09:11am, 01/28/15
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Updated 1/28/15 @ 7:45 am

Marshall wants gas pipelines to include broadband:
(Richmond, Va.) -- There are three major gas pipelines being proposed for Virginia---and a local lawmaker wants to use them to kill two birds with one stone.
            A bill introduced last week by Danville Delegate Danny Marshall would require pipeline builders to include a conduit, allowing fiber that would bring broadband service to portions of rural Virginia.  He says since they're willing to undertake the expense of laying down hundreds of miles of pipe, it would cost only a little extra to include a 6-to-10-inch conduit allowing fiber-optic cable.
            Under Marshall's bill, the company laying the gas pipeline would pay for the extra conduit...but they could get revenue from broadband providers who want to run fiber.  Marshall says this would bring broadband to parts of Virginia who otherwise would not have it for years.
            Plans are in the works for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, running from West Virginia to Pittsylvania County---and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run through central Virginia into Brunswick County, then into North Carolina.
            The measure will first be heard in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.


The latest proposed extension of the Riverwalk Trail

Another extension in the works for Riverwalk Trail:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville City Council next week will vote on a resolution to clear the way for the latest portion of the Riverwalk Trail.  That would connect the north end of the Robertson Bridge with Advance Street; running on the north side of the Dan River along Trade Street.  Council is scheduled to accept a gift of three-and-a-half acres of land from the Daniel Group.  That will allow the trail to run behind the movie theater.  The city has already earmarked 200-thousand dollars in local funds to go along with a 200-thousand dollar state transportation grant to pay for the extension.

Local population continues to fall:
(Danville, Va.) -- The latest population estimates for Southside Virginia are showing slight declines since the start of the decade.
            The 2014 estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center at UVA, show Danville lost 80 people over the past four years -- pushing the city just below the 43,000. That's based on the number of people lost since the April 2010 census.
            But that does little to offset years of decline. Danville’s population has dropped more than 3,300 since the 2000 Census.
            Pittsylvania County picked up 39 people since the Census.The county is now close to where it was population-wise, in the 2000 census.
            Henry County lost 878 people over the 50-month measuring period. Halifax County lost 63. Martinsville lost 80.

8th graders charged with beinging gun to Westwood:
(Danville, Va.) – A gun was found on the Westwood Middle School campus Monday morning.
    According to a news release from the Danville Police Department, two juveniles at the school – males ages 13 and 14 -- face weapons counts following an incident on campus Monday morning.
     A Danville Police school resource officer spotted several male juveniles in the  cafeteria acting suspiciously at about 7:10 a.m. The officer contacted school administration and they investigated the incident. They found a .22-caliber revolver and ammunition in a student's locker.
     The weapon was not loaded and no one was threatened or injured during the incident.
     The 13-year-old has been charged with possessing a weapon on school property, possession of a concealed weapon and possession of a weapon by a minor. The 14-year-old has been charged with possessing a weapon on school property and possession of a weapon by a minor.
    A voice message to parents says the gun was seized by the school resource officer without incident and that students and teachers were never in any danger.
    The individuals involved were both eighth graders at Westwood.
     The message to parents described the climate at Westwood as “calm,” with “students and staff safe and secure.”

Former electric supervisor pleads guilty to theft:
(Danville, Va.) -- A former supervisor with the Danville Utilities Department entered guilty pleas to a pair of felony charges Monday.
       41-year old Benjamin Hairfield of Martinsville (pictured, left) was a superintendent of electric substations when the crimes occurred.
      According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Newman, Hairfield admitted to taking and selling scrap copper and steel beams that belonged to the city from the Pinnacles Hydroelectric Plant in Patrick County. The first incident happened in April of 2013 when Hairfield had two city workers assist him in loading some scrap copper, which he later sold for $3,300. Then, the following April, Hairfield took some steel beams the city had purchased for more than $10,000 and scrapped them for $1,500. He admitted to pocketing the money instead of returning it to the city.
     Henry Bowen (pictured, right) pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of grand larceny related to fraudulent overtime wages.  Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Newman says credit card statements showed Bowen was out of town during times he claimed to be working overtime in 2013. Bowen was ordered to pay back close to $2,000 and serve 18 months probation.
      A grand jury met in November and indicted Hairston, 46-year old Marshall Wilkerson of Ringgold and 41-year old Dennis Booth of Axton in connection with the theft of city-owned property from the Pinnacles Plant. The charges were the result of a division-side police investigation launched last August.
       Wilkerson was an electric line technician and Booth an electric substation operator. Each is charged with grand larceny.
        Hairfield entered guilty pleas to two counts of grand larceny and faces a maximum of 40 years when sentenced March 4. Wilkerson and Booth await trial.
      Police launched the probe after an internal audit last year showed irregularities. The investigation focused on abuse of overtime pay and illegal use of company credit cards within certain work groups in the Utilities Division.  

Danville Police probe shooting:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville Police are looking for the gunman shot a man over the weekend.  The call came in at around eleven o-clock Saturday night from the 100-block of Walker Street.  Police say the victim was taken to Danville Regional Medical Center for treatment of a single gunshot wound to his right side.  He is expected to recover.  Police are still investigating.

Major changes proposed for Tobacco Commission:
(Richmond, Va.) --
A 2011 study by the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission was critical of several grants the tobacco commission made, saying they did little to boost local economies.  Now there’s a bipartisan effort to change that. 
     Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore are signing off on a bill that would require those who get Commission grants also put up matching funds.  The measure would also set up a revolving loan fund, while reducing the Commission’s membership from 32 to 25.
     A former commissioner stole $4 million from the commission and is serving a 10-year prison sentence, and the FBI investigated last year whether a state senator was lured into resigning — and flipping control of the state Senate —with the promise of a lucrative commission job. Prosecutors did not file any criminal charges.  
     The AP reported last year that the commission had approved grants that helped groups with ties to Kilgore’s family members---and the commission may have approved millions of dollars more than was necessary to help build a natural gas pipeline for Dominion Resources.

McDonald's workers allege racial dscrimination; sexual harassment:
(Danville, Va.) -- Ten former McDonald’s workers in Halifax County are suing the company and a local franchise owner, claiming racial discrimination and sexual harassment.  The suit, filed last week in Danville Federal Court, targets Soweva---a company that purchased three McDonalds in Halifax and Mecklenburg Counties in late 2013.  The plaintiffs claim they were suddenly fired last May; after months of hearing racially discriminating remarks from their Supervisors.  One female employee says a manager inappropriately touched her.

ACLU opposes local lawmaker's bill:
(Richmond, Va.) --
There’s already high-profile opposition to a local lawmaker’s bill targeting pregnant women who are using illegal drugs.   The ACLU says they will fight the measure from Chatham Delegate Les Adams.  That measure stemmed from a recommendation last year from the Criminal Law Subcommittee.   It allows child protective services to investigate claims of drug use by pregnant women.    The ACLU says policies that threaten women with the loss of their children drive them away from health care and discourage them from seeking prenatal care and drug treatment.   Adams says that shouldn’t be a problem.  The bill is now in a House Committee.

Jury recommends 15 years for murder conviction:
(Chatham, Va.) -- A Chatham jury on Friday recommended Teu Medley Pointer serve 15 years in prison for the stabbing death of her husband last April.
      The same panel convicted her of murder at the conclusion of a two-day trial Thursday night. It took jurors about an hour to fix her punishment Friday. She had faced a possible sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
      Teu said she and her husband had argued on the phone about their children.  When he got home, the fight escalated. She testified that John hit her and knocked her glasses off, and claimed her husband was holding her down and choking her. That's when she says she bit him and grabbed a knife.
      The defense claimed John lunged at the knife, while the prosecution contended Teu stabbed him.  
     Pointer, who is a former Pittsylvania County School Guidance Counselor, was convicted of second-degree murder. 

Bipartisan support for reforms of Va. tobacco commission:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and a powerful Republican lawmaker are proposing tighter grant-making rules for the embattled Virginia tobacco commission.
      The commission's chairman, GOP Del. Terry Kilgore, introduced legislation Friday that would require greater scrutiny and transparency over how the commission spends its funds. The legislation is backed by McAuliffe. Southside State Senator Frank Ruff is carrying the bill in the Senate.
      Created 16 years ago to spend Virginia's portion of the national tobacco settlement, the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission has doled out more than $1 billion on a wide range of projects in an effort to spur economic development in southwest and Southside Virginia.
      The commission has come under fire recently for what critics say is an opaque, haphazard system of awarding grants often based on political considerations.
McDonnell to remain free on bond during appeal:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -
A federal court has approved former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's request to remain free while he appeals his corruption convictions.  The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said McDonnell's appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact that could warrant reversal or a new trial.
The court also ordered that briefs in the case be filed by March 2 and set a May 12 hearing.
A jury last year found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of taking gifts and loans from a vitamin executive in exchange for promoting his products.
McDonnell was scheduled to begin his two-year prison term Feb. 9.
Federal prosecutors had opposed McDonnell's request to remain free on bail pending his appeal.

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