4BETTER OR WORSE- The week in review

Biggest brick-laying project: The $7.5 million rebricking of the Downtown Mall begins in earnest January 5.

Scariest statistic: UVA's endowment is lighter by $280 million in November, down from $5.1 billion July 1 to $3.9 billion. In October, the endowment lost $450 million.

Second scariest statistic: Between October 1 and December 19, 175 bankruptcies are filed in the Charlottesville area, compared to 22 during the same period in 2006. Brian McNeill has the story in the Progress. 

Lowest bidder on oldest project: Faulconer Construction's $11.8 million bid wins the Albemarle portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, and work is scheduled to begin in February, NBC29 reports.

Best U.S. 29 upgrade: At Ashwood Boulevard, where Sydney Aichs died May 9, VDOT adds $210,000 in improvements, including flashing lights.

Ickiest update: Lawrence Irving Roundtree, 25, the NBC29-dubbed Panty Prowler, pleads guilty December 18 to two B&E charges, grand larceny and receiving stolen property. Roundtree's MO was to go through women's garments and spread them on the bed. DNA from a stained sundress in a May 2006 break-in and fingerprints from a January 2007 break-in led to Roundtree, who will get between four and five years in prison, Tasha Kates reports in the Progress. Roundtree, who has an IQ of 54, was charged with three breaking and entering into the residences of female UVA students in 2002 and deemed incompetent to stand trial. With the latest charges, he was deemed competent to stand trial in June.

Latest developer to head to the auction block: Weather Hill Development has 27 properties slated for a January 15 sale, and blames Hauser Homes for breaching a contract to buy the Poplar Glen lots on U.S. 250 west of Charlottesville, according to a McNeill story in the Progress.

Most alternative fuel: Ethanol heavy E85, which is 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline, comes to the Stop In Food Store on Seminole Trail, the third place it's available in Virginia, the Progress reports. 

Most dubious use of tax dollars, part 1: Scottsville pot grower Michael Lewis Easton, 49, gets 15 months in prison January 5 for cultivating between 20 and 30 marijuana plants in his house, which is forfeited to the feds. His girlfriend, Debra Allyn Morris, 46, is sentenced to 12 months and one day.

Most dubious use of tax dollars, part 2: Albemarle County police stop 545 cars during a four-hour DUI checkpoint New Year's Eve and net two– count 'em– two drunk driving arrests out of the four arrests made, according to the Progress.

Best part-time job: Governor Tim Kaine takes the high-profile chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee during his last year in office, and will go full-time when his term as governor ends January 2010.

Second best: UVA President John Casteen was getting $220,000 annually for serving on the board of Wachovia, a firm that ceased to exist January 1 when it was swallowed by Wells Fargo.

Best way to tell budget time is around the corner: Revenue sharing– the agreement in which Albemarle County pays Charlottesville 10 cents of its 71-cent tax rate to not annex– comes up annually, this time with Albemarle Board of Supervisors Chair Ken Boyd suggesting the city put some of the million-dollar windfall it gets into funding regional projects. The DP's Rachana Dixit has the story. 

Best sign the Washington Post is in love with Charlottesville: A December 24 travel piece about shopping on the Downtown Mall is the third escape here in the past year. The Post tasted Charlottesville's coffee bars April 24, and in May headlined an article, "If it tastes good, it's in Charlottesville."