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December 2019

November, 2019 Power Line Traing Graduates at Southside Virginia Community College

The 12th Cohort of students from the Southside Virginia Community College Power Line Training School completed the 11-week program on November 21, 2019.  They are:

Front, kneeling (L-R: Tyler Barlow, of Crewe, Austin Lockridge of Drakes Branch, , Jackson Queen of South Hill, Hunter Sykes of Lawrenceville, Josh Clary of Lawrenceville, Luke Daniel of Kenbridge, Joshua Shumaker of New Canton.

2nd, L-R: Justin Stewart of S. Prince George, Walker Cline of Gretna, Genevie Boarman of Ophelia, Emilio Story of Prince George, Kyle Branson of Lawrenceville, Dayton Ingersol of Forest, Timothy Eischen of Chester, Samuel Lowe of HopeAltonwell, Tanner Young of Colonial Heights,, Devin Champion of Gordonsville, Robert Smith of Hampton, Mike Costley (Instructor) Brad Wike (Instructor).


3rd L-R: Conner McCready (Instructor), Clyde Robertson (Instructor), Jerry Mabe of Alton, Bennett Adams of Hurt, Luke Stewart of S Prince George, Brandon O'Dea of Richmond, Shane Baldwin of Powhatan, Dalton Simmons of S. Chesterfield, Dylan Nester of Chester, David Davies of Yorktown, Josh Gibson of Charlotte Court House, Elijah Brakefield of Clarksville, Dylan Rose of S. Prince George.

Alternative Sentencing Success in Southside Virginia

Second chances are always good.  In Southside Virginia, a Diversion Program for young offenders is offering another chance at a successful life without incarceration.

Dr. Alfonzo Seward, Coordinator of the Diversion Program at Southside Virginia Community College(SVCC) is pleased to announce success of the local diversion program.   During the spring of 2019, several individuals graduated from the program earning a variety of workforce credentials as well as completing the GED program. The next cohort class is scheduled to begin in spring of 2020.

Designed to provide alternative sentencing, the first class began in October 2016. SVCC worked in partnership with local Commonwealth’s Attorneys' offices to include Brunswick, Greensville, Mecklenburg and Lunenburg counties. The youthful offenders that enter the program face incarceration in either jail or prison due to a crime that they have committed and to which they have subsequently pled guilty. The program serves as an alternative to incarceration and/or a felony conviction and includes a requirement of participation in group and/or individual community service projects.  Additionally, the program requires participants to be drug free (verified through drug screenings) and of good behavior.

While serving as an advisor to SVCC’s Administration of Justice Program, Lezlie Green, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Brunswick County, presented the idea to Seward, who heads the Administration of Justice program at the college.  Both Green and Seward throughout their years in law enforcement recognized an unmet need for alternative sentencing programs in Southside Virginia.  They joined forces with Monica McMillan, who at the time was caseworker with Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Out of School Youth Program (WIOA) and Linda Macklin, caseworker for Southside Community Corrections to develop a program that was approved by the college’s administration and has been accepted as a sentencing alternative by both the local judiciary and defense bar.

The program is designed to follow a paramilitary format during the initial semester. The semester begins with a cohort of offenders meeting three nights a week in two different courses. These courses are designed to improve life skills, academic skills and overall behavior. The concept of the program is to provide individuals who fit the criteria with opportunity to gain the necessary skills to attain employment and deal with the stressors of life, so that they can become successful citizens.

The program operates through grant funded assistance and donations to the SVCC Foundation, Inc. For more information or to make a contribution, call 434 949 1051.

West Virginia woman killed in single vehicle accident in Skippers

Greensville County- One person, Erin Christine Queen, 55 YOA, of Salem, West Virginia, was killed on the evening of December 2 in a single vehicle accident which occurred in Greensville County. The accident occurred at approximately 7:09 p.m., at the Pilot Truck Stop parking lot, east of Interstate 95.

Preliminary investigation reveals that Ms. Erin Queen exited the tractor trailer she was driving and began walking towards the store. At some point, Ms. Queen stopped in front of her vehicle, while another tractor trailer (2018 Freightliner) was backing up into the pumping station. Ms. Queen was struck by the reversing tractor trailer. The driver of the freightliner was alerted by another driver that he had struck something, and upon pulling forward, ran over Ms. Queen a second time. 

Ms. Queen was taken to Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, where she later succumbed to her injuries.

Notification has been made to family members. Alcohol was not a contributing factor in the accident. No charges will be placed at this time.

SEVEN LIVES LOST ON VIRGINIA HIGHWAYS DURING 2019 THANKSGIVING WEEKEND

Virginians Reminded to Keep Virginia Safe During the Winter Holiday Season

RICHMOND – Of the seven people killed in Virginia traffic crashes during the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend, two were teenagers and three were not wearing seatbelts. Though this past holiday statistical counting period saw fewer fatal crashes than in previous years, even one fatality is one too many.

During the five-day period which began at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 27, 2019 and concluded at midnight Dec. 1, 2019, seven men and women lost their lives in seven traffic crashes on Virginia highways. The fatal crashes occurred in the City of Virginia Beach and the counties of Bedford, Henrico, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Rockbridge and Stafford. Six of those killed were drivers and alcohol was a factor in at least two of the fatal crashes. A 19-year-old female was killed in the Bedford County crash and an 18-year-old male lost his life in the Stafford County crash.

There were 12 traffic fatalities during the 2018 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and 14 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2017. *

In an effort to prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police participated in Operation C.A.R.E., an acronym for the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is an annual, state-sponsored, national program during which state police increases its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period.

The 2019 Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 5,221 speeders and 1,798 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers charged 83 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 490 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.

State police responded to 1,312 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth, with 178 of those resulting in injuries and seven in fatalities. State police also assisted 2,294 disabled/stranded motorists during the Thanksgiving weekend.

“With only 27 days left in 2019, the Virginia State Police reminds all drivers to do their part to keep the winter holiday season as safe as possible on our highways,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Let’s end this decade by working together to save lives on our roadways, instead of putting them at risk by engaging in reckless driving behaviors. Make the right choice by always wearing a seatbelt, safely sharing the road with all vehicles and pedestrians, and by not driving intoxicated or ‘intexticated.’”

McEachin Announces 2019 Congressional App Challenge Winner

Washington, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) announced the winner of the 4th District’s 2019 Congressional App Challenge – Amayr Babar, Ali Houssain Sareini, and Pete Ngwa, all seniors at Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake, won with their application “KAMI.”

“I am so proud of Amayr, Ali, and Pete for their hard work to create an app that not only helps patients with Alzheimer’s, but also eases the workload of nurses and other healthcare professionals,” said Congressman McEachin. “I know that these students have a bright future ahead of them with such dedication to computer science.”

“As leaders, innovators, and visionaries, we strive to utilize our passion for app development to bring groundbreaking mobile solutions to the medical field. KAMI validates that the symbiosis between medicine and software is the future of healthcare, and we plan to be at the forefront of innovation to provide available and cost-effective healthcare within an ever-growing digital age,” said Babar, Sareini, and Ngwa.

The Congressional App Challenge is the most prestigious competition that acknowledges students for their command of computer science. The students will represent Virginia’s 4th Congressional District at the federal level, and will have the opportunity to demo their app at the United States Capitol in Spring 2020.

Nearly $20B spent by Americans this Small Business Saturday®

American consumers spent $19.6 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday®, according to data released yesterday by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Data show shoppers from coast to coast made a significant impact at small businesses during the 10th annual Small Business Saturday®, held November 30, 2019.  

Started by American Express in 2010 and co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration since 2015, Small Business Saturday® continues to provide small businesses and communities across the country with an economic boost to start the holiday shopping season. This year, consumer participation increased by six million (110 million in 2019 vs. 104 million in 2018) and brought an almost $2B increase in total amount spent ($19.6B estimated in 2019 compared to $17.8B in 2018).

“Small Business Saturday’s® success is proof of the economic benefits of shopping small. Seven in ten adults are conscious of the positive impact local small businesses have in their communities,” said the SBA’s acting Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Steve Bulger who oversees the federal agency’s operations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, D.C., Maryland and Delaware.  Bulger also points to findings that 96% of survey respondents who shopped on Small Business Saturday® agree that shopping at small, independently-owned businesses supports their commitment to making purchases that have a positive social, economic and environmental impact.

In the Virginia-Richmond District Office, there are 745,886 small businesses employing 1.5 million people. The Virginia-Richmond District Office team members visited and shared valuable small business resource information with small business owners in the Richmond, Chesapeake and Fredericksburg areas.

“Small businesses are an integral part of Virginia’s economy and positive impact aggregately,” said Carl Knoblock, SBA Virginia-Richmond District Director.

Meanwhile, many shoppers using smartphones, spent $3.6 billion buying online from small businesses on Small Business Saturday®.  Adobe Analytics, which tracks online sales, says that’s up 18% from a year earlier.  Adobe reported holiday season sales are on track to grow 14.9% from 2018.  Small businesses have already garnered $68.2 billion in online sales from November 1 to November 30.

According to the survey, 97% of consumers who shopped on Small Business Saturday® agree that small businesses are essential to their community and 95% reported the day makes them want to shop or eat at small, independently-owned businesses all year long, not just during the holiday season. The SBA continues to inspire neighbors to make a conscious decision to Shop Small® year-round by recognizing their spending at local merchants and community businesses.

How Virginians are going solar, powered by national program

By Owen FitzGerald, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — Joy Loving bought a Prius in 2012. The purchase was the first of two investments she said she made in a personal effort to save money and reduce her carbon footprint. The second: go solar.

After converting her home to solar energy, Loving began leading solar cooperatives with members of her Harrisonburg community who also were interested in going solar. As rooftop solar systems began popping up across the city, people began to notice.

“I think that's because it's a small city,” Loving said. “Solar panels that are put on roofs are visible in a way, whereas my own solar panels, living out in the county as I do, are viewed only by the cattle and sheep who live in the fields nearby.”

Co-ops such as Solarize Harrisonburg, which Loving founded, were helped off the ground largely by Solar United Neighbors, a national organization dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. SUN carries out its mission in two channels: helping homeowners and businesses convert to rooftop solar, and encouraging individuals to fight for their energy rights.

“Our work is dedicated to directing the control of benefits of our energy system back to local communities with distributed 'rooftop' solar as the cornerstone,” Aaron Sutch, SUN’s program director in Virginia, wrote in an email. “We're creating jobs and building clean, resilient energy into our communities while giving consumers energy choice and freedom.

The organization brings individuals and businesses together to create solar co-ops in communities across the nation. Once the co-ops are large enough, SUN pairs the groups with local solar installers. Members of the co-op review different bids and pick an installer they think would work best for their specific needs. The chosen installer then helps individuals within the group create a personalized plan to go solar.

As of November, SUN said it has helped more than 840 Virginia families convert to rooftop solar.

Another key facet of SUN’s mission is encouraging solar homeowners to advocate for their energy rights. An example of this would be the push to lift Virginia’s cap on net metering. Net metering is a policy that compensates solar homeowners who might produce more electricity monthly than they consume from the public utility grid. 

Excess solar energy is fed to the public grid under net metering, and owners can use that surplus to offset their monthly energy bills. 

 The General Assembly passed a bill in March raising Virginia’s net metering cap for not-for-profit solar owners from 1% to 2%. The bill also saw the collective cap for all members of a co-op raised to 7%. This legislation was praised by organizations like SUN.

This bill also enables investor-owned utilities to develop solar projects by allowing Virginians to participate in a voluntary subscription program. While this could allow more solar to be built in Virginia, it falls short of utility-scale solar that would benefit communities.

Sutch said residents should be allowed to participate in community solar projects.

“Community solar enables individuals and businesses to get bill credit from a nearby shared solar project,” he said. “This will allow renters as well as low and moderate-income Virginians to benefit from solar energy even if they are unable to install a system on their own rooftop.”

However, the issue in Virginia, as Sutch pointed out, is that Virginia’s energy system defers to the monopoly created by Dominion Energy. There are currently contracts in place that prevent churches, schools and other municipal buildings from generating their own power outside of energy provided by Dominion, except on rare occasions such as weather emergencies.

“What we see is our energy progress running up against a very powerful special interest that works against the interests of many of the Virginia customers,” Sutch said.

SUN got its start in D.C. in 2009, stemming from the Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative originally started by Anya Schoolman. She said her son Walter and his friend Diego watched “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary about climate change, and wanted to help fight the problem by going solar. After realizing that an isolated transition to solar power was complicated and expensive, Schoolman wondered if the answer might be to convert her neighborhood in bulk.

After two weeks, more than 50 neighbors had joined Schoolman in wanting to install solar power on their roofs. The group became D.C.’s first solar co-op and two years later, 45 families in the area were reliant on solar energy.

Schoolman created DC SUN to replicate the success of its neighborhood co-op. Over the next decade, the DC SUN model spread to nearby states. In 2017, Solar United Neighbors became a nationwide program offering memberships. There were seven state programs already in place when it was officially established; now there are 13. In addition to D.C. and Virginia, SUN has memberships in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order in September laying out goals for a future driven by renewable energy. The order called for 30% of the state’s electricity to be supplied by renewable energy by 2030, and 100% of electricity supplied by renewable energy by 2050. 

“Solar energy is a rapidly growing segment of our economy,” Northam stated in a press release. “I am proud that the commonwealth is playing a role in driving this demand and taking advantage of the benefits that this resource provides.”

SUN offers a multitude of other programs aimed at giving Virginians the information they need to go solar. That information can be found on SUN’s website, along with a calendar of events the organization is hosting in the near future.

Loving continues to help establish other solar co-ops in the Shenandoah Valley.

“What we’re doing is educating the citizenry and the customers and other stakeholders of the big utilities, and I think that's a really important mission,” Loving said.

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