Virginia is pursuing universal broadband coverage, but Comcast and Verizon won’t say where the gaps are

BY: - April 9, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam has set a goal of bringing universal broadband coverage to the state within 10 years. A not-so-minor hiccup: State officials say they don’t know for sure where people currently have access to coverage and where they don’t because the big internet service providers won’t tell them, calling it proprietary information. “If you’re […]

‘You’ve got to make your own:’ Rural parents struggle to access mental health services for kids

BY: - April 7, 2019

FLOYD — Becky Silvey has seen it all. The Franklin County mother has raised three children who have faced challenges ranging from addiction to autism to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. She’s struggled with a troubled marriage while navigating the school and criminal justice systems to advocate for her children. At one point, Silvey found out her oldest […]

Softer tone emerges in meetings between community, military over munitions plant pollution

BY: - March 28, 2019

CHRISTIANSBURG — Lt. Col. James Scott’s first community meeting as commander of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant two years ago began as a standoff. Armed police officers stood watch around the perimeter of the room. Community members sat in chairs on one side.  Army officials and staffers from BAE Systems, the private contractor that operates the […]

A historic sign over State Street in Bristol, which serves as the Tennessee-Virginia border through downtown. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Desperate for jobs, one of Virginia’s most conservative cities turns to marijuana and casinos

BY: - March 25, 2019

BRISTOL — There are two big projects slated for a vacant shopping mall here. One, a medical marijuana production center and dispensary, has been utterly uncontroversial. The second, a destination casino resort, has divided the city. “This is an attack on the Bible Belt,” says Dewey Williams, an evangelical Baptist preacher who leads a congregation […]

Division over bus station move exposes downtown Roanoke’s ‘growing pains’

BY: - March 21, 2019

ROANOKE— A rapidly growing neighborhood that’s sprung up in downtown Roanoke has reversed decades of population loss and revitalized previously vacant buildings. The influx of new residents, however, have complicated policy decisions in a district that’s traditionally been home to citywide and regional public services. And as to the question of where to locate Roanoke’s […]

Despite earlier estimates, opioid fatalities in 2018 now expected to match 2017 deaths

BY: - February 28, 2019

Early reports from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on opioid-related fatalities in 2018 predicted a hopeful outcome for the year: perhaps the number of fatal overdoses would, after years of staggering increases, finally drop. But the most recent report for the third quarter of last year dashes those hopes. According to data released in January, the […]

Inside the furious social media fight over proposed I-81 tolling

BY: - February 19, 2019

The fiercest battle over the prospect of tolling on Interstate 81 in 2019 did not take place within the Virginia Capitol. Sure, the debate within the General Assembly over how best to fund capital improvements on the 325-mile highway that sees 42 percent of statewide interstate truck traffic left a few bruises. A plan to […]

Southwest Virginia lawmakers push legislation to boost a struggling region

BY: - February 11, 2019

Virginia Republican state Sen. Bill Carrico has a long-running reputation as a fiscal and social conservative with little tolerance for vice or tax increases. So why did the former state trooper from Grayson County carry legislation this year to open the door for casino gambling in Bristol and for counties to levy new cigarette taxes? […]