Governor Northam will be at a dedication for the Clinch River State Park. The ceremony will officially open and designate Virginia's 41st state park. The state park will be 640 acres across various units, including hiking trails, river frontage, picnic shelters, and a public boat launch. The park runs across land in Wise and Russell County, including St. Paul's Sugar Hill Unit and the Artrip Boat Launch outside of Cleveland. The event begins today at 1:30 p.m.
TENNESSEE AND VIRGINIA TECH ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK THAT THEY WILL HAVE 100 PERCENT CAPACITY AT FOOTBALL GAMES IN THE FALL
Tennessee and Virginia Tech will open their football stadiums to full capacity this fall. The University of Tennessee announced on Tuesday that Neyland Stadium will operate at full capacity beginning with the season opener on September 2, against Bowling Green. Virginia Tech announced on Monday that Lane Stadium will also operate at 100 percent capacity this coming fall. The Hokies season will begin at home against North Carolina on September 3.
A Dickenson County man has been sentenced to time behind bars after a multi county high-speed chase last year. The Lee County Commonwealth's Attorney reports that Dakota Gilliam, of Clintwood, was sentenced to nine years in the Virginia Penitentiary on Monday. Gilliam reportedly drove through Big Stone Gap all the way to the eastern end of Lee County in July 2020. During the chase, state troopers tried to put spike strips on the road to slow Gilliam's car down, but he swerved to miss and almost ran over a trooper. Gilliam was arrested two months later. He will be on ten years probation on the Lee County charges, while additional charges are pending in Wise County.
Some states have ended their enhanced unemployment benefits early, but Virginia will not. Governor Ralph Northam says that there are Virginians who are having difficulty finding employment and until they are able to do that federal help is something that will assist them in paying their bills. Congress extended the $300 federal supplement, American Rescue Plan, to state unemployment benefits through September 6. 25 states, with Republican Governors, have recently announced plans to cut them off early as many businesses struggle to hire employees. A record 9.3 million job openings were posted in April, according to new labor department data, but only 6.1 million jobs were filled. A recent survey by the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association shows that 84 percent of restaurants have current staffing levels below normal, with 42 percent saying that they are more than 20 percent below normal levels. Northam did launch a "Return to Earn" grant program on Friday. Businesses with 100 employees or less paying new hires at least $15 per hour are eligible, and tip-based positions will not be excluded. The program will use $3 million in federal funds to give new hires a maximum bonus of $1,000 to offset the cost of things like transportation and childcare. Eligible businesses will be responsible for covering half of the cost of the bonus, as the Commonwealth will match the stipends of up to $500 for those hired after May 31.
COVID-19 vaccines will not be required, but will be encouraged, at UVA-Wise this fall. Chancellor Donna Henry announced on Wednesday a new plan regarding their ongoing campus response to COVID-19. The chancellor cited high vaccination rates in faculty and staff as a reason for the plan. Henry did say that she hopes that all UVA-Wise employees and students, who do not have a need for medical or religious exemption, will get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. If a student or employee does not document a vaccine, they will be required to continue weekly prevalence testing and wearing a face covering. Emory & Henry College will also be encouraging the COVID-19 vaccine, but not requiring it.
The man accused of shooting Norton police chief James Lane was arraigned on Wednesday morning. A preliminary hearing date has been set for July 9 for James Buckland. He is being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield without bond after being charged with attempted capital murder of a police officer, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The officers involved in the shooting that left Norton police chief James Lane hospitalized will not be charged. Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp announced on Wednesday that an independent review of the May 7 shooting had been completed. Slemp said that the officers who discharged their weapons during the shooting will not face criminal charges. He said that Chief James Lane and Sergeant Jason McConnell were justified in their actions. Analysis showed that they were justified under Virginia law, since they were threatened with death or serious bodily harm. The Commonwealth's Attorney also recommended that McConnell and Lane return to duty once they are able. Slemp added that the actions of James Buckland, the suspect, were not justified and constitute multiple criminal charges.
The man accused of shooting Norton police chief has been booked into jail. James Buckland was booked into the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield on Tuesday. Buckland had spent about a week in the hospital before being discharged. He is awaiting arraignment on several charges in connection to the shooting Norton police chief James Lane on May 7.
The Town of Pound's evidence room has been inventoried. The Fairfax County police officer who was chosen to inventory the Pound Police Department's evidence room over the weekend has finished. Wise County officials and the Pound Town Council are now awaiting a report from the officer. The evidence specialist worked Friday and Saturday to finish the inventory following a May 19 court order to transfer the key from the former police chief, Tony Baker, to a Virginia-certified law enforcement officer. The specialist is working through today to finish a report on the room's records and contents. Once she is done the keys will go to Christopher Wilcox, who has been named the interim police chief through June 30. The Pound Town Council will meet again tonight about the police department and the sewer leakage issues in the Pound River. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m.
At least one person is dead following a plane crash in Breathitt County, Kentucky on Monday afternoon. A single-engine plane crashed in a field afternoon. A single-engine plane crashed in a field at the junction of KY-1812 and KY-378 in the Frozen Creek community. The Federal Aviation Administration's office in Indianapolis contacted the Julian Carroll Airport in Jackson at around 1:30 p.m. Monday that the aircraft had went off the radar. The FAA was notified of the crash at 1:42 p.m. Kentucky State Police found the plane engulfed in flames on Blanton Bridge Branch Road. At least one person was killed in the crash, but the KSP is waiting on flight logs to determine where the plane was flying from and to see if more than one person was on board. There is no known cause for the plane crash at this time.