Saturday should be pleasant throughout much of the day, with a mix of clouds and sun and highs in the mid to upper 70s.
The rain will return Sunday, and storms will be possible again, especially in the afternoon and evening. Highs will reach the mid-70s.
If this weekend’s springlike weather has you thinking about gardening, consider checking out the 2023 Annual Native Plant Sale hosted by the John Clayton Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society. The event will be held on Saturday (when the weather is expected to be nice) from 9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the Williamsburg Community Building. All plant purchases will benefit the nonprofit organization’s initiatives, and attendees can also receive expert advice on choosing plants that attract butterflies, birds and other pollinators.
Now to the news.
James City County and York County are officially beginning negotiations to merge their 911 call centers.
- The James City County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at its meeting on Tuesday, April 25, to officially begin negotiating a deal that would merge its emergency operations center with the regional York-Poquoson-Williamsburg 911 center located in York County.
- The decision was made despite strong opposition expressed by current James City County dispatchers. Many have worked for the County for years and say they do not want to become employees of York County. Some of the dispatchers were in the audience, and the meeting took on a melancholy tone when their future fate was discussed.
- “This is very, very difficult,” Stonehouse District Supervisor Sue Sadler said to the dispatchers while holding back tears. “I do thank you all for everything you do for this community. I really do.”
- During a York County Board of Supervisors meeting last week, York County Administrator Neil Morgan notified his colleagues that the two counties would soon begin serious discussions that will likely lead to a merger. He added that he will make every effort to be fair to the James City County dispatchers but will also insist that York County’s interests are equally prioritized.
- What Prompted the Negotiations: James City County dispatchers have been working out of the regional York County emergency communications center since February when an electrical fire caused extensive damage to the James City County 911 center in Toano. The temporary combination of the two centers triggered a “round of conversations” between the two counties about a possible consolidation, according to Morgan. James City County Assistant Administrator Brad Rinehimer says the push to outsource the center to York County has been spurred by serious concerns about understaffing at the Toano facility. York County has agreed to offer jobs to all current James City County dispatch staff – which includes 22 employees and four trainees – if the merger goes through.
- “Staffing is the driving force behind this consolidation,” Rinehimer said, adding that the facility cannot continue to safely operate at its current staffing levels.
- At a Board of Supervisor meeting in early April, Rinehimer said that the County has had trouble finding and retaining quality candidates to serve as dispatchers, in part because of the stressful and difficult nature of the job. Roberts District Supervisor John McGlennon asked Rinehimer why York County has not had the same difficulties finding and retaining dispatchers. Rinehimer said the reason was not clear.
- Dispatchers opposed to the consolidation say the deal could jeopardize the safety of residents served by both centers because the two facilities currently serve as backups for each other. A petition was launched earlier this month by Marc Stedman, a retired James City County police officer who remains close to current dispatchers. The petition states that if the consolidated center fails, “there would be no one at the backup center to answer phones for at least 45 minutes as dispatchers change locations. This would mean 4 jurisdictions would be without access to emergency services for at minimum 45 minutes.”
- Dispatchers also fear their pay and benefits will be negatively impacted if they are forced to move to York County. Moreover, they say the additional travel time required to go to York County will be inconvenient, especially because they are frequently on call. The two centers are 28 miles apart.
- Rinehimer attempted to alleviate those concerns by saying he is “committed to keeping our employees whole and offering other employment opportunities within the County if they desire to continue working for James City County.” He also said he anticipates keeping the James City County Center available to be used as a backup if needed.
- Toward the end of the meeting, Powhatan District Supervisor Michael Hipple asked County Administrator Scott Stevens if the James City County site could be fully reopened if it became apparent that the deal was not working out.
- “The answer is yes; there’s always a way out,” Stevens said. “But I wouldn’t tell you it’s easy.”
A Williamsburg man who pleaded guilty to killing a college runner in a hit-and-run last year has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
- A 27-year-old man who pleaded guilty to killing a Milligan University college runnerlast year has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
- Jose Efrain Hernandez Mancia was sentenced Tuesday in York County in front of a full courtroom that included members of both the victim’s family and Mancia’s family, according to The Virginia Gazette.
- Mancia drove into a group of Milligan University student runnerson March 31, 2022, near the intersection of Williamsburg Pottery Road and Lightfoot Road. Eli Cramer, a Sophomore, died on the scene, according to state police. Two other student runners, Alex Mortimer and Eli Baldy – both seniors – were seriously injured, and all five of the runners who were hit were taken to the hospital. The students had traveled from Tennessee to participate in the 56th Annual Colonial Relays at William & Mary.
- Mancia fled the scene, and it was determined that he had been intoxicated at the time of the crash. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 12 in York-Poquoson County Circuit Court to reckless involuntary DUI manslaughter, DUI maiming and DUI causing serious injury.
- The tragedy sent shockwaves through Milligan University, with many students expressing heartbreak. University Student Government President Chase McGlamery said in a statement that Cramer was someone “who pushed others to be the best versions of themselves” and who “brought light to any dark day.” He added that the incident caused profound sorrow among students and staff.
- Several of Cramer’s loved ones spoke during the hearing, according to reporting by WTKR News 3. Cramer’s mother said the loss of her son has caused “searing pain [that] has never gone away.” Cramer’s girlfriend, Megan Roth – whom Cramer had been planning to propose to – was also present.
- “I’m 20 years old, and I’m excited to die,” said Roth. “When you get a call like that, everything stops. I went from studying for an exam to planning a funeral.”
- Mancia also delivered a statement, during which he expressed remorse for his actions and said he is “devastated” over the death of Cramer.
- “I feel really sorry for what I did,” Mancia said.
- Cramer was inducted into the Milligan Athletics Hall of Fame on the one-year anniversary of his passing.
- “While his athletic accomplishments alone might be enough justification, when combined with the indelible impact he left on this campus both before and after his death, there is no question that Eli Cramer has a place of honor in the Milligan University Athletics Hall of Fame,” said Milligan University President Dr. Bill Greer in a news release last month.
The Williamsburg Planning Commission approved a proposal to convert a local hotel into additional affordable housing.
- Additional affordable housing may soon be coming to Williamsburg.
- The Williamsburg Planning Commission voted last Wednesday to greenlight two applications that would allow the Baymont by Wyndham hotel on York Street to be converted into a residential facility as part of the City’s affordable housing initiative. The proposal was submitted by Shree Arihant of Williamsburg, who owns the Baymont hotel.
- Commission member Greg Granger called the proposal “long overdue and a step in the right direction,” while commission member John Cale said the plan “checks all the boxes” as far as what the City has been looking for. Cale added that the architectural improvements proposed would also improve the appearance of the street.
- The City has long identified a need for more workforce housing. In September 2022, the planning commission voted in favor of an amendment to increase the number of affordable housing units by converting more hotels. Staff at the time identified 13 hotel and motel properties in the City that could potentially be converted into affordable housing. The Baymont was one of those hotels.
- If the plan moves forward, the 81-room hotel would be converted into a 76-unit residential building. Fifty-six of the units would become efficiencies, while 16 of them would be turned into one-bedroom apartments. Four units would become two-bedroom units.
- City staff recommended moving forward with the proposal, explaining that the project is in keeping with the City’s vision to convert underperforming hotel buildings into affordable housing properties.
- Williamsburg currently has two other affordable housing conversions, including The Flats of Williamsburg, also on York Street, and the Willow Creek Apartments, located down the street on Parkway Drive. The City requires the units to be affordable to those earning at or below 80% of the area’s median income (AMI), as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- The commission approved the Baymont conversion proposal by a vote of 6-0.
Amid ongoing financial woes, Newport News-Williamsburg Airport is partnering with Norfolk for a regional study.
- Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) is partnering with the city of Norfolk and its airport leadership to seek a $100,000 Go-Virginia grant to pay for a “regional aviation, aerospace, and unmanned systems assessment,” according to WAVY News.
- The Details: The grant would be used to hire a consultant to come up with a strategy to help boost the aviation industry in Hampton Roads. The consultant would investigate key factors like passenger travel, cargo and underutilized space at Patrick Henry Field to develop a plan for financial sustainability for Hampton Roads airports.
- A recent financial report showed Newport News-Williamsburg airport is in dire financial straits and is facing the possibility of running out of money next year. Its current fiscal year operating budget projects a $2.5 million loss. The report also states that taxpayer assistance may be necessary in order for the airport to remain open.
- “Based on current trends, the Peninsula Airport Commission will exhaust its cash balances during the 2023/2024 fiscal year and will require outside support to maintain current operation,” the report states.
- The airport’s woes started nearly a decade ago, but the Covid-19 pandemic intensified its struggles. Meanwhile, Norfolk’s airport saw its busiest season in history last year. Business has also been strong at Richmond’s airport, which is less than an hour away from Newport News.
- American Airlines is currently the only commercial airline operating at PHF. The airport has seen 36,000 fewer passengers than they expected this fiscal year.
- “We need to pivot and we need to kind of look at what opportunities we have for this airport,” said Peninsula Airport Commission Chair Carney Smith. “Why not partner [with Norfolk]? Why not look at each other as sister airports on how we can further economic development for this entire region versus looking at each other as competitors?”
- If the grant is approved, the Peninsula Airport Commission and Norfolk Airport Authority hope to have a consultant selected by July 1 of this year, with recommendations finalized by the fall.
- York High School student arrested: A York High School student was arrested Wednesday in connection to a threat written on a wall in the boys’ bathroom, according to the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office. “I’m shooting up the school May 1, 2023,” the threat allegedly stated. Deputies launched an investigation into the incident and arrested a 15-year-old student at the school. He was taken to the Merrimac Juvenile Detention Facility and was charged with threats of death or bodily injury to persons on school property and destruction of property.
- James City County woman charged in infant daycare death: A James City County woman has been charged after an infant died while under her care at an unlicensed childcare center in August 2022, according to James City County police. Kimberly Henretty, 59, was charged with abuse and neglect of children, cruelty and injury to children and operating a daycare program without a license. On August 9, 2022, police and emergency medical teams responded to a call for a 4-month-old child who was in cardiac arrest at her daycare, which was operating out of a private home in the 5000 block of Thomas Court. The infant was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, and the cause of death was later revealed to be Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID). An investigation found that Henretty was caring for ten children under age five, and she was not licensed to operate the center.
- Man arrested after attempted abduction in York County: A man was arrested for an attempted abduction in York County, according to the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office. Ahmad Matthew Bowden, 19, of York County, allegedly attempted to abduct an adult woman in the parking lot of the Tabb Walmart on April 20 around 6:06 pm. Bowden was charged with abduction, attempted robbery and wearing a mask in public. The mask charge was based on Bowden’s effort to conceal his identity in furtherance of the crimes he committed, not for any medical purpose, authorities explained. Bowden was transported to the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.
- Williamsburg man charged for shooting in Gloucester: A Williamsburg man was arrested for shooting a vehicle and an occupied home in Gloucester County. The incident took place on March 26 around 2:47 am, according to WAVY News. Police received a call about a shooting on the 7500 block of Riverpark Road. Upon arrival, they discovered that an altercation had taken place and one man had fired multiple shots. The car and home sustained damage, but no one was injured. The suspect was identified as Brandon Lee Briggs, 30, of Williamsburg. Briggs was taken into custody on April 21 and charged with two counts of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, brandishing a firearm and reckless handling of a firearm. He is being held without bond.
- Man wanted after deadly assault in Newport News: Police are searching for 34-year-old Jamal Lamonte Mitchell, who is wanted in connection with a deadly assault in Newport News that happened in February. Mitchell is wanted for second-degree murder, and police say he should be considered dangerous. Officers responded to a call about the assault on Orcutt Avenue on February 17 around 4:15 am. They found 57-year-old Joseph Jones suffering from multiple injuries. Jones was transported to a hospital, where he later died. A photo and description of Mitchell can be found on the Newport News Police Department’s Facebook page here.
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