Virginia Tech campus. Photo by Lisa Rowan.

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

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Virginia Tech wins $10 million DoD grant for Sensing and Cyber Initiative

The U.S. Department of Defense has granted Virginia Tech $10 million to research sensors and signal processing technologies, according to a university news release.

Sensors detect and respond to outside forces, while signal processing tech allows sophisticated data analysis. Both are essential to multiple assets on ground, air and sea and are among 14 technologies that the Defense Department identified as critical in fall 2022, Virginia Tech said in its Monday announcement.

“They leverage the electromagnetic spectrum — acoustic, magnetic, and infrared sensing functions on a common platform — to detect, analyze, and track potential threats,” according to an article that the university released. “They can also be used to jam radio, microwave, and infrared spectra to disrupt them.”

The College of Engineering will collaborate with Penn State University and Army researchers. Dwight Viehland, a materials science and engineering professor at Virginia Tech, will be the Sensing and Cyber Initiative’s principal investigator.

The team will develop its practices, share training and support, standardize technology and oversee its access and usage, according to the release. Its goal is to develop a new generation of sensors able to handle a variety of data sources and enable cyber-secure communications.

Such technology has commercial potential as well, according to the university. Aerospace, automotive, energy, disaster response, health care, agriculture, manufacturing and city management could all benefit.

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9 Virginia trail projects receive $1.6 million in grants

Nine trail projects across the state have received a total of more than $1.6 million in grants from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Federal Highway Administration through the Recreational Trails Program.

The 2023 projects were selected from 25 applications, according to a news release announcing the awards.

Information on future RTP grant rounds will be available at  

Selected projects: 

  • Belfast Trail Parking Lot, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, $83,120. 
  • Bennett Springs Trailhead Reconstruction, Roanoke Parks and Recreation, $250,000. 
  • Big Cedar Creek Trail Landslide Repair, DCR Natural Heritage, $52,800.
  • Chesapeake Trail Improvements, Lancaster County, $219,765. 
  • COVE Project Phase I, town of Clarksville, $435,089.
  • Falls Trail Parking Lot, Grayson County Board of Supervisors, $204,761. 
  • Rapidan River Water Trail Public Access Rehabilitation, Friends of the Rappahannock Inc./Historic Germanna, $63,075.
  • Shenandoah Mountain Trails Maintenance, Conservation Legacy (Appalachian Conservation Corps), $250,000.
  • Tobacco Heritage Trail Maintenance & Amenities, Roanoke River Rails-to-Trails, $62,059.

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Central Virginia Electric Cooperative raises rates

Central Virginia Electric Cooperative has raised its rates, effective this past Sunday, with the average residential household expected to see a monthly increase of $3.39.

CVEC said it has not had a general rate increase since 2018 but has been impacted by inflation since then.

The cooperative cited a higher cost of materials, an increased cost of contracted service and necessary infrastructure upgrades as reasons behind the increase.

The board of directors approved the increase, which will equate to 1.6% of total revenue from rates or 5% of non-power supply costs.

CVEC said the rate hike is unrelated to its Firefly Fiber Broadband buildout of internet access infrastructure. That project is funded by grants, loans and user subscriptions.

“CVEC has endeavored to manage costs within the revenue from its rates, carefully balancing the need for investment in work force, equipment, staff training, maintenance, contracted support, and many other categories of expenditures,” the cooperative said.

CVEC, which is based in Nelson County, serves just over 39,000 customers there and in Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Augusta, Buckingham, Campbell, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, Orange and Prince Edward counties.

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BUZZ kicks off Season 4 with The Hokie Way

Virginia Tech star basketball players Elizabeth Kitley and Sean Pedulla are featured in the Season 4 premier of BUZZ this week on Blue Ridge PBS.

BUZZ features the work of nonprofit organizations in Southwest Virginia and the marketing professionals who donate their time and talent helping charities attract more people to their cause.

The Season 4 premiere, which airs at 7 p.m. Oct. 4, stars The Hokie Way, a nonprofit that creates opportunities for Virginia Tech student-athletes to leverage their Name, Image and Likeness, or NIL, in support of other charitable causes, such as Feeding Southwest Virginia, LifeRing Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia, according to a news release announcing the new season.

Hokies football coach Brent Pry and women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks also are featured in the episode.

BUZZ launched in 2020 and has featured nearly 50 organizations, Michael Hemphill, its host and creator, said in the release. Other Season 4 episodes in development are Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd County, RAMP (the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program) and Arts Connect Neighbors in Roanoke.

All BUZZ episodes also available on demand at

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Franklin County taps Doughty as interim director of economic development

Franklin County has engaged long-time economic developer Beth Doughty as interim director of economic development, the county announced Tuesday.

Doughty, who retired in 2021 as executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, has an advisory practice in economic and community development serving localities and nonprofits.

Franklin County’s previous director of economic development, Beth Simms, recently was named the county administrator for Patrick County.

“There are so many economic development initiatives underway in Franklin County that bringing on an experienced interim director who is familiar with the county is the best way to keep the ball rolling and not lose momentum,” Franklin County administrator Christopher Whitlow said in a news release.

The county will begin searching for a permanent director immediately, he said.