On March 31, members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office responded to an overdose emergency on Cedar Hill Road in Frederick County, VA. Upon arrival, deputies located a 27 year old male suffering from an apparent overdose. Deputies and EMS administered Narcan and performed life saving measures. The victim later died at the scene. Members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force began conducting an investigation, and two suspects were identified. Task force officers obtained and executed a search warrant at the suspects residence located in Bluemont, VA in Clarke County. During a search of the residence, approximately 28 grams of methamphetamine with a street value of $1,300.00, 34 fluid ounces of methadone with a street value of $300.00, 3 grams of heroin with a street value of $250.00, various prescription narcotics and pressed pills with a street value of $500.00, 6 semi-automatic pistols, and 3 rifles was seized. Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officers have consulted with the Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney and charges against the suspects are forthcoming.
Since March 18, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force has reported a spike in overdoses. During this two week period, four fatal overdoses and twenty-one non-fatal overdoses have occurred. This ongoing spike in overdoses is likely the result of as combination of federal stimulus money received after March 17, and fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid fifty to one hundred times more potent than morphine. Two milligrams of fentanyl is potentially deadly for the average person. This year, fifteen individuals have died and fifty-three individuals have been injured from opioid related overdoses. This is comparted to thirteen fatalities and forty-three injuries reported by the task force at this time last year.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force continues to encourage individuals who are living with addiction to seek treatment and assistance.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from Clarke, Frederick, Page and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Departments, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, and Winchester Police Departments and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
EDA ups ante in civil litigation versus McDonald – without defense objection
Could the Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) and its former executive director, Jennifer McDonald, be headed toward a settlement of the EDA’s multi-million dollar civil litigation against her and her two real estate LLCs, MoveOn8 and DaBoyz? That would appear to be a possibility in the wake of a “Stipulations” agreement hearing Friday morning, April 9, in Warren County Circuit Courtroom A.
After the adjournment of the 9 a.m. docket hearing to deal with remote phone connection issues for other defendants’ attorneys not present for the two-pronged April 9 hearing, Judge Bruce D. Albertson reentered the courtroom at 9:25 a.m. with the remote connection issues resolved. EDA lead civil attorney Cullen Seltzer of the Richmond law firm of Sands Anderson then read the five-point “Stipulations” submission to the court as McDonald and her attorney Peter Greenspun listened at the defense table.
The first of those stipulations set an amount of $62,315,315.51 as the EDA’s claimed damages in the civil case against McDonald and her two real estate companies alleged to have been used to move EDA assets to her or co-defendants’ personal benefit. It is worth noting that the original EDA civil litigation filing was in the $21-million range, later being amended with added defendants to near $28 million.
The second and third stipulations note that the McDonald-LLC defendants “take no position on the basis for” that plaintiff-claimed amount; nor do they admit to “any wrongdoing” regarding the EDA’s claim of damages.
It is the wording of the final two stipulations approved by the court that may hint at negotiation between the plaintiff and defendant:
“The Defaulted Defendants (McDonald, MoveOn8, and DaBoyz) have endorsed an order providing money damages judgment in the amount of $62,315,315.51 in favor of the plaintiff (the ‘Money Judgment Order’),” Stipulation 4 reads, followed by this:
“No sooner than 60 days from April 9, 2021, Plaintiff’s counsel may tender to the Court the Money Judgment Order if the Defaulted Defendants and the Plaintiff do not sooner enter into an agreement satisfactory to the parties. The Defaulted Defendants do not oppose the Court’s entry of the Money Judgment Order once tendered pursuant to this paragraph.”
Defense attorney Greenspun and his client left the courtroom after the five minutes it took for the “Stipulations” submission to be read to the court by EDA counsel and for Judge Albertson to accept them, as indicated above, without objection from the defendant or her counsel, as the second part of the morning’s hearing began. That hearing was on a “Protective Order” request by defendant April Petty’s attorney Bill Shmidheiser to prevent volumes of his client’s bank records not relevant to the EDA case against Petty being posted on a secured database accessible by all the associated defendants, 15 in the first amended complaint and nine more added later.
Shmidheiser cited 3 pages related to a $41,000 check deposit regarding one real estate transaction as relevant to the case out of an estimated one thousand pages of Petty’s bank records from at least six accounts reviewed by the plaintiff attorneys and posted to the database.
EDA co-counsel Sean Hutson argued that the defendant should not be the one to determine the relevance of her own documents, that other defendants’ counsel should. After he polled four defense attorneys connected to the hearing remotely and getting four “no objections” to Petty’s counsel’s request, Judge Albertson granted Petty’s requested exclusion of apparently unrelated bank records from the case database.
Following adjournment after that 20-minute hearing, we asked EDA lead counsel Seltzer about the implications of the Money Judgment Order “Stipulations” agreement approved by the court earlier. However, he declined to discuss details of the status of an active case on the record.
So, we soon tried EDA Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne with whom we’d briefly discussed the morning’s hearing following adjournment of an 8 a.m. Emergency Meeting of the EDA Board earlier that morning. No action followed a 50-minute closed session. During the brief open session, Browne explained the “emergency” designation simply meant the meeting had been called within 24 hours of its convening.
While also reluctant to discuss the still-active EDA civil litigation, Browne did observe that the entering of a signed agreement by the involved parties citing a 60-day window to reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion was a positive sign that discussion would take place. Of the potential of such discussion, Browne observed, “If we can avoid trial and save tons of money by coming to an agreement it would be a positive development. I hope it works out.”
Town cuts ribbon to officially open the Village Commons Pavilion
Late Friday morning, April 9, Mayor Chris Holloway led a contingent of town staff, officials, and citizens marking the opening of the new Town Pavilion at the East Main and Chester Street Village Commons to the public. As previously reported the pavilion was funded through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program in the amount of $230,650. The Town competed with other municipalities throughout Virginia and was awarded the grant in September 2018.
The pavilion includes restrooms and free Wi-Fi. It will be open to the public to use during daylight hours. No reservations are necessary.
A range of contractors and town departments were acknowledged for their help in making the pavilion a reality. The grant funds were coordinated by Summit Design and Engineering Services, architected by Frazier Associates, constructed by Lantz Construction of Winchester, and land-use civil engineered by RK&K. Town staff coordination included the Finance, Energy Services, Public Works, and Information Technology Departments. Additional independent contractors included RC Concrete Construction, Rockingham Redi-Mix, and Long Fence.
In previewing the opening in a press release, Mayor Holloway said, “The Pavilion will be a very special place for our community and the people who use it. We’re thrilled to be able to provide our citizens and visitors this much-needed facility downtown. Thank you to all who supported and helped with the completion of this project.”
Governor Northam announces over $6.3 million in GO Virginia grants to drive economic growth
Governor Ralph Northam announced on April 9, 2021, an allocation of more than $6.3 million in Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) grants to help the Commonwealth continue addressing the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will support a total of 15 projects, including eight regional GO Virginia projects and seven projects through GO Virginia’s Economic Resilience and Recovery Program.
“This funding will go a long way towards supporting a broad-based economic recovery across our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “As we celebrate these projects, we must also recognize the leadership and many contributions of the late GO Virginia Board Chairman Tom Farrell, whose business acumen helped advance the GO Virginia mission of fostering lasting regional collaboration, and was instrumental in mounting a robust effort to spur Virginia’s economic recovery amid the pandemic. His legacy will live on through innovative, impactful programs like this one.”
The projects receiving funds will provide additional capacity to expand workforce development and talent pipelines in key industries, support the growth of startup businesses and entrepreneurial ecosystems, grow Virginia’s portfolio of business-ready sites, and assist regions with mitigating the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The awards will leverage an additional $5.6 million in local and other non-state resources to assist with ongoing economic diversification and growth efforts throughout Virginia.
“From energy and life sciences to manufacturing and tourism, GO Virginia continues to spur innovative ideas and strategies to support businesses throughout the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “As Chair, Tom Farrell gave so much of his time to the betterment of Virginia communities, and he will be dearly missed.”
“The recent efforts of the GO Virginia program demonstrate the importance of strategic thinking in regions, and how addressing near-term economic needs can create long-term economic growth opportunities,” said GO Virginia Board Member and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. “This round of grants represents a combination of ingenuity, collaboration, and resiliency during a time of unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact they have on communities around the Commonwealth.”
Since the program’s inception in 2017, GO Virginia has funded 163 projects and awarded approximately $56.9 million to support regional economic development efforts. To learn more about GO Virginia, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/gova.
2021 ROUND ONE REGIONAL GRANT AWARDS
Energy Storage and Electrification Manufacturing Jobs | $486,366
Region 1: Counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, and Tazewell
Together with multiple partners, Appalachian Voices will execute a strategy to build a new, high-wage industry cluster around energy storage electrification. The project will also provide technical assistance to existing manufacturers as they diversify and expand sales into these new markets.
Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center | $99,360
Region 2: Montgomery County and the city of Roanoke
The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC) will develop a market study, conceptual design, and associated operational plan to support the life science ecosystem in Blacksburg and Roanoke with flexible laboratory space. This space will ultimately support commercial entities and startup companies in the life sciences sector while providing a focal point to keep locally grown talent in the region.
SOVA Innovation Hub and Longwood University Office of Community and Economic Development Entrepreneurship and Innovation Implementation Project | $449,000
Region 3: Counties of Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Halifax, Patrick, and Prince Edward
The SOVA Innovation Hub, in partnership with the Longwood University Office of Community and Economic Development, will launch a series of entrepreneurship training, youth entrepreneurship, and capital access programming. Funding will support the creation of new jobs by building entrepreneurship capacity and a stronger, more equitable region-wide network of resources for startups and early-stage companies.
Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education | $613,000
Region 4: Counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Prince George, Surry, and Sussex and the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and Petersburg
The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, in partnership with Richard Bland College, will establish a Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) chapter in Virginia and launch an Advanced Manufacturing Technician program. Funding will support the development of new hands-on learning space for advanced manufacturing and new training capacity for jobs that are in high demand by area manufacturers.
757 Collab Bridge | $32,000
Region 5: Cities of Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk
757 Collab, a new venture of 757 Accelerate and 757 Angels, will provide rent-free space and essential programming for 25-30 startup companies each year. This grant will support the ongoing activities of 757 Accelerate and 757 Startup Studios as they develop the new 757 Collab organization.
Richmond County Commerce Center Expansion | $1,223,974
Region 6: Counties of Richmond and Westmoreland, and the town of Warsaw
Richmond County, in partnership with Westmoreland County, will expand the Richmond County Commerce Center to develop two business-ready sites, totaling 45 acres. The partnership of these localities will contribute to the joint promotion and marketing of the area and provide space for new and expanding businesses.
Northern Virginia Smart Region Initiative | $1,287,580
Region 7: Counties of Arlington and Fairfax, and the city of Fairfax
Smart City Works will help establish Northern Virginia as a center of excellence for urban technology innovation and a top destination for digital technology companies to build and grow their businesses. Funding will support the growth of high-tech startup companies through the introduction of capital investment opportunities, the expansion of business acceleration programs, and the creation of pathways to successfully deliver new products to the marketplace.
Shenandoah Valley Sites Enhancement Program | $821,000
Region 8: Counties of Augusta, Frederick, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren
The Shenandoah Valley Partnership will lead an effort to advance six regionally significant sites, totaling 1,112 acres, for potential new or expanding businesses in the region’s targeted industries.
ECONOMIC RESILIENCE AND RECOVERY GRANTS
Virginia Restaurant and Hotel Workforce COVID Recovery and Upskilling Program | $132,500
Region 4: Counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico, and the city of Richmond
The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association will support the restaurant and hospitality industry by offering COVID-related skills training to unemployed and underemployed restaurant and hotel workers. This initiative will also further develop an industry-specific job board to support ongoing industry recovery efforts.
Engineering Interns + Manufacturers = Success Squared (S2) | $39,200
Region 4: County of Prince George and the city of Hopewell
The College of Engineering and Technology at Virginia State University will create an internship program to support regional manufacturing companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of a semester, interns will develop projects focused on a company’s specific needs related to economic distress brought on by the pandemic, while also getting the hands-on experience needed to round out their degrees.
Startup Stability Program | $197,000
Region 5: Cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth
The Portsmouth Development Foundation will support small businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic through subsidized co-working space and mentoring services.
Marine Trades Training Program Expansion | $99,137
Region 5: Cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk
Tidewater Community College’s Marine Trades Training Program will expand its welding and marine coatings programs at the Skilled Trades Academy in Portsmouth. The welding program will be expanded by 33 percent to accommodate an additional 40 students per year, and the marine coating program will be relocated and expanded to support an additional 84 students per year.
Virginia Cyber Skills Academy | $699,995
Region 7: Counties of Arlington and Loudoun and the city of Alexandria
The Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu and the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) will train individuals whose employment was impacted by the pandemic for high-demand cybersecurity roles. All courses and certifications will be provided online at no cost to students, and this project will assist graduates with obtaining employment with area technology companies.
Local Ordering, Communication, and Agricultural Logistics Initiative | $60,602
Region 8: County of Page and cities of Harrisonburg and Roanoke
Common Grain Alliance (CGA) will provide support and build cooperative relationships between farmers, local producers, and distributors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will leverage existing web-based applications with an online marketplace to increase sales and enhance the resiliency of the industry through the creation of an online platform to facilitate supply chain logistics and new technology to streamline food sales, storage access, and distribution.
Central Virginia Small Business Development Center Resiliency | $131,220
Region 9: Counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fluvanna, Louisa, Madison, Orange, and Rappahannock, and the city of Charlottesville
The Central Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will address growth challenges and improve economic resiliency among area businesses by enhancing firms’ digital presence and e-commerce capabilities. Additionally, this funding will help increase SBDC’s capacity to serve the region’s business development needs, emphasizing services to rural and under-resourced communities.
Virginia among 15 East Coast states participating in annual “I-95 Drive to Save Lives”
Virginia will be among 15 states, from Maine to Florida, participating in a two-day “Drive to Save Lives” traffic safety initiative along Interstate 95. On Friday and Saturday, April 9-10, 2021, Virginia State Police will be dedicating additional patrol resources to Interstate 95 traffic safety enforcement. Motorists can expect to see an increased presence of troopers along Virginia’s entire 178 miles of I-95, from the border of North Carolina to Maryland. This year the initiative coincides with Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
“With April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Virginia’s new hands-free law, this enhanced enforcement initiative along the East Coast couldn’t come at a better time,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police. “This time of year people are on the road for Spring Break, vacations and outdoor adventuring. Keeping your eyes on the road, buckling up, complying with posted speed limits and never driving intoxicated, will help ensure your spring travels are safe, especially along the I-95 corridor.”
In 2020, Virginia recorded 37 traffic crash fatalities on I-95, six of which involved distracted driving. Additionally, five of those crashes involved drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In all, 625 people lost their lives in crashes along the entire 1,920 miles of I-95 last year.
In addition to complying with traffic laws, drivers are reminded that as of January 1, 2021, it is illegal to hold a handheld personal communications device while driving a moving motor vehicle on Virginia highways. For more information on the new law, visit www.phonedown.org.
With increased patrols, State Police also remind drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
Town Pavilion Ribbon Cutting and Opening April 9th
The Town of Front Royal will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly completed pavilion located near the Gazebo Area at Main and Chester Streets in Downtown Front Royal on Friday, April 9th at 11:30am. The Town encourages citizens and members of the press to attend this ceremony.
The pavilion was funded through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program in the amount of $230,650.00. The Town competed with other municipalities throughout Virginia and was awarded the grant in September 2018…
The pavilion includes restrooms and free Wi-Fi. It will be open to the public to use during daylight hours. No reservations are necessary.
If any citizen or members of the press have any questions, please contact Todd C. Jones, Town Public Information Officer.
(From a press release from Town of Front Royal.)
Newly named Petco Love invests in lifesaving work of the Winchester SPCA
The SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties announced today a $25,000 grant investment from the newly named, Petco Love, to support their lifesaving work for animals in Winchester, VA.
Petco Love is a nonprofit leading change for pets nationally by harnessing the power of love to make communities and pet families closer, stronger, and healthier. Since their founding in 1999 as the Petco Foundation, they’ve empowered organizations with nearly $300 million invested to date in adoption and other lifesaving efforts. And, they’ve helped find loving homes for more than 6.5 million pets in partnership with Petco and more than 4,000 organizations, like ours, nationwide.
“Today Petco Love announces an investment in the Winchester SPCA and hundreds of other organizations as part of our commitment to create a future in which no pet is unnecessary euthanized,” said Susanne Kogut, President of Petco Love. “Our local investments are only one component. This month, we will also launch the first of our national tools to empower all animal lovers to drive lifesaving change right alongside us.”
“This grant investment from Petco Love will have a direct and immediate impact on our ability to further our relationship with our local Petco and save more lives; we will be able to offer more adoption events and adoption specials, and our adoption counselors will help more people find a perfect family member,” said Lavenda Denney, Executive Director at Winchester SPCA.
About the SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
The Winchester SPCA is a nonprofit organization working to enhance the human animal bond and safeguard animals in transition. The shelter has been on a mission for pets and people since 1907 and serves Winchester City and provides supportive services to pet owners in Frederick and Clarke Counties and pets at high-risk shelters throughout the Commonwealth. The animal shelter is Fear Free Shelter certified. In 2021, the agency served over 1,300 animals in shelter, celebrated 969 adoptions, had a 97% save rate, and kept 617 pets out of shelter through their Pets for Life pet retention program.
About Petco Love (Formerly Petco Foundation)
Petco Love is a nonprofit changing lives by making communities and pet families closer, stronger, and healthier. Since our founding in 1999 as the Petco Foundation, we’ve empowered animal welfare organizations by investing nearly $300 million in adoption and other lifesaving efforts. We’ve helped find loving homes for more than 6.5 million pets in partnership with Petco and organizations nationwide. Today, our love for pets drives us to lead with innovation, creating tools animal lovers need to reunite lost pets, and lead with passion, inspiring and mobilizing communities and our more than 4,000 animal welfare partners to drive lifesaving change alongside us. Is love calling you? Join us. Visit petcolove.org to be part of the lifesaving work we’re leading every day.