11:11pm, 03/31/15
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Local News

 Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Updated 3/31/15 @ 5:15 pm

Council asked to merge two voting precincts:
(Danville, Va.) -- A plan to combine two of Danville’s voting wards goes before city council next week.
    Registrar Peggy Petty says the Electoral Board wants to consolidate Forest Hills School (pictured at left) and the Langston Focus Center, with voters casting ballots at Langston starting this November.
     She says Forest Hills School has limited parking and congestion from school traffic and Averett students. Fencing that was recently put up throughout the campus has also made it more difficult to reach the gym, which doubles as a precinct on election day.
     With the presidential election in 2016, Petty says this is the year to make the switch.
Any change must be enacted 60 days before the Nov. 3rd election, with voter cards mailed at least two weeks in advance of the election. If council endorses the idea, a public gearing will be scheduled to receive voter input. Council will consider the request at next week's work session.

Latest water tests inconclusive:
(Danville, Va.) -- Results of water tests sent to Indiana are inconclusive, and Danville officials still don’t know what’s causing that odd taste and smell in the city’s drinking water.
     The Water Treatment Plant recently sent samples to a lab in Indiana. The results received Tuesday were for algae-related problems, but came back negative.
      City officials say the problem could still be algae, but a different kind. They are now sending additional samples to be tested for other compounds that might be contributing to the smelly tap water. The latest tests will be for three other compounds. 
     In the meantime, city officials stress that the water is still safe to drink.

Marshall to seek re-election:
(Danville, Va.) – Danville Delegate Danny Marshall announced Tuesday that he will seek re-election to the 14th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Marshall has represented Southside Virginia since 2002.
      In announcing his candidacy, Marshall said he remains committed to bringing jobs to the region, saying “we must attract and continually support business and industry with a topnotch workforce that is well-trained.”
      Marshall cited his record in Richmond, noting that he has worked to help bring funding for training programs at Danville Community College, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research and the New College Institute, as well as a Pittsylvania County K-12 Public Schools Advanced Manufacturing transfer program which is partnered with DCC.
      He was recognized by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce with the “Champion of Free Enterprise” award in 2013 and 2014 and has received “A” ratings yearly from the Family Foundation for voting “family values” on bills coming before the General Assembly.
    Marshall serves on the Tobacco Commission, the Virginia Workforce Council, and the Virginia Housing Commission. He represents Danville, and portions of Pittsylvania and Henry Counties.

Hospital escapee captured:
(Falls Church, Va.) (AP/WJLA) -- Fairfax County Police have captured the armed prisoner who escaped custody at Inova Fairfax Hospital early Tuesday morning.
      The suspect was taken into custody at the intersection of Minnesota Ave. and 25th St. SE, according to officials at the Metro Police Department.
     The inmate escaped custody around 3 a.m. after overpowering a private security guard. One shot was fired as the guard wrestled with the prisoner, who then fled with the guard's gun and set off a lockdown and search.
      The prisoner, identified as Wossen Assaye, was considered armed and dangerous. Assaye was wearing a hospital gown and no shoes at the time of his escape.
      Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va. was on lockdown for more than four hours while Fairfax County Police searched wooded areas and residential neighborhoods for the prisoner. The hospital lockdown was lifted just after 8 a.m.
     The U.S. Marshals Service and police said that after Assaye overpowered the guard, he carjacked a vehicle. Fairfax County police spokesman Bud Walker said a woman was carjacked around 7 a.m. around Backlick Road and Cindy Lane in Annandale, several miles from hospital.
      The woman was backing out of her driveway when a man jumped into the backseat of her Toyota Camry. The woman swerved off of the road, crossed two lanes and slammed into a parked Acura in a neighboring driveway.
     The woman was able to jump out of the car before it sped off and out of the neighborhood. The woman later identified Assaye as the carjacker and said he was alone and wearing a hospital gown.
      About three hours later, police tweeted that they had found that car, but were still searching for Assaye. Police said they found Assaye driving another car around noon Tuesday. He was taken to the hospital last week after attempting suicide. Assaye was being held on a federal bank robbery charge.

Suit seeks injunction to keep Sweet Briar open:
(Amherst, Va.) --
Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer filed suit on behalf of the Commonwealth against Sweet Briar College yesterday, asking for an injunction to stop the closure of the 114-year old college.
     Bowyer’s lawsuit argues the college is the trustee of a trust created in the will of the College’s founder, Indiana Williams, and the College’s Charter was established by the Virginia General Assembly. She says they’re breaching their duties as trustees and are violating state law.
     According to a press release from the Saving Sweet Briar organization, reaction to the lawsuit was positive among the Sweet Briar College community.

Stanley launches reelection bid:
(Rocky Mount, Va.) -- Southside State Senator Bill Stanley wants a second term in Richmond.  The Franklin County Republican formally launched his re-election bid yesterday.  Stanley has held the seat a little more than four years.  He won a special election in 2011 to finishing the remaining year of former Senator Robert Hurt’s term---then won election to a full four-year term later that year, following redistricting that moved him from the 19th to the 20th district.  Former Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins is seeking the democratic nomination to oppose Stanley.

STEM conference this week at The Institute:
(Danville, Va.) -- Some heavy hitters from Richmond will present the first Southern Virginia STEM-H Education and Industry Achievement Awards this week in Danville. Program Coordinator Jessie Vernon says they received 40 nominations.  That award Wednesday is part of a two-day STEM summit at the Institute in Danville.  They’ll kick it off today with a student focus.  “Stem” stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  And Vernon calls it a crucial component of training the next generation of workers in Southside.  Vernon says they’re expecting a record crowd of 280 participants.

BH Group acquires two more local papers:
(Omaha, Ne.) -- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway now owns two more area newspapers.  The BH Media Group yesterday finalized their purchase of the Martinsville Bulletin and the Franklin News-Post.  They had been owned since 1948 by Haskell Newspapers.  Three years ago, Richmond-based Media General sold the Danville Register and Bee, and 62 other newspapers, to B.H. Media.

Coal ash may stay in Eden:
(Eden, N.C.) – Duke Energy officials are discussing the possibility of leaving some of the coal ash stored in a shuttered steam station in Eden on the edge of town. The former coal-fired plant was the site of the nation’s third worst coal ash spill into the Dan River 14 months ago.
       The company is talking about opening a new Duke-owned landfill that might be built on the steam station grounds or at one of several off-site locations in Rockingham County. That’s according to a private attorney Eden has hired to negotiate with Duke Energy.
     Tom Terrell tells the Times News that Duke would build and own the facility, but city government leaders would have to sign off on the project since it requires planning and zoning adjustments. He declined to disclose the other sites under consideration.
      The Coal Ash Management Act passed by the North Carolina General Assembly last year requires that Duke remove the coal ash stored alongside the Dan River and at other “priority” sites within four years. About 2.6 million tons of coal ash remains in two unlined ponds at the Eden facility.    

Pointer sentenced for husband's murder:
(Chatham, Va.) -- A Pittsylvania County woman will serve 15 years for killing her husband while the couple's two children were inside the home. Teu Pointer was convicted of second-degree murder in January. She claimed she and her husband, John, got in an argument over the phone about their children. When he returned home, the disagreement escalated. She says John hit her, knocked her glasses off and was holding her down. That's when she says she bit him and grabbed a knife.
      The defense said John lunged at the knife. While the prosecution claimed Teu stabbed him maliciously. 
      Pointer -- a former Pittsylvania County school guidance counselor -- was sentenced Monday in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court.
Duke docks CEO's pay after coal ash spill:
(Charlotte, N.C.) – Last year’s coal ash spill in the Dan River cost Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good (pictured, left) about $606,000 from her compensation package.
     That’s according to regulatory filings made yesterday.  The report says Good’s salary, stock and option awards and other compensation totaled $8.3 million.
     Duke’s board cut payments made to its top executives under the company's short-term incentive plan by 35% to hold them accountable for the spill at the Dan River Steam Station.  Five other top executives also had their salaries trimmed.
     Last February, a stormwater pipe under the main coal ash pond at the Dan River plant in Eden collapsed. Over the next several days, it spewed about 39,000 tons of ash from the pond into the river.
     Duke has worked out a $102 million plea agreement in the criminal case brought by federal authorities. The judge is expected to consider the plea next month.

Road repairs scheduled:
(Danville, Va.) -- Repairs will be made to sunken brickwork located in the intersection of Main Street with Memorial Drive and Craghead Street starting Tuesday. The Danville Public Works Department will close the center lanes on eastbound Memorial Drive and both northbound and southbound Main Street, but traffic movement through the intersection, as well as turns, will be allowed while the repairs are being made.
The repairs are expected to be completed on Wednesday.
      Also this week, installation of a manhole will take place on Hairston Street, and the Riverside Drive turning lane project continues.
      Motorists are urged to slow down when approaching these areas and be alert to altered traffic patterns or consider an alternate route.

NC governor doesn't like religious exemption bills:
(Charlotte, N.C.) (AP) -- Gov. Pat McCrory isn't backing bills giving exemptions to court officials who decline to perform certain marriages and offering other religious protections to businesses.
      McCrory said Monday he wouldn't sign in its current form a Senate bill that allows magistrates and some register of deeds workers to refuse to carry out marriage duties based on a "sincerely held religious objection."  Gay-rights advocates say the measure upholds discrimination.
     McCrory said on WFAE radio in Charlotte there can't be carve-outs for people who swear to uphold the Constitution. A bill still becomes law when a governor declines to sign it.
      Broader bills filed attempt to protect the rights of business owners or government officials from carrying out laws based on their religious freedoms. McCrory says he's yet to see the problems sponsors want to correct.
Danville records record low temperature:
(Danville, Va.) – Residents in Danville and Lynchburg woke up to record cold temperatures on Sunday morning.
The National Weather Service says the temperature in Danville dropped to 21 degrees. That broke the old record of 23 degrees in 1982. Lynchburg's low temperature was 17 degrees, which also broke a record set in 1982. The old record was 23 degrees. The weather service says a Canadian high pressure system over the southern Appalachian mountains produced a hard freeze over most of the region early Sunday morning. Temperatures were expected to remain 10 degrees to 25 degrees below seasonable levels on Sunday from the lower Mississippi Valley into the Ohio River Valley.
WBTM News wins seven AP awards:
(Charlottesville, Va.) – WBTM's News team helped set the pace at this weekend’s Virginias Associated Press Broadcaster's Awards banquet. This was the second year that radio and televisions stations in both Virginia and West Virginia competed as a single region. That meant more entries and more competition.
       WBTM got a total of seven awards. Two Superiors and five Meritorious.
       For the 12th year in a tow, WBTM's coverage of G.W. High School football was honored.
       Our Kathryn Davis earned first place in the race for the Douglass Southall Freeman Award. Kathryn writes and delivers WBTM's "Health Beat" program on Mondays.
       Chuck Vipperman was named first placein the Best Sports Anchor category and meritorious in the Best Radio News Anchor competition. WBTM's website also earned meritorious honors.
       In the biggest competition, WBTM picked up Meritorious honors in the competition for Outstanding News Operation of the Year.

Franklin Co. leaders reject memorial proposal:
(Rocky Mount, Va.) – (AP) -- Franklin County officials have rejected a memorial for a missing woman because she is a convicted felon.
     The county's memorial naming policy doesn't allow structures named after people with felony convictions.
     Friends and family of Heather Hodges asked the Board of Supervisors to grant an exception so they could erect a memorial for her in a county park.
     The board voted unanimously last week to keep the memorial naming policy as it is.
     Hodges has been missing since April 9, 2012. She was 22 at the time. She was convicted of felony grand larceny in May 2008.

Pitt. Co. teachers one step closer to pay hike:
(Chatham, Va.) – Pittsylvania County School leaders are ready to take next year’s proposed spending plan to the Board of Supervisors. The School Board last week adopted an 84-and-a-half (m) million dollar package. Local funding is expected to be around $16.9 million.
      Superintendent James McDaniel says the plan also restores funding to the Career Academy, hires an assistant principal at the Career Technical Institute, while updating their emergency alert system.  He says they were NOT able to maintain three STEM Academy teachers. They also have to find money for a Joint Facilities agreement with the County’s Recreation Department.
     The Board of Supervisors will vote on the local share at their April meeting.

Duke approves grant to help Riverwalk Trail:
(Danville, Va.) – Duke Energy is sending 100-thousand dollars to help launch the latest phase of the Riverwalk Trail.  Phase two, completed last year, runs the trail to near the former Danville Plaza Shopping Center.  Duke’s grant will be combined with 200-thousand federal grant dollars to run the trail further west, eventually linking up with the Robertson Bridge.  This will include a 115-foot bridge over Sandy River, and a 300-foot boardwalk to Commerce Street.  Duke Energy yesterday awarded the city a 100-thousand dollar grant from their new Water Resources Fund.  That ten (m) million dollar fund was formed last year in the wake of the coal ash spill.

Henry County man sentenced in fatal crash:
(Martinsville, Va.) –
A Henry County man was sentenced yesterday for his role in a fatal three-car crash on Route 57 in Bassett.
       It happened in November-2013. State Police say a Dodge Neon, driven by 70-year old James Wright of Bassett, was stopped to make a left turn.  He was rear-ended by a 2000 Saturn four-door, driven by 24-year old Skyler Maldonado of Collinsville. 
       The Neon was knocked into the eastbound lanes and hit a Henry County Sheriff's department vehicle that was being operated by Deputy Chris Spencer.
       Wright was airlifted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He died six weeks later.
       Last month, Maldonado pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and driving under the influence of methamphetamines.

Missing boy’s body found:
(Dublin, Va.) -- A 5-year-old boy missing from Pulaski County since Sunday has been found dead.
      The body of Noah Thomas was found in a septic or sewage tank, but so far no one has been arrested. Police received more than 100 tips from around the country in the search for Noah. Some said they had seen the boy, while others reported suspicious vehicles in the child's neighborhood.
      Noah was last seen on Sunday morning by his mother at the family's Dublin home
Authorities have said they did not suspect foul play and the family was cooperating.
     The boy’s body was discovered just hours after the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office announced a $5,000 reward for tips in the case.
Work continues on Pace Building:
(Danville, Va.) -- Renovations are underway at the Pace Building – formerly home to Wise Hundley -- at 322-328 Main St.
      River District Ventures LLC plans to convert this historic building into 14 one- and two-bedroom residential units and three commercial spaces. The residential units will feature high-end amenities, such as wood cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and tile bathrooms. The street-level commercial units will range between 1,500 to 2,100 square feet. This new project will bring approximately $1.8 million of new investment into the River District.
     The developers plan to complete the commercial space by late summer and the residential space by October. Furnished residential units will also be available for lease.

Durham man charged with Caswell Co. hit-and-run:
(Caswell County, N.C.) -- The Caswell County Sheriff’s Department has charged 33-year-old Angel DeJesus Calderas-Marroquin with felony hit-and-run in a Wednesday morning accident that sent a 13-year-old to the hospital.
     A spokesman with the North Carolina Highway Patrol says Calderas-Marroquin is also charged with passing a stopped school bus, failing to report a collision, and driving without an operator’s license. He’s being held in the Caswell County Jail under a $500,000 bond.

      The incident happened about 6:15 Wednesday morning on Route 86, a mile north of the Orange County line.
     Troopers say a Dillard Middle School student was preparing to board his bus. The bus had stopped in the southbound lane of traffic, with its warning lights flashing.
     As the boy crossed the road, police say a northbound passenger car hit him, then left the scene. The teenager was airlifted to Duke Medical Center. His name and condition were not immediately available.
     A Highway Patrol spokesman says officers recovered a side view mirror at the scene. Witnesses reported that the car was a red, four-door passenger vehicle with damage to the windshield.

     Caswell County Sheriff’s Deputies found a car matching that description at a nearby construction site and took Calderas-Marroquin into custody.

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