04:05am, 08/01/14
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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Updated 7/31/14 @ 5:15 pm

Dan River park reopens after coal ash spill:
(Danville, Va.) --
Abreu-Grogan Park reopened Thursday. The park on Memorial Drive had been closed to the public since April 1, to allow Duke Energy to remove a huge deposit of coal ash near the Schoolfield Dam. About 2,500 tons of coal ash were suctioned out of the Dan River over two-and-a-half months.
       The deposit of coal ash was located on the north bank of the river, across from the park. It spanned 350 yards by 20 yards. Coal ash was released into the river after a pipe under the main coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s shuttered Dan River Steam Station -- located 20 miles upstream in Eden, N.C. -- broke on Feb. 2.
       Duke Energy and its contract crews built a security fence and brought a barge and vacuum dredging and dewatering equipment to the park. Dredging operations started May 6 and ended on July 3. Since then, Duke Energy has removed its equipment and restored the park to its original condition.
     Danville Parks and Recreation will its first program at the park on Saturday, Aug. 9. The program will feature boating demonstrations from 2 to 5 p.m.
The park includes a boathouse and a boat access ramp. (photos by Leonard Harville)

Deal still not reached on NC coal ash bill:
(Raleigh, N.C.) (AP) -- North Carolina lawmakers say they have still not reached agreement on legislation requiring Duke Energy to limit pollution leaking from its coal ash dumps across the state, nearly six months after a spill coated 70 miles of the Dan River with sludge.
     After initially signaling a compromise bill would be ready for a vote Thursday, negotiations between Republicans in the House and Senate appear to have broken down.
      The Senate version of the bill includes firm deadlines for Duke to clean up or cap its 33 ash dumps and creates a new commission to oversee the process, with legislators appointing the majority of the seats.
      The House is pushing to give more oversight authority to the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who worked at Duke for 29 years.

Rep. Hurt supports lawsuit against Obama:
(Washington, D.C.) -- A local congressman is among those supporting a plan to launch a campaign-season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority.
     5th District Congressman Robert Hurt says Obama has overstepped his authority, saying "he has engaged in rewriting laws that he doesn't like... and I think that this is unacceptable."
      Hurt bristles at the notion that this is a political stunt, saying President Obama has exceeded the bounds of the U.S. Constitution in health care and in his border policy regarding illegal immigrants. He says the GOP-led House has "a right and a responsibility (to take action) because at the end of the day we need for the Supreme Court to make sure that what the President is doing is constitutional."
     Hurt says that applies not only to the health care overhaul but also to his immigration policy. He believes President Obama has also exceeded his authority on the border, saying he has “decided through executive order that he wants certain illegal aliens to stay here, despite the fact that the law says that they can’t stay here.”
     Five conservative Republicans voted with Democrats in opposing the lawsuit.    

Williams testifies about Rolex given to Gov. McDonnell:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- A key witness in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell testified that he made a mistake when he bought a Rolex watch for the governor at the first lady's request.
     Businessman Jonnie Williams (pictured at left) said Thursday that he thought it was wrong to buy the watch and didn't want people to know.  
     The watch was passed to the jury, where each juror briefly handled and inspected it. Williams said the watch cost between $6,000 and $7,000.
      The watch is an important piece of evidence because it represents a tangible chunk of the more than $165,000 in secret gifts prosecutors say the McDonnells received from Williams. Other monetary gifts and loans can't be presented in court for jurors to hold.
      In exchange for the gifts, prosecutors say the McDonnells promoted Williams' products.

N.C. Food company coming to Danville:
(Danville, Va.) -- A North Carolina company will resurrect a 20-year old Shell Building in Danville’s Airside Industrial Park. 
     Sky Valley Foods announced Wednesday that the company will bring its food production operations to town. They plann to hire sixty workers immediately, and hope to have 100 on board by the end of next year.
    Two weeks ago, Danville City Council signed off on a $2.75 million loan to purchase the former Shorewood building. The building has been vacant for a year since Amcor purchased the local operation, then shut it down.
     Six months ago, officials from Sun Valley approached Danville's Office of Economic Development to talk about expanding operations locally. They expressed an interest in the Amcor building. 
     Sky Valley will make a variety of food and drink products that will be sold under well-known trademarks to major food and grocery chain stores. They specialize in natural and organic salad dressings and sauces.

Reward offered in Caswell County homicide:
(Yanceyville, N.C.) -- North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that the state is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed a Caswell County fisherman more than five years ago.
      47-year-old Robert Allen Michalec had gone fishing with a friend in Hyco Lake the night of June 25, 2009. When he didn’t show up for work the following day, sheriff’s deputies went looking for him. Michalec’s body was found in the lake near the dock where he had been dropped off the night before.
      The death was ruled a homicide after the state medical examiner determined that Michalec died of blunt force trauma.
      Anyone with information about his death is asked to contact the Caswell County Sheriff’s Department or the State Bureau of Investigation at (919) 662-4500.
Local jobless rates down from 2013:
(Southside, Va.) -- Danville-area jobless rates are steady from a month ago, but down from a year ago.  That's according to the June report  from the Virginia Employment Commission. 
     The Danville Metropolitan area rate was 7.8% in June, up from 7.7% in May. It's down from 8.5% a year ago. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Danville and Pittsylvania County lost about 900 total jobs in the year-to-year period. That 2.3% drop was the highest in Virginia.
     Martinsville no longer has the state’s highest jobless rate.  Their 10.3% rate is lower than Lexington's, which shot up to nearly 11.5%. Martinsville's rate fell from down from 12.2% in June of 2013. The Danville City rate is just under ten percent. Pittsylvania County’s 6.6% rate was the lowest in the region.

Cause determined in house fire:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville’s Fire Marshall has determined that a morning fire that destroyed a home off the South Boston Road started in an overloaded electric socket.
     The early morning blaze destroyed the home at 118 Cain Street. The house was fully involved when the first units arrived at around 2:00 Wednesday morning.
     Battalion Chief Dallas Swinney says the house was a total loss. The family was out of town when the fire broke out and there were no injuries.
     16 crew members spent three-and-a-half hours at the scene. Swinney says the family has a place to stay. (Leonard Harville photos)

Axton teen pleads guilty in farm fires:
(Chatham, Va.) -- An Axton teenager faces a possible 31 years in prison for his role in a series of arsons last summer.
          The Star-Tribune reports 18-year old Angus James Wilson pleaded guilty yesterday to three counts of arson and one for unlawful burning.  He was one of three teens arrested last October after a two-month long spree where several barns and hay bales were burned through in the county. 
          18-year old Daniel Lee Moss and a 17-year old were also charged.  Moss pleaded guilty last month to unlawful burning.  The other teen’s name was not released because of his age.
          In addition to jail time, Wilson could get up to 300-thousand dollars in fines when he’s sentenced in October.

Goodyear posts solid second-quarter earnings:
(Akron, Oh.) -- Goodyear’s second-quarter net income rose modestly from a year ago.  The Akron-based tire maker yesterday announced they netted $213 million during the three-month period, compared with $181 million a year earlier. That’s despite a slight loss in revenue. Chairman and CEO Richard Kramer says sales in North America fell seven percent ---but the overall number of tires sold in North America rose by more than a half-(m) million.  That’s due to a spike in the sale of replacement tires.  Goodyear has more than two-thousand workers at their Danville factory.

Martinsville woman charged in daughter's overdose death:
(Martinsville, Va.) -- Martinsville investigators say a five-year old girl died last year after consuming methadone, cocaine, painkillers and other prescription drugs.  They have charged the mother with murder.
     It was last November when Martinsville Police got a report of two unresponsive children at a house on Dunlap Street.  Five-year-old AahLayah Martin died about an hour after officers arrived on the scene.  A second child, a 2-year-old girl, was experiencing what police described as “a medical emergency” and was taken to a Roanoke hospital.  She has since recovered.
     Prosecutors charged the girl’s mother, Dominique Lanier Martin.  Investigators say the medications were not prescribed to her.


Gov. McAuliffe discusses workforce development at DCC:
(Danville, Va.) -- Governor Terry McAuliffe listened Tuesday as educators and business leaders offered suggestions for upgrading workforce training on the Southside,  and said the state must do a better job of “tying what our students are learning with the jobs and the skill sets of the future.”
      Nearly every hand in the room went up when McAuliffe asked how many local employers have unfilled jobs because they can’t find workers with the training needed to fill those positions. McAuliffe told the gathering that “the system as it exists today is not working.”     
      McAuliffe said the jobs are available, but “we’ve got to match what jobs are out there with what they ought to be taught in school.”
     Several suggestions were made during the hour-long roundtable discussion at Danville Community College, and Gov. McAuliffe said he will include those ideas in an executive order he is preparing on workforce development.

McAuliffe hails ruling striking down same-sex marriage ban:
(Danville, Va.) -- Governor Terry McAuliffe says he welcomes an appeals court’s decision striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. The governor said he "was overjoyed" by the ruling adding: "Virginia needs to be open and welcoming to everyone."
      McAuliffe’s comments came in Danville, a day after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that state laws banning gay marriage violate the U.S. Constitution.
      Gov. McAuliffe said the ruling underscores his belief that Virginia should have an open door policy. He said  Monday's decision "sends a signal that Virginia is open and welcoming to everyone."
     The decision applies throughout the circuit, which includes North and South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.
     The issue will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Terry McAuliffe addresses the Danville-Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce
(Leonard Harville photo)

Gov. McAuliffe brings his wife & cabinet to Danville:
(Danville, Va.) -- Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe threw out the first pitch at the Danville Braves baseball game Monday night.  On Tuesday, he was joined by First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and his cabinet for a series of stops in the area.  McAuliffe visited Goodyear workers during shift change and stopped by the Danville Chamber of Commerce's State of the Region Breakfast. McAuliffe held a full cabinet meeting at The Institute before moderating a roundtable discussion on economic development and workforce development at Danville Community College.

Dorothy McAuliffe meets with residents of Danville House (Ken Warrick photo)

Shooting victim's condition is upgraded:
(Danville, Va.) -- A Danville man who suffered multiple wounds in a weekend shooting is showing signs of improvement. Danville Police say he is now listed in stable condition at Danville Regional Medical Center. The victim had been listed as serious after suffering multiple gunshots wounds late Saturday night. The incident happened at around 11:30 in the 100 block of Macon Street. Capt. Barry Creasy said officers responded to a report of shots fired and found a 38 year old male victim inside a car. The man was shot several times and was taken to the emergency room by the Danville Life Saving Crew. At last report, no arrests had been made. (photo: Leonard Harville)

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