Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Community fossil unpacking party returns at Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech Paleobiology Research Group is bringing back its annual fossil unpacking party to the Museum of Geosciences in Derring Hall after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, open to all campus and community members, takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in 2062 Derring Hall and will be hosted by Michelle Stocker, an assistant professor, and Sterling Nesbitt, an associate professor.

The event will feature the unpacking of fossils discovered this past summer in digs in Arizona and Texas.

Undergraduate student Megan Sodano was part of the summer dig. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Children older than 7 are welcome to attend the unpacking if accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration is appreciated. Email with name, email contact, number of people and ages of children.

The evening will begin with a presentation by Stocker, Nesbitt and geosciences students at 130 Hahn Hall North before moving to the museum at Derring Hall.

In years past, the unpacking party has brought in as more than a 150 people, Stocker said. “We’ve really missed sharing what we do with our community through in-person events,” she added.

The team found mostly fossils of reptiles, amphibians and fish. In Arizona, the team focused on rocks in and around Petrified Forest National Park, working aside park scientists to excavate bone beds. In Texas, the team concentrated on rocks near the town of Post, where Stocker said many Upper Triassic rocks are exposed.

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SML Center to work with Virginia Tech students on business development plan

The Smith Mountain Lake Center Inc. will be working with the management department at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business to create a business plan for the center.

Dirk Buengel. Courtesy of Smith Mountain Lake Center Inc.

The student project was proposed by Greg Beecher, Tech’s director of talent development and a member of the center’s board of directors.

Beecher chairs the education committee for the center, a nonprofit that is working to purchase the vacant Grand Home Furnishings showroom at Westlake Corner and transform it into a multiuse facility for education, entertainment, community and tourism events. He said he reached out to his colleague Dirk Buengel, an associate professor of practice at Pamplin, to see if his students could help develop a plan to use the center.

Buengel will act as project advisor to the team of four to five management students. They will work to define the best use of the new venue to serve a diverse audience, from grade school students to senior citizens, he said.

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Pittsylvania County receives $2.4 million grant to upgrade pump stations, improve infrastructure

Pittsylvania County has received a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to upgrade the county’s water and sewer infrastructure, the county announced last week.

The grant will be used to improve five aging pump stations, replace the deteriorating Brockway pump station with gravity sewer service, and complete several smaller water infrastructure projects, the county said.

The grant from the Economic Development Administration is part of the the agency’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program. Pittsylvania County is contributing $600,000 to these projects. 

Pittsylvania County Public Works provides water service to more than 3,500 customers and sewer service to about 2,000 homes and businesses.