03:55am, 07/23/14
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Updated 7/22/14 @ 6:30 pm

N.C. health agency says it's OK to use Dan River
(Raleigh, N.C.) -- It’s safe to swim and boat in the Dan River.
     So says the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which on Tuesday lifted a recreational water advisory for the Dan. The river was the scene of a massive coal ash spill on Feb. 2 when a drainage pipe collapsed, spewing 39,000 tons of coal ash that turned the river gray for 70 miles downstream.
    Duke Energy has completed removal of the largest deposit at the base of the Schoolfield Dam in Danville and federal environmental officials say Duke has finished removing large pockets of coal ash from the river.
     While other environmental groups aren’t convinced, the North Carolina agency says the Dan River now poses no health risk for recreational users, but is still advising against eating fish or shellfish caught immediately downstream from the closed power plant in Eden.
God’s Storehouse is in need of food:
(Danville, Va.) -- The cupboard isn’t bare, but God’s Storehouse is in need of just about everything.
     Executive Director Karen Harris the food pantry is running out of staples at a time when they’ve experienced a surge in demand and a decline in donations. They’re especially in need of staples liked canned meats, vegetables and fruits, boxed cereals and Sloppy Joe mix.
     She says SNAP benefits are depleted by the end of the month, money is running out, and more people are coming by the warehouse for food. They average about 185 families per day, but that number has topped 200 recently.
     Harris says you can help out by buying a little extra at the supermarket and bringing it by the food pantry on Memorial Drive.

DRMC residents utilize simulation lab:
(Danville, Va.) -- Averett University’s partnership with Danville Regional Medical Center continues to grow.
     The school and hospital held a physician simulation lab education exercise at Averett’s Riverview Campus on Bridge Street Tuesday.
     DRMC residents utilized Averett’s world-class medical simulation center,
which combines an emergency department, an ICU unit, a birthing suite and a neonatal unit in one space. Using the lab, the program is able to provide simulation for birthing techniques in one area, and for cardiac procedures in another. So, if a mother in labor goes into cardiac arrest, health-care providers deal with both conditions at the same time.
      Dr. Michael Moore, director of DRMC’s internal medicine residency program said the programs include family medicine, internal medicine and traditional rotating internships -- all of which utilize the simulation lab.
       Dr. Darnell Cochram, Averett’s interim dean of the school of nursing, said Averett is pleased to partner with the hospital and its residency program.
McAuliffe won't seek state control of failing schools:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he won't appeal a judge's ruling that overturned a law allowing the state to take over chronically failing schools.
     McAuliffe says in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the law altered the relationships between the state and local school boards in significant and unconstitutional ways.
     The law created the Opportunity Educational Institution. The institution was slated to take control of six schools that were denied state accreditation in Norfolk, Petersburg and Alexandria.
     A circuit judge in Norfolk ruled June 10 that the law is unconstitutional. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Virginia School Boards Association and the Norfolk School Board that challenged the institution's creation.

More state contracts for businesses owned by women & minorities:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is ordering state agencies to contract more often with small businesses and businesses owned by women minorities.
     McAuliffe signed an executive order Tuesday at a minority-owned staffing company in Richmond.
      The order requires state agencies to spend 42 percent of their discretionary spending on certified small, women-owned and minority businesses. McAuliffe is also directing agencies to contract exclusively with small businesses that have no more than 25 employees and make no more than $3 million a year for contracts less than $10,000.  
     The Democratic governor said the new executive order was a fulfillment of promises he made during last year's gubernatorial campaign.

Danville police continue search for man expected to surrender:
(Danville, Va.) -- A Danville man wanted for stalking has been released on bond in West Virginia and has yet to surrender to local police.
       Berkley Allen Furgurson was arrested in Pocahontas County, West Virginia on July 15. He was released by West Virginia authorities on bond with the condition he immediately return to Virginia. Investigators say Furgurson is wanted in Danville for a stalking warrant related to a domestic incident.  
      Furgurson has failed to turn himself in and remains wanted in Danville. He may be operating a gray 2003 Jaguar with Virginia license plates.
     Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact Danville Crimestoppers at (434) 793-0000
Ruff says Berry Hill couldn't compete:
(Mecklenburg Co., Va.) -- A Southside legislator says Chesterfield County was better suited to the needs of a Chinese paper company and beat out Pittsylvania County for the multi-million dollar facility.
     Mecklenburg County state Senator Frank Ruff says Chesterfield County had interstate access and other advantages that the Berry Hill Mega Park lacked.
     While the lower site offered the advantage of lower median pay, Ruff says that was offset by advantages in shipping and utilities.
     Tranlin Paper Company will invest more than $2 billion in the greater Richmond area and will create 2,000 new jobs.   

Deputies find missing man, unharmed:
(Wentworth, N.C.) -- A missing Rockingham County man was found safe and sound yesterday.  William David Smith was the subject of a Silver Alert issued Saturday by the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office.  Yesterday morning, deputies got a call from an alert citizen who had spotted Smith on Route 150 near Rockingham Lake Road. Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page says Rockingham County Emergency Management, Reidsville Rescue Squad, Williamsburg Fire Department, and Triad K-9 helped in the search.

Danville area reporting year-to-year job losses:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville lost a handful of jobs in the year-to-year survey from the Virginia Employment Commission.
          That’s according to the latest report from the Virginia Employment Commission.  It shows a net loss of 100 jobs for the Danville area during the month of June.
          The mid-month survey from the VEC also shows five of Virginia’s ten metropolitan areas reported job losses for the 12-month period.  Percentage-wise, Danville’s 2.8% percent drop was the highest among metro areas.

Investigation clears lifeguards in area drowning:
(Henry County, Va.) -- A Martinsville High School graduate drowned on the Fourth of July at Fairy Stone State Park.  Now, a two-week long probe shows the park’s lifeguards did everything they could to save 18-year old Kerion Witcher.
          Witcher was last seen swimming toward the diving platform at the park when he went under water. Witnesses say there was no splashing or signs of distress. When they noticed Witcher did not immediately surface, swimmers and lifeguards began to search for him---one of the swimmers found him submerged. Lifeguards pulled Witcher from the water and began to administer CPR with the help of several nurses who were visiting the park that day.  Witcher was pronounced dead at an area hospital a short time later.

Va. inmate can't manage own death-penalty appeal:
(Roanoke, Va.) (AP) -- A judge has denied a Virginia inmate's request to manage his own federal death-penalty appeal.
      William Morva was convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff's deputy in 2006 during an escape. He exhausted his state appeals in April 2013.
      In the federal appeal case, Morva had sought a dismissal of his court-appointed attorneys.
      The Roanoke Times reports that U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski ruled Friday that a federal appeal's technicalities are too complex for a lay person to manage. Urbanski also rejected Morva's request for new attorneys.
      Urbanksi also ordered Morva to undergo a mental evaluation. He said he would rule on Morva's competence later.
      Morva's lead attorney, Jonathan Sheldon, had asked Urbanksi to declare Morva incompetent and have him evaluated and treated.

Gas line cut for copper pipe; 2,000 gallons leaked:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville Police believe a gas line at Abercrombie Oil was cut intentionally Thursday morning, and that the perpetrator was trying to steal some copper pipe.
     The leak was discovered shortly after six a.m. and forced police to block River Street and a portion of the walking trail for about two hours. The fire department set up a ladder truck and firefighters used hand lines to disperse the cloud of gas.
     While no one was injured, the company estimates that about 2,000 gallons of propane leaked after the line was severed.
     Investigators say it’s possible that the person -- or persons -- responsible suffered a frostbite-type injury as a result of their actions.
     Danville Police are asking anyone with information on this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 793-0000. A cash reward of up to $1,000 has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.  
(Leonard Harville photos)


Groups promise to continue River monitoring:
(Danville, Va.) -- Duke’s job is pretty much over in the Dan River---but some local groups say they’ll help keep an eye on things.
          The Roanoke and Dan River Basin Associations are worried that coal ash still left over from the massive spill earlier this year could get stirred up in the next major storm or flood.  They say they’ll continue monitoring the Virginia portion of the Dan, looking for any trouble spots.
          Duke Energy has completed cleanup work along the Dan River at the Schoolfield Dam. The EPA has approved the work.  Since the operation began two months ago, 2,500 tons of coal ash and sediment have been removed from the site near Abreu-Grogan Park. 
     Duke Spokesman Davis Montgomery says they’re now beginning to pull the heavy equipment out of there.  They expect to clear the park by the end of the month.   Montgomery says Duke will repair and repave portions of the parking lot and reseed grass areas.  They’re also working with the city to identify possible enhancements at the park such as improved river and fishing access areas.
     An EPA report this week indicates that Duke dredged 320 tons of coal ash from a creek two miles from the spill site in Eden.  Also, water treatment plants in Danville and South Boston picked up 500 tons of ash through their filtration process.
     Montgomery says THEIR focus now turns to the spill site---the former Dan River Steam Station in Eden.
     More than 600 water samples have been taken from the Dan River since the February Coal Ash spill in Eden.  Myles Bartos with the EPA told Danville City Council this week that all tests have shown consistently safe drinking water and a quick return to normal levels of chemicals associated with the spill.
          He said the EPA will no longer be a daily presence in Danville---once the accumulation at the base of the Schoolfield Dam is cleaned up.  That should be done by the end of the month
          Bartos says the state Department of Environmental Quality and Inland Game and Fisheries will continue taking their tests over time; even though there’s nothing to suggest any issues.

Two charged in drug-related homicides:
(Henry County, Va.) --Two men have been charged with murder in back-to-back homicides that left two brothers dead in Henry County.
      Sheriff Lane Perry announced today that 24-year-old Johnny Rivera-Olvera and 33-year-old James Travis Moore are charged with murder and firearms counts in the deaths, which were discovered June 27th and 28th. Rivera-Olvera faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of brothers Alphozo Navarro-Pena, 40, and 33-year-old Noel Navarro-Pena.  
     On June 27, at about 11:13 pm, the Martinsville/Henry County Emergency 911 Center received a call of a traffic accident on Daniel Road in Axton.  Upon arrival, officers found the driver of the 1998 Ford F-150 -- Alfonso Navarro-Pena of Axton -- dead of a gunshot wound.
     About 6:15 the following morning, police found a man lying in the parking lot at 625 Sportsplex Way in Axton. Noel Navarro-Pena was also pronounced dead of a gunshot wound.
     Sheriff Perry says the motive may have been related to money over drugs, in what he describes as “high level” sales of cocaine and marijuana.” He said the arrests were the result of a multijurisdictional investigation involving federal, state and local authorities.

Pelham man charged in sexual assault of child:
(Yanceyville, N.C.) -- The Caswell County Sheriff's Office has arrested a Pelham man and charged him with felony sexual offense involving a child.
      Lorenzo Olivarria Zacarias, 36, of 298 Arch Cook Road in Pelham was arrested Thursday after an investigation into a possible sexual assault involving a minor that was reported a day earlier.
      Olivarria is being held in the Caswell County Detention facility under a $750,000 secured bond with a first appearance scheduled for June 23 in Caswell County District Court.

Local bank remains profitable:
(Danville, Va.) -- American National Bank's second-quarter profit is down a bit from a year ago, as is their mid-year-end profits.  ANB netted three-point-two-million dollars in the last three months.  For the first half of the fiscal year, American National's earnings were more than six-and-a-half (m) million ---down 23-percent from a year ago.   Bank President and CEO Jeff Haley says their portfolio is growing---along with the RATE of growth.

City tightening oversight of grant recipients:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville City Council yesterday toured a local plant that has re-started production---on a smaller scale.
          City Manager Joe King says officials from U.S. Green Energy have assured them that the company will cover the $1.6 million in grant money the city had to send back to the Tobacco Commission.
          King says the incident, and other similar cases, have prompted city officials to tighten guidelines covering businesses that get these grants. King says the city has toughened their vetting process for the companies, and put in safeguards to serve as an early-warning system when those companies are struggling. Also, King says they’re working with new companies to give more realistic goals for the number of jobs they’ll bring.
          Three-and-a-half year ago, the commission issued a $1.6 million grant, with a commitment from U.S. Green Energy to invest $30 million and create 372 jobs over a three-year period. Those goals have not been met.  King says they expect to be fully reimbursed by the company.

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