REGION BRIEFS: Small plane crashes near Williamsburg
WILLIAMSBURG—Virginia State Police said a small plane crashed Friday in the Williamsburg area.
James City County District Fire Chief Bob Ryalls told media outlets that one person was killed in the crash shortly before 5 p.m. Friday. State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller was unable to immediately confirm that report or provide any other details to The Associated Press. She said troopers were on the scene.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen described the plane as a Cessna 210 that went down about a half-mile from the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport in an open field near a retirement community. She said only one person was confirmed on board.
The crash occurred near the home of Bruce and Nancy Ward.
“I was in my bedroom, heard a thud,” Nancy Ward said. “One of neighbors came to my door. He asked if I had a fire extinguisher because a plane had just crashed by my house. That was the first I had heard of it. We saw a plane that had apparently hit a tree right next to our driveway. It had gone straight down into the ground. There was no sign of life.”
Va. governor’s energy guru leaves for college post
RICHMOND—Gov. Bob McDonnell’s top energy adviser has left his administration for a job at Christopher Newport University.
Maureen Matsen was deputy secretary of natural resources and McDonnell’s senior energy adviser, a critical post for a GOP administration that emphasized energy development.
Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech said Friday that Matsen left the administration about a week ago to become university counsel at Christopher Newport, a public university in Newport News. She had previously held a similar position at VMI.
Matsen had a hand in virtually every aspect of the governor’s quest to make Virginia the “energy capital of the East Coast.”
While Domenech said she will be missed, he said her work will continue under various departments.
Man pleads to $1.4M in Smithsonian parking thefts
ALEXANDRIA—A former parking manager at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Air and Space annex in Chantilly has pleaded guilty to stealing roughly $1.4 million in parking fees.
Abeselom Hailemariam, 33, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Alexandria. He’s is the third person convicted in a theft scheme that ran from 2009 through 2012.
Visitors to the center pay $15 to park. Hailemariam and others would unplug vehicle counters so they could under-report the money due.
The Alexandria resident worked for a contractor, PMI, that runs multiple parking facilities in the region.
The others who were convicted received sentences of about two years in prison. Hailemariam will be sentenced in July and faces up to five years. In all, authorities believe that more than $1.5 million was stolen.
Fairfax teens found guilty in sexting case
FAIRFAX—Three Fairfax County boys have been found guilty on juvenile charges for shooting cellphone videos of themselves and other teens having sex. The boys, ages 16 and 15, were convicted Thursday by a juvenile judge.
The boys are students at West Springfield High School.
One teen testified that their judgment had been impaired by alcohol and that they considered the videos to be “humorous.”
Metro plans weekend work
WASHINGTON—Metro is returning to weekend work after a four-week break for cherry blossom season. It plans work on all five lines this weekend.
Through Sunday, buses will replace red line trains between Gallery Place and Union Station. Metro says customers using the bus service should add 10 to 15 minutes to their travel times.
On the orange line, buses will replace trains between Virginia Square and Rosslyn. Customers should add 15 minutes to their travel times if using the buses.
Blue and yellow lines, trains will single track between Braddock Road and Pentagon City. Green Line trains will single track between Greenbelt and College Park.
Congress approves D.C. interim CFO bill
WASHINGTON—A bill that would allow the District of Columbia mayor to appoint an interim chief financial officer has passed the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the district in Congress, says the Senate passed the bill last night by a voice vote. The House passed it earlier this week.
Norton proposed the bill to ensure there would not be a vacancy in the office, which was created by Congress and is independent of mayoral control. The city can’t budget or spend money without the CFO’s approval.
Longtime CFO Natwar Gandhi plans to retire in June. Mayor Vincent Gray has established a search committee for a new CFO that includes former mayor Anthony Williams
Norfolk abortion clinic closing after four decades
NORFOLK—A Norfolk abortion clinic is closing after 40 years in business.
Hillcrest Clinic director Suzette Caton says Virginia’s new abortion clinic regulations, rising costs and decreased demand prompted the decision to close. Today is the clinic’s last day.
The Virginia Board of Health last week gave final approval to new regulations requiring abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as newly constructed hospitals. Caton says Hillcrest would have to spend about $500,000 on renovations to meet those standards.
Caton also says costs of supplies and staffing have increased. The number of abortions at the clinic declined from 2,116 in 2009 to 1,629 last year.
Virginia has 20 abortion clinics. State officials say Hillcrest is the only one that is not seeking license renewal.
NPS finds operator for Peaks of Otter
BEDFORD—The Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway will reopen after the National Park Service selected a new operator.
Officials for the 469-mile parkway say the new company will operate the lodge in Bedford County for the next 10 years through a concessions contract. The company was not named.
The agency has sought a new management team after the longtime manager decided not to bid on a new 10-year contract. The lodge and restaurant closed in November.
Officials say they expect the 63-room lodge and restaurant to reopen in early June with the new management team.
Many supporters of the attraction for local residents and out-of-area travelers had hoped for a new life for the operation.
Private developer could build Md. interchange
FREDERICK, Md.—A private developer may step in to help build a new interchange on Interstate 70 east of Frederick.
The proposal to bring Elm Street Development onto the project must be approved by the Board of County Commissioners.
Frederick County Traffic Engineer Ron Burns said the proposal would allow planning and construction to go forward without any government money.
Much of the project would be financed by tax increment financing, allowing the company to use future tax gains to pay for it.
The State Highway Administration has estimated that the interchange would cost about $30 million. Elm Street Development vice president Jason Wiley says his company could do it for 15 to 25 percent less.
Man convicted in Md. home invasions
ROCKVILLE, Md.—A man faces a possible life sentence after being convicted of two home invasions, including one in which a woman was sexually assaulted.
A Montgomery County jury convicted 34-year-old Kevin Ray late Thursday of 14 counts, including burglary, first-degree sex offense, first-degree assault, false imprisonment and handgun offenses.
Authorities say Ray invaded two homes on back-to-back days in January 2011. The first was in Silver Spring, and the second was in Bethesda. In the second incident, authorities say Ray forced the female victim to perform a sex act.
He was arrested in North Carolina after police obtained a photo of him using a victim’s credit card.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy says prosecutors anticipate Ray receiving a long sentence. He will be sentenced on June 20.
New Jersey Gov. endorses GOP D.C. Council candidate
WASHINGTON—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taped a robocall endorsing a Republican candidate for D.C. Council.
The call is going out to registered Republicans in the District of Columbia ahead of a special election on Tuesday. Christie says in the recorded message that “our country needs to elect accountable, responsible leaders like Patrick Mara at all levels of local government.”
Democrats outnumber Republicans 11 to 1 in the nation’s capital, and there has not been a Republican on the council since 2008. This is Mara’s third run for the council. He’s the only Republican in a six-person race.
D.C. Republican Party chairman Ron Phillips said he got Christie on board after telling New Jersey state party officials that Mara is “a Chris Christie Republican.”
Google to invest $600M in center
LENOIR, N.C.—Google is investing more than 600 million in its North Carolina data center.
Friday announcement brings Google’s total investment to more than 1.2 billion at its Caldwell County data center—one of the company’s eight massive facilities.
The data center near Lenior houses computer systems that support Google’s Internet search engine and other services such as Gmail and YouTube.
Gov. Pat McCrory and other politicians praised Google’s announcement.
Google also says it plans to participate in a new program Duke Energy is developing for large customers that want to buy renewable energy. The company says it’s committed to using renewable energy at its data centers.
Duke Energy says it will make a regulatory filing in North Carolina proposing the new renewable energy program in the next 90 days