News briefs

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By Tom Wilmoth

Teens arrested for attempted break-ins

On Monday, Aug. 11, at about 2 a.m., Bedford Police Department officers responded to an alarm at the Food Lion at 1515 Longwood Ave. in the city of Bedford.

On arrival, Sergeant Brian MacAlexander observed one subject dressed in black clothing walking across the parking lot. He stopped this person to talk to him, and observed another subject attempting to hide. He summoned another officer to assist.

According to Lt. Jim Bennett, the two had allegedly broken into the Food Lion building. That investigation led the officers to also connect the two teenagers to an attempted break-in at the Bedford Minute Market, 1125 Longwood Ave., prior to the Food Lion incident.

The two teens, ages 16 and 17, were arrested and charged with the following:

One count each of property damage at the Bedford Minute Market;

One count each of attempted breaking and entering Bedford Minute Market;

One count each of breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny at the Food Lion;

One count each of possession of burglary tools; and

Two counts each of petit larceny.

The investigation is continuing and further charges are pending, Bennett said.

Bedford County man convicted of arson

A 21-year-old Lynch Station man was convicted of felony arson for starting a fire that burned about an acre of woods in Bedford County.

Michael M. Pollard was sentenced to two years in jail (suspended after 30 days served); three years of supervised probation, and restitution to the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) following a plea bargain Tuesday to one Class 6 felony count.

?We?re very pleased with the outcome,? said Todd Kready, VDOF forester in Bedford County. ?It?s the culmination of a year-long probe by a number of VDOF investigators and the commonwealth attorney?s office in Bedford.?

Kready responded to a wildland fire the evening of Feb. 28, 2008. While working to suppress the fire, he spotted a footprint, called the VDOF bloodhound team and stayed all night at the site to ensure the crime scene didn?t get contaminated. When the tracking team arrived the next morning from far Southwest Virginia, the bloodhound followed the scent directly to the front door of Pollard?s home. Pollard was interviewed by a VDOF investigator and subsequently confessed to starting that fire and another that burned about 1e,,4 of an acre.

Pollard was charged with two Class 6 felony counts and faced up to five years in prison on each count. At the court?s discretion, he could have received up to a year in prison and/or a fine of not more than $2,500 on each count.

?The Lynch Station area had experienced a number of suspicious fires during the previous 12 months,? Kready said. ?Being able to track this suspect and have him confess to two woods fires meant that he would not be able to threaten the lives and property of other Bedford County residents.?

State Forester Carl Garrison said, ?The VDOF law enforcement officers involved in this case demonstrated their commitment to protecting the citizens of Virginia. Their hard work, persistence and dedication led directly to the arrest and conviction of Mr. Pollard.?

In addition to Kready, VDOF officials who were involved in the probe included a handler from Lee County; his bloodhound, Roxie; forestry technicians from Carroll County, Rockbridge County and Mecklenburg County, and a handler from Mecklenburg and his bloodhound, Summer.

Appalachian Power modifies amount of water being released

A dramatically lower inflow into the Smith Mountain hydroelectric project has caused further changes in the amount of water being released downstream by Appalachian Power.

The company received authorization last month from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a variance of minimum flow requirements to help raise lake levels at the facility while maintaining adequate Staunton River flow. The variance was put into effect Tuesday, July 29.

When the variance request was made July 23, the adjusted elevation of Smith Mountain Lake measured 793.38 feet, almost two feet below the ?full pond? level of 795 feet. The ?adjusted elevation? indicates what level the lake would be if water currently held for reuse in the lower Leesville Lake were pumped back into Smith Mountain Lake. At the same time water inflow into the project was measured at 201 cubic feet per second (cfs). At 6 a.m. last Thursday, the adjusted level was 792.2 feet and inflow was 105 cfs.

The original variance allowed Appalachian to release a minimum daily average of 500 cfs from Leesville Dam into the Staunton River while maintaining a minimum 600 cfs river flow at Brookneal. However, it adjusted weekend flows to 650 cfs for downstream recreational purposes.

Due to continued low inflows, the company will now provide a minimum discharge of approximately 480 cfs from Leesville Dam. The increased weekend flow of 650 cfs will occur only between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays measured at Long Island, Va.

If conditions have not improved near the end of the original 45-day variance period, Appalachian will again consult stakeholders regarding need to seek an extended variance from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Appalachian is urging all lake and river users to be cautious when boating, swimming or participating in other recreational activities on or near the project during lower than normal water levels caused by low rainfall.

Interested persons may view current flow and elevation readings for Smith Mountain Project and other hydroelectric generating facilities operated by Appalachian Power and its parent company American Electric Power at this site: http://www.aep.com/environmental/recreation/hydro.

United Way kicks Off 2008 annual campaign

United Way of Central Virginia officially kicked off its 2008 Annual Giving Campaign last week at the HillCats game.

Last year, United Way successfully met its campaign goal of $3.5 Million. The 2008 goal is set at $4 Million.

Marie Martin, United Way of Central Virginia?s president & CEO, stands firmly behind the organization?s aggressive goal stating, ?Yes, America has fallen on uncertain times. Yes, the future of our economy is somewhat unknown. For those very reasons, this is the time for United Way to step up and raise more funds for the people who need help in Central Virginia. Our Partner Agencies? current clients will need additional help in the coming year, and, unfortunately, families and individuals who never needed help will be seeking assistance. There is no better time for our community to come together, to Live United, and provide help for those citizens who most need it.?

Currently, United Way helps fund 59 regional human service programs at 28 non-profit organizations.