03:26pm, 08/27/14
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Local News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Updated 8/27/14 @ 10:45 am

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.

Defense rests in McDonnell trial:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) --The defense for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has rested its case in his public corruption trial. 
     His lawyer, Henry Asbill, told the judge Wednesday that he would not call further witnesses in his client's defense. The move comes after McDonnell testified in his own defense for more than four days. The former governor  acknowledged bad judgment but firmly denied any criminal wrongdoing. 
     McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are charged with accepting 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.  
     Maureen McDonnell will now begin presenting her case. Her attorney says that should take about three hours.

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 Corp.


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.

McCrory: Coal ash commission violates constitution
(Raleigh, N.C.) (AP) -- Gov. Pat McCrory says he will likely sign a coal ash cleanup bill approved last week by the North Carolina Legislature into law, even though he suggested a key provision violates the state Constitution.
     McCrory spoke in a televised interview aired Sunday on the syndicated political talk show NC SPIN. The Republican governor said he may file a lawsuit challenging the establishment of a new coal ash commission to oversee removal or capping of coal ash at 33 open-air dumps operated by Duke Energy.
      Under the bill, leaders in the GOP-controlled state House and Senate will appoint a majority of the members on the new nine-member board. McCrory said that as the state's chief executive, he should oversee enforcement of environmental regulations.
      McCrory retired after 29 years working at Duke. 

Danville School Board hosts more public sessions:
(Danville, Va.) -- The Danville School Board has two more chances today to hear what folks want to see in the next Superintendent.
          The meetings are set for 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Bonner Middle School.  Then from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Gibson.  The final two are next Tuesday in the cafeteria at Johnson Elementary School from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.  Then in the auditorium at Langston Focus School from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
          Last week was the first time the board has discussed the upcoming search process since Edward Newsome stepped down this summer.
          Several supported current interim Superintendent Doctor Kathy Osborne as the person for the job.  She’s a long-time local school administrator; serving the past several years as an Assistant Superintendent.
          The school board hopes to have a superintendent in place by the first of December.

Danville woman dies in Pittsylvania Co. crash:
(Climax, Va.) -- State Police say an Averett University student died Sunday in a head-on collision in Pittsylvania County.
          Sergeant Bob Carpentieri says it happened shortly after 11 a.m. on Anderson Mill Road in the Climax community.
          Troopers say a 2010 Mazda, driven by 20-year old Elizabeth Byrd Willis of Danville, was eastbound.  She apparently crossed the center line and hit a 2001 Chevrolet Blazer head on.
          Willis was taken to Roanoke Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead a short time later.  Investigators say she was not wearing a safety belt at the time
          No word yet from State Police on the Blazer’s driver, or about any possible injuries. The crash remains under investigation.

Warner agrees to debate Gillespie in Danville:
(Richmond, Va.) -- U.S. Sen. Mark Warner has agreed to debate Republican rival  Ed Gillespie in Danville.
     The candidates have agreed to hold eight public forums across Virginia, starting in early October. The Danville debate will be held on Oct. 14.
     The schedule includes two televised appearances.  
     The first debate will be sponsored by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 7. The other debate is sponsored by the League of Women Voters and American Association of Retired Persons. It will be held Oct. 13 in Richmond.
      The other appearances will be in Newport News, Virginia Beach, Danville, Roanoke and northern Virginia.

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