Hispanic males kicked it open. One carried a revolver and another was armed with a machete. A third Hispanic male came in through the back door, carrying a shotgun. He asked the homeowner where he kept his money. When he said he didn’t have any, the victim was hit by blast from the shotgun.
      The three were arrested two days later when investigators went to a house on Mount Cross Road to investigate a drug complaint. Angel Hernandez was arrested, along with Enrique and Johnny Hernandez. Authorities think Angel’s uncle, Enrique, fired the shots. Enrique and Johnny Hernandez have yet to be tried.

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