Charlottesville Breaking News

Guv's decree: Charlottesville Amtrak service gets another two years

The three-year pilot program to run a daily train between Lynchburg and Boston– greatly bolstering Charlottesville's railroad access to New York and other zesty cities in the Northeast– has won an additional two years of operating funding.

It's never been entirely clear to this reporter why a train that supposedly generates an operating profit requires an ongoing subsidy. (The answer may lie in capital commitments the state has made to the freight railroads that allow the Amtrak trains to ride their rails.)

In any event, the news released Friday, December 30, is that a new state budget proposal specifically allows the Commonwealth Transportation Board to allocate any needed money from the six-year-old Rail Enhancement Fund into a new fund called the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund.

While the person who actually presented the budget is Governor Bob McDonnell, the person making the announcement about the impact on this Amtrak "Northeast Regional" service was Democratic minority leader and Charlottesville-based Delegate David Toscano, who hailed the salvation of the service "a great victory in these trying economic times."

Rail booster Meredith Richards explains that the the governor's move diverts money from Virginia's rail infrastructure fund to pay for another two years of operating the regional trains...

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Charlottesville escapes first wave of Sears/Kmart closings

The company that runs over 3,500 Sears and Kmart stores has released a list of nearly 80 locations that will close; and while Virginia did not escape intact, Charlottesville did.

The first list– released on Thursday, December 29– shows Florida as the hardest hit state with 11 stores on the list of 79 closures. Stores in Norfolk, Richmond, and Midlothian will be shuttered to save money for the struggling big-box company.

The company, Sears Holdings Corporation, the nation's 4th largest retailer, has announced that it may close as many as 120 stores to trim corporate losses.

A download of the preliminary list of closures:

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Feeling tipsy: Excavator topples while razing building

A vacant restaurant building that has vexed the University of Virginia Foundation for the past five years brought additional headaches Thursday, December 29 when a piece of heavy machinery toppled while razing the structure at 1250 Seminole Trail. On-site interviews suggest that the man operating the excavator emerged unscathed in the morning incident, but the site's financial hemorrhage may be significant.


The University of Virginia paid $2.5 million for the vacant structure on 1.4 acres in 2006, a million dollars more than Jim Morris, an occasional business associate of music mogul Coran Capshaw, paid in 2002, the last year the place held an operating business, a restaurant called Asian Buffet.

County real estate records indicate that the structure– which had previously served as a Western Sizzlin' and as a Wood Grill Buffet– was built in 1976. As recently as last fall, there was a ...

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Bank feud: Chairman Giles quits VNB with other directors

A feud over corporate governance compounded an already painful December for a major Central Virginia financial institution. Virginia National Bank has experienced a leadership shake-up that has seen nearly one third of the board of trustees quit including the chairman, Mark Giles.

"My resignation is effective immediately," Giles tells President Glenn Rust in a December 19 letter that followed an apparently contentious meeting earlier that day. Neither Rust nor Giles, who spent nearly a decade as the Bank's first president and who chaired the board since 2005, returned repeated telephone messages.

Two other board members, Ms. Claire Gargalli and Mr. Leslie Disharoon, also quit that same Monday in what the bank concedes was a disagreement over the composition of its board of directors. A fourth director on the 13-person board, Neal Kassell, resigned two days later for unstated reasons.

In recent days, the usual discussions of loans and strategic growth at the home-grown but publicly-held  financial institution (VABK.OB) may have been compounded by the financial struggles of two board members and the death of the bank's longtime chief financial officer.

On December 3, ...

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Unclouded: Sabato predicts for 2012

Political pundit and Crystal Ball-meister Larry Sabato is the go-to guy in an election year, but as much as the Hook tried to lure him into some early prognosticating, Sabato likens any predictions at this point to flipping coins. He did give us some dish about the 2012 election, but where we really got the dirt was about fireplaces in pavilions on the Lawn– and whether the world will end.

Who do you pick in the Kaine-Allen U.S. Senate race, and what should we look for?
The odds are the Senate contest will go the way of the presidential election in Virginia. We live in a highly polarized era.

Which way do you see Virginia going in the presidential race?
Let's see which candidate the Republicans choose as their nominee. Some are stronger and others much weaker. That matters a great deal in Virginia and in other swing states.

Will Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's disregard of Lieutenant Governor Bill BollIing as heir-apparent hurt him in 2013?
Bolling hopes so. Governor Bob McDonnell hopes so. But I'm not sure the GOP activists who vote in a primary care about such niceties.

Your prediction for Democratic candidates for governor?
So far, Terry McAuliffe is the only one I have heard is running. But if the nomination looks to be truly worth having, someone else may jump in.

Rob Bell's chances against Mark Obenshain...

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Editor's Note
4Better Or Worse