Verizon workers to stay on job without new contract

NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon and unions representing workers in nine states said employees will work without a contract as more negotiations are scheduled.

The wireless carrier and leaders of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced the decision early Sunday, shortly after a contract covering 39,000 workers expired.

The unions said they are prepared to schedule regular bargaining sessions, but that they will leave the sites of their round-the-clock negotiations in Philadelphia and Rye, New York.

Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer, said the company is “disappointed” it was unable to reach an agreement with the unions despite “six weeks of good faith bargaining and a very strong effort by the company.” However, he said Verizon representatives will continue to meet with union leaders.

The unions say the telecom giant is demanding that workers sharply increase their health care contributions and make concession on pensions. They contend Verizon is demanding cuts in jobs and job security and wants to either eliminate the company’s 401k benefit match or freeze its defined benefit pension. In addition, workers might be asked to pay “thousands more dollars” in health care costs due to higher deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance costs, according to the CWA’s website.

“Verizon has earned $1billion a month in profits over the last 18 months, and paid its top handful of executives $249 million over the last 5 years, but continues to insist on eliminating our job security and driving down our standard of living,” Dennis Trainor, a CWA vice president who represents Verizon workers in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, said in a statement Sunday. “We’re not going to take it, and we’re going to keep the fight going while we’re on the job.”

Reed said Verizon presented the unions with a counter-proposal Saturday night that included changes to the company’s previous proposals on healthcare benefits, retirement benefits and other subjects.

He said the company’s proposal remains on the table at this time.

Verizon has said a strike would have a “minimal” effect on customers because it has trained thousands of nonunion employees and can also reroute calls to call centers not affected by the strike, and resolve some problems remotely.

“We remain fully prepared to handle any work stoppage so that our products and services will be available where and when our customers need them,” Reed said in a statement.

The contract covers employees from Massachusetts to Virginia and Washington, D.C., who work for Verizon’s wireline business, which provides fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service.

About 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike in August 2011 for about two weeks.

State to hold public meeting on Claytor Lake State Park plan

DUBLIN, Va. (AP) — Proposed updates to Claytor Lake State Park’s master plan will be discussed at a public meeting later this month.

The proposals include construction of a new park office and welcome center, trails, picnic shelters, cabins, an amphitheater and a three-slip boat dock.

The draft master plan also includes restoration of the historic Howe House and improvements to bathhouses, trails and the road that leads to the cabins.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has scheduled the meeting for Aug. 24 at the park’s Water’s Edge Meeting Facility in Dublin.

State park master plans are updated every 10 years.

Obituary for S. Renee Hedge-Lavis

On Saturday, August 1, 2015, S. Renee Hedge-Lavis, passed away quietly at her home.

She is survived by her mother and stepfather, Marie Hedge-Handy and David Handy; son, Joseph Lavis; grandson, Logan Lavis; adopted son, Joseph Amato; and an abundant amount of extended family.

She was preceded in death by her sister, Vickie Hedge; and father, Woody Hedge.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 pm on Monday, August 3, 2015 at Lotz Funeral Home in Salem, VA.

Funeral Services will be held at 1pm on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.

Burial will be in the Oak Wood Cemetery in Pulaski, VA.

Unfilled jobs a concern in county

By MIKE WILLIAMS

Publisher

According to Virginia Employment Commission figures released this week, Pulaski County’s June unemployment rate showed a slight increase over May – 5.8 percent compared to 5.5. But according to one member of the Board of Supervisors, despite that increase, there are plenty of jobs in the county going unfilled.

So many of the jobs are going unfilled, in fact, the situation poses problems for the county attracting more new jobs in the future.

Speaking at the conclusion of Monday night’s board of supervisors meeting, Massie District Supervisor Andy McCready said he is concerned over an observation he has made recently.

“I’ve been noticing an increasing number of signs throughout the community saying things like, ‘Help Wanted’ and ‘Jobs Available,’” McCready said.

McCready noted that all sorts of jobs are available, from various entry level jobs to summer jobs and jobs at local manufacturing plants.

“We have people who say they need a job and want a job, but needing and wanting can be two different things,” he said.

McCready said he wasn’t sure how the county could go about attacking the problem.

“We need to be mindful of the situation, as we continue our work on economic development to attract new companies into the county,” McCready said.

He added that during economic development efforts, one of the questions county representatives are asked is if the county can supply the workers for additional jobs.

With this in mind, he added, “it concerns me that we’re seeing so many jobs going unfilled.”
McCready said he knows some jobs may go unfilled because they don’t pay enough, but many good jobs are going unfilled as well.

He said he knew that Social Services has held a couple job fairs and another is scheduled.  “We need to keep reaching out and trying to get people in jobs who may not be working now because of whatever reason. Maybe they don’t think they can earn enough to support themselves or because it’s too easy to not work,” said McCready.  “But there are a lot of high paying jobs out here that pay enough to support a family, and we need to see if we can get some of our people in those jobs.”

Ingles District Supervisor Ranny O’Dell blamed the situation mainly on drug use.

“A lot of these companies won’t hire you if you’re on some types of prescription drug or what have you,” O’Dell said.  “It’s one of the main problems we have in our county. Too many young people on drugs. That’s what we need to attack.  Any time I bring this up, people don’t want to say or do anything about the situation. It’s not only here, it’s everywhere,” he said.

McCready agreed.

“We do have that problem, but all communities have it.  Actually, it’s probably worse in the county to the east of us, but they won’t admit it,” he said.

Supervisor Chairman Joe Sheffey suggested that the new drug court in Pulaski County may help the drug situation here.  Drug courts offer varied rehabilitation programs to non-violent drug offenders who are accepted into the program.  The offender faces frequent and random drug testing. Those who fail drug tests face a range of punishments – including possible jail time.  Pulaski County’s drug court is the first of its kind in the New River Valley.

McCready agreed that the drug court is a step in the right direction.

He relayed that local judges met with County Administrator Peter Huber recently and discussion included concerns over the state’s failure to move inmates out of the regional jail and into the state system where they may have some training options that could help them find jobs when they are released.

McCready said the jail recently implemented a pilot project for select inmates about to leave jail in which the inmates can make sure they have a job lined up once they are free, along with job skills and housing.

“It’s a problem that we have jobs going unfilled, and it worries me,” McCready concluded.

Pulaski’s Bluegrass Jam grows in popularity

By JENA HARDY

Special to The Patriot

With new paving and construction, downtown Pulaski’s First Street and Jackson Park area has undergone a transformation over the past few months. Now, locals can add Pulaski Jam venue to the list of changes.

Since this spring, local musicians of bluegrass, gospel and old-time music have been gathering at the Pulaski Senior Center on Thursday nights for a jam session—Pulaski Jam.  The gathering started as a “prelude” to the Mountains of Music festival in downtown Pulaski this June, but gained a following that called for the jam sessions to continue, according to John White, economic development director for the Town of Pulaski.   He said the weekly session started with about four or five musicians, but grew in popularity each week, both among the musicians and audience.

John McElroy, who served as chairman in planning the Mountains of Music festival, said the organization of a weekly music jam is long overdue in Pulaski.  He has been interested in finding a venue and setting up an event like this since 2008 and has been in contact with musicians expressing a similar interest over the years.   It finally took a bigger event like Mountains of Music to help bring Pulaski Jam to fruition.

Ed Crone, an RSVP volunteer who has helped with the bluegrass jam each week, said the event had record attendance on July 9.  With nearly 50 people filling the Senior Center, it was clear that the event needed a more spacious home.  That’s how the jam session ended up at Jackson Park the following week and will hopefully continue every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., weather permitting.  Guests are encouraged to bring a chair. In the event of rain, it will be held at the Senior Center.

Along with the issue of limited space at the Senior Center, one of the main reasons for holding the event in Jackson Park is accessibility.  Several of the event organizers commented that people might be more likely to notice the event as they are driving or walking downtown.  And while the Senior Center was a great place for Pulaski Jam to get started, McElroy said they are hoping to attract a broader range of ages at the new location.

“Whether they listen, sing or play an instrument, we’d like to see people from ages 9 to 90,” McElroy said.

White pointed out that Pulaski Jam is not a concert.  Sometimes, people from the crowd will get up and sing with the group, or randomly join in on an instrument.

“There’s no script,” he said.  “The musicians just let it happen.”

During the July 16 jam session, at least a dozen musicians participated, either singing or playing guitar, banjo, bass, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and even spoons. Several of them are well-known musicians that play professionally, and others were musicians who play as a hobby or who are learning a new instrument.  However, anyone is welcome to join in.

The musicians come from somewhat diverse backgrounds, but White said they all “have one thing in common: a love of music.”

“It’s a talented group of players,” said Crone, adding, “I’m just happy that we’re here—I think it’s fantastic.”

web Tucks Collision

Obituary for James Sanders Gravely

James Sanders Gravely, age 70 of Pulaski passed away Saturday, August 1, 2015 at his home.

Born March 2, 1945 in Pulaski County, he was the son of the late Thomas Sanders Gravely and Hester Eva Worrell Gravely.

He was retired from Pulaski Furniture Company.

Surviving-

Wife of 43 years-

Peggy K. Gravely-Pulaski

Children-

Sandra Blevins and Brady- Hiwassee

Linda Wright and Bobby- Pulaski

Jimmy Walls-Pulaski

Rocky Walls and Kathy- Pulaski

Lee Walls and Mary-Austinsville

8 Grandchildren

10 Great Great Grandchildren

Sister-

Nellie Goad-  Havre de Grace, MD.

Graveside services will be held Tuesday, 2:00 p.m., August   4, 2015 at Highland Memory

Gardens,  Dublin.

To send online condolences to the family, visit www.bowerfuneralhome.com

Bower Funeral Home, Pulaski is handling the arrangements for the family. 540-980-6160

AG opinion paves way for governor revoke McDonnell’s pension

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A legal opinion by Attorney General Mark Herring says former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s pension benefits can be taken away based on a law he signed while governor.

Herring said in an opinion Friday that current Gov. Terry McAuliffe can begin proceedings to cancel McDonnell’s pension benefits and not wait until the appeals process plays out.

When he was governor, McDonnell signed into law a provision that strips government officials of their pensions if they are convicted of felony misconduct while in office.

A jury in September found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of doing favors for former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. The couple have been sentenced to prison time but are currently free on appeals.

Consumers warned of continuing utility scam

Scammers are banking on separating you from your money using phone calls threatening immediate disconnection of your electrical service if payment is not made on the spot

RICHMOND  – The thought of having your electrical service disconnected is frightening for anyone.  That is exactly what scammers are banking on to make a currently active scam effective.  Attorney General Mark Herring’s office is aware of continuing reports of consumers receiving calls from individuals claiming to be from their electric company threatening power disconnection unless payment is made immediately.  Attorney General Herring, Dominion Virginia Power, Appalachian Power and the Virginia Electric Cooperatives want customers to remember that they do not take payment over the phone, and never ask for immediate payment via cash, PayPal, ‘Green Dot’ or any prepaid debit card as a prerequisite to keeping lights on.

“Although this scam has been around for several years, it may go dormant for a time and then resurface, often with a subtle twist that never seems to fail to ensnare new victims,” said Attorney General Herring.  “Scammers continue to use increasingly sophisticated methods to trick citizens, including caller ID technology that makes it appear as though calls are coming from the power company. These scammers will pressure consumers into making a payment over the phone or with a prepaid debit card that is as hard to track and difficult to recover as cash. Consumers need to remember that a legitimate business will not operate this way. They should resist any pressure and if they’re unsure about the legitimacy of a call, they should request an invoice in writing or hang up and contact the company directly to check on their account.”

Attorney General Herring’s office is working closely with Dominion Virginia Power, Appalachian Power, and the Electric Cooperatives to help Virginians avoid becoming a victim.  Prevention is key, since money lost is nearly impossible to recover, and being aware is the first step to protecting yourself. Attorney General Herring urges customers to remember:

  • If a customer is suspicious, they are encouraged to collect information from the scammer such as his/her name, any phone numbers or other details before hanging up and then reporting to local law enforcement.  Never share any personal or financial information with a caller you do not know.
  • If you feel that your personal safety or security is threatened, hang up and call 911.
  • Stay calm. Scammers may contact consumers or businesses during a hectic or busy time to try to catch them off guard.
  • Dominion Virginia Power, Appalachian Power, and the Electric Cooperatives will never demand payment over the phone or require payment on a pre-paid debit card. Dominion Virginia Power does not direct customers to make payment at any of their offices.  Designated payment centers can be found online at:https://www.dom.com/residential/dominion-virginia-power/customer-service/payment-options. Dominion customers should always call 866-DOM-HELP to verify that the company is attempting to reach them before releasing any personal information. If a customer is behind on his/her bill, Dominion Virginia Power typically sets up a payment plan mutually agreed upon and provides a customer with multiple notifications in writing before power is scheduled to be disconnected.
  • Appalachian Power does not direct customers to make payment at any of their offices. Designated payment centers can be found online at: http://www.appalachianpower.com/account/bills/pay/PayInPerson.aspx.   Stay calm. Scammers may contact businesses during a hectic or busy time to try to catch them off guard. If a customer is behind on his/her bill, Appalachian Power typically sets up a payment plan mutually agreed upon and provides a customer with notification in writing 10 days before power is scheduled to be disconnected.  Appalachian Power customers in Virginia can call 1-800- 956-4237 to speak with a customer service representative.  All of Appalachian Power’s payment options can also be found online at:www.appalachianpower.com.

If you feel you have been a victim, or have received one of these calls, please contact your power company and Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section, which helps educate Virginians about fraud and accepts consumer complaints regarding a variety of issues.  You may contact our office to get information or to file a complaint. Visit our website: www.ag.virginia.gov or call 1-800-552-9963 in Virginia or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area.

Obituary for Roby Lee Whittaker

Roby Lee Whittaker, age 81 of Dublin passed away Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at his home.

Born July 22, 1934 in the Whitegate Community (Bland Co.), he was the son of the late Robert Lee Whittaker and Bielia Victoria Whittaker. He was also preceded in death by two brothers and three sisters.

Mr. Whittaker   was a veteran of the United States Army, a member of the Parrott Church of God and retired from Corning Glass Corp, Blacksburg.

He is survived by his

Wife of 59 years

Jannette Ferrell Whittaker – Dublin

Sons

Dennis Whittaker-Dublin

Randall Whittaker-Dublin

Four Grandchildren & four Great Grandchildren

Brother

Charles Rodney Whittaker & wife, Brenda- Pulaski

Sisters

Carrie Barnett – Pearisburg

Patricia Smith – Radford

Pedie Phillips – Dublin

Many Nieces and nephews

Funeral services will be held Monday, 2:00 p.m., August 3, 2015 in the Bower Funeral Home Chapel, Pulaski with Pastor Kenneth Alley and Pastor Eddie Dalton officiating. Interment will follow in the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery, Dublin with military honors conducted by the Pulaski VFW Post  # 1184.

The family will receive friends Monday from 1:00 p.m. until the time of service at Bower Funeral Home.

To send online condolences to the family, visit www.bowerfuneralhome.com

Bower Funeral Home, Pulaski is handling the arrangements for the Whittaker family.