The Triangle: News in 5 (Mar 21)

Williamsburg is named a "best small town" by Southern Living, gas tax relief may soon be coming to Virginia and Hampton University is offering free tuition, room and board to Ukrainian refugees.

Good morning!

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and while this morning was off to a cool start, the weather will be a bit warmer over the next few days, according to WTKR News 3 meteorologist Kristy Steward. The second half of the week will bring the possibility for severe storms, so it’ll be worth paying attention to weather alerts.

Additionally, I’m happy to report that you can now reply to my newsletter emails.

In the past, if you tried to hit “reply,” your message would end up in a black hole – but that issue has now been fixed.

I was also informed that the link I included for my direct email in yesterday’s newsletter was broken, so if you attempted to contact me and your message bounced back, please try again. This time, you can just hit “reply.”

I always appreciate hearing from you, and I’d love to know what kinds of topics you especially want to read about.

Now to the news.

-Christin

Local and statewide

1. Williamsburg has been named one of the “best small towns” by Southern Living magazine.

  • Williamsburg came in at #2 on the magazine’s 2022 list of “Best Small Towns in the South.”
    • According to Southern Living, Williamsburg received the nod because of its rich historical sites as well as a “big roster of things to do and places to explore,” including unique, locally-owned boutiques, restaurants and taprooms.
  • The magazine also named Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que the “Best Barbecue in Virginia.”
    • “Opened in 1971 by Julius “Doc” Pierce, this Hampton Roads place features pulled pork, smoked half chickens, and ribs cooked over oak and hickory coals and served with Pierce’s original tomato-based sauce,” the magazine noted in its reference to Pierce’s Pitt.
  • The rankings were based on votes from readers of Southern Living. The magazine reaches an audience of more than 26.2 million people per month.

Williamsburg was named one of Southern Living‘s best small towns in the south. (Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

2. A Dollar Tree/Family Dollar Combo store is coming soon to Newport News.

  • A 24,490-square-foot store will be located at 11008 Warwick Blvd. in Newport News, according to the Peninsula Chronicle.
    • You won’t have to wait long to check it out: the store is opening next week on Monday, March 28.
  • The new location will be only the second Dollar Tree/Family Dollar combo store in Hampton Roads. The other location, in Norfolk, opened earlier this month – but there are a total of nearly 300 such locations throughout the country.
  • Dollar Tree has had “significant success with its newest store format, the Combo Store, which leverages the strengths of both banners by bringing a multi-price assortment to Dollar Tree shoppers,” the company said in a news release.
  • The store will feature Dollar Tree’s popular selection of value-priced essentials, as well as a Family Dollar section, which will include an expanded inventory of frozen and refrigerated foods, pantry staples, basic apparel, pet food, beauty and health merchandise and more.
    • Want to save even more? You can receive instant digital coupons to use at Family Dollar locations here. More information about Dollar Tree/Family Dollar combo stores is also available on the company’s website.

3. At least 15 people – including a Virginian-Pilot reporter – were shot in Hampton Roads over the weekend.

  • The shootings happened in a span of less than 24 hours. Four of the victims have died from their injuries, WAVY News reports. The shooting incidents were reported in Newport News, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Suffolk.
  • In Newport News, three men were shot on the 600th block of Ivy Avenue Friday night, the city’s Police Department confirmed in a Tweet. The three individuals shot – all adult males – were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening gunshot injuries.
    • “There is no suspect information at this time and the investigation remains ongoing,” the Department said.
  • The weekend violence was particularly pronounced in Norfolk, where five separate shootings occurred on Friday and Saturday alone.
    • 31-year-old Leonco S. Lamb died Friday night after a shooting on Myrtle Avenue.
    • Several hours later, five more people were shot when a fight broke out outside of a restaurant and bar on Granby Street. Among them were 25-year-old Devon M. Harris and 25-year-old Sierra M. Jenkins, both of whom died.
    • Jenkins was a reporter for The Virginian-Pilot. She grew up in Norfolk and attended Georgia State University and was a bystander during the shooting.
    • Sierra Jenkins’ father, Maurice Jenkins, expressed grief over the loss of his daughter and said he’s weary from the ongoing violence in the area. Sierra “had all kinds of life and opportunity ahead of her, but it was cut short because of senseless violence,” he told 13 News Now. Sierra’s family and friends held a candlelight vigil in her memory on Sunday, WTKR reports.
    • “Sierra was a bright and talented woman with so much going for her. Her passion for journalism was undeniable and our community is better because of her reporting,” Kris Worrell, editor-in-chief of The Virginian-Pilot said. “We are absolutely heartbroken.”

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  • Two additional shooting incidents were also reported in Norfolk Saturday, but the extent of those injuries are not known.
  • In Portsmouth, two men were shot in separate incidents – one on Friday night and one on Saturday night – and both sustained serious injuries. In Chesapeake, a man was shot during an altercation at a shopping center on Providence Road. He was taken to a local hospital and later died. In Suffolk, a man sustained a non-life-threatening gunshot wound around 2:00 am Saturday.
  • At least one additional shooting leading to serious injuries was also reported in Hampton on Sunday. Several homes were also struck by gunfire, but no additional injuries were reported, according to WAVY.

4. New Kent residents are upset about a plan to bring a drug rehab facility to town.

  • Faith Recovery, a faith-based organization headquartered in Newport News, wants to open a residential treatment center in the Barhamsville area of New Kent County, the Virginia Gazette reports.
    • The group’s plan is to convert a 274-acre property – which was used as a children’s camp until it closed down in 2017 – into a treatment center featuring 12-month long rehabilitation programs. Faith Recovery has been working to help people recover from drug and alcohol addictions for more than forty years.
  • But the proposal is causing an uproar among some community members. Residents opposing the plan say they’re worried that those staying at the site will eventually cause problems in the surrounding community.
    • Over 110 people have joined a Facebook group. “Not This Site,” to express their opposition to the plan. One local resident also started an online petition to push back against the proposal.
    • The petition argues the county is “too rural and too vulnerable” for the treatment center. Some have also expressed fears that the facility could create a “crime problem” in nearby neighborhoods and attract drug dealers.
  • Faith Recovery wants to start with 15-20 residents at the site and then gradually increase to 40. The site would be staffed 24 hours a day. New Kent’s planning commission will be reviewing an application for a conditional-use permit for the camp on March 21.

5. Gov. Youngkin is calling for a three-month gas tax holiday.

  • The governor says a suspension of the gas tax is needed as Virginians suffer from the impacts of record-high prices at the pump. The proposal would cut the cost of gas by about 26 cents per gallon at a cost of about $437 million for the state, according to Virginia Mercury.
  • Youngkin made the announcement at a Henrico County gas station, where he pumped gas for several drivers while discussing his concerns about the price hike. He emphasized that he still needs to negotiate with the Democratic-led Senate regarding the issue.
  • According to data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the gasoline index has surged by 38.8%, year over year. Inflation on all items has also reached a 40-year high, the governor emphasized.
  • If the governor’s proposal is passed, the Motor Vehicle Fuels tax would be suspended for the months of May, June and July. It would then phase back in slowly beginning in August. The plan would also cap the annual adjustment to the gas tax at no more than two percent per year to protect against inflation-related tax spikes.
    • “The Commonwealth Transportation fund has over $1 billion more revenue than anticipated this year and next, from the taxes paid by the people of Virginia. This bill gives money back to them in the form of a gas tax holiday,” Youngkin said.

Local Covid-19 Update

New cases: ➕ VDH reports that an additional 6,498 people in Virginia tested positive for Covid-19 last week. That’s down from 7,421 last week. On the Peninsula, the highest numbers of cases were reported in Newport News (+78), York County (+39) and James City County (+35), according to WTVR.

Hospitalizations and deaths: An additional 508 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Virginia last week (up from 439 the week before), according to VHHA data. 254 Covid-19 related deaths also occurred in the state last week (down from 257 the week before), according to VDH.

Vaccination rate: 72.3% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 72.2% last week).

Good News

Hampton University will offer free room, board and tuition to displaced Ukrainian students this summer.

  • The university will invite 50 to 100 Ukrainian students to continue their education on HU’s campus, according to WTKR News 3.
  • HU President Dr. William R. Harvey said the invitation is intended to help college students and families impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Students affected by the conflict will be able to attend classes at HU during the 2022 summer session. They’ll receive room, board and tuition for the summer and will be given the option to stay at the university at regular tuition rates after the summer is over.
    • “The collective Hampton University faculty, staff and students are heart-broken because the war-torn country of Ukraine must deal with atrocities like the bombing of maternity wards, hospitals and other civilian areas,” Harvey said in a news release. “I think this partnership is something that can be beneficial to a great number of students and families. My entire career has been focused on helping people to achieve and meet their goals.”

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National/worldwide

Ukraine has rejected Russia’s demand to surrender Mariupol – despite ominous threats of a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

  • Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev set a deadline for Mariupol to lay down its arms by 5 am Moscow time or face “humanitarian catastrophe,” Reuters reports. The statement was made just hours after Russia bombed a Mariupol art school where four-hundred people were sheltering.
    • Russian officials said those who agreed to lay down their arms would be granted safe passage out of the besieged city. But Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, rejected the idea, telling Ukraine’s Pravda news outlet, “There can be no talk of any surrenders, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this. I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on 8 pages of letters, just open a corridor.'”
  • Mariupol, a port city in the Donetsk region of significant strategic importance to Russia, has faced relentless bombardments since the start of the invasion three weeks ago.
    • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russians are preventing supplies from reaching Mariupol and surrounding cities. Hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped in the city with scarce access to food and water and no electricity.
    • An advisor to the mayor of Mariupol said Wednesday that up to 20,000 people in the city may have been killed, The Economist reports. House-to-house fighting initiated by Chechen special forces has also reportedly begun, according to The Telegraph.
    • Ukrainian officials also say Russia has begun to forcibly take thousands of Mariupol residents to “filtration camps,” where their phones and documents are being seized. They’re then being sent to rural regions of Russia, where they are presumably being placed in forced labor camps, The Week reports.
      • U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN Sunday that she could not confirm the reports of forced removals but said the claims are deeply disturbing. “It is unconscionable for Russia to force Ukrainian citizens into Russia and put them in what will basically be concentration and prisoner camps,” she said.
      • EU policy chief Josep Borrell also weighed in on the situation, saying, “What’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime. Destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody in an indiscriminate manner. This is something awful.”

Other headlines in the nation:

Events This Week

You can find this week’s calendar of events here.

The list has been newly updated to include a free concert by the internationally-acclaimed Harlem Quartet. The concert will take place on Sunday, March 27 at 4:00 pm at the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church on Richmond Rd.

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