09:38pm, 08/28/14
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Local News

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Updated 8/28/14 @ 5:00 pm

Danville Police track down an armed robbery suspect vehicle to Budget Inn on West Main St.
(Leonard Harville photo)

Averett and DRF announce "game-changing" partnership:
(Danville, Va.) --  Averett University has received a nearly $2 million grant from the Danville Regional Foundation to establish the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness.
      Averett President Dr. Tiffany Franks says the grant will allow Averett, Danville Community College and Piedmont Community College to link more students with business and civic leaders through volunteerism.
     Danville Regional Foundation President Dr. Karl Stauber said the center fulfills the group’s goal of attracting and retaining young professionals in the Dan River region.
     Averett’s Alexis Ehrhardt has been named executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness.
      The grant will be awarded over a five year period.

Callands man convicted in high-speed chase and robbery attempt:
(Montgomery County, Va.) -- A Pittsylvania County man pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted robbery and eluding police in Montgomery County.
     29-year old Justin William Swanson of Callands will be sentenced in November.
     Back in February, Montgomery County deputies responded to a robbery in progress at the Elliston Food Mart, south of Blacksburg. The clerk told police a man starting pushing buttons on the register, trying to open it. He left without getting any money and drove away in a minivan.
      Several state troopers found the minivan and tried to stop Swanson.
     He sped up to 115 mph, cutting in and out of traffic, trying to run other cars off of the road. When the driver was eventually blocked in, he still tried to flee. He hit and damaged two state police cruisers. No one was hurt.

Nathalie man killed in Halifax Co. crash:
(Halifax Co., Va.) -- A 79-year-old Nathalie man was pronounced dead at the scene of a single-vehicle accident in Halifax County.
     Virginia State Police say the accident happened Wednesday night on Lower Liberty Road in the northern section of the county.
      According to an accident report, Emerson Martin was driving a 2005 Chrysler when the vehicle ran off the left side of the road and struck two bushes before hitting a tree.
     Martin was pronounced dead at the scene.

Former Pitt. Co. business owner sentenced for embezzlement:
(Danville, Va.) -- A former area business owner is headed to prison for stealing thousands of dollars in employee pension contributions and health insurance premiums.
     63-year old Patrick Vincent Crowe purchased Southside Manufacturing Corporation in Blairs last year.  The company that handles their 401k said he immediately failed to send them a check with employee’s contributions; telling them the check had fallen out of his briefcase. 
     Late last year, workers were shocked when they went to the doctor and found out they no longer had health insurance.  They were dropped after Crowe failed to send them the employee’s premiums.  The business shut down earlier this year, putting fifty people out of work. 
     After entering guilty pleas this week in Danville Federal Court, Crowe got ten years in prison.  He was also ordered to pay more than 170-thousand dollars restitution.

County scores rise, city scores drop in latest SOL numbers:
(Southside, Va.) -- The Virginia Department of Education has released SOL results for the 2013-2014 school year and Pittsylvania County School Superintendent James McDaniel says their numbers were up across the board.    He says that’s especially true on the high school level, where all high school exceeded the state average in reading, math, science, and history. The middle schools also fared well, although McDaniel concedes that 7th grade writing and history scores were lower than he would like them to be.
     Danville schools remained below state averages in most test categories.
    State education officials say all math levels have seen improving scores since these newer, more challenging tests started up in 2011-2012 school year.

River levels to be lowered today:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville Utilities and STS Hydro will be lowering the water level behind the Schoolfield Dam on Thursday, Aug. 28, to allow for inspection of the dam structure below the normal water level.  This inspection will show whether repairs are needed to the concrete, metal or wooden structures. Lowering of the water level will begin at about 5 a.m. on Thursday. After lowering the water level, inspection of the concrete, metal and wooden surfaces will take place.     It is anticipated that the total time required for this work will be 8 to 12 hours, including the time to allow for refilling of the reservoir. During this time, the boat ramp at Abreu-Grogan Park will not be usable and no boats will be able to be launched there.The water level behind the Schoolfield Dam should return to its normal level by early evening.The inspection originally was scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 26, but was canceled because workers were unable to open the drain gates to lower the reservoir level.

Mixed bag in new jobless survey:
(Southside, Va.) -- Danville area jobless rates are showing sharp drops from a year ago---but a slight increase in the month-to-month period.
          Today's report from the Virginia Employment Commission shows the Danville metro area jobless rate was 8-point-1 percent in July. It was 8-point-6 in May; and 7-point-8 in July of 2013.
          The U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the Danville area lost about five-hundred jobs in the year-to-year period.
          Among cities and counties, Martinsville’s rate of 11-and-a-half percent was the highest in Virginia.  That's the same as last year, but up more than a full percent from a month ago.
          Danville checks in at ten-percent.  Halifax County is 8-point-8.  Henry County is 8-point-3.  Pittsylvania County's rate is the region’s lowest at 6-point-9.

More charges in Danville Utilities probe:
(Danville, Va.) -- A former City of Danville Utilities employee was indicted this week for grand larceny.  It’s the latest in an ongoing probe of the Division.
          48-year old Henry Willis Bowen of Danville was arrested yesterday and served with three counts of grand larceny. The charges stem from improper overtime submissions while Bowen worked as an Electric Meter Tech from January of 2013 to May of this year. Bowen was fired in May.
          Bowen was placed under a $5,000 unsecured bond and later released.
          Last week, the Danville Police Department announced an investigation ofe possible abuse of overtime pay and illegal use of company credit cards among certain work groups in the Utilities Division. Police are also investigating possible improper activities involving contracts.
          City Manager Joe King requested the probe after an internal audit last fall showed irregularities.  So far, evidence uncovered by the investigation has led to three employee dismissals.

Closing arguments set in Donnell trial:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Testimony has wrapped up in the public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. Closing arguments are set for Friday morning.
     The last witness Thursday was an FBI agent who testified that the McDonnells were together 90 percent of the nights during the 22 months that were the focus of the investigation. The testimony is intended to undercut a defense claim that the McDonnells' marriage was so fractured they couldn't have engaged in a conspiracy.
     The McDonnells are charged with taking more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.
     Williams testified under immunity that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells only to secure their help. McDonnell denied criminal wrongdoing.

Henry County family wants answers in weekend fatality:
(Ridgeway, Va.) -- A Ridgeway man who was injured in a crash on Saturday died hours later, but his family says they didn't find out for two days.
          57-year old Kim Jerome Hopkins was flown to Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem after the accident.  It happened at the intersection of Sandy River Road and Route 58.
          72-year old Martin Hugh Hardy of Axton was charged with failing to yield the right of way.  Hopkins was wearing a helmet at the time.
          Hopkins’ brother, Tommy Hopkins, tells the Martinsville Bulletin his brother was coming home from his job at IKEA in Ringgold. Monday afternoon, Kim Hopkins’ neighbors called the family and said he had not been home in two days.
          Tommy Hopkins says they called 911 to file a missing person’s report.
When a Henry County deputy arrived to prepare the report, the deputy had just learned that Kim Hopkins had died.
          The Trooper who investigated the accident has since met with the family to apologize. The trooper said he did not know that Hopkins had died until Monday.
          A spokesman at Baptist Medical Center declined to comment to the Martinsville Bulletin, saying the family members would have to find out why they were not notified sooner.

City to accept bids on W. Townes Lea and Glenwood rehab:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville leaders are looking for ideas on redeveloping two former school properties.
          Earlier this summer, the School Board deeded over the building at grounds at W-Townes Lea (pictured, right) and Glenwood (pictured, left).  That means the city has to now maintain the two properties.  Staffers say other than the Glenwood Recreation Center, they have no need for the extra property.
          The city will ask for bids from local developers on creative re-use of the two former school buildings.  Staffers say they will base their decision on more than just the purchase price---they also want to choose a plan that best fits the respective neighborhoods.
          W-Townes Lea closed several years ago.  Glenwood closed after the 2012-2013 school year.

Local bank expands... again:
(Danville, Va.) -- A local bank is getting bigger.  American National Bankshares has announced a merger with Martinsville-based MainStreet BankShares, in a transaction valued at around $24.2 million.
          This expands American National’s footprint into the Roanoke market by adding three bank branches in Franklin County and the Smith Mountain Lake area. American National will have around $1.5 billion in assets once the merger is complete.
          MainStreet’s subsidiary bank is Franklin Community Bank.  American National wants MainStreet’s Board Chairman, Joel Shepherd, be added to the board of American National as part of the merger.
          After regulatory and MainStreet shareholder approvals, the merger is expected to close in early January 2015.
          The move comes two years after American National merged with Mid-Carolina Financial Corporation.


Fund set-up to "revitalize" the Dan River:
(Danville, Va.) -- A local foundation is setting up a special fund to help with the clean-up of the Dan River.    The RiverBank Fund will be administered through the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region.     
     Foundation President Peter Howard says they hope to raise at least $4 million over the next two years.
     The fund is being established in the wake of a massive coal ash spill in February that coated a 70 mile stretch of the river in a gray sludge.     
     Howard says a 15-member advisory commission will award grants for projects designed to protect and revitalize the Dan River Basin. Howard says the plan is to award grants to address water quality issues; encourage new development along the Dan; improve the cleanliness of the Dan River Basin; and to increase access to the river for sports, recreation and entertainment.    
     Debra Dodson is Executive Director of the Community Foundation. She says no specific projects have been identified at this point.      Donations are being accepted and the foundation hopes to award its first grant in the spring.

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