Charlottesville Breaking News
The disaster in Japan sparked by the massive undersea earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11 is a terrifying reminder of nature's fury. But the natural disaster may pale in comparison to the toll wrought by potential meltdowns at several of Japan's nuclear power stations. Could disaster strike at the Dominion North Anna Power Plant in nearby Louisa?
That seems to depend on who you ask.
Actual earthquake damage to North Anna is not likely, according to UVA Geology professor Thomas Biggs, who notes that while Virginia does lie atop several faults, none seem likely to spawn major quakes. In fact, he says, the several small earthquakes in the past decades– including two in 2003– have remained under 4.0 on the Richter Scale. That's enough to rattle but certainly not topple houses– or nuclear reactors.
"All of our faults are pretty old," says Biggs, noting that while there are some along the Atlantic Coast that are "mildly active," but not anything like the places that have recently suffered major earthquakes.
"We don't have the tectonic setting they have in Japan, Chile, New Zealand," says Biggs, noting that California, due to its position atop two tectonic plates sliding side by side, remains at highest risk for major temblors.
Even if a massive quake did somehow tri...
For the past couple of years, Charlottesville and Albemarle have faced grim downturns in revenue compared to the high-flying days of the real estate boom and ensuing high tax revenues that filled municipal coffers. This year's draft budgets from the new leaders, Tom Foley in Albemarle County and Maurice Jones in Charlottesville, hint that things could be starting to turn around. A little anyway.
Albemarle was particularly hard hit during the Great Recession. Last year, the fiscal year 2010/2011 budget had then-county manager Bob Tucker chopping $40 million–- 12 percent–- from what had been in the budget the previous year.
"We're living with the constraints of the past few years," says Foley. He acknowledges that some service reductions, such as community policing, likely aren't coming back soon. And county pet projects like Acquisition of Conservation Easements have zero funding in this budget.
Both men probably are glad they didn't have to make the brutal decisions their predecessors did. But instead of focusing on the losses, Foley stresses a more upbeat "transformation" of how county government does business.
"This budget moves beyond reaction to the downturn," he says.
Now is a crucial time for parents and their college-bound high school seniors, but problems with a new high-tech student information system Albemarle unveiled last year have added more stress to the process. What's more, County school officials have known about the problems since last year.
Last November, in preparation for a meeting with the central office about the new system, staff from Monticello High School brought with them dozens of complaints, one of which predicted the spring debacle.
"We can't print transcripts [with the system]," wrote one student councilor. " In January we will need to send updated transcripts to colleges that list the grades earned by seniors. Transcripts were supposed to be useable by Wednesday November 3, but that didn't happen."
According to frustrated parents, problems with the systems have adversely affected the college application process, causing transcripts to be sent out late and with mistakes.
"I was told my son's transcripts were sent out incorrectly," says Cydney Simko, whose son, Alex, a senior at Monticello High with a 4.7 GPA, has already submitted applications to 12 colleges. "I was told the tech system was new and is still being programmed as they go along."
"When I found out the first week of March that mid-year transcripts had not arrived at the colleges, I was stunned," says another Monticello High parent, who is also a County elementary school teacher. " No student’s application sho...