12:45am, 10/02/14
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Updated 10/1/14 @ 5:45 pm

Charges filed in school bus accident on North Main:
(Danville, Va.) -- An 11-year-old girl was treated for minor injuries following a telescope accident involving two cars and a Danville School Bus.
     The wreck happened at 4:30 Wednesday afternoon at North Main Street and Clement Avenue.
      According to police, the bus driven by Latoya Fitzgerald was coming from GLH Johnson Elementary School and had stopped at the intersection and was unloading children when it was struck in the rear.
      A 2001 Chevy Impala driven by 81-year-old William Willis had stopped behind the bus when a 2003 Buick driven by 24-year-old Kiara Adkins struck Willis' vehicle in the rear forcing it under the bus. Neither driver was injured. 
      About twenty children were on board the bus and an 11-year-old girl was transported to the hospital by EMS with minor injuries. 
      Adkins was charged with driving on a suspended operator’s license and failing to maintain proper control of her vehicle. (photos: Leonard Harville)

Council weighs agreement to repay Tobacco Commission $2 million:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville City Council is looking to finalize agreements to repay the Virginia Tobacco Commission $2 million for grants to two companies that never produced the jobs they promised.
     The city has negotiated agreements with the Tobacco Commission that, if approved by city council, will refund $1 million given to GOK International and to Web Parts. The performance grants were issued from the Commission’s Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund, and Danville is required to reimburse the Commission since the jobs never materialized.
     The refunds would be made in four annual installments of $500,000 -- $250,000 annually for GOK and $250,000 annually for Web Parts -- with the first installment being made following authorization by Danville City Council.
     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 promised to create 300 jobs within three years. In April of this year, the Chinese-based maker of leather sofa and chair products had three employees. At that point, GOK announced it was shifting product lines and planned to hire additional workers within two months.
     Brad Mainland moved his company, Web Parts, from Guatemala to Danville in 2012. He found temporary quarters in the Masonic Building and later purchased 415 Main Street from the IDA for $175,000. He planned to hire 260 people in the first three years. A year later, Mainland had just two full-time employees and two part-timers.
     The Virginia Tobacco Commission provided $1 million grants to both companies as an incentive to locate operations in the area.
     Council will discuss the agreements at an Oct. 9 work session, and final adoption could come at the Oct. 21 meeting.
      The city has filed lawsuits against both companies seeking full reimbursement of grants.
 
Local jobless rates stable in August:
(Danville, Va.) -- Local jobless rates in August are comparable to last year, but they’re up slightly from a month ago.
     The latest jobless report from the Virginia Employment Commission shows the Danville Metro area unemployment rate at 8.4% in August.  That's up from 8.3% last August and higher than the 8% unemployment rate recorded in July.
     The drop comes, in part, because a net loss of 900 jobs in Danville and Pittsylvania County over the past 12 months. 
     Among cities and counties, Martinsville has the highest rate in Virginia, 11.7%.
      Danville’s rate is steady at 10%.  Halifax County recorded a 9.2% jobless rate, Henry County reported 8.8%.
      Pittsylvania County's rate is 7.4%, the lowest in the region.

Arrest made in pair of convenience store robberies:
(Martinsville, Va.) -- Henry County investigators have arrested the man they say robbed two convenience stores Tuesday.
     32-year-old David Michael Martin of Martinsville was arrested without incident while walking on 220 Business near the Highway 58 intersection Wednesday. Martin is being held in the Henry County Jail without bond. He’s charged with two counts of robbery and two counts of use of a firearm in a felony.
      Authorities say Martin robbed two FasMart stores Tuesday morning. Police say he held-up the clerk at a FasMart in Bassett at around 2:30 in the morning, then robbed the FasMart on Route 58 in Martinsville about an hour later.
      In both cases, the robber pulled a gun and made off with an undetermined amount of cash without firing a shot.
      Authorities say Martin is also wanted on one felony count of grand larceny related to an earlier incident in Martinsville.

Ikea to expand Danville plant:
(Danville, Va.) -- IKEA will add a new assembly line at its Danville plant -- a move that will eventually double production and create new positions.
     In a press release, the Swedish-based furniture company said the new production line will focus on lightweight, wood-based home furnishing products.
     Danville Plant Manager Ildiko Furjesova says the new production line is expected to be up and running by 2016.
     Right now, IKEA employs 430 people at the Swedwood plant in Danville. There’s no word yet on how many new hires will be needed.  Swedwood is looking for workers who are mechanically inclined and can run machinery.
     IKEA opened the Swedwood plant in 2008, investing $85 million in a 930,000-square-foot facility in the Cane Creek Centre. Virginia and local officials offered $12 million in incentives to land the plant. In exchange, IKEA promised to eventually employ 740 people.

Smart Beginnings receives grant for specialist:
(Danville, Va.) -- Smart Beginnings of Danville and Pittsylvania County will use a grant to hire a leader to help with infants and toddlers. 
     Director Anne Stratton says $93,000 from Child Development Resources will allow them to hire a regional Infant Toddler Specialist to help mentor and train childcare centers and family home providers. The grant will also fund group training.
     Stratton says it’s part of a state effort to focus more closely on at-risk children under the age of three.
    Stratton says studies show students who are reading before kindergarten are far more likely to have a positive experience in school.  Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.
    The specialist will serve nine counties, two cities and one town in Southside and central Virginia.

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.


A national honor for Galileo:
(Danville, Va.) -- Another major honor for Galileo Magnet High School in Danville. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education named them a 2014 National Blue Ribbon School. 
          They’re is one of 286 public schools nationwide to earn the honor---and one of only ten in Virginia!
          The program that began in 1982 recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools that are either high performing or have raised student achievement to high levels. 
          Forest Hills Elementary was a Blue Ribbon winner in 2013.


Man convicted in Henry County shooting death:
(Martinsville, Va.) -- A Henry County jury yesterday convicted a Martinsville man for his role in a 2012 shooting death.  
          23-year-old Lamont Anthony Woods was originally charged with first-degree murder, child endangerment and two other counts.   Investigators say he shot 19-year old Lamont Ward multiple times.  As Ward was apparently being rushed to the hospital, the driver lost control of a car and crashed on Figsboro Road, killing everyone inside the vehicle.  That included Ward’s six-month old infant daughter.
          An autopsy showed Lamar Ward was already dead when the car crashed.  A jury is recommending Wood serve 20 years.


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.


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