Across Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A recent state report has found that Virginia’s pension fund is in a worse position to handle a market meltdown than it was before the Great Recession. That’s despite a 10-year bull market and pension reform efforts by lawmakers to make the fund more resilient. The Virginia Retirement System’s recent “stress test” predicts that a market crash or several years of lower-than-expected returns would add billions to the plan’s current unfunded liabilities. The impact of such hits would leave lawmakers with limited and painful options, like slashing services or raising taxes to meet required contribution levels or underfunding the pension plan and leaving higher costs for future generations to pay off.

If you are heading north this afternoon from Roanoke or Lynchburg toward Charlottesville, be advised it has been snowing in some higher elevations, including those around Wintergreen Resort and Afton Mountain.   There is accumulating snow in places, and visibility is quite limited as well.

Photo: Wintergreen Police


From the National Weather Service:

Winter Storm Warning

Areas Affected: Central Virginia Blue Ridge; Northern Virginia Blue Ridge

NWS Baltimore/Washington (Washington D.C., Central Maryland, Northern Virginia, Eastern West Virginia)


* WHAT…Heavy snow. Additional snow accumulations of up to six inches.

* WHERE…Northern Virginia Blue Ridge and Central Virginia Blue Ridge.

* WHEN…Until 10 PM EDT this evening.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Plan on slippery road conditions. The hazardous conditions could impact the evening commute.

A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather conditions will make travel very hazardous or impossible. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency. When venturing outside, watch your first few steps taken on steps, sidewalks, and driveways, which could be icy and slippery, increasing your risk of a fall and injury.



 CROZET, Va. (AP) – Federal investigators say a trash truck driver was likely under the influence of marijuana and anti-seizure medication when his vehicle was struck by an Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers in Virginia last year. The National Transportation Safety Board issued its final report on the accident Thursday. The crash killed a passenger in the truck and injured a congressman and others on the train. The NTSB said the probable cause was the truck driver’s decision to enter a railroad crossing with the gates down and his inaction after encountering obstacles on the tracks. The NTSB said his decisions were “most likely due to his impairment.” The driver was charged locally on involuntary manslaughter and DUI. A judge threw out blood evidence. A jury acquitted the driver of manslaughter last month.

A Giles County school bus carrying Narrows High School students to a band competition ran into the back of a tractor-trailer this morning on Interstate 81 near Bristol. State Police say three students were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment as a precaution – no serious injuries reported. State Police have charged the bus diver with following too closely.

From State Police: At 10 a.m., Virginia State Police Trooper B.S. Davis responded to a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 81 at the 12 mile marker in Washington County. Traffic in the southbound travel lanes of I-81 had slowed when a Giles County Public Schools bus failed to slow down in time and rear-ended the truck in front of it. Eight of high school students on board the school bus complained of minor injuries. Five were treated by medics at the scene. Three were transported to Bristol Regional Medical Center as a precautionary measure. A Washington County Public Schools bus responded to the scene to transport the remaining students off the interstate. The driver of the school bus, Jonathan M. Spade, 40, of Pearisburg, Va., was wearing a seat belt and was not injured in the crash. Spade was issued a traffic summons for following too closely. The drive of the truck, a 63-year-old Roanoke man, was not injured in the crash. The crash remains under investigation.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – Authorities in Virginia say a Virginia Beach woman has once again been found to be in possession of dozens of dead animals. The Virginian-Pilot reports authorities responding to the home Monday found more than 100 dead animals, 24 live cats and a live dog. Animal Control Supervisor Meghan Conti says the dead animals had been stored in freezers or in a plastic container in the garage, where they decomposed beyond recognition. This isn’t the first time so many dead creatures were found at a home belonging to Lisa D. Ross, who wasn’t immediately reached for comment. In 2009, Ross’ son was linked to a plot to kill high school students. Authorities searching her home for weapons found 120 cats, half were dead. Similar discoveries happened again in 2012 and 2013.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has again vetoed a bill aimed at preventing so-called “sanctuary cities” in the state.  Northam, a Democrat, said he was vetoing the legislation Tuesday because it imposes an unneeded burden on local law enforcement officials and “sends a chilling message.”  It was the same statement he issued last year when he vetoed the same legislation. A sanctuary city is a term without legal definition but generally means a locality that limits cooperation with federal immigration enforcement activities. Republicans said the legislation is needed to ensure federal immigration efforts aren’t hampered. The bill narrowly passed the GOP-led General Assembly along party lines. Northam also vetoed legislation requiring local law enforcement officials to notify federal officials when a person living in the country illegally is released from jail.

Less than one month after fire destroyed the former Short family home in Henry County, flames erupted today at another home just a short distance away. Firefighters from several companies are battling the blaze in the Oak Level area of Henry County, and that is likely to impact traffic along US 220 in the immediate area. The Short family home is the one where Jennifer Short and her parents lived before all three were murdered in 2002, killings that have never been solved.

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Protesters repeatedly shouted “shame” as a northern Virginia county board Saturday unanimously approved a $23 million incentives package for Amazon to build a new headquarters there. The Arlington County Board’s 5-0 vote came after hours of heated public testimony, news outlets reported.

Supporters said Amazon’s plan to build a massive facility in Crystal City will lead to tens of thousands of good jobs and bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Opponents, however, said the tech giant neither needs nor deserves public subsidies. They also said lower-income residents would be driven out by rising rents.

“This vote today is about racial justice,” Danny Cendejas, a member of the La ColectiVA advocacy group, said, according to WRC-TV . “We have been talking to folks in communities of color, immigrant communities. We have been hearing consistently the concerns about gentrification.”

The Washington Post reported that in response to concerns about increased rents, traffic congestion and school overcrowding, Board Chair Christian Dorsey said, “I am confident we can manage those impacts.”

Amazon plans to create at least 25,000 jobs over 12 years in the Washington suburb. The state of Virginia has already approved a $750 million incentives package for the company.

During the meeting, activists grew outraged after they were not allowed to ask questions to the Amazon officials who had given testimony.

Washington resident Chris Otten shouted that a vote should not be permitted and yelled profanities at a pro-Amazon attendee who he said cursed at him. That prompted police and security personnel to physically remove Otten, who screamed as he was carried out. He was charged with disorderly conduct.

Otten told the Associated Press that he had recently broken his wrist and was in pain from being “strong-armed” out of the building. Calling from a hospital where he was undergoing precautionary X-rays, Otten said the county should be focused on using its funds to help the neediest.

“It’s sad when you hear the board say they don’t have the resources to help people who are in need now, but then they give out millions and millions to a company that doesn’t need that sort of help,” Otten said. “It’s corporate welfare over social need.”

Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey said she is excited for the future of Arlington County with Amazon.

“Arlington has done a lot of changing in the 40 plus years I have been here and we are ready for this change,” Garvey said. “We’ve planned for this growth, we’ve planned for these jobs, but we did not expect to get so much of this in one agreement.”

In November, Amazon selected New York City and Crystal City as the winners of a secretive, yearlong process in which more than 230 North American cities bid to become the home of the Seattle-based company’s second headquarters.

Amazon last month abandoned its New York City headquarters plan amid pushback from politicians and activists who were angry about the tax breaks that had been offered as well as the company’s anti-union stance.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia police say they’ve arrested a woman after finding nearly $10,000 worth of cocaine in an apartment. The Virginia State Police issued a news release saying that 22-year-old Lanaja Jackson from Albemarle County in the Charlottesville area was charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute.

Investigators from a multi-agency task force were conducting an investigation this month at a home in the area when they encountered Jackson. While executing a search warrant, they found 94 grams of cocaine worth approximately $9,400, along with about $1,000 worth of marijuana, according to the news release. They say they also found an assault rifle. Jackson didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. No phone listing could be found.

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