Dragas done as rector, a vacancy at PHA, and E. Coli: News briefs

Helen Dragas. Photo by Cole Geddy/UVA Public Affairs. Helen Dragas. Photo by Cole Geddy/UVA Public Affairs.

Check c-ville.com daily and pick up a copy of the paper Tuesday to for the latest Charlottesville and Albemarle news briefs and stories. Here’s a quick look at some of what we’ve had an eye on for the past week.

Martin takes over as UVA rector

Helen Dragas’ term as rector of UVA’s Board of Visitors ends this week, making way for George K. Martin to become the first African-American to lead the University’s governing body.

Dragas, heavily criticized for engineering last summer’s unsuccessful ouster of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, was appointed to a second four-year term on the board by Governor Bob McDonnell last June.

Martin, who becomes rector today—Monday, July 1—is a 1975 UVA alum and a graduate of Harvard Law School, and has been a managing partner at McGuire Woods LLP’s Richmond headquarters since 1990. His term on the board began in July 2011.

Stepping into the role of vice rector is Bill Goodwin, a Richmond billionaire who previously served on the board from 1996 to 2004. He was made an advisor after the Sullivan crisis last summer, and was appointed as a full member in January to replace Randal J. Kirk.

PHA begins search for new executive director 

After nearly 17 years of leadership, Stuart “Stu” Armstrong is retiring from his position as executive director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance, a local nonprofit that assists low-income families purchase homes, redevelops affordable housing units, and owns Friendship Court.

According to a press release, PHA started out as a two-person operation, and has expanded its staff to 22 members under Armstrong’s direction. Armstrong’s professional honors include a Housing Leadership Award from the Virginia Housing Coalition and a President’s Award from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors.

Deputy Director Karen Reifenberger will serve as interim director while the board of directors searches for a replacement. The board plans to name a new director by this fall, and Armstrong will stay on as a consultant during the transition period.

Rivanna’s bacteria levels cause for concern

Conservation groups are warning that the Rivanna River may not be so safe for swimming in the summer.

The Rivanna Conservation Society and StreamWatch have conducted regular testing of the waters of the river and surrounding streams for a year, and have observed an uptick in levels of potentially harmful E. Coli bacteria during the hot months, according to a report by NBC29.

Bacteria levels increase after rainstorms, according to the two groups, when pet waste and other bacteria-laden pollutants wash into the river.

RCS director Robbi Savage suggested waiting 24 hours after rain before letting kids enter the water, and reminded people to pick up their pets’ waste in the watershed.

City receives funding for McIntire Park trail bridge 

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced last week that the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department will receive an additional $609,560 from the Transportation Alternatives program, funds that will go toward constructing a bicycle and pedestrian bridge connecting the two sides of McIntire Park across the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

The planned bridge is a key part of a plan to make the overhauled park more accessible. Once the basic engineering plans regarding height, width, and location are approved by the railroad, the city will hold a public meeting to discuss final design details, and hopes to have the bridge built and ready for use by this time next year.

Hospital looks for shop volunteers

The UVA Medical Center’s Gift Shop is moving to a new, bigger home, and is seeking volunteers to help staff the store. No experience is necessary. Volunteers can choose a three- or four-hour shift once a week or work on an as-needed basis. Call 924-5251 or visit uvahealth.com/volunteer for more information.—C-VILLE writers