11:54am, 09/18/14
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Thursday, September 18, 2014
Updated 9/18/14 @ 8:00 am

Political intrigue in local judicial vacancy:
(Richmond, Va.) -- When lawmakers left Richmond in April, there was only one nominee being considered for a vacant Danville judgeship.  When they returned this week, there were four.
          Sandra Chinn-Gilstrap was nominated by the Danville Bar Association appeared to be the pick to replace Lee Stillwell earlier this year, but the nomination got caught up in the state budget showdown.  Since then, three more candidates have emerged.
          Danville Delegate Danny Marshall says he’s not sure which members of Southside’s delegation encouraged the other candidates to apply.
          All four candidates were interviewed Tuesday in a joint meeting of the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committee.  Marshall says local lawmakers will now caucus to decide who gets the nomination. He hopes to meet today with fellow Delegates Les Adams and Charles Poindexter; along with Senators Bill Stanley and Frank Ruff.
          The other candidates are A.J. Dudley, son of former delegate Allen Dudley of Rocky Mount.  Joan Ziglar, the former commonwealth's attorney of Martinsville and local attorney Bob Adams.  But Marshall says Chinn-Gilstrap still has HIS vote.
          The Danville Bar Association last week passed a second resolution, urging lawmakers approve Chinn-Gilstrap.  They could vote today or tomorrow.

Council approves domestic abuse shelter:
(Danville, Va.) -- A Good Samaritan will get to open a domestic violence shelter in Danville.  It’ll be the city’s first in four years.
          Alfrieta Bennett-Reaves is the founder of "Present Help Ministries."  They will open a shelter in a house on Stokes Street. They can house up to five victims, but for no more than sixty days
          It was four years ago when the Doves shelter closed in Danville. The next-closest domestic violence shelter is in Altavista.  Haven of Danville is set to open their shelter in Danville later this year.

One man arrested, another sought in August robbery:
(Henry County, Va.) -- Henry County investigators have arrested one man in connection with an August robbery and are seeking a second suspect.
      31-year-old George Koulouris and 29-year-old Joshua Lee Cloud -- both of Martinsville -- are charged with robbing the Village Market in Basset on August 7.
     According to police, two men entered the store around 10 p.m., one armed with a handgun. Both were wearing masks and gloves and took money from the register and a purse belonging to one of the clerks before fleeing on foot.
     Both face robbery and firearms charges.
     Koulouris is being held in the Henry County Jail without bond. Police are still searching for Cloud and say he should be considered armed and dangerous.
        He’s a white male, 5’8”, 150 pounds, with tattoos around his right eye, neck and throat. Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers or the Henry County Sheriff’s Office at 276-638-8751    

Higher education cuts likely to spare Va. students:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- The $90 million in cuts the McAuliffe administration is seeking from Virginia's public colleges and universities this fiscal year and next are likely to spare students.
     Instead, the savings will be achieved by keeping vacant unfilled positions, through energy conservation, deferred maintenance and other measures.
     While no layoffs are expected in the first round of cuts, higher education officials say they can't be ruled out next year when $45 million will be trimmed anew.
     Cuts in financial aid are off the table, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe is discouraging tuition increases.
     The cuts are aimed at filling an $882 million budget shortfall. Other measures include dipping into the state's so-called rainy day fund and making cuts to various agencies and local governments.
     The higher ed cuts are due in Richmond Friday.

More Pittsylvania Co. schools meet benchmarks:
(Chatham, Va.) -- Final scores from spring SOLs show 16 of 18 schools in Pittsylvania County are fully accredited. That’s up from 13 a year ago.
     The increase is in contrast to the statewide numbers. In 2013, 77% of schools were fully accredited.  This year, only 70% made the grade.
     Hurt and Kentuck Elementary are now listed as “Accredited with Warning.” All four county High Schools qualified under the Graduation Completion Index.
     In Danville, 3 of the 11 schools are fully accredited.  Galileo, GW High School and Forest Hills Elementary met all of the benchmarks.
     Also, Danville’s Alternative School at Langston will remain under what’s called “focus school” status, meaning students scored in the lowest five-percent of Virginia’s Title-One Schools. That requires that the Focus Center hire a turnaround specialist to help boost test scores.

Police interview man in search for missing UVA student:
(Charlottesville, Va.) (AP) -- Police say they have interviewed a male seen in two grainy surveillance videos with a missing University of Virginia student.
     Charlottesville police Capt. Gary Pleasants said Thursday the videos of Hannah Graham early Saturday are from the Downtown Mall.
     Pleasants says one shows Graham outside a pizza shop, and a male who had stopped there then follows her.
     Another from a jewelry store also shows him following Graham. Pleasants says the witness later went to police and described Graham appearing to be distress. The witness told police he saw another male approach Graham and put his arm around her. The witness says he thought the two knew each other, so he walked away.
     Pleasants says police want to talk to the other male.

NC police: ASU died about the time she disappeared:
(Boone, N.C.) (AP) -- North Carolina police say an autopsy on an Appalachian State University coed who was the subject of a search died not long after she was last seen earlier this month.
      Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford said Wednesday the autopsy on 18-year-old Anna Smith of High Point found signs of suffocation and no injuries to the head, neck, chest, or pelvic area. Crawford said while Smith did not appear to have been killed, investigators continue to look for any clues pointing to homicide.
      The police chief said previously that a letter apparently written by Smith was found near her body, which was discovered Saturday in a heavily wooded area off campus. Authorities, family and friends had searched for Smith since she was reported missing from her college dorm on Sept. 3.


Apartment building on Marshall Terrace (2013 photo)

Zoning frustration at City Council:
(Danville, Va.) -- A zoning debate Tuesday night before Danville City Council ended in frustration for a local developer.
     Madison Whittle got a permit last year to revive a six-unit apartment complex on Marshall Terrace. But the property lost its multi-family zoning after it was vacant for several years during the housing crunch.  As a single-family lot, Whittle has to provide off-street parking, something that’s impossible at the site.
     City Manager Joe King called it an unintended consequence. Every member of council agreed this was a "glitch" in the code. Despite their unanimity, council could offer no relief over the short-term. Councilman Fred Shanks called it an unintended consequence of zoning changes dating back a decade.
    But with tenants ready to move in immediately, Whittle asked the city to turn the lights on ASAP.  Whittle needs a variance to bring the building into compliance. Only the Board of Zoning Appeals can do that, but not until October 16th.

Hurt backs regulatory relief bill:
(Washington, D.C.) -- A large package of bills targeting small business regulatory relief cleared the house Tuesday. It includes a provision introduced earlier this year by a local lawmaker.
     Fifth District Congressman Robert Hurt calls the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act a vital step in removing unnecessary federal regulations and allowing small companies to innovate and expand, creating new jobs.
      He says smaller companies are spending tens of thousands of dollars or more complying with a regulation requiring them to provide better access to investors. He says less than 10% of investors actually use the system.
      Hurt co-sponsored the Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act, making that reporting requirement mandated by the SEC optional for small companies.
     The package of bills now goes to the Senate.

Hurt man guilty on two counts:
(Chatham, Va.) -- A Pittsylvania County man will be sentenced later this year on two lesser counts filed after an incident last year at Leesville Lake.
      In May, Dontay Pannell was found not guilty of the most serious charges from what prosecutors called a gang-related attempted car-jacking last summer at Leesville Lake. The jury deadlocked on charges of participating in gang activity and attempted car-jacking.    
     Pannell was convicted on those counts this week. The jury recommended nine years in jail. Sentencing is set for November.

Last quota buyout checks headed to tobacco growers:
(Pittsylvania County, Va.) -- A local extension agent says Pittsylvania County farmers have already made the changes needed to adapt to a world without government price supports.
     The final checks from a decade-long, $10 billion quota buyout will be mailed next month.    
      Steve Barts says it’s a new era, but farmers have already operated without a safety net for the past several years, when they switched to direct contracts with tobacco companies. He says "it's not untraveled ground, but it is a bit of a change." Barts says it marks a "change in the way farmers do business," but adds that growers are extremely adaptable. And Barts says the changes are forcing local farmers to rely more heavily on overseas markets for their leaf.
       He points out that there is more tobacco acreage in the county today than was the case a decade ago, when farmers' quotas were bought out and the price-support program came to a close.

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