Charlottesville Breaking News

Signs of spring? New execs offer slight optimism in budgets

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.

At just $17,000 more than last year, the county operations portion of the budget is pretty much flat. Overall, the $301,078,469 budget ...

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Wrong photos, Architectural firm name misspelled

In last week's On the Block column, we wrongly published the photos of a different house. The correct photos are shown here.

The architectural firm of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca designed the building that was the subject of the February 26 story, "Remembering Emily: Sister Katie helps unveil Couric Cancer Center." (The third of the names in the firm was misspelled in one of the captions.)

In the March 3 cover story, "Scenic Treasure: How conservation lines the pockets of the rich," the date and order of Richard Selden's Turner Mountain conservation easement were incorrect. The easement was recorded January 11, 1993, and it was not the first in Virginia, but it was one of the earliest in Albemarle County.

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'Unpardonable': Faulty IT system vexes college-bound County seniors

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...

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Fallen airman honored at Arena

Friends, family, and public officials gathered at 1pm March 9 at the Main Street Arena in Charlottesville to remember the life of Greene County airman Zachary Cuddeback, who was murdered March 2 at the Frankfurt Airport in Germany. Cuddeback was a 21-year-old Airman First Class in the United States Air Force who died, along with another Airman, after an Albanian man described as a Muslim extremist fired shots at the servicemen in a bus.

Note: This caption was rewritten from the future to the past tense for the Hook's print edition, and for accuracy the word "airman" was substituted for the word "soldier" in the headline and other copy.

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Familial hope: After East Coast Rapist arrest, Harringtons push for DNA

"Why haven't you picked me up sooner?"

That was the question that 39-year-old unemployed truck driver Aaron H. Thomas allegedly asked investigators upon his Friday, March 4 arrest in New Haven, Connecticut. Believed to be the so-called East Coast Rapist, Thomas is not suspected in the Charlottesville killing of Morgan Harrington but is linked by DNA to at least 17 attacks from Rhode Island to Virginia over a dozen years.

One Virginia prosecutor says the arrest would have come sooner if investigators had access to a controversial tool for which Morgan Harrington's parents have been pushing: familial DNA searching.

"If it had been available, this case would have been solved in '07," says Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert, adding that several females, including the three teenage girls Thomas allegedly abducted and raped in 2009 in Prince William, might have been spared.

Connecticut does not have the familial DNA searching software which might have pointed to a relative of Thomas incarcerated for a felony in Connecticut, where several of the rapes occurred.

While Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller says "no evidence" links Thomas to the 2009 killing of Morgan Harrington or to a DNA-connected 2005 Fairfax rape, Harrington's parents hope the s...

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