Charlottesville Breaking News

Side balk: Install of ped-stopping fence begins

Pedestrians got their first look at the black-painted aluminum structure that will keep them off the eastern sidewalk of the Belmont Bridge, as a crew from Howardsville-base Orme Fence Company began raising the 620-foot-long structure on Wednesday, May 25. The project began a day earlier as a workers began drilling anchor holes into the allegedly dangerous sidewalk. On April 4, a 3-2 majority on City Council decided to pay Orme $14,530 for the fence. However, a Hook investigation found that repairing the sidewalk might cost less than building the blockade.

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So much to write: New DMB book debuts

About a year ago, Boston-based author Nikki Van Noy called to ask questions about the early days of Dave Matthews Band in Charlottesville, based on a story we did in 2004 about the band's connection with Haines Fullerton, an early Matthews mentor who just missed rock stardom himself in the early 1980s with another local band called The Deal.

Now Simon & Schuster is releasing Van Noy's new book, So Much To Say: Dave Matthews Band, 20 Years On The Road on June 7. The Hook also had a chance to catch up with Van Noy.

The Hook: What did you set out to achieve?

Van Noy: It's part biography, part oral history. I wanted to tell the story of DMB’s first twenty years, but I wanted it to somehow convey the unique sort of energy and intensity that surrounds the band and its fan base.

Hook: That must have been difficult.

Van Noy: I spent the better part of two years reading through submissions and extensively interviewing a wide range of DMB fans. The final number of people quoted in the book doesn’t come even close to capturing the number of people I spoke with. In 2010 alone, I attended shows all over, including everywhere from Washington State to I...

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Sugared down: Advisory board calls for healthier school food

Parents concerned about the foods served up in Charlottesville City schools– and statistics suggesting that one in three local students fourth grade and up are overweight or obese–  should mark their calendars for June 2. That's the night the Charlottesville School Board will meet and hear the recommendations of the School Health Advisory Board, a federally mandated volunteer board comprising parents, health professionals, and teachers.

According to Board Chair Ivana Kadija, mother of two city school students, the recommendations include slashing sugar and salt and seeking ways to increase offerings of local produce. (The schools already obtain some local produce and goods through the Food Hub, an organization that serves as a one-stop-shop for local produce, but the advisory board would like those efforts expanded).

"It's clear that sugar is something we are absolutely addicted to," says Kadija, citing research conducted in France that shows rats prefer intense sweetness even to highly addictive cocaine.

While Charlottesville City Schools Assistant Superintendent James Henderson says the school system has already made significant changes and is dedicated to further improving the nutrition in school-provided breakfast lunch and snacks, Kadija says more needs to be done.

An online petition Kadija created calls on the scho...

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One too many: Latest 'Pirates' should be the last

Before seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, I had already reached my capacity for Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and with this fourth installment, my cup runneth over. Indeed, so doth Capt. Jack Sparrow's, as he obtains two chalices to use while drinking from the Fountain of Youth, and seeks a mermaid's tears to invest them with magic. There's always a catch-22. You fight Spanish conquistadors and the British Navy to find the bloody fountain, and now you need a weepy mermaid.
    I had fleeting hopes for this episode of the Disney franchise. An opening sequence is fun, as Capt. Jack impersonates a British judge, is chased through London, and discovers his old amour Angelica (Penelope Cruz) attempting to impersonate him while raising the crew for a ship. That anyone would still want to sail under Jack's command is a tribute to the daring of British seamen. The movie is fun until they set sail. Full review.

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Mercury in track: But is UVA's Lannigan overhaul dangerous?

Test results on samples from the University of Virginia's Lannigan Field track surfaces indicate eye-popping mercury levels as much as 33,000 times the government standards.

What the government may not know is whether such levels of the heavy metal pose any risks to runners or to the construction workers removing the surfaces in the course of the spiffy $5- to $7-million upgrade of the facility located on Copeley Road.

"Whether you believe it's toxic or not, federal standards say it needs to be incinerated," says Andy Hord, president of Precision Sports Surfaces Inc., one of the companies that unsuccessfully bid on the makeover of the once distinctively blue track.

Hord submitted three samples from the track for mercury testing. One from the original 1971 track surface, which includes three subsequent resurfacings, shows mercury levels at 100 parts per million. EPA standards for incineration, say Hord, are .003ppm.

"This stuff is FULL OF MERCURY," Hord writes in an email to UVA. "Like 33,000 times the [Resource Conservation and Recovery Act] standard."

While a 1994 surface shows negligible amounts of mercury, a sample associated with a 2004 resurfacing measured at a level of 60ppm, which is 20,000 times the standard.

The U...

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