4BETTER OR WORSE: The week in review

Latest sign the 29 western bypass will never be entirely dead: Attorney General Bob McDonnell suggests that if Charlottesville and Albemarle take the controversial roadway out of longterm plans, local governments could be responsible for the $45.3 million the state has spent on acquiring the land.

Best news for landscapers and garden centers: The Albemarle County Service Authority loosens drought restrictions because conserving water is bad for business, slowing installation of plantings and forcing landscapers to lay off people, according to that industry. Starting October 22, contractor-installed lawns and plantings can be watered for 45 days to get established. The Authority decrees athletic fields and courts can also be drenched between 8pm and 10am. 

Best upside to the drought: While the James River is lower, it's also clearer because the lack of rain means no fertilizer or mud runoff.

Biggest staking out of turf: An anonymous donor pledges $350,000 to each area high school– Albemarle, Charlottesville, Monticello, and Western– for construction of synthetic turf football fields.

Most resistant: A staph infection unfazed by antibiotics, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, strikes around the country and kills Bedford County teen Ashton Darnelle Bonds October 15. All 21 schools in Bedford are closed for a thorough wipe down. 

Most profitable drug use: Oxycontin civil penalties swell federal coffers by $102 million, U.S. District Attorney John Brownlee announces in a press release. His office collected a whopping $135 million in the 2007 fiscal year, up from the previous record, $17 million in 2000.

Best timing for a political candidate: Charlottesville Police Captain Chip Harding, who's running for Albemarle sheriff, is named one of 10 honorable mentions for Parade magazine's police officer of the year in its October 21 issue. Parade commends the "DNA Dude" for convincing the Virginia General assembly to fund the state's DNA databank and collect samples from felons.

Worst alleged student behavior: A federal grand jury in Charlottesville indicts Virginia Tech student Robert Anderson Lawson, 23, October 17 on three arson counts. The fires occurred in Blacksburg July 19, August 31, and September 20, and Lawson was on the scene at each.  

Biggest college rankings double-take: UVA is rated #16, ahead of Harvard (#27), Yale (#38), and Princeton (#78), in Washington Monthly's annual "What Can Colleges Do for the Country?" rankings based on the percentage of students who do post-grad community service, the amount of research the university conducts, and how well the school serves lower-income students.

Newest garage: Cecil and Doris Gardner, who operated an illegal dump in Cismont for over 30 years, obtain a permit to put up a $9,000 metal garage. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Quality accepted documentation from the Gardners certifying their inability to pay for soil and water testing on their property, which cost $7,675.

Biggest cash crop: Tomatoes in Virginia– $98.7 million worth in 2006– edge out soybeans, corn, and tobacco, and make the Old Dominion the number three 'mater producer in the country after California and Florida, according to an AP report.

Worst threat to Election Day: The Police. The November 6 concert at John Paul Jones Arena could tie up traffic around the University Hall polling place (even if it doesn't sell out– see cover story.) Albemarle's registrar urges citizens to vote early (but not often), and warns that traffic could also snarl in the East Ivy and St. Anne's precincts.

Biggest vicarious thrill: On August 20, Mona Shaw takes out the Comcast Manassas office with a hammer. (Her deed follows multiple mishaps during which the cable provider cuts off her service and makes her wait for an unavailable manager.)