In brief: Solar salvage, dog-meat farm rescue and more

What's going to happen to the quarter-million-dollars worth of solar panels on the slated-for-demolition Main Street Arena? TBD.
Photo by Skyclad Aerial What’s going to happen to the quarter-million-dollars worth of solar panels on the slated-for-demolition Main Street Arena? TBD. Photo by Skyclad Aerial

Hot topic

In 2012, the Local Energy Alliance Program floated a low-interest loan of $280,000 for Mark Brown to install solar panels on top of the Main Street Arena using a $500,000 grant from the city. Now that he’s sold the building and it’s slated for demolition, some are wondering what will happen to the panels on the roof.

The loan was paid in full when Brown listed the property, confirms LEAP spokesperson Kara West.

“The only reason we put those panels in was because the city wanted us to,” says Brown, who says he broke even on the panels. “Most of the savings came from them shading the building from sun on that side of the building.”

Solar expert Roger Voisinet says some parts of the system, such as the inverters, can be recycled more easily than others. As for the panels, “It depends,” he says.

There’s plenty that can be recycled from the building, he observes, such as the copper roof and the equipment that makes it an ice rink, which current owner Jaffray Woodriff pledged to donate to a business venture that would create a new ice rink in a different location.

Woodriff’s Taliaferro Junction LLC bought the property in early 2017 for $5.7 million, and the arena, as well as the building that houses Escafé, are all coming down to make way for a tech center. That won’t happen until the Board of Architectural Review approves the site plan, probably not before this summer, according to city planner Brian Haluska.

Details are not final on what will happen with the solar panels, according to a Woodriff spokesperson.

The solar panel loan was controversial at the time, says Brown. “I don’t think there were any real losers. It wasn’t an Omni bailout deal.” That’s a reference to the city pumping $11 million in taxpayer funds to the hotel in the ’80s and secretly forgiving the loans in closed executive sessions a decade later.

Says Brown, “I’d assume [the panels] will be thrown in the garbage.”

“There are people in Virginia history that I think it’s appropriate to memorialize and remember that way, and others that I would have a difference of opinion on.”—Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax speaking to reporters after he declined to adjourn the Senate January 22 to honor General Stonewall Jackson

New city flack

Brian Wheeler, executive director of Charlottesville Tomorrow, will take over as spokesperson for the City of Charlottesville, a position Miriam Dickler most recently held. Wheeler starts the $98,000-a-year-plus-benefits job (more than $5,000 above Dickler’s salary) February 20. He co-founded the online news nonprofit in 2005 and implemented a groundbreaking partnership with the Daily Progress. He will devote the remainder of his time with Charlottesville Tomorrow to finding a fundraising successor.

Paw patrol

The Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA is housing a group of canines that Humane Society International rescued from a dog meat farm in Namyangju, South Korea. Many of the animals suffered eye infections, skin disease and have leg and paw sores from standing and sitting on thin wire mesh. HSI rescued 170 pups in total, but it’s unclear how many are up for adoption locally.

Police Academy director dies

File photo Jen Fariello

Albemarle resident Hugh Wilson, creator of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” died January 14 at age 74. He was a writer for “The Bob Newhart Show,” and he broke into directing with Police Academy in 1984. He also directed Guarding Tess and The First Wives Club, and in 2001 made Mickey with fellow Albemarlean John Grisham.

#metoo for UVA board member

First lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy says she was sexually assaulted while a second-year student at UVA. Murphy, who graduated in 1987 and sits on the Board of Visitors, revealed the attack at a January 20 Women’s March event in Morristown, New Jersey. She says she was pulled into the bushes walking home alone and managed to escape. Her attacker was later jailed for a different crime.

Another counterprotester arrested

Six months after the Unite the Right rally, police arrested Donald Blakney, 51, for malicious wounding near the Market Street Garage melee. He was released on $2,000 bond.






Worst headline about a UVA alum

“Another sycophant trashes her reputation” was Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s January 16 piece about UVA law’s Kirstjen Nielsen, now secretary of Homeland Security, who denied hearing President Donald Trump use the term “shithole” to describe the countries he doesn’t want immigrants from in the infamous meeting at which she was present.

Killed bills

Here’s what legislation has died in the General Assembly so far.

  • SB360 would allow localities to ban firearms at permitted events.
  • SB385 limits handgun purchases to one a month.
  • SB444 allows localities to remove war memorials, and it died in Senate committee on party line vote 7-6 January 16. House Minority Leader David Toscano has a similar bill in the House of Delegates.
  • SB245 prohibits conversion therapy for LGBTQ youths.
  • SB665, carried by state Senator Creigh Deeds, adds Charlottesville and Albemarle to the list to localities where it’s unlawful to carry certain firearms in public places.
  • SB744 makes not wearing a seatbelt a primary offense and requires backseat passengers to be belted. Currently police can’t pull over a driver for being seatbelt-less and can only ticket if they observe another primary violation.

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