12:27am, 04/02/15
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 Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Updated 4/1/15 @ 4:15 pm

Danville Fire Department receives international accreditation:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville’s Fire Department has been deemed the best of the best by a commission that spent three years reviewing the local operation.
     Fire Chief David Eagle says his department has been recognized by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. Only six municipal fire departments in Virginia -- 208 worldwide -- have been awarded international accreditation. Eagle says that puts the city "in pretty elite company and we're proud of the work that our people do here."
    The commission analyzed every aspect of the local department, from personnel to equipment, turnout and response time, along with fire training, education and planning.
     The department met more than 300 performance indicators to receive this designation.
     Eagle says that speaks volumes about the men and women of the Danville Fire Department, adding: "It validates them as being among the best of the best in providing the highest level of quality service that we can... to the citizens of Danville."
     144 firefighters and staff work in seven stations in Danville.

Autism awareness event Thursday:
(Danville, Va.) -- Downtown Danville will be the site for Go Blue 4/2 from 4-8 p.m. Thursday.
    Organizer Rachel Capri says they’re gearing up for the Autism Awareness 5k to be held April 25th at Anglers Park.
     Capri says the organization will set up booths in the courtyard beside the fountain on lower Main Street and will offer face painting, hair braiding and plenty of blue hair dye for the kids. Teams participating in the 5k will also have booths to raise money for local families affected by Autism.        
     The Community Foundation administers an endowment for the organization and interest from the fund is given out yearly to local families with autistic children.

VIR hosts charity event Friday:
(Danville, Va.) --Virginia International Raceway's Spring Open House is this Friday and will again include ride-alongs and charity laps for a good cause.
      Track owner and CEO Connie Nyholm says all of the money raised benefits Victory Junction, which sends terminally ill children to camp for a week.
     At noon Friday, track officials will plant a tree to replace the 200-year-old oak that fell in 2013. Nyholm says a tree grown from acorns taken from the iconic oak will be planted near trackside.
    Throughout the event, VIR amenities including the kart track and shooting courses will be open to those in attendance, free of charge.

Latest water tests inconclusive:
(Danville, Va.) -- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality was back in Danville yesterday, taking water samples from the Dan River and it’s tributaries.  It’s the latest in the two month-long effort to find out what’s causing the bad taste and odor in the city's drinking water. 
     No obvious ones were found, but officials are checking the phosphorous and nutrient levels in the water. Results should be back by the end of the week. Teams will be back in the river today.
      Yesterday, city officials announced that tests on the latest water samples taken last week came back inconclusive.  They’ll now ask an Indiana lab to test for other algae-related components that could be causing the odd smell and taste.
      The problem began in February and eased up a bit last month, before returning a couple of weeks ago.  Authorities suspect algal blooms, but they have yet to identify the source.

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.


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) -- Federal marshals are reviewing security procedures after an inmate receiving treatment at a hospital overpowered a private guard, took her gun and set off a frenzied manhunt that included two carjackings.
     U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia Bobby Mathieson said Tuesday that the escape by 42-year-old Wossen Assaye from Inova Fairfax Hospital prompted questions about why two guards assigned to him were insufficient to prevent his escape.  He said he believes two people should be enough to guard a prisoner.
     Assaye was charged earlier this month as the "Bicycle Bandit," accused of robbing a dozen banks in northern Virginia and sometimes fleeing on two wheels.
     Authorities say he was in the hospital after attempting suicide at the jail.
     He was loose for nine hours Tuesday before being re-arrested.

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 this week, 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.


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