03:03am, 04/17/14
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Updated 4/16/14 @ 4:20 pm

NC governor proposes new coal ash plan after spill:
(Raleigh, N.C.) (AP) -- North Carolina's governor says he will propose new legislation aimed at strengthening government oversight of coal ash dumps following the massive Feb. 2 spill at a Duke Energy plant that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge.
     Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday his plan would result in the "conversion or closure" of the dumps and close legal loopholes that has allowed Duke to avoid cleaning up groundwater contamination leeching from its 33 unlined ash pits scattered across the state. McCrory declined to take questions about his proposal at a public event and his staff said specific details would be made available at a later time.
     Environmentalists are pushing the state to require Duke to haul more than 100 million tons of the toxic ash away from waterways.


God's Pit Crew needs bottled water:
(Danville, Va.) -- God’s Pit Crew has exhausted its stockpile of bottled water and hopes to replenish supplies this week at Danville Toyota.
     Crew Chief Randy Johnson says one of their trucks will be at the dealership through Saturday to receive donations. 
      Johnson says the shortage follows their response to a recent disaster in West Virginia. Eight counties near Charleston were affected by a massive chemical spill, which left the water unsafe for drinking.
    God’s Pit Crew sent 170,000 bottles to the area and that exhausted supplies in their local warehouse.
    Danville Toyota stepped up to the plate and volunteers will be at the dealership all week, collecting bottled water in one of the Crew’s trucks. Nascar driver Peyton Sellers (pictured, left) will be on hand Friday to help with the collection and to sign autographs.
    Johnson says -- with tornado season approaching -- it’s important to have a supply of bottled water on hand.


Va. Tech pays fines related to '07 shootings:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Virginia Tech has paid federal fines for its actions on the morning of April 16, 2007, when a lone gunman killed 32 people on the school's campus.
     The U.S. Department of Education said Wednesday the university has paid two fines totaling $32,500 for violations of the Clery Act, which requires universities to issue timely warnings of campus threats.
     Student gunman Seung-Hui Cho (sung-wee joh) shot two at a dorm on the Blacksburg campus hours before his rampage at a classroom building. University officials have defended their decision to not alert the campus of the first shootings because police said that they were domestic in nature and that the broader campus was not at risk.

 
Danville School budget debate underway:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville City Council and the school board will hold a joint meeting next week to continue budget talks. The talks began Tuesday night when school leaders presented their annual request for local funding. 
     School Board Chairman Ed Polamus says the board is asking for the same amount of money from Council as last year, roughly $17.4 million. That will help fund a 2% employee pay raise. He says the budget eliminates about 20 positions, primarily through attrition.
     It wasn’t the amount of local money requested that drew the attention of Councilman Adam Tomer, it was how the money is to be spent.  Specifically, he questioned a $700,000 contingency fund that’s built in to the school budget. Tomer also objected to what he called a sharp increase in administrative spending and a much smaller increase in classroom spending.
     Polhamus says those numbers will likely be much closer when the school board presents its final budget draft to council next Wednesday.


Citations going out to those without approved trash containers:
(Danville, Va.) -- The grace period for picking up garbage that is not in one of those new rolling containers has ended.
     Danville Public Works Director Rick Drazenovich says customers were required to purchase the approved containers by January first, but his department has been giving homeowners and tenants additional time to make the purchases.
     That grace period ended this month and refuse workers are now placing notices on the older, non-approved cans. Drazenovich says the code enforcement department will issue a notice of non-compliance and and then issue a citation. The trash will still be collected after three days, but the customer will be charged a $100 administrative fee for the special collection. 
 
     Drazenovich estimates that about 93% of Danville households are in compliance, with more purchasing the approved containers daily.
      If you haven’t bought one of the rolling carts, Public Works still has a few hundred for sale and another shipment is expected in early May.
        If Public Works runs out of the containers, a waiver will be applied, if the customer tries to buy a cart and they’re temporarily out-of-stock.

Supervisors to name new administrator next week:
(Chatham, Va.) -- The search for a new Pittsylvania County Administrator has  ended.
    The Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, April 22, to name a new county administrator.
      The public meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the county administration building on Center Street in Chatham.
     The person chosen has not been identified, but is from Virginia and is familiar with Southside Virginia.
     The search for a new administrator began last September, when Dan Sleeper retired from the position.


Obama commutes Danville drug sentence made longer by typo:
(Washington, D.C.) -- President Barack Obama has commuted a Danville drug sentence made longer by a typo.
     In 2006, Caesar Cantu of Katy, Texas pleaded guilty in federal court in Danville to trafficking marijuana and money laundering.
     He’s currently serving 15 years for the offenses. But Judge Jackson Kiser based his term on a mistake in a pre-sentence report that resulted in 3 ½ years being tacked on to his term.        
     Last year, Kiser dismissed Cantu's request to reduce his time because it wasn't filed within the one-year statute of limitations and his lawyer didn't object at his sentencing in 2006. And since his lawyer didn’t object, the judge said the court couldn’t change it.
     The White House said the situation could only be rectified by the president. Cantu will now serve 11 ½ years.
      Judge Kiser noted at sentencing that although Cantu didn't have a criminal record, the quantity of drugs involved in his case - 3,000 to 10,000 kilograms of marijuana - required that he be sentenced within the recommended guidelines. But a typo occurred in the “offense level,” giving Cantu 3 ½ years’ extra time to serve. 


5 accused in NC abduction denied bond:
(Atlanta, Ga.) (AP) -- Five people accused in the abduction of a North Carolina prosecutor's father last week have been denied bond during a federal court hearing in Atlanta.  
     Frank Arthur Janssen was taken from his home in Wake Forest, N.C., on April 5 and was rescued five days later when FBI agents raided an Atlanta apartment.
     Charged with kidnapping were: 21-year-old Jenna Paulin Martin; 30-year-old Tiana Maynard; 20-year-old Jevante "Flame" Price; 21-year-old Michael "Hot" Montreal Gooden; and 29-year-old Clifton James Roberts.   
     Officials say they're all from the metro Atlanta area.  
     Authorities have said the abduction was an act of retaliation related to Janssen's daughter's prosecution of North Carolina inmate Kelvin Melton.  
     He has also been charged in the kidnapping. Authorities have described Melton as a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang.



Officials from the EPA, DEQ, Coast Guard and Va. Dept. of Health address coal ash clean-up 

EPA officials say clean-up operations proceeding on schedule:
(Danville, Va.) -- Officials from the EPA, DEQ, Coast Guard and Virginia Department of Health were in Danville Monday to address coal ash dredging operations at Schoolfield Dam.
       Myles Bartos is the on-site coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency and attended the public meeting at Danville's Community Market.
     He says preliminary work has gone well as Duke Energy plans to begin dredging operations at the Schoolfield Dam by the first of May, with work scheduled for completion by July first.
      During that time, Duke will also clean-up a smaller deposit of coal ash at Town Creek, about a mile-and-a-half below the spill site in Eden.
      Duke Energy Media Spokesman Jeff Brooks says final preparations are beginning in Danville to start vacuum dredging to suck the coal ash from top to bottom, with “minimal impact on the environment.” Site preparation is underway and grading is being done to create a pad. Brooks said a crane will be brought in to lower the dredging barge into the Dan River next week. He said Duke Energy remains committed to the operation and "our customers will not pay for this clean-up operation."
      Bartos says the EPA and other state and federal agencies are monitoring the situation closely and stressed that the tap water in Danville "has been and remains safe to drink."
      Brooks said the coal ash that is removed from the Dan River will be dried and placed in sealed containers before being transported to a lined landfill for final storage.

Shareholders seek outster of four Duke board members:
(Charlotte, N.C.) -- Pension fund managers from New York and California are asking for a big shakeup on Duke Energy’s Board of Directors.
          In a letter to fellow shareholders yesterday, representatives of some of Duke’s largest investors asked four board members be removed at the annual shareholder’s meeting next month in Charlotte.
          The funds accuse the four directors of failing to fulfill their duties on a committee charged with overseeing health, safety and environmental compliance.
          The move follows a coal-ash spill on the Dan River in Eden in February and a legal battle between the company, environmental regulators and the state over plans for a cleanup and the safeguarding of other coal-ash sites.

GOK International restructuring Danville operation:
(Danville, Va.) -- A company that came to Southside with the promise of 300 jobs in 36 months is temporarily closed as it undergoes restructuring.
       An announcement from the city Monday says GOK International Corp. will shift its product mix at its assembly plant and showroom in Ringgold from leather sofa and chair products to outdoor furniture and commercial chairs for offices and restaurants.
      To allow for the switch, the Chinese-based company held a public inventory closeout sale this past weekend at its showroom, which is located in the Cane Creek Centre Industrial Park.
     Linwood Wright, with the Danville Office of Economic Development said the product lines “will be ones that can be assembled more satisfactorily in Danville.”  
     The restructured company also will market rugs made in China.
      GOK currently has three employees. Those employees will remain with the company during the transition. Additional employees would be hired within 45 to 60 days, according to the company.
      GOK announced plans in September of 2012 to establish operations in the Danville area by investing $12.5 million to open an assembly and showcase operation at the Cane Creek Centre in Ringgold. The company expected to create 300 jobs within three years.
       The Virginia Tobacco Commission provided a $1 million grant to the company as an incentive to locate its operations in the area. City Manager Joe King said Monday that GOK must repay the grant if it does not meet the terms of its performance agreement.
       The Office of Economic Development added that the recently announced Zeyuan Flooring Company will proceed as planned. The restructuring of GOK International will not affect the operation of Zeyuan Flooring.



Coal ash clean-up preparations along the Schoolfield Dam Monday


Judge hears motions in one murder case; continues another:
(Danville, Va.) -- A Danville judge asked for additional information in one murder case Monday and said he would rule on motions in another on Wednesday.
      The attorney for Danville teenager Shaquan Jamar Fallen (pictured at left) asked that a judge appoint a psychiatric expert to examine his client. Fallen is charged with first-degree murder and weapons counts in the shooting death of 18-year-old Cordero Walker, who was found murdered on November 6, 2011 at the Cardinal Village Apartments. The medical examiner determined that he had been shot.
     The court asked for additional information from the defense attorney and  delayed consideration of the request until the next docket call on April 29.
     The judge also said he would rule Wednesday on a motion in another murder case.
     27-year-old Tony Ray Spivey (left) of Danville and 44-year-old Robert Dale Warner of Fieldale are charged with murder, abduction, burglary and weapons counts in the death of 52-year-old Charles Donald Earles.
     Witnesses told police that three people forced their way into a home on Edmonds Street last October 15. Earles suffered a head injury and was transported to Carilion in Roanoke, where he died two days later.
      One of Spivey’s attorneys has asked to be excused from the case. The court will issue a ruling on Wednesday.


Suspect sought in Rockingham Co. shooting:
(Rockingham County, N.C.) -- Rockingham County authorities are looking for an Eden man in connection with a weekend shooting that sent a teenage girl to the hospital.
      The call came in at around 1:15 Saturday morning from Annie Penn Hospital. Doctors were treating 18-year old Mercedes Alize Cobb of Reidsville for a non life-threatening gunshot wound.
      Authorities say she was shot at Mead Lake Apartments on state route 700 in Ruffin.  
       A warrant was later issued for Brent Deangelo Hairston of Eden. He is charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
      The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information to call Rockingham County Crimestoppers at 336-349-9683.


Burlington woman charged in death:
(Burlington, N.C.) (AP) -- A Burlington woman has been arrested after a woman's body was found following a fire in Alamance County.
      Forty-three-year-old Angela Frazier has been charged with burning her own home and concealing a death.
     Investigators say the women lived together. The Alamance County Sheriff's Office has not released the victim's name while relatives are notified. Her body was found after the fire in a storage bin about six miles from the home.
      It was not clear if Frazier has a lawyer.


Some of the action at this weekend's Duke MBA Rugby Tournament at Angler's Park
(Photos courtesy "Rugby on the River")

Rugby tournament brings hundreds to Danville:
(Danville, Va.) -- This past weekend's Rugby Tournament in Danville brought 450 players to the area.  The effects at local restaurants and motels were obvious, but economic developers are hoping the city will make a lasting impression on some future business leaders.
     The local Chamber of Commerce and Danville’s Office of Economic Development used the Duke MBA Tournament as a chance to showcase the region and all Southside has to offer.
    This marks the ninth year the tournament has been held at Angler's Park.  Universities including Duke, Stanford and Harvard sent teams, along with schools from Ireland, Canada, England and France.

Council holds the line on real estate rate:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville property owners won’t see a higher real estate rate next year, but some may still pay a little more in property taxes.
      Danville City Council will advertise a 73-cent real estate rate per hundred dollars of property value. That is the current rate.
     City Manager Joe King says the city is expecting to collect more money with the steady rate. That is because the biennial property assessment now underway indicates the city will see a moderate increase in property values.  King notes this comes a year after a small decline in local home prices.


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