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Week of July 16, 2014

Walmart Opens Its Doors in Grantsboro

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

GRANTSBORO – The new 69,000-square-foot Grantsboro Walmart was scheduled to open this morning at 7:30 a.m. It included a brief ceremony, awarding of grants to local charities and organizations and a ribbon cutting. On Saturday, there will be “A Big Family Welcome” from noon to 3 p.m. to give customers the opportunity to meet Aljeana Staples, the store manager, enjoy family activities and free food samples.

The store has a gas station and convenience store on the property and will be open 7 days a week, 24 just hours a day for the convenience of the customers.

The store is located across from the Food Lion and behind the State Employees Credit Union on NC 55.

It is the second store to come to Pamlico County. A 12,000-square-foot Walmart Express opened in Oriental this spring, just outside the town limits.

Staples says the new Walmart will offer a full line of groceries, including organic and natural selections, a wide variety of meats, fresh baked bread and desserts. It will also offer electronics and general merchandise.

The Grantsboro Walmart is considered a Superstore, smaller than the Supercenters in Havelock and New Bern.

Staples said this is her first job as a store manager and she is excited. Her previous jobs with Walmart began in 2002 when she was hired as an associate on the service desk. Her work has taken her to South Carolina, Ohio and to the Havelock and New Bern Walmart Supercenters where she worked as a shift manager for 4 years.  She lives in Craven County.

Staples said many of the 100-150 full and part-time employees live in the county.

“We had a hiring center at the Grantsboro Town Hall,” she said. “Joyce Swimm, director of the Chamber of Commerce was a lot of help. We also got help from the Small Business Center and Job Links at Pamlico Community College. They helped during the hiring process and interviews.”

The check presentations include $4,800 to community groups such as the Grantsboro Silver Hill fire department, the Marine Corps League in Oriental, Pamlico Community College, Bethany Christian Church Food Bank and Communities in Schools N.C.

“I’m very excited to be here and be part of the community,” Staples said. “Everyone is excited for us to be here and we want to take care of our customers.”

 

Newest Pamlico Habitat Family Overcomes Multiple Hardships for New Start

 

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff


ORIENTAL - Habitat for Humanity of Pamlico County broke ground for its fourth house in the county last Saturday on White Farm Road.

It is a new location for Habitat, which had built its previous homes just outside Bayboro.

The home site is in a flood plain, but the construction plans call for it to be an elevated structure.

The family of John and Ariadne Sylvester, along with their two children, will help in the construction of the home, done by volunteers. The family will then assume a mortgage in the property.

 “We are excited,” Ariadne said Saturday. “We just got back from clearing brush.”

The Sylvesters hail from New Hampshire.

The family moved to North Carolina about seven years ago and lived in Wilmington and then near Asheville and settled in New Bern for a time. Hurricane Irene forced them out of their New Bern home and since they had enrolled their children at the Arapahoe Charter School, they found a rental in Oriental.

Times are improving for the family, which has had more than its share of distress and heartache. It began with cancer and included a flooded home in New Hampshire and having to move from the rental in New Bern because of black mold following Hurricane Irene in 2011.

John, who had worked for a national home supply corporation, now is the manager for Bojangles in Grantsboro.

Ariadne worked at the Food Emporium in Oriental before it recently closed. Now, she said she is focusing on the house project and her children, 14-year-old Alden and Victoria, age 10.

The family was relatively happy and looking to a move from New Hampshire to Texas nine years ago when the cancer news came.

“Our whole world turned upside down,” Ariadne said. “I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

It was during that period the family went to Florida for a hospital stay.

“I can happily say I have been cancer-free for seven and a half years,” she beamed. “I a mastectomy, and went through chemo for two and a half years. I did not have one sick day.”

She credits some of that to closely watching her diet.

She said it was a family effort.

“We said we are going to tackle it, and we did,” she said.

The family then decided they needed to get away from the harsh New England winters and get a fresh start, so they moved South.

But, in the meantime, medical care and treatment, along with drugs did not come cheap.

“We put every penny into it. It literally broke us financially,” she said. “Even though we had really good insurance, we still had to pay out $100,000.”

The family has endured.

“Last year, my son said, you know mom, we are a really strong family,” she said. “He said a lot of families have more money, but they are not strong, not united like we are.”

She said the family does come first.

“It doesn’t matter where we live, even if it is in a tent,” she said.

The family will in fact have a three-bedroom home, with two full baths and a floor plan of just under 1,300 square feet.

“We are just overwhelmed,” she said. “It is hard to believe this is really happening. The kids are so excited to say, we are finally home.”

Habitat needs volunteer workers and hopes the home will be ready for the Sylvesters to move in time for Christmas.

“We really like North Carolina,” she said. “This is a great community. We are amazed at how many people have come forward to help. It is really, really something.”

 

 

Hobucken Residents Complain,

Express Fear of Duck Hunting

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

 

HOBUCKEN – Residents in this outlying rural community are bracing for another season of duck hunting in the fall - a sport that has caused the residents to seek relief.

A petition with nearly 60 names was recently given to the Pamlico County Commissioners, asking that the board ban the future building of duck impoundments - land that is planted in crops and flooded.

The commissioners, unsure if they have jurisdiction on the hunting lands, sent the matter to the county planning board to sort out.

A spokesman at the county inspection department said no county permits are needed for the duck hunting lands. State officials pointed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the governing body.

William Wescott, division coordinator for the Corps of Engineers and regulatory field agent for Pamlico County said if the duck impoundment was in a field, all the owners had to do was put a dyke around it and plant it in duck food. 

“We’re not involved in that,” he said. “When the area is forested or otherwise vegetated, something other than an ag field, we have to go in and take a look at that kind of activity. If it’s an agricultural field and they’re going to flood it in the wintertime and go in and shoot ducks, we are not involved.”

Wescott said he wasn’t sure who would regulate that type of activity. 

“The impoundment owner does not have to pay a fee to the Corps,” he said. “We only get involved when it involves wetlands.”

Sheriff Billy Sawyer said the Sheriff’s Department didn’t have any responsibility for the shot coming from the duck impoundments. 

“I have one right across the road from me,” Sawyer said. “They wake me up on Saturday mornings and shot rains down on my house, but I’m not in danger in any kind of way.”

Attempts to reach the Wildlife Warden for Pamlico County were unsuccessful. 

The planning board will seek legal opinion on the county’s rights and powers before working on any sort of ordinance.

Meanwhile, residents such as petition-promoter Malcolm Flowers says the citizens’ complaints are prompted by a distressing past history.

He and other residents talk of in-season gunshot noise near houses from before sunrise to after sunset and shotgun pellets striking roofs, yards and people.

“There were nine people in Hobucken I couldn’t get a hold of,” Flowers said. “There were two that refused to sign it and seven people were out of town. I took the petition around house-to-house. It took two days.”

He said there are plans to put another duck impoundment on School House Road, across from his house.

“There are already two on this road,” he said. “I’d say they are ¼ mile straight through the woods. They just put these two in so they’ll be hunting there this fall. They plant corn on the land so they don’t have to pay no taxes. Then they use the corn to attract the wild ducks.”

He charged that the duck hunters are not good neighbors.

“They shoot all the ducks – the wild ones and the tame ones,” said Flowers. “If the Commissioners and the Planning Board don’t do anything, I don’t what I’ll do,” he said.

Tales of being hit by shotgun pellets and being waked from a sound sleep when the guns began firing 30 minutes before sunrise and being “nervous” until it stopped 30 minutes past sunset are common during the season.

Shotgun pellets literally “raining on a metal roof” is another complaint. People also say they are afraid of letting their children play outside during duck hunting season.

Impoundments abound in Pamlico County.

Nelson Lee said he talked to the commissioners about five years ago about regulating the duck impounds from being built too close to people’s houses.

The matter did go before the commissioners, but no action was taken.

 “That kind of ended that. I tried to talk the people in Hobucken and Lowland into incorporating,” he said. “They were all scared and didn’t want to do it. I told Gene Lupton (Goose Creek Island community leader) that the Declaration of Independence could never have been written on Goose Creek Island. The people are too hard-headed.”

He said his first-hand experiences and those of his community neighbors were disturbing.

“They shoot us. I go out to get the newspaper and shot falls all over me,” he said.

He alluded to a neighbor who put boards on his windows.

He said another resident had a house with a tin roof. He said the woman said the gunshots “sound like it’s raining.”

He said he literally feels hunting around his home.

“The concussion from the guns hits me when I’m walking up the walkway at my house,” he said. “It sounds like cannons. They’re using 10-gauge shotguns and 3-1/2 inch shells with steel shot. It’s unbelievable.”

He said calls to local law enforcement and state agencies had not brought any relief.

“A 1st grader can point his finger at you and say bang,” Lee said. “They’ll expel him from school. I want someone to ask Homeland Security or someone how they can shoot you and get away with it.”

Lee said that by his count, there were 17 duck impoundments about 3 years ago and now there are 25 to 30.

Abby Leary of Hobucken, says she can hear the gunshots from “across the bay” during duck-hunting season.

“And now they want to put one a short distance from my house, right in the middle of the community,” she said. “And there are children; I think there’s as many children as I’ve ever seen here.”

Leary said there was an impoundment a mile from the Hobucken Marina and several near the island community center.

 “I like to see people have a good time, as long as they don’t get hurt,” she said. “But to do something that’s a disadvantage to somebody else is not right.”

 

Week of July 9, 2014

 

Gentleman Arthur Barely Grazes County 


 

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff


Arthur, the Category 2 hurricane that made landfall between Beaufort and Cape Lookout in nearby Carteret County last Thursday would have normally have created major wind and flooding problems in Pamlico County.

But, it turned out to be basically a non-event locally.

According to Tim Buck, Pamlico County Manager, the storm was moving quickly enough that there was no damage sustained other than a couple of fallen trees and a power outage.

“It could have been much worse if it had been a slower storm,” said Buck. “Things could have been different. We’re very fortunate we didn’t have any more damage with this storm.”

Buck said the county did have a full response planned.

“We had a team of people answering the phones in the Emergency Operations Center and we had all nine fire departments and law enforcement out and about,” he said. “The fire departments were canvassing the county looking for damage. The (Pamlico Community College) shelter had Department of Social Services personnel manning the shelter.”

Buck said the county prepared for Arthur like any other storm. In the past 15 years the county has been pummeled by Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, Ophelia and Irene.

“We were monitoring that storm when it was just a low off our coast,” he said. “It went south and came back. We were really concerned about its path, being just west of the eye wall. We’re still learning how to interpret the forecast. We learned something from this event.  And we were lucky not to have any more damage than we’ve seen.”

Buck added that hurricanes are very unpredictable.

“The experts had not predicted that it would escalate to a Cat 2,” said Buck. “That happened just before landfall. We’re very fortunate we didn’t sustain any more damage with this storm. We still are in an area that is susceptible to hurricanes and we’ve got to be prepared. Don’t take it lightly.”

Paul Delamar III, chairman of the county commissioners said he reluctantly opened the county shelter at the college, but did so out of caution for public safety.

About 45 people came to the shelter.

Delamar did not order a curfew, as did the town of Oriental.

Chris Murray, the county EMS director, said his staff worked all through the storm and had minimal incidents.

“We had around 50 people show up at the shelter. I don’t know whether they stayed throughout the night. The shelter is pet-friendly. We had 10 pets.”

Murray said the county escaped unharmed except for a power outage which was quickly restored on July 4.

“In Hyde County -- they got tore up over around Ocracoke,” Murray said. “I think they got the power back around late Saturday or early Sunday. The way it was it didn’t stay here. It blew right on through.”                          

Preparation for an event means there are control group meetings usually starting 48 hours before the storm. Conference calls go out throughout the event to the fire stations, to law enforcement and to the shelter. Everything was cleared up by 9 or 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

“It was good for us,” said Murray. “The storm was so fast moving, it kinda just blew through here. It didn’t sit here like Hurricane Irene. Hurricanes are pretty much unpredictable. You’ve got to follow each storm. Each one is its own animal.”

Diane Miller, Town Manager for the town of Oriental, said the riverside village also fared very well.

“We have only seen evidence of two trees coming down,” she said. “There were little branches - nothing that couldn’t be handled. Water didn’t come over Hodges Street. It came right up to the edge and then went right back out.”

Miller said she was afraid the next time the weather forecasters say Category 2, the people won’t pay as much attention.

But she said she was pleasantly surprised and gratified by their response this time.

“People really did do exactly what they were supposed to do,” she said. “They took all the outside stuff in. The boaters pulled their boats. All day Thursday that was what we saw – boats going up and down the street. There were people tying things to big trees and all kinds of stuff. In the meantime, we were getting ready for Croaker Fest so we had two directions with everything going on at the same time.

Nothing ruffles these people. This is normal procedure. This is the way it’s going to go. And the minute the sun came up on Friday everybody was out helping to get ready for the Croaker Fest.”

Kudos went out to the town hall crew.

“My crew was amazing,” she said. “Two of them put off vacation. Everybody came in and cleaned up the mess, everything went seamlessly.”

According to the Weather Channel web site, Arthur first became a tropical depression on June 30 at 11a.m. off the east coast of Florida.

A day later it was the first named storm of the season, as a tropical storm, reaching hurricane strength on July 3 off the coast of South Carolina.

It moved north and made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, packing 100 mph winds, at 11:15 p.m. on July 3 at Shackleford Banks in Carteret County.  

At Atlantic Beach, observers said the storm surge did not reach the dune line and did not cause erosion.

Arthur was the first hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. since Hurricane Isaac struck Louisiana in late August of 2012.  Hurricane Sandy, in October 2012, became post-tropical shortly before it made landfall.

Arthur made landfall earlier in the year than any hurricane in North Carolina history.

According to the Weather Channel web site, “after spending some time over Pamlico Sound and brushing mainland parts of Dare and Hyde counties, the center of Arthur then crossed over the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina near Nags Head around 4:30 a.m. on July 4.

The peak reported land gust were 101 mph at Cape Lookout.

Arthur continued north in the Atlantic on July 4, with its center of circulation moving within 75 miles of Nantucket and Cape Cod, Mass.

As much as 8 inches of rain fell in portions of Massachusetts.

Arthur weakened into a tropical storm in early morning on July 5 and then into a post-tropical cyclone the same day as the storm continued to head northeast into Canada. According to the Canadian Hurricane Centre, Arthur made landfall in Canada near Port Maitland, Nova Scotia, as a strong post-tropical storm with sustained winds of 70 mph.

 

 

Week of July 2, 2014

 

Pamlico Volunteers Help Feed Hungry in 10 Counties

 

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

 

ARAPAHOE – Last Saturday, Operation Veggie Box volunteers packed 1,100 boxes  with fresh vegetables, grown by volunteers and local agricultural businesses to distribute to 10 Eastern North Carolina counties.

Volunteers from the community, along with youngsters from Camp Seafarer were on hand working production style Saturday to pack the boxes.

Onions, corn and potatoes were the vegetables distributed to groups such as Loaves and Fishes in Pamlico and Religious Community Services in New Bern.

Martha Newman, a special needs teacher at the Arapahoe Charter School helped grow vegetables at the school with her students. She said she was contacted by a friend at the Charter School.

“I was in charge of the garden at the school, I jumped at the chance,” she said. “We’re going to increase the garden next year and challenge other classes.”

She said it became a family project.

“My son, Cody, has volunteered many hours to Operation Veggie Box. When they can’t find a delivery person to move the vegetables from Brantley’s walk-in cooler to Fishes and Loaves, they call Cody,” she said. “He’s the quiet volunteer. I couldn’t have done the garden without him. My husband Pete has been a big help, too. He delivered corn the other day to some people and said it really made him feel good.”

The project included seven local gardens and volunteer donations from other organizations.

There were 7,000 pounds of potatoes from Raleigh’s United Methodist mission, Society of Saint Andrew. The potatoes were brought to New Bern by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, with Pamlico County’s Don Lee Farms bringing them to Arapahoe.

There were also 3,500 pounds of onions, grown and donated by Flatland Ag of Aurora.

The corn was grown in the Arapahoe community though Don Lee Farms and Neuse River Turf Farm grew the corn.

 The boxes also contained a printed message that read “Growing food for Jesus sake. Please remember God loves you and we do too. May the blessings of Jesus be upon your life.”

David Bailey, one of the organizers behind Operation Veggie Box said the project is part of a ministry.

“It is all about trying to strike that match in people’s minds and hearts,” he said. “It’s a ministry of the Holy Spirit and what we try to do with it is make people aware that the Holy Spirit is here to help you. For the people who are suffering and hurting and are really bad off, Operation Veggie Box is an attempt to introduce them to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Even though there is food involved in this activity, this is to introduce them to the Holy Spirit.”

He said there are future strategic initiatives. The first is the “million pound garden.”

“We want gardens growing in every county in North Carolina. We are going to start it in the Christian churches within the next four to five years,” he said.

He said the Saturday completion of the 2014 spring project was a success.

“We had Methodists, Baptists, Church of Christ, Episcopals and children from Camp Sea Gull,” he said of the event which began at 7 a.m. “At noon I drove to Edgecombe County, from there I went to Halifax County and dropped some food there, to Horry County, S. C. and dropped some food there and then to Tyrrell County to make a delivery and I got home by 11 p.m.”

With other volunteers delivering food, the day’s total was 1,070 boxes in 10 counties. 

Volunteers Dave DeSalvo and his wife, Kay attended a forum on hunger and felt this was a worthwhile organization.

“She orchestrated a 100 x 50 foot garden,” he said after the several hours of packing at Bethany Christian Church in Arapahoe. “Once you get organized and moving, it wasn’t too bad. We helped harvest the corn. Kay has been distributing food from our garden to about 10 different families on this end of the county.”

The couple moved here a little more than two years ago, unaware of the needs of many local residents.

 “What we didn't know about the area is how great the need is,” he said. “Kay has been trying to establish some kind of food pantry on this side of the county.”

The group has a Facebook page “Operation Veggie Box,"

There is also a web site: http://operationveggiebox.wordpress.com/

Other area church organizations that have donated money, facilities and labor include the Disciples of Christ Pamlico District Union;  Disciples of Christ Pamlico District Christian Men’s Fellowship;  Silver Hill Christian Church; and Bethany Christian Church. 

Contact Bailey at 229-6228 or email david.bailey@operationveggiebox.org for more information.

 

 

Family Chosen for Newest Habitat Home


Crystal Garrett

Pamlico News Reporter

 

John and Ariadne Sylvester, along with their children, Victoria and Alden, will put a lot of work into building their own home, along with the help of volunteers and Habitat. The couple is no stranger to hard work. When her children were just 5-years-old and 15-months, Ariadne found out she had Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Rather than simply give up and accept the medical facts they were given, the family decided to fight. Fighting for her life took a toll on their savings, with the couple having to pay more than $100,000 in medical bills. And, that was with insurance. Ariadne is now cancer-free, but it took everything the family had to help save her life. The family was nominated by a friend for the help and just found out they were chosen. "We are still overwhelmed," said Ariadne. "It's more than we could ever imagine." 

Work will begin on the house soon and folks from Habitat will announce their choice during the Croaker Festival this week. The Sylvesters say they are ready to put in the work for their home, and are honored to have been chosen.

 

Week of June 25, 2014

EPA Shuts Down Atlas Tract

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

ARAPAHOE – The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered a cease and desists on controversial ditching on the 4,600-acre property known as Atlas Tract off Florence Road.

The project was by out-of-state investors from Illinois, Spring Creek Farms, LLC. And, after trying to get up with an agent who has been deceased since September, 2009, the EPA representatives went to the tract in December 2013 and did an onsite visit, finding that the hydrology in several areas had been changed.

Spring Creek Farms, LLC, the association which owned the acreage has been “administratively dissolved” since the beginning of June  for failing to file an annual report, and failure to notify the North Carolina Secretary of State that its registered agent or registered office had been changed, its registered agent resigned or discontinued.

“The gist of it is the EPA did send a letter in April to the registered agent of the Spring Creek Farms LLC,” said Allen Propst, a Realtor who has been an advocate against the ditching. “When the EPA went out there in December and did an onsite visit, they determined that they were converting wetlands to uplands, which cannot be done under any circumstances. The EPA checked the soils and checked the hydrology and they said that they weren’t doing what would be considered exempt forestry best management practices.”

Propst said the investigation is still ongoing, but the LLC was issued a cease and desist letter saying they couldn’t do any more ditching or land alterations until the investigation was finished.

“Since then, the local farmer who farms next to the area has taken pictures where they have gone in and done additional ditching,” Propst said. “Those pictures were sent to Todd Miller of the Coastal Federation and the EPA.”

 The EPA had sent a registered letter in April from the visit in December to the registered agent who lived in Clinton. According to Propst, the man  had died in 2009, so the EPA was trying to get up with a man who had been dead for five years.

He said Miller called the EPA and informed them that the N.C. Secretary of State did not recognize the LLC as being valid, that they have no registration and it is a shell corporation.

The Pamlico County Commissioners have sent letters to the U.S. Corps of Engineers seeking answers in recent months.

Pamlico County Commission Chairman Paul Delamar said he hadn’t seen any evidence of the involvement by the EPA, even though he and Commissioner Anne Holton sent letters last November to U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, U. S. Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, the Army Corp of Engineers and the EPA.

“I’ve heard about it,” said Delamar. “I went into the (Pamlico County Commissioners) meeting last Monday and they told me there was something on the news. Todd Miller, Coastal Federation, and I have exchanged some emails on it, but otherwise I haven’t heard anything about it. It’s a good thing if they’re looking into it. We never asked them to prejudge this. We just asked that they evaluate the complaints that had been put to us about what was going on here and the laxity of the enforcement rules.”

Delamar said he only wanted the corporation to follow the same rules as everybody else.

“Not a big sort of unreasonable thing, but if you have a big enough piece of property and you start in the center of it, the only way anyone could know was by airplane until it was too late,” he said. “They’ve already ditched it so it’s too late, they’ll beat you every time like that. If there are procedures they supposed to follow and there are rules being broken, I’m glad they’re doing something.”

Delamar said he understood that the land was to be used for agricultural; otherwise the corporation wouldn’t have paid as much as they did for the land.  

“Considering they’ve done a lot of the conversion without ever getting any of the pre-certification, there’s got to be something going on,” Delamar said. “If you know what you’re doing is legal, you don’t hide and you don’t divert attention. You do it the way everybody else does it, which is to do it the way that the rules deal with. I’m glad the Environmental Protect Agency is waking up on this thing and they’re going to do their job. I believe they should restore those lands that they ditched.”

 

PCC Introduces Innovative Summer Program

 

 

Summer typically conjures up thoughts of fun in the sun.  On the other hand, the words “skills academy” typically have little relation to fun.  But the Summer Skills Academy at Pamlico Community College beginning July 7 is designed to make learning fun. 

The Academy is an opportunity for recent high school graduates planning to enter any college this fall who wish to hone their academic skills before embarking on a more rigorous course of study.  The Academy also invites students currently working to earn their High School Equivalency Diploma to enroll.  The Academy will make the learning process for them more fun than simply sitting in a classroom taking notes from an instructor. 

A primary goal of the Academy is to create a refreshing approach to learning.   The instructors will employ methods created to develop inquisitive minds with an appreciation for discovery.

Elaine Creel and Jim Privette are the lead instructors of the academy.  Creel will focus on language arts while Privette will guide students in math and science studies. 

Creel noted, “In language arts, we will address the challenge of making reading more interesting, trying to help students read for enjoyment and learning, not just because it is something assigned for them to do.  We want students to develop a desire to read.”

She added, “The students will create a PowerPoint documentary which will include using expository writing skills as well as photography and visual arts for illustrative purposes.”

According to Privette, “If we can make learning exciting, learning will become a lifetime habit for these students.  I plan to explain the use of common, ordinary devices such a cell phones or cameras to explain applied mathematics, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  

“Many students have a phobia about algebra, but we can diminish that fear.  Every time someone computes the price of an item at the grocer story that is 3 for 99 cents, they have solved an algebraic equation.  We can make students more comfortable learning in a more structured way what they already know intuitively.”

The instructors also note that field trips to area sites will offer eyes-on, hands-on opportunities to see how what they are leaning has been applied in practical uses in the world around them.  In addition to these excursions, resource speakers from a variety of occupations will present programs illustrating how learning the subject matter in classrooms impacts one’s growth as an employee in any career.  Students will learn from professionals in the workforce how improving one’s level of education makes a dramatic difference in an individual’s lifestyle and standard of living.

Creel exclaimed, “Just think, this is a learning experience that is a fun-filled adventure and it’s all free.”

Marti Hunter, Chair of Basic skills at the college has coordinated the program.  She observes, “It is quite probable that many prospective students who will benefit from the Summer Skills Academy might not read this story in the newspaper.  But many who do read newspapers have children, relatives, or friends for whom this program is designed.  We surely hope they will spread the word and encourage students to enroll who can benefit from the Academy.”

The Academy will operate Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., July 7 – 31.  Students will need to bring a bag lunch but there is the possibility that the Academy will have one or two thematic lunches.

Learn more about the Academy which Elaine Creel tagged as a fun-filled adventure.  Contact Marti Hunter, mhunter@pamlicocc, 252-249-1851 x 3082.

 

 

Town Board Backs Sage During Probe

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff


ORIENTAL - Oriental Mayor Bill Sage says he plans to remain as the town’s top elected official during an investigation into his law practice by the North Carolina State Bar.

The Oriental town commissioners back his decision and voiced support for the four-term mayor Monday.

Sage agreed to cooperate with an injunction issued in Wake County Superior Court on April 24.

The injunction language includes, “The State Bar has received information indicating Sage mishandled entrusted funds.”

Sage said last week he could not comment due to it being “an active investigation process in which I am cooperating.

Sage has not been charged with any crimes and the investigation itself would not constitute him resigning his elected position.

“I believe that I can continue to function as mayor during this trying process,” he said in a statement he released through town hall. “If at any time I determine that my situation becomes such that I cannot give the town my best efforts in this capacity, I will notify you all of my decision and submit my resignation.”

His support was evident among commissioners contacted Monday.

“I believe him to be innocent until proven guilty,” said first-term Commissioner Charlie Overcash. “He has attended meetings and has been able to fulfill his duties as mayor and I hope that continues.”

Commissioner Larry Summers said “Bill Sage has always proved reliable and trustworthy to the town of Oriental and until something is proven to me otherwise, I will still feel that way. I don’t always agree with him but I like him and I trust him.”

Barb Venturi is the mayor pro tem and also voiced her support.

“I think Bill has done a good job as mayor and I hope it continues,” she said. “He is attending meetings and performing his mayoral duties. Actually, any of us might be suspect if looked at closely enough. He and (Sage’s wife) Dee have been an asset to this community.”

David White, another new commissioner elected last November, called Sage “a good mayor” and wished him well.

“I hope he can get beyond this and continue his practice,” White said, noting, “He hasn’t been accused of anything. The state board is looking into it.”

The three-page injunction reveals no specifics on the investigation. A spokesman for the State Bar said that by statue, that group’s investigations were not public record.

 “The order effectively ‘freezes’ my attorney trust account in order to maintain the status quo pending an investigative audit by the Bar,” Sage said in his statement. “This does not mean that I may not practice law, but that I may not accept client funds in trust pending further orders of the Wake County Superior Court.”

Sage has voluntarily relinquished one of his mayoral duties.

 “While none of the matter with the Bar has anything to do with my service as mayor, I have asked that I be removed as a signatory on Town of  Oriental checks,” he said.

Sage also said in his statement that he was appreciative of local support.

“Thank you for the support and encouragement that many of you have expressed to me,” Sage said.

Sage was re-elected to a fourth term as mayor last November. He won over former commissioner Lori Wagoner. Sage collected 59 percent of the vote.

 

 

Week of June 18, 2014

 

108 Pamlico High Senior Receive Diplomas

During Graduation Ceremony

 

A post-graduation hug includes Chelsea Sawyer,

left, and Justine Ollison


 

Pamlico News Staff


BAYBORO - Pamlico County High honored 108 seniors Friday night during graduation ceremonies.

There was a packed house at A. H. Hatsell Auditorium for the one-hour ceremony.

The Class of 2014’s top two honor students - salutatorian Megan Ehmke and valedictorian Nicole Edwards - addressed the audience.

Edwards, who does volunteer work and is active in athletic will attend Columbia University, majoring in international relations.

She told the graduates “we could not have done it alone” and thanked the faculty and staff.

Ehmke was also an athlete and scholar, musician and community volunteer. She plans to attend N.C. State University and pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.

She thanked her family, teachers and coaches, adding, “Most importantly, I want to thank God for proving all things are possible.” Those comments drew a round of applause.

She also offered some advice to her fellow graduates.

“Follow your passion, stay true to yourself and never follow someone else’s path,” she said.

Tertiary scholar Ashley Hollowell, who was third in the class, was also recognized.

The class had 43 honor students, which also included North Carolina scholars and National Technical Honor Society members.

Pamlico High School principal Lisa Jackson said it was an outstanding class, with a diverse student population and interests - “athletes, musicians, actors, honor students, comedians and some of the best-dressed teenagers I know.”

She offered her thoughts on the evening.

“Most people in this room can remember the exact night they were where you are,” she said. “This night is full of excitement; it is full of anticipation, a little sadness and a lot of hope. A few of you thought you might not be able to do it, but here you are.”

The graduates congregated in the parking lot for good-byes and well-wishes from family and friends.

 

Local Angler Lands Biggest Purse at

Big Rock Tourney

 

 

Pamlico News Staff Report

A Pamlico County angler reeled in the biggest purse of this year’s 56th Big Rock Tournament despite a third place finish.

Inspiration, a Morehead City boat, won the tourney with a 754.3 pound blue marlin reeled in early in the week. It was the third largest blue marlin in Big Rock history and biggest this century

Eye Catcher, a Wrightsville Beach-based boat finished in second place with a 606.9-pounder. 

But the biggest cash prize went to the Ava D, captained by Jerry Jackson, Havelock, who finished third with a 491.4-pound blue marlin reeled in by Gray Hardison of Bayboro. 

Two changes to third place during the fourth day of fishing provided plenty of excitement at the weigh station Thursday as the 56th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament sequenced toward the final days of competition.

Chainlink out of Morehead City edged Carnivore’s catch (410.7 pounds) out of third place with a 412.7-pound blue marlin. But Chainlink – winner of the 2006 Big Rock – remained on the leader board less than three hours when the Ava D showed up with Hardison’s catch aboard.

Ava D missed winning the Fabulous Fisherman’s prize of $306,000 by 8.6 pounds. This prize is awarded to the first boat entered in Level VII to catch and weigh a blue marlin that was a minimum of 500 pounds.

While Jackson was disappointed his fish didn’t reach the 500-pound plateau, he was very pleased with the teamwork and the catch that puts his boat in position to win $345,405.

“There’s no question we had a great team today,” Jackson said. “There’s so much luck involved in this … you have to work together the whole time. That fish hit (the shotgun rod) and almost dumped the reel. It was getting close before we could get the rod down. We had to back up before we could pass the rod down … but after we did that we just took our time. Teamwork was the key.”

Hardison was so sore after the battle he struggled to sign the required paperwork at the weigh station.

Since no boat won the $306,000 Level VII prize, all of those entry fees will be returned to the fishing teams that entered that level of the competition. Ava D was the only boat on the leader board that entered Level VII, but it missed winning the Fabulous Fisherman’s prize (for being first to catch and weigh in a blue marlin that weighs a minimum of 500 pounds) by 8.6 pounds.

Inspiration did not enter Levels IV and VII and will receive $306,137 from the 56th Big Rock’s $1,395,825 purse. Eye Catcher, entered in Levels I, II, V and VI, and receives $52,457.

Ava D entered all levels and even though it finished in third place receives the most money of all: $345, 405. Chainlink finished third in the Level III division and receives $84,150.

“Gray has experience catching blue marlins for this team and it’s nice to know that when you get a bite he can handle the heat,” said Teddy Guthrie, Harkers Island, the mate of the Ava D. “That fish probably ran 500 yards, jumped a few times and put on a little show. We knew it was a close fish when we measured. Everything worked out … except the 500 pounds.”

 

House, Senate Remain Divided Over Ferry Toll Issue

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

The ferry toll issue is caught in a divided state General Assembly, with any hope of tolls being abolished lingering with conference committees that hammer out budget details this week.

The state House budget included abolishing all tolls, while the Senate version leaves things as they are - Rural Planning Organizations facing the possibility of asking for tolls to pay for new vessels.

Conference committees are expected to work this week and possibly into next week on a compromise state budget. The budget by law is supposed to be enacted by July 1. If not, the Legislature will have to pass a resolution to maintain basic state operations until one is approved.

Pamlico County lobbyist Henri McClees said “The House is strong on the ferries. Their version of the budget has no ferry tolls for any ferry in the state.”

She said everyone was looking at the legislative deadlines.

“The Senate has filed a resolution to be finished by June 27,” she said. “If the Senate goes home, what we have is the budget as it exists now. If the Senate were to go home, it would mean there would be no changes. The status quo would remain and the whole process would start again in January.”

Pamlico lobbyist Joe McClees noted that this is the first time the House has passed a budget that has removed all tolls.

The N.C. system is the second largest ferry system in the United State.

“This thing is not going to go away,” he said. “The hero of this thing is Rep. John Torbett. He is forward thinking. He has said ‘why should we discriminate against this area of North Carolina because they are poor and they have a lot of rivers?’”

Sen. Norman Sanderson of Pamlico County, in the Senate minority for no-tolls, said he was pleased with the House budget, which included the same provisions he and Sen. Bill Cook introduced as a Senate bill.

“The House budget basically mirrors the exact bill that was filed in the Senate a couple of weeks ago which would do away with all the tolls and would set up in the General Fund the money that would be needed to be put in a special reserve fund for ferry replacement,” he said. “That’s totally a 180-degree turn from the budget that came out of the Senate because the budget from the Senate didn’t change anything from what it was last year. That was to give the decision to the Rural Planning Organizations. The operational funds are not included.”

Presently some ferries are tolled and others are free, such as the Minnesott Beach-Cherry Branch route and the Aurora-Bayview route in Beaufort County.

Sanderson said his fears are that if tolling goes into effect for all ferries, it will hurt working coastal residents who use the ferry to commute to work and have a negative affect on tourism.

Another issue he said was that tolling all ferries could be an opening toward tolling bridges and roads throughout the state.

He and others have contended that the $5 million in ferry toll revenue can be made up through selling naming rights to boats, concessions and allowing advertisements on boats and at ferry stations. Too, he said free ferries would increase tourism and the private sector economy.

Toll opponent Larry Summers of Oriental has gone to Raleigh many times on the issue.

“One former Transportation Department Official walked up to me in the hallway and called me the ‘the scourge of the ferry tolls.’” Summers said.” Our effort in Pamlico County has been most effective.  A number of people asked me for "No Ferry Tax" stickers.  We have kept the tolls at bay now for almost three years.”

Summers said he is sure that legislators have gotten the message from the toll opponents.

 “Our effectiveness was demonstrated last year when one of our callers reported that when they called a legislative office staff answered the phone with something like ‘I suppose you are calling about the Ferry Tolls’” he said. “That was simply because of the 252 area code displayed on the phone.  We may need that kind of effort again as we approach Joint Conference Committee time.”

 

Week of June 11, 2014

 

Award-Winning River Dunes Raises $140,000 for Leukemia Research

 


The fundraising regatta ceremony included, left to right: Ken and Carol Small of Oriental, first place; Heather Sanger of the N.C. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; Bill Scott of River Dunes, second place; and Rich Beliveau of River Dunes, third place.


 

Pamlico News Staff


It was a star-studded weekend for the River Dunes community, with the annual Leukemia Cup Regatta raising more than $140,000 and the development receiving a top award from a major business web site.

On Saturday and Sunday, there were 40 sailboats which raced for a cure for blood cancers and raised money. The regatta was out of River Dunes, topping the three previous year’s totals. 

 This is the fourth year for the event that raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Carolina, with a four year total of more than $465,000 raised for research for a cure for blood cancers and treatment and support services for patients and families.

In spite of a thunderstorm that popped up unexpectedly and moved the festivities indoors, Thursday’s Business After Hours at River Dunes drew a good crowd of local business owners and residents. 

The event was co-sponsored by the Pamlico Chamber of Commerce, Beasley Broadcasting and River Dunes. 

 A raffle and silent auction held during the event benefitted the Pamlico County Historical Association.

 Highlight of the evening was the presentation of the 2014 “Best Boating Community” Award to River Dunes by Margie Casey of RealEstateScorecard.com

River Dunes owners and staff were on hand to accept the award, which is based largely on input from property owners. 

Casey gave River Dunes owners high praise for their community outreach and involvement in a variety of causes including Bike MS, the Leukemia Cup Regatta and Girls on the Run in Pamlico County.

During the weekend regatta, sailing vessels of all sizes participated in two races held at the mouth of the Neuse River on Saturday and one on Sunday.  The boats raced in five divisions on the race course.

The Oriental Dinghy Club functioned as the official race committee. The awards ceremony was held at the River Dunes Harbor Club on Sunday afternoon.

“Once again, we are honored to host the Leukemia Cup Regatta at River Dunes,” said Ed Mitchell of River Dunes. “This is an opportunity for the entire Oriental community to support the great work of the LLS, helping people live better and longer lives.”

The top three fund-raising teams combined for a total of more than $35,000. 

Top fund-raisers were “Miranda,” Captain Ken Small of Oriental; “Marvana Dawn,” Captain Bill Scott of River Dunes; and Captain Rich Beliveau of River Dunes. 

These three captains also qualified for a Fantasy Sail with America’s Cup winner Gary Jobson in Savannah, Ga., in November.

Race winners in each category were:

Spinnaker A – “Oriental Express” - Henry Frazer of Oriental;

Spinnaker B – “Deuces Wild” - Captain Margaret Alexander of Pittsboro;

Jib and Main A – “Bodacious” - Captain Dyk Luben of Raleigh;

Jin and Main B – “Wiii” - Captain Mike Afflerbach of New Bern; and

Pursuit – “Aquila”, - Captain John Jackson of New Bern.

Captains and guests enjoyed a Captains’ Reception on Friday evening, sponsored by Watermark Homes of North Carolina and The Red Rickshaw.

Following the racing on Saturday evening, a Shoreside Celebration was held that included dinner by the Chelsea, dancing to The Black and Blue Experience, dark n’ stormy and rum punch cocktails, and live and silent auctions.

The auctions raised more than $20,000 and featured a variety of items including vacation get-aways, an autographed Nicolas Sparks book, original artwork, golf outings, decorative accessories, kayak outings, wine baskets, and gift certificates for dining and spa services.

“We want to thank River Dunes for hosting another wonderful Regatta, and our sponsors and captains for helping us raise more than $465,000 in the fight against blood cancer since 2011. Together we are sailing for cures,” said Heather Sanger, Campaign Manager of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s N.C. Chapter serves patients battling leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma in all 100 North Carolina counties.

The Triangle-based chapter raises money for research leading to a cure for blood cancers and to enhance the quality of life for local patients through services such as family support groups, peer counseling, educational programs and financial assistance. For more information about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, visit www.lls.org or call the chapter office at (919)-367-4100.

For information about River Dunes, visit www.riverdunes.com or call the Harbor Club at 1-800-348-7618.


Fracking Comes to N.C., but not to Pamlico County

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

Like many energy-producing issues with environmental implications, the term fracking has created a stir in recent years – including Pamlico County.

A fast-track legislative bill in the General Assembly short session in Raleigh has made fracking in North Carolina possible.

It is not likely to come to Pamlico County, according to county officials.

It is basically a hydraulic process of extracting natural gas from within layers of shale rock, deep beneath the surface.

Three dimensional imaging can help determine very precise drilling sites.

In April of 2013, the Pamlico County Commissioners passed a resolution expressing their fear that the county could become a site for the disposal of waste water from fracking.

The resolution was backed up by work against the disposal in coastal counties by the county’s legislative lobbyists, Joe and Henri McClees.

Henri McClees said that before the eventual bill reached committee, the disposal portion had been eliminated.

The Pamlico objection was “the protection of Pamlico County’s source of future drinking water supplies” by oil and gas exploration that would have lifted an existing statue governing subsurface fluid injections.

“My understanding at the time was, with waste disposal, they inject it back into the aquifer,” said County Manager Tim Buck.

He said fracking itself is not likely in the county.

“Fracking wouldn’t happen here because there are no deposits that we know of because of our geology,” he said. “I don’t think it was ever a concern that a company would come to Pamlico County and start fracking. The issue that came up was that the folks who do frack need a place to inject the fluid back down into the ground.”

He said the concern was that potential deep well injection “could get into the drinking water.”

However, for other areas along a strip of counties in the Fayetteville area of the state, the official declaration of Senate Bill 786 – the Energy Modernization Act – by Gov. Pat McCrory makes it a reality.

Drilling permits can now be issued 60 days after the state Mining and Energy Commission completes its rules for fracking.

Fracking has opposition around the state and the country.

“The governor should be ashamed to sign a bill that is the inverse of our State’s motto ‘Esse Quam Videri’,” said North Carolina Democratic Chairman Randy Voller in a statement. “Pushing the petrochemical industry down the throats of the citizens of North Carolina indicates to me that the governor is waving a white flag and surrendering our mountains, beaches, rivers, streams, lakes and farmland to a rapacious and secretive industry.

He accused the industry of being secret about the chemicals in fracking fluids.


Ferry Tolling Issue Awaits House Budget

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

RALEIGH – The issue of tolling for North Carolina’s coastal ferries, including routes in Pamlico and Beaufort counties, remains unchanged pending the finalization of the N.C. House budget proposal during the current short session.

New and increased tolls were ordered by the legislature in 2011 to produce $5 million in extra revenue for the ferry division of the state Department of Transportation.

Free ferry routes exist at Minnesott Beach to Cherry Branch, a 20-minute ride both way across the Neuse River and the Bayview Ferry route in Beaufort County. It is a 30-minute ride across the Pamlico River to and from Aurora and Bayview.

To date, no changes have been made, amid legislative wrangling and numerous anti-toll protests and public meetings.

Two bills have been introduced that would make all of the seven ferry routes toll-free. One bill was in the Senate co-sponsored by Sen. Norman Sanderson of Minnesott Beach and another in the House. Both bills face committee challenges, but no committee hearing in either house has been held as of Monday involving tolls.

Henri McClees, who is the Pamlico County legislative lobbyist with her husband Joe, said Monday that the best chance for the ferry issue was likely to come in the overall state budget.

The Senate’s budget contained no language about ferry tolls.

“It doesn’t have a thing (ferries) in it,” she said. “It does nothing new, which is not good.”

The House budget is being worked on this week, with a possible vote by the end of the week.

“The House version will look nothing like the Senate version,” she predicted. “The House version will be much friendly to us on the coast.”

She said there was speculation the House budget could include the no tolls on any ferries.

That will be followed by the setup next week of a conference committee to hammer out negotiations and potential trade-off items among lawmakers from the House and Senate.

If no ferry decisions are made in the final budget, it will maintain the status quo – with ramifications.

The 2013 legislature agreed to fund ferry operations, but put the tolling matter in the hands of local groups such as the Down East Rural Planning Organization. It gives those regional board the chance to ask for tolls to fund the purchase of new ferries.

The Down East group voted earlier this year not to ask for tolls.

The downside of that, according to McClees, is that those counties face the potential loss of funding for other highway projects of DOT deems it needs replacement vessels.

“What is in place doesn’t really solve the problem long-term,” she said. “The RPOs are still going to have pressure from the Department of Transportation because DOT is still being cut by the legislature and this whole thing is going to be repeated next year. There is going to be tremendous pressure on the RPOs every year. They (DOT) can say ‘you can’t have this road project or you can’t have that bridge because we have to buy a ferry. It pits us against each other, which is not a good long-term solution.”

McClees said she was encouraged by many of the House members, who she said had long-range views opposed to instant 

$5 million gratification for the state.

“We have some visionaries in the House who are looking at transportation,” she said.

Sen. Sanderson has contended in the past that no ferry tolls would bring more tourism to the coast, with the economic private section boost more than making up for what tolls would bring in.

“We have to have a coordinated effort in marketing the coast,” McClees said. “We could rejuvenate Eastern North Carolina. That is the kind of thing we have in the House. We’ve got people looking 15 or 20 years down the road and saying what can we do to have an economic generator. Ferries are part of that.”


Week of June 4, 2011

 

The Felix Sets Sail

Revelers gathered on Thursday to celebrate the launch of the “Felix”, the thirty seven foot “A Cat” sail boat and the brain child of Art Halpern.  The launch of this one of a kind custom craft took place at Sailcraft Marina in Oriental, where Art spent the last two years creating his masterpiece.  Halpern and his wife, Terry, chose to retire in Oriental a little over three years ago after spending thirty five years in the Virgin Islands.  As a new retiree, Art found that he had too much time on his hands and decided to fulfill his dream of building his own boat.  Terry calls Art’s creation a labor of love and a family effort, explaining that their son, after getting out of the marines, assisted with the project.    

Originating in the early 1900s, as workboats of Barnegat Bay, “Cat” boats are generally wide, low, and stable.  The unique construction of this work of art consists of a composite construction, mahogany and a pure epoxy west system.  The vessel draws 1 ½ feet of water, has a fourteen foot beam and the sixty one foot mast is made of pure carbon fiber.  A diesel generator runs a hydraulic pump and an elevator driven by hydraulics lifts the propeller.  According to Halpern, the “Felix” will cruise at about five knots which is the basic cruising speed for a vessel this size.  

While helping to build boats for others, Art was inspired to make his child hood dream a reality.  He was drawn to the aesthetics and shape of the Cat boat and believes the “Felix” is the largest on the East Coast.   When asked how the name “Felix” came to be, Art replied “Felix was appropriate for a silly Cat Boat.” 

“The boat is done and is not a dream anymore,” says Lance Burgo, the Master of Ceremonies for the event, who has known Art for over thirty years after meeting him while sailing in the Virgin Islands.  Art credits the staff at Sailcraft Marina for their efforts where all the custom stainless steel fittings and plates for the “Felix” were fabricated.  He thanked John of Sailcraft specifically, “Without him it could not have happened,” Art said.  As for what the future holds for Felix …  “We are looking forward to sailing it on the Nuese.  It is perfect for these waters,” Terry said.    “In Oriental its proven that dreams can come true.” 

 

 

 

 

Pamlico County Saves $134,000 by Changing

Health Insurance Carrier

 

Pamlico News Staff


BAYBORO - The Pamlico County Commissioners voted Monday night to save S134,000 in the coming year by changing its health insurance carrier for 150 county employees.

The board voted unanimously to switch to Cigna Insurance after using FirstCarolinaCare of Pinehurst for several years.

County Manager Tim Buck said the county got bids from four companies, including Aetna and Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

The final choice came down to Cigna and Aetna, with the Cigna bid being $18,000 lower.

The county opted for a plan that includes dental, life, supplemental and vision.

The county will spend $1.1 million in the coming year on its health insurance.

It was one of the final moves for preparing the new budget for 2014-15.

 The board voted to hold a public hearing on the proposed $16.6 million budget on June 16. The budget is available for public view and is on the county website - pamlicocounty.org.

The budget includes no tax hike, holding the current tax at 62.5 cents per $100 valuation on property tax.

In his “Citizens Budget Guide” he does each year, Buck said the budget achieved four main goals:

* Retained current service levels;

* Does not increase taxes;

* Allocates minimally from the county fund balance; and

* Includes a cost of living increase for county employees.

The budget highlights, according to Buck, include a 2 percent cost of living increase in pay for county employees; provides $26,000 overall for merit raises; decreases the insurance costs; and keeps public school funding at current levels.

The projected tax revenues for the coming year are $9.7 million, including collections for prior years.

The county’s estimated ad valorem tax value, excluding motor vehicles, is $1.48 billion.

A major source of revenue in recent years has been the money from leased jail beds at the 108-bed facility in Bayboro.

The income for next year is budgeted at $850,000. In the past two years, that amount has exceeded $1 million. But, Buck said that “recent confinement trends dictate a conservative estimate.”

The majority of that funding comes from housing federal inmates.

Buck reported that leased bed spaces are currently averaging 50 inmates per day, which if sustained for a year would produce revenue of $960,000.

Buck also reported that the county’s sales tax revenues are projected to increase 3 to 5 percent. It is budgeted at $1.8 million or 11 percent of all revenue.

In a closed session, the board discussed a current lawsuit by the developers of the now defunct Cutter Bay subdivision in Stonewall, seeking reimbursement of back taxes.

The county will ask for an extension of its time to file a response and also ask that the matter be moved from state to federal court.

The July 16 meeting will allow public comment on the budget, which must be passed by the end of the month according to state statute.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the county courthouse.

 

Week of May 28, 2014

American Heroes Home Build On Track for

September Opening

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

ARAPAHOE - The American Heroes Home Build at the Nature’s Run subdivision is back on track for a September welcome for a wounded veteran and family.

The house is being built by Military Missions in Action, builders and volunteers. The land was donated by Russ Richard, owner of Nature’s Run Subdivision who has spent a lot of time working on the project.

Originally, the house was planned as a Christmas gift for a still-to-be determined wounded veteran.

But, Richard said that slow fundraising and weather had hands in putting the project into 2014.

Richard was at the home site Monday morning with visiting workers from Fuquay Marina, along with Jim Abernathy of Military Missions, brother of the group’s founder Mike Dorman.

While the half-dozen workers installed flooring, Richard said that a call had been put out for volunteers a “barn-raising” style event Friday through Sunday.

Anyone who wants to help should come to the subdivision on Kershaw Road a mile and a half east of Arapahoe, at 8 a.m. any of those days. Volunteers can bring basic tools.

Abernathy said there had been commitments already from the local Oriental Marine group, Marines from Cherry Point Air Station and Coast Guard members from the Hobucken station.

“We will have this crew here through Sunday and on the weekend we are hoping for all hands on deck,” said Abernathy. “We are hoping for a massive showing.”

Richard said that three Marine families are still in consideration to move into the home.

“We want to get it done by September because the three families we are considering all have school-age children,” he said.

Abernathy said the goal is to have the floors, walls, windows and doors in by the end of Sunday.

“Then comes the roof and it will be ready for shingles,” he said.

He said the foundation was installed in early spring by the Smith Brothers construction crew from Washington.

“They did it for about one-fourth of what it would cost,” Abernathy said. “They are good Christian fellows who understood what we are trying to do here.”

There will be 1,850 square-feet of heated space. With the porches and garage, it will fill 2,400 square feet.

If you wish to either donate money or your time to Military Missions in Action, you may call Mike Dorman at his office, 919-552-1603, or on his cell, 919-868-0054.

 

Cook, Sanderson Bill Would End Ferry Toll Issue

Pamlico News Staff

RALEIGH  - Eastern North Carolina state Senators Bill Cook of Chocowinity and Norman Sanderson of Minnesott Beach introduced a ferry bill in the legislature’s short session last week that would in essence make all of the seven coastal routes toll-free.

It would end existing tolls and prohibit establishing new ones.

Cook sponsored the bill and it was co-sponsored by Sanderson, the fourth ferry-related bill the two have introduced in the past two years.

In 2011 the General Assembly mandated the state Department of Transportation to increase existing tolls and begins new ones. The new fees included the Bayview route at Aurora and the Minnesott Beach-Cherry Branch route across the Neuse River.

The matter has been the subject of legislative debate and public hearings ever since. Last year, the lawmakers agreed to fund ferry operations and put the matter of paying for new vessels in the hands of local Rural Planning Organizations. They were allowed to request tolls. Locally, the Down East RPO which includes Pamlico County Commissioner Christine Mele and Minnesott Beach Mayor Josh Potter voted earlier this year not to request tolls and asked the legislature to take another look at the issue.

The bill faces challenges to get to a Senate floor vote. It must first survive hearings in the transportation and appropriations committees.

Cook and Sanderson said they are cautiously optimistic about those hurdles and both look ahead to the final state budget as an alternate means of getting the legislation through.

 “We want to keep the pressure there to make sure that everybody knows that this has not gone away and that it is still tremendously important to Eastern North Carolina,” Sanderson said. “It is also going to give some leverage when we get into the final negotiations in the budget. I really feel that is where it is going to be settled once and for all.”

He said last year’s decision to involve the local RPOs had its own issues.

“The agreement we reached last time, we feel there are still some problems with it,” Sanderson said. “It gave us some breathing room, but we still think there are problems with it. If we don’t address those problems, we’re back at square one with it.”

Sanderson said one main problem was that while giving the RPOs a say in the issue, it was a double-edged sword in that if they do not request tolls, then the needed funding would become a competitive issue among the counties for other highway tax dollars.

“It is county against county,” he said. “In our district, you have counties like Onslow which doesn’t have any ferries, but they have a lot of highway needs.”

Sanderson said he was also bothered by the fact that once an RPO does request even a small toll, it loses control over the amount, which could escalate.

“Ninety days later, DOT could come back and say we are not on schedule to raise enough revenues, so we’re going to double or triple the fees,” he said.

He said there are also no assurances that any toll money raised at a certain RPO district level will stay in that area.

“If we toll the people at Minnesott, at any time they (DOT) can take that ferry and move it anywhere else in the system,” he said.

Cook and Sanderson both favor alternative funding options, such as selling naming right to ferry vessels and allowing advertising on the boats and at boarding sites.

Cook also said it was unfair to toll ferries and not have tolls on bridges throughout the state.

His district includes five of the seven ferry routes. Sanderson’s district includes the Cherry Branch-Minnesott and Cedar Island to Ocracoke routes.

 

May 21, 2014

Relay for Life Passes, Cancer Concerns Do Not

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

Earlier this month, the Pamlico County Relay for Life was one of many such events in Eastern North Carolina to raise money and awareness about cancer and research.

The Relay has come and gone as a once-a-year event.

Cancer remains a daily threat and reality for millions nationwide, including potentially thousands of people in Pamlico County.

 Birdie Potter from Hobucken knows about cancer.

She has had it twice – once a sarcoma in 1995 and then again, uterine cancer in 2008.

She has also lost family to the disease. Her mother died in 2003 after complications of a double mastectomy. She never left the hospital after surgery.

Go down the list.  Her 71-year-old brother has bladder cancer; he has had surgery. Her niece has cancer of the eye; another niece has been fighting breast cancer since she was in her 30s. She is now 57.  

And on the day of the Relay for Life in Pamlico County, Birdie’s daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Potter was among the survivors that night at Pamlico County High School making the Survivor Lap - walking the 400-plus meter circular track with the aid of her walker.

“Mirabelle Hollowell got me involved with Relay for Life in 1995,” Potter said. “She was a survivor.”

After 2011’s Hurricane Irene, the local Relay event has declined and was not even held in 2012. It is now making a comeback of sort - nothing new for cancer survivors.

 “We had 14 teams this time. Erin Bright, who works for the American Cancer Society, and I thought we would go and talk to businesses, clubs and churches before the next one,” she said of plans for next year.

The 1995 sarcoma was found when she went to the doctor for a kidney stone. It was one of those “by the way, would you take a look at this” moments.

“I had been seeing a lump in my leg, about the size of an egg, I thought. I didn’t go to the doctor with it until I went for my kidney stone,” Potter said. “He forgot all about my kidney stone.”

Potter was advised to have radiation treatment after that but canceled the appointment.

“That was 19 years ago,” she said. “I felt like the Lord had taken care of that.”

Potter says after her cancer in 2008 she maintains a normal check-up, once a year.

Potter was a team captain for Relay for Life – a 36-person team from Hobucken who prepared ribeye steak sandwiches for the Relay – 241 of them. The team raised more than $4,000 for the Relay.

Her recommendation for women is to get their check-ups every year.

“That’s the main thing,” she said.

 

Ferry Issue Tops List as Short Session Kicks Off

 

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff


Pamlico County’s two Republican state legislators differ on whether the ferry toll controversy will or should come up again in the General Assembly’s short session, which convened in Raleigh last week.

“It is my own opinion, but I don’t think the ferry will come up and I hope it doesn’t,” said state Rep. Michael Speciale of Craven County. “It is hard to tell, because it is in the budget.”

Pamlico County-based state Sen. Norman Sanderson thinks otherwise.

“Of course, we are hoping to finalize this thing with the ferry operations,” said Sanderson of Minnesott Beach. “I just want to take care of this issue once and for all.”

The ferry issue has raged since 2011 when the state legislature order the Department of Transportation to implement new and increased ferry tolls to increase revenues. New tolls would include the Minnesott Beach-Cherry Branch route across the Neuse River and the Bayview Ferry in neighboring Beaufort County across the Pamlico River.

After battles between then Gov. Beverly Perdue and the lawmakers, the issue has nestled into a situation of the General Assembly funding ferry operations, but putting the burden on replacement vessel costs on local Rural Planning Organizations to request tolls to pay for them. The downside is that without the requests, the DOT could use money that would otherwise go toward road and bridge projects in Eastern North Carolina counties.

The Down East RPO - Pamlico, Craven, Carteret, Jones and Onslow counties - has unanimously voted not to seek any tolls and asked the General Assembly to revisit the issue during this short session. That vote was minus members from Onslow and Jones counties. Pamlico’s representatives are County Commissioner Christine Mele and Minnesott Beach Mayor Josh Potter.

Speciale said he didn’t see the ferry issue becoming major in the short session because of time and a busy schedule of issues.

“There is so much more that needs to be discussed, and everybody does want a short session,” he said. “We (lawmakers) are supposed to be part time and I’d like to see it stay part-time - get the budget and get out. But we do have particular issues that have to be addressed.”

Sanderson said opponents of the ferry tolls were “working on some things.”

“Maybe we can put some things in the budget that will help the decision that our RPO will have to make, be an easier decision,” he said. “I know now that with a new ferry director, I have had some good conversations with him. We wanted the local organizations to have some input on this thing instead of us trying to convince 140 legislators of the importance of what this means to us.”

He said some finalization would likely come from the House.

“That is where we have the most support for doing something with these tolls and trying to eliminate them,” he said.

Sanderson predicted the state Senate would have a budget ready in a few weeks and send it to the House side of the General Assembly.

“My prayer and hope is they will put some things in that will deal with the tolls,” he said, adding he expects the results to come from conference meetings, where compromises are normally reached.

Sanderson said support among legislators has continued to increase.

“I’ve gotten some good feedback and we’ve got some people that really want to help us with this,” he said.  “It is some of the people that are in transportation in the House and appropriations.”

He said a part of the current plan where the local RPO can seek a toll that bothers him is that it is not a final decision, rather a request.

He offered a scenario in which the RPO would ask for a minimal toll, only to have the Department of Transportation institute higher ones.

“It is totally a decision from transportation and that is not right,” he said.

He also questions a promise that any tolls from a particular site will go exclusively to replace ferry vessels at that route, such as the Minnesott-Cherry Branch route.

“But, as we know, they transfer these ferries from site-to-site wherever they need them,” he said. “So, don’t tell us we are buying a ferry for our own private use and then it ends up on the Outer Banks or somewhere because they need it. That is not what we were told.”

He said any bills during the short session had to do with appropriations.

Sanderson said the implementation of DOT’s new funding formula was under watch, which has to do with roads and other transportation needs.

“We have to keep our eyes open and make sure that the rural counties such as Pamlico don’t get shortchanged,” he said. “We know there is a huge demand for transportation money in the metropolitan areas.”

He noted that in this area, U.S. 70 got high marks under the formula.

He said that another issue under continued scrutiny is the establishment of “prosperity zones” around the state for economic development funds through the Department of Commerce.

“I think that is a good thing, but still, we have to make sure that the counties with 12 or 13,000 people like Pamlico don’t get left out of the mix and that we get the help we need to create jobs,” he said.

He also said a bill on property insurance issues to make that more transparent came through the House and hopefully would make its way onto the Senate radar.

Some tourism issues - private and public partnerships to get the private more involved - could come up, he said. “That would affect Pamlico County.”

He said the goal was to take the state tourism division to a higher point of effort and results.

“A lot of the states surrounding us are investing a lot of money in tourism and we are getting left in the dust,” he said. “We have to really find a way to put what we have to offer out there. If we stop developing it and promoting it, people will stop coming.”

Sanderson also said teachers and state employees pay was on the issue burner.

He predicted that a recent judge’s ruling striking down state legislative plans to end public school teacher tenure would make its way to the state Supreme Court.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that you can have a protected situation,” he said of the current and longstanding teacher status tied to time on the job.

Speciale listed other topics he expects to surface being the Dan River coal ash controversy with Duke Energy and teacher pay.

 “We all want to see teachers get paid, but there are so many ideas out there about how it should be done,” said Speciale. “They will get something; we just don’t know what the total will be.”

 

Local Residents Want Oriental to Remain Sailing Capital

 By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

ORIENTAL - Joe Mattea and others want to make sure Oriental continues to live up to its motto -  the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina.”

They are promoting sailing event in the waters around the village and nearby areas.

He and some other men and women in Oriental have made a start – this past weekend the Southeast Lightning District Class group had their 2014 Regatta in Oriental. There were 12 boats and 36 racers. They would like to make Oriental an annual stop.

In two weeks, the U.S. Sunfish Masters will be held off Blackwell Point Loop Road. This event is a national race for Sunfish racers 40 years old or older.

Mattea says he would like to see a regatta come to Oriental once a month.

The people involved in this venture are a loosely based group. They meet at Brantley’s when they have something to discuss.

“The group doesn’t have a formal name,” Mattea said. “I call it Friends of the Sailing Capital of North Carolina.”

Gordon Kellogg and Mattea worked with the Lightning class organizers.

“Gordon used to sail Lightnings. Gordon took care of the on-water issues and I handled the shore side stuff,” he said. “The Oriental Dinghy Club members helped with race committee personnel.  We obtained permission from Raleigh and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Department to allow overnight parking at the Wildlife ramp.”

Mattea says there are some ulterior motives to having the regattas.

“You’re not going to get rich; it’s more pocket change,” he said. “But you get exposure for Oriental and perhaps some more business for the shops in town.”

For the next regatta, Mattea is working with Jim Edwards at Bow to Stern Marine Center and George Secrist. Once again, the Oriental Dinghy Club is helping out with a lot of the “water stuff” and Mattea is in charge of housing, meals, parking and camping.

“One of the things we have to provide are race officials,” Mattea said.

Winners this past weekend were (1st place) Henry McCray from Charleston, S.C.; (2nd place) Will Tyner from Charleston, S.C. and (3rd place) Will Sloger from Mt. Pleasant, N.C.

For more information on sailing Lightnings, go to the websitehttp://www.sailsoutheast.org/. For information on the Sunfish Masters, the website is http://www.sunfishclass.org/regattas/regatta-details/1086/

Mattea said he wants to “double-down” on the sailing image.

“There are people who used to come here to sail from Raleigh, Durham and Winston-Salem and from out of state,” he said. “I would like for them to come back.”

 

Waterfront Park Plans Underway

 

 

 

By Deborah Dickinson

Pamlico New Staff

 

ORIENTAL - Oriental’s Planning Board is busy making plans for a possible town park along the waterfront. The board met Monday to discuss the designation of the 5,002 square foot property located at South Avenue adjacent to the Oriental Marina obtained in a land agreement with Chris Fulcher.

The parcel contains an existing structure built in the 1950s which originally housed an office for Garland Fulcher’s Fish Business.   The Board is proposing that the building be moved closer to the property line, rehabbed and possibly turned into public restrooms.   Charlie Overcash, town commissioner and liaison to the Planning Board, stated that volunteers have come forward and offered to move the existing structure free of charge as well as make necessary repairs.  Also on the drawing board is converting the building into a welcome center.  The height of both structures is to remain consistent with nearby properties.  The town is awaiting a signed CAMA Grant from which funds, along with monies collected over the years from the Town’s Occupancy tax will be used for the proposed construction.

The Planning Board was asked to amend the existing Growth Management Ordinance to include language defining “parkland” and to ask for an allowance of zero setbacks in order to utilize the entire lot to its maximum usage potential.  The allowance of zero setbacks would be conditional upon the agreement of the property’s adjacent land owners.  As a park, the property is considered public and would be governed by the same rules as other public property.

Although the parcel is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit now in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, Commissioner Barbara Venturi, assured members of the board that the pending law suit does not effect this project to move forward.  She did state, however, that “the existing law suit is taking up an inordinate amount of money effecting other projects.”


 

 

Week of May 14, 2014

 

Democrat Local Races Pull Heavy Voter Turnout for Primary

 

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff


Two Democrat primary elections and a four-way school board non-partisan contest are credited with producing a high May 6 voter turnout in Pamlico County, with nearly 30 percent of the more than 9,000 registered voters casting ballots.

An early One Stop voter turnout of 8.85 percent or more than 800 ballots set the tone for what ended with 2,788 Pamlico registered voters taking part in the primary.

The turnout was driven by Democrat primaries that included incumbent Sheriff Billy Sawyer Jr. going against David Spruill and a Democrat county commissioner race in District 3 between newcomers John Buck and Derek Potter. Sawyer and Buck emerged as the winners.

The Democrat primary effect was reflected in the part turnout, with 1,178 Democrats voting along with 974 Republicans.

“It is obvious that it was the Democrat sheriffs’ primary and the Democrat District 3 commissioners primary that brought most of the turnout,” said Lisa Bennett, the county elections director.

The top individual vote-getters were in the non-partisan school board race for two at-large seats, where Paul Delamar Jr. and Judy Humphries unseated incumbents Reginald Hawkins and Garry Cooper.

The sheriff’s race generated 1,665 votes, with Sawyer getting 1,008.

“I was very excited, not just as a board member,” said Elections Board Chairman Jennifer Roe. “We had the sheriff’s race and also the school board. Between those two races is what we felt brought the voter out.”

She said a large turnout was anticipated when a sheriff’s race first developed and that grew when the school board race increased to four candidates.

“But, I still didn’t don’t’ think I anticipated the turnout we had. From where I see it, I think it is wonderful,” she said. “Of course, I would love to see 100 percent turnout.”

She said that historically, the county voters do take part in the process.

“Pamlico County in general elections generally has a good turnout,” she said. “We are usually higher than the state average.”

Roe said the turnout for elections speaks well of the concern local citizens have about their county, state and country.

“Our voters get out and get to the polls,” she said. “Local races get people concerned and they get out when there are contested races. It says our voters are very involved in the election process and what is going on in their community.”

In the 2012 presidential election year, there was a 72 percent Pamlico turnout.

“For the election coming up in November, I think we are going to have another large turnout,” she said. “We still have two people running for sheriff and I think that will probably bring the people back out to the polls because it affects them locally.”

David Wickersham, the county Republican Party chairman, agreed about the local races bringing out the vote, albeit mainly Democrat races.

“There was a very intense race for sheriff and the board of education,” he said. “On the Republican side, we did not have a highly-contested local primary.”

The Republicans will have candidates in the general election, with GOP Ed Riggs going against Buck for a seat on the county commissioners and Chris David tackling Sawyer for the job as the county’s top lawman.

Wickersham said state races did not affect the interest as much as the local races themselves.

He noted that the Republicans had a rather quiet spring election season, with their major candidates awaiting the primary results for their November bids.

“We were not engaged in a lot of local turnout, but I think the candidates themselves generated a lot of interest,” he said. “

He again pointed to the sheriff’s race between Sawyer and Spruill.

“They were out talking at various functions and I think they were primarily responsible for the turnout,” he said.

The precinct totals were dominated by the two largest areas - 594 in Oriental and 545 in Arapahoe.

The smallest turnouts included 89 in Hobucken, 78 in Mesic and 68 in Vandemere.

Other precinct totals included s443 in Bayboro, 149 in Stonewall, 325 in Reelsboro, 263 in Grantsboro and 164 in Alliance.

The election totals were scheduled to be finalized yesterday at the post-election canvas.

 

 

 

Art on Neuse Brings Crowds to Oriental Waterfront

 

 

Pamlico News Staff


ORIENTAL - For the annual Art on the Neuse, the 11th year was a charm.

In 2013, the 10th anniversary event was going fine until the weather came down hard in the afternoon with a storm that included high winds.

“I was here last year and the storm lifted my pottery off the table,” said Kathy Cagiati of Vicious Circle Studios in New Bern.

This year, the sun was bright and the only noticeable weather factor was heat.

But, there was plenty of shade at the deck of the host Oriental Inn and Marina, which featured music and poetry readings by local talent.

The venue included Hodges Street along the Town Dock and those entering the festival on the boardwalk quickly found refreshments.

Youngsters Emmie and Caroline James, along with Vivian Reed of Oriental had a lemonade stand and snacks.

Along with local and out-of-town artists, several non-profits used the event to promote their causes, such as the Pamlico Animal Welfare Society.

Along with giving information and accepting donations, the volunteers had raffle tickets for a July 5 drawing which will offer a $500 first prize and $100 second prize. The tickets are $1. Online, there is more information at www.pamlicopaws.com.

The festival began as a totally local event, but its success has brought in visiting artists and craftsmen from around Eastern North Carolina.

Bill Tyndall of Greenville said he and his wife, whose artwork is “Glass by Becky” have been regulars for the past five years, along with appearances at the New Bern Farmers Market.

Lauri Arntsen of Wake Forest had her “Encaustic” collection of mixed-media art.

“I came last year to visit and was just so impressed with the marina, the location and the people,” she said. “So I came this year to be a participant.”

The show has been sponsored by the Pamlico County Arts Council since 2012. It was inaugurated in 2003 by local artists who wanted to showcase their work and to celebrate Oriental’s unique character.

The founding artists include Toni Leavitt and Jeff Troeltzsch, along with painters Marlene Miller and Susan Cheatham, jeweler Jenny Nash and sculptor Gary Gresko.

Leavitt said the show was originally held at Lou Mac Park in the waterfront. But, weather, especially wind, was problematic and the event moved to the more weather-secure Oriental Marina Inn Courtyard.

Per Erichsen, president of the all-volunteer Arts Council, welcomed guests at the group’s tent on Hodges Street.

He said the show and the weather were both great, with nearly 40 artists and craftsmen from as far away as Boone and Nags Head.  

“It just has a great vibe,” Erichsen said. “The setting is near perfect and the live music really spices things up.” 

Before Saturday’s successful event, he noted that the festival is about providing art, not making money.

 “We just about break even,” he said.

 

 

 

Hardison Dealt Stiff Sentence 

 

By Deborah Dickinson

Pamlico News Staff

 

NEW BERN - A Pamlico County woman will spent 10 to 14 years behind bars for purposely damaging Pamlico County water pipes and threatening the water supply.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth F. Crow handed down the sentence to Judy Hardison, 52, of Alliance Tuesday in Craven County. Hardison, former owner of the now defunct Triple H Construction Co. that was under contract with Pamlico County to repair broken water lines, was also ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution to cover court costs and attorney fees with the remainder earmarked for the county and will serve 12-months of supervised release.

Hardison’s attorney Kirby Smith request that the charges to be dismissed was denied.

“This was not an act of terrorism, but an act of fraud,” Smith told the court prior to sentencing.

“It is a stiff punishment for this type of offense but it is meant to discourage tampering with the water supply,” Judge Crowe said in handing down the sentence.  “This is a case where Pamlico County has been victimized.”

A jury found Hardison guilty of intentionally damaging water pipes only to be contracted to do the repair work April 30.  Damage to the water lines was carried out on weekends and holidays causing interruption of service when the rates for emergency repair were much higher.

“She (Hardison) took advantage of a position of trust with the county,” Assistant District Attorney Laura Bell said. “I’m delighted to have the trial completed and pleased with the verdict and judgement.”

Rodney Brame, a New Bern resident and employee of Triple H Construction in 2012 plead guilty to six felony charges of obtaining property by false pretenses.  In a plea deal he testified against Hardison stating that she hired him to break the pipes between November 8, 2012 and December 14, 2012.  Brame was sentenced to four 6- to 17-month consecutive terms Monday in Pamlico County. He will serve a minimum of two years followed by probation.

Hundreds of Pamlico Water customers were affected by the 2012 interruption in service and contamination of water supply.  Because of pre-trial publicity, Hardison's trial was moved to Craven County.  During the trial District Attorney Lara Bell presented taped conversations between Hardison and Brame which implicated the two in the scheme.  Hardison’s attorney, Kirby H. Smith, maintains that the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence against his client and that there was a rush to judgment during the investigation.


Week of May 7, 2014

 

 

Sawyer, Buck, Delamar-Humphries Team Win

 

 

Pamlico News Staff

Incumbent Pamlico County Sheriff Billy Sawyer Jr. got 62 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Democrat primary against former EMS director and fire marshal David Spruill to move on to face Republican challenger Chris Davis in the November general election.

Sawyer, a three-term head lawman in Pamlico County, received 1,088 votes in the unofficial tally of 10 precincts, pending next Tuesday's official canvas.

Spruill, also a former county deputy and overseas defense contract worker in the Middle East in recent years, got 38 percent of the vote, with 657.

Sawyer said he was relieved and pleased after the primary.

“I want to thank everybody that supported me,” he said afterwards. “I want to salute my opponent. He was a class act. He never made it ugly. He is just a perfect gentleman.”

Sawyer, who has been sheriff for the past 12 years after being a deputy for a dozen years, said he felt voters looked at his body of work.

“I’ve been in law enforcement in this county for over 24 years,” he said. “I’ve made it my career serving the people of Pamlico County. I love the people of Pamlico County and I’ve helped a lot of people.”

He said that on election night his thoughts had not yet moved on to the challenge in November.

“Not tonight,” he said.

Davis is a former deputy here who is now an investigator with the Martin County Sheriff’s Department, where he commutes from his home in Bayboro.

“I started my career in Pamlico County and I enjoy what I do,” Sawyer said earlier. “I’ve enjoyed serving the people of Pamlico County and I want to continue. This is where I want to finish my career.”

Sawyer began his career in law enforcement on June 18, 1989 as a reserve deputy and went full time in December of 1990.

“I started as a patrol deputy and I have more experience than the other candidates,” he said. “I have dedicated my whole life to the people of Pamlico County and I know the people of Pamlico County better than the other candidates.”

Sawyer, 47, is from Hobucken. He now lives in Mesic. He graduated from Pamlico County High School in 1985 and attended Methodist College in Fayetteville. He finished his law enforcement training at Craven Community College.  He is married and has an 18-year-old son.

He and Spruill did not differ on what both called the major crime issue in the county – drugs.

Sawyer said it is the major problems of sheriffs throughout the state.

He noted earlier that his department had arrested 16 major drug dealers in the county in recent years – mostly cocaine dealers.

He said drugs remain an uphill battle for law enforcement, since cocaine and heroin are not of U.S. origin.

He also said that prescription drugs, sold by people who have legal prescriptions, are the most difficult to control.

Spruill, 55, lives in his home town of Merritt. He was a 1978 graduate of Pamlico County High School and attended Pamlico Community College for certification as a certified fire fighter II and fire instructor II with specialties in Hazard Materials and Live Fire. He attended Craven Community College in 2002 for Basic Law Enforcement. He obtained state certification as an Arson Investigator and is a law enforcement instructor with a specialty in Hazard Materials. Spruill was fire marshal and EMS director for the county before going to work in Afghanistan for the past two years.

He is married and has two daughters and five grandchildren.

He had called for “new leadership and professionalism” at the top of the local department.

 

 

 

Buck Edges Potter In District 3 County Commissioner Primary

 

Pamlico News Staff

John Buck of Stonewall won a narrow victory over Derek Potter Tuesday for the District 3 Pamlico County Commissioner Democrat nomination to face Republican challenger Ed Riggs in the November election.

Buck, a member of the county planning board and past chairman, got 53 percent of the vote in the five precincts that include all or parts of Stonewall, Bayboro, Alliance and Grantsboro – a total of 221.

Potter, a county native, local farmer and civic leader who has lived in Alliance for the past 14 years, received 47 percent of the vote – a total of 198. He is a Pamlico Soil and Water Conservation District board member and past chairman.

The District 3 seat has been held for years by Jimmy Spain of Stonewall, who is retiring from his work as county commissioner.

Buck, who cast his ballot in One-Stop voting last Thursday, was in Virginia election day, working on engines of scallop boats.

 “Naturally, I’m excited,” said Buck, who added that he was not aware of his victory until he was called by the newspaper.

“I appreciate the confidence people have shown in me and I hope it carries on to the general election and that they will get behind me and let me show what I can do.”

Buck said the difference was likely his “age and experience.”

“He’s (Potter) a good guy, but that’s probably what it is,” Buck said. “I’ve had experience on the planning board and I’ve brought a lot to the table to help the county at that level, as well as well as when the town of Stonewall appointed me to the sewer board.”

Buck said his experiences on those boards added to his belief in fairness.

“I am by the rules and I try to help people,” he said. “It has got to be the same for everybody. I don’t want somebody to come in and because they are a wealthy individual or a big corporation and they get a little preferential treatment. I don’t think that is right. We are all the same. That is the biggest thing I bring to the table. That is how I operate.”

Buck said that public service called for dedication.

“If you are serving this county as a commissioner, you’re serving the county,” he said. “They (public) are not serving you. Because you are elected from this district (3), you still have to look out for the welfare and well-being and finances of the whole county.”

 Buck, who owns Hurricanes Boat Yard and repairs marine engines, said he will continue to point to his business experience going into the general election.

“The good Lord has let us succeed,” he said. “That applies to the county level, as well. We have collect money, do it fairly and make it work.”

Talking two hours after the Pamlico polls closed from a Hampton, Va., motel.

“I have a lot of customers in Pamlico County who are commercial fishermen,” he said. “The scallop season is their busiest time of the year and I’ve got to be there to look after them. They look out for me and give me a way to make a living for my family.”

 

 

 

Arrest Made in Mobile Meth Lab Case

 

 

A routine traffic stop on Highway 306 in Arapahoe at approximately 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, May 6, led to the arrest of Wesley Sykes. He is a suspect for possessing a mobile meth lab. Scott Houston, Narcotics Investigator with the Pamlico County Sheriff’s Office, told the Pamlico News that when the car was stopped, the passenger jumped from the vehicle and attempted to leave the scene, allegedly dropping a plastic water bottle in a nearby driveway that was cooking methamphetamine. Houston described the bottle as a one-pot cooker using the shake and bake method. He reported that the suspect was captured a short distance away and it was discovered that there were several outstanding warrants for him for cooking meth in another county. Later Tuesday morning, members of the Sheriff’s department were waiting for the State Bureau of Investigation Clandestine Crime Lab to arrive and properly disuse of the bottle which still appeared to be an active environmental threat. Houston emphasized that passerby’s to the scene should understand that the crime scene on 306 in Arapahoe did not involve any of the nearby residencies.

 

Hardison Guilty, Sentencing Set

 

 

NEW BERN - A two-week trial and two-hour jury deliberation is over for Judy Hardison but “the price” is yet to be determined.

The owner of the defunct Triple H Plumbing Co., Hardison will face sentencing Tuesday after being convicted of six counts of contaminating a public water system, a class C felony, and one count of obtaining property by false pretenses, a class H felony April 30.

Hardison, 52, was found guilty on all charges and could possibly face up to 50 years in prison for the crimes. Currently Hardison is in Craven County jail.

Facing multiple counts of contaminating Pamlico County’s water system that affected thousands of residents and costing the county $80,000, Hardison opted to have her day in court after turning down a plea deal. Rodney Brame, 44, whom Hardison was convicted of paying to break at least six water lines testified against her.

Brame admitted to purposely damaging water pipes pleading guilty to six felony counts involving Hardison’s firm under contract with Pamlico County Water Department to do the emergency repairs.

In accepting the plea, Brame, 44, gave up his right to a jury trial and agreed to serve four consecutive 6-17 month terms followed by probation in lieu of serving two additional consecutive 6-17 terms. That translates to a total prison sentence of 24-68 months. Brame’s sentencing is scheduled for Monday.

Court records indicate that on six separate occasions Brame used a metal probe which he would position it directly over an underground water pipe, hit it repeatedly with a sledgehammer, and wait for water to start gushing out of the ground. Both the metal bar and hammer were found in Brame’s vehicle.

Pamlico County Sheriff’s deputies took notice after the third water pipe break prompting the investigation which led to Brame being identified as the perpetrator. 

The damage which took place during November and December, 2012 affected several hundred to a thousand customers in Arapahoe, Minnesott Beach, Messic, and Maribel.

 

Commercial Fishermen Request Closure 

After State Fails to Monitor Drum Catches

By Maureen Donald

The Pamlico News

 

The apparent successful rebuilding of Red Drum stocks and a lack of timely monitoring by the state has prompted commercial fishermen to call for a closure that could result in less flounder on North Carolina tables this year.

The action is in response to a press release from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) announcing that preliminary calculations of commercial red drum landings between Sept. 1 and Nov. 23 totaled 260,866 pounds, exceeding the annual harvest limit by 10,866 pounds. As a result, the state announced the 2014 Spring/Summer Red Drum would not open due to late monitoring by the state. 

At a meeting called by the North Carolina Fisheries Association (NCFA) Monday in New Bern, commercial fishermen decided that while it is legal to set a large mesh gillnet to catch flounder, one of the favorite fish for restaurants and seafood markets, the current commercial closure on drum would result in waste of the resource. 

“What some fail to realize or acknowledge is that commercial fishermen are the best stewards of the resource,” said Brent Fulcher, NCFA Board Chairman. “We have to be - our living depends on it. This recommendation is an example of the solidarity of this industry and our focus on preserving the resource for all.”

The motion passed unanimously calls for a complete closure of all internal waters to the use of large mesh gillnets May1-31 and a limited opening June 1-July 31 with a four (4) red drum bycatch provision in specific locations. On August 1, the restrictions do not apply and the bycatch allowance would be increased to seven (7) red drum per day. The measure also calls for weekly dealer reporting of red drum, as opposed to the currently monthly requirement. (See page 6A for complete motion).

“This situation should never have happened,” said Jerry Schill, President of the NCFA. “Given that, the commercial industry has stepped up yet again to protect the resource for both the consumer and the fishermen who make their living by helping to assure a healthy fishery.”

The state’s Red Drum plan splits the state’s commercial red drum harvest into two seasons. A Sept. 1- April 30 season is allocated 150,000 pounds of the annual harvest limit, and a May 1-Aug. 31 season is allocated 100,000 pounds. 

The division closed the 2013 fall/winter season Nov. 23 after calculations just from electronically-submitted trip tickets showed fishermen had caught 144,258 pounds of the 150,000-pound harvest limit. Later calculations included landings reported on paper trip tickets and showed the fall fishery had exceeded the entire annual harvest limit. 

 

 

Pamlico Commissioners Cut Deficit by $250,000

 

Pamlico News Staff


BAYBORO  - Pamlico County Commissioners trimmed about $250,000 from a $700,000 budget shortfall Monday during a special budget work session.

The majority of the slice comes in reducing a Pamlico County Schools request for capital expense from about $367,000 to $150,000. That funding would be $50,000 less than the schools received for capital this current fiscal year.

County Manager Tim Buck said Monday that the commissioners entered Monday’s meeting with a $716,000 deficit, based on projected revenues for the coming year of $16.3 million against expenses and requests totaling $17 million.

The county budget, which must be balanced and passed by the end of June, began last month with a $1.5 million deficit, based on $15.9 million in revenue and $17.4 in expenses.

The schools presented its budget to the commissioners on April 21, seeking a small increase of 2.9 percent in current expenses, but an 85.5 percent hike in money for capital projects. Categories for capital include building and grounds; furniture and equipment; and vehicles.

Buck noted that commissioners do not earmark where money can be spent by the schools as to individual projects.

Among the large items the school said it needed was $65,000 to upholster the seats in the county high school auditorium; $36,000 for new bleacher seats on the visitors’ side at the Pamlico High gym and $60,000 for four new light poles for the high school baseball field.

The schools local request for the operations of four schools under the Pamlico County Board of Education was $2.6 million, a $34,000 increase.

The commissioners on Monday agreed to fund $50,000 more in operational expenses than this year. But, that is $39,000 less than the requested $89,000 increase.

The schools also make local operations budget requests for the Arapahoe Charter School, a public school with its own board. The charter school request was $567,000, an increase of $55,000.

The commissioners also were in consensus to reduce the Pamlico Community College preliminary capital request by about $40,000. That is the cost of a parking lot paving project and an electronic sign, each about $20,000.

The board agreed to maintain the current expense request submitted by the college.

The college will make its official presentation to the commissioners on May 5. It is the last major agency outside of county departments to make a budget presentation.

Another cut was about $8,000 from the request from the county division of the forestry service.

The board also looked at two new positions requested by the Department of Social Services, which would add about $30,000 in increased debt. Buck said the positions are needed for an increased work load, much related to the Affordable Care Act. One position is 50 percent reimbursable for the county from state and federal sources and the other is 75 percent reimbursable.

Buck said the remaining shortfall on the budget will now include returning to county department heads for any additional cuts, as well as looking again at slicing some county capital projects.

He said at least one more special session by commissioners is likely. The final budget workshop typically comes in May.

 

Sheriff’s Race Pits Sawyer Vs Spruill


By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff


The May 6 Pamlico County Democrat Primary for sheriff will determine whether incumbent Billy Sawyer or challenger David Spruill, former Emergency Management director and fire marshal -- will run against Republican Chris Davis, a Martin County sheriff’s detective from Bayboro, in November.


Spruill and Sawyer are both from Pamlico County and spoke of directing their best efforts toward law and order in Pamlico County.

Sawyer pointed to his 24 years in service to Pamlico County as sheriff.

 “I started my career in Pamlico County and I enjoy what I do,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed serving the people of Pamlico County and I want to continue. This is where I want to finish my career.”

Sawyer began his career in law enforcement on June 18, 1989 as a reserve deputy and went full time in December of 1990.

“I started as a patrol deputy and I have more experience than the other candidates,” he said. “I have dedicated my whole life to the people of Pamlico County and I know the people of Pamlico County better than the other candidates.”

He went to Basic Law Enforcement Training and in 1993 was promoted to investigator. He made captain in 1997 and held that position until he won the sheriff’s election.

Sawyer, 47, is from Hobucken. He now lives in Mesic. He graduated from Pamlico County High School in 1985 and attended Methodist College in Fayetteville. He finished his law enforcement training at Craven Community College.  He is married and has an 18-year-old son.

“Law enforcement is different every day,” he said. “Drugs are always a problem. Every sheriff in the state is going to have opposition and that is what their opponents are going to harp on. We’ve been involved in the war on drugs, but from day to day this job changes.”

Sawyer said his department has arrested 16 major drug dealers in the county in recent years – mostly cocaine dealers.

“I wish I could change the drug situation,” he said. “Cocaine and heroin are not manufactured in the United States. That comes from overseas. The Federal government can’t stop it because the resources are unlimited. There’s not a sheriff in the state that can stop drugs from being in their counties.”

Spruill says prescription drugs are the most difficult to control since those in possession are legal if the drug as prescribed for them.

Spruill, 55, lives in his home community of Merritt. He was a 1978 graduate of Pamlico County High School and attended Pamlico Community College for certification as a certified fire fighter II and fire instructor II with specialties in Hazard Materials and Live Fire. He attended Craven Community College in 2002 for Basic Law Enforcement. He obtained state certification as an Arson Investigator and is a law enforcement instructor with a specialty in Hazard Materials. Spruill was fire marshal and EMS director for the county before going to work in Afghanistan for the past two years.

He is married and has two daughters and five grandchildren.

“When elected Sheriff I look forward to serving the citizens of Pamlico County and will be a Sheriff for the citizens who will be visible and approachable,” he said. “I plan to bring new leadership and professionalism to the Department. I will reach out to the public for support and begin a public tip line to help combat our ever growing drug problem as well as increase training among all employees.”

Spruill said he also wanted to see a drug prevention program back in the school system.

“There are both state and federal grant programs available for combatting crime,” Spruill said. 

“There are also community watch programs in several communities such as Reelsboro which are excellent. We need more. I believe the Sheriff’s Department and the citizens of Pamlico County working together can only better our county.”

During a forum earlier this spring, Spruill said he was running for sheriff because it was another part of his career of public service and helping the people of Pamlico County.

He said he wanted to bring a higher level of professionalism to the sheriff’s department leadership and get more training for deputies. He said that could be accomplished through a variety of avenues, including grants.

 

Pet Parade Is Annual Chance for Dogs, Owners to ‘Dress Up’

Pamlico News Staff

ORIENTAL - Residents here flock to outdoor events, especially ones where there is a chance to go in costume.

The ninth annual Pamlico Animal Welfare Society Pet Parade is a double chance to “dress up” - dogs and owners.

The themes are totally from the minds of those who show up and enter.

The event has a panel of judges. This year’s group included Skip Waters, head meteorologist at TV-12 in New Bern; Maureen Donald, editor of the Pamlico News; and Cat Clowers, head librarian at the Pamlico County Library.


The winners included:

Best Behaved - Raven, owned by Jaden Wong.

Funniest - Clarence, owned by Ed Braun.

Best Candidate from New Leash on Life Award - Daisy, owned by Ed Duer.

Most Lookalike - Bella, owned by Jessica Brown.

Best Theme - Lilly, owned by Scott and Wendy Cole.

Cutest - Wilder, owned by Emerson McMillan.

Most Unusual - Petey & Shiloh, owned by Sherri Hicks.

Best Costume - Ella Fitzgerald, owned by Nancy Walker.

Judge-Opt - Tank, owned by Ashley Hardison.

Run Away with Judges’ Attention - Buck, owned by Lacey Ragan.

Best in Show - ‘Gangster Bert,’ owned by Marguerite Garrett.

Bow Bow Good Dog Award - Page, owned by Ben Bruno.

 

A fourth judge is always roaming the grounds - for a good cause.

That’s because it is the “Bribing Judge,” this year performed with passion by Nancy Hiller. She wore a black robe and English white wig. She carried a purse with a flip-up mirror and asked competitors to look at themselves in the mirror and dare say they could not donate.

The winner of the bribe award was Rockey, owned by Isabelle Wilkinson.

Many of the animals in the parade are rescue dogs, such as Ella Fitzgerald, a beagle; Skipper, a rescue beagle-Jack Russell Terrier owned by Liz Lathrop; and Bell, a mix-breed rescue dog owned by Grace Evans. Bell was first rescued by FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Saturday’s event had special guests from Home Place in New Bern, which had residents as old as 101. They were given front row seats across the street from Lou Mac Park and got personal visits by many of the parading canines.

PAWS’ next event is Saturday night when the Pamlico group is the invited guests to the sixth annual Fur Ball at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. It is a major fundraising effort for area animal rescue groups.

Proceeds from Saturday’s parade go toward low-cost/no-cost spay and neuter assistance, pet food pantry and New Leash on Life programs.

PAWS primary mission is assisting with the cost of spaying and neutering to reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters. It is also dedicated to “Helping the Helpless” by educating the community about humane and responsible pet ownership, helping needy pets by providing dog and cat food from its Pet Pantry, giving money toward veterinary care, and helping find good homes for animals needing adoption. 

PAWS relies solely on fundraising activities and tax-deductible contributions.

More information about PAWS: http://www.pamlicopaws.com

 


Local Races Expected to Draw Heavy Early Voting

Pamlico News Staff

BAYBORO - One-Stop Voting in Pamlico County, which begins Thursday, could bring a heavy turnout with three contested local races on the May 6 Primary ballot.

During 2010, the last time there were contested local county elections, 277 voters cast ballots. That was from 9,128 who were eligible.

One-Stop voting begins Thursday and continues through May 3. It is a shorter early voting period than in the past.

The Pamlico County Elections office plans to have five voting machines ready for voters at the One-Stop site, the elections office in the county courthouse, 202 Main St. in Bayboro.

The voting times are weekdays only, except for the final day. The voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through April 30.

On May 1 and 2, the hours will extend to 8 p.m. and voting concludes on May 3, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The races are for sheriff, a county commissioner seat and two places on the county school board.

Incumbent Sheriff Billy Sawyer Jr. is being challenged in the Democrat primary by former EMS Director/Fire Marshall David Spruill. The winner will meet Republican Bayboro resident and Martin County detective Chris Davis in November.

With the retirement of Jimmy Spain, the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners District 3 seat is open, with John Buck and Derek Potter meeting in the Democrat primary. The winner faces Republican Ed Riggs in the fall.

Incumbent at-large school board members Reginald Hawkins and Garry Cooper are being challenged for their seats by retired educators Judy Humphries and Paul Delamar Jr.

Incumbent state Sen. Norman Sanderson of Minnesott Beach will await the winner of a three-person Democrat primary. The candidates are Dorthea E. White of New Bern, Carroll “Carr” Ipock II of New Bern and Fernie Hymon of Beafort.

Incumbent Democrat at-large Pamlico Commissioners Paul Delamar III and Ann Holton, along with District 4 Commissioner Carl Ollison are unopposed this year.

Incumbent Pamlico school board member Beatrice Miller Mays is unopposed in District 4.

Also unopposed this year is Pamlico Clerk of Court Steven E. Hollowell, a Democrat.


Schools Seek Huge Increase in Capital Projects; Little Else

Pamlico News Staff

BAYBORO - The Pamlico County Schools budget request to the county commissioners Monday night included a small increase of 2.9 percent in current expenses, but an 85.5 percent hike in money for capital projects. Categories for capital include building and grounds; furniture and equipment; and vehicles.

The commissioners will likely get serious with their intentions for the requests when they hold another of a series of budget workshops on Monday. The school’s budget presentation is part of the commissioners’ ongoing work on a new county budget for 2014-15, which goes into effect July 1.

The schools are seeking $3,163,478 in county money for local current expenses, an $89,340 increase from the current fiscal year.

The county gave the schools $200,000 this year for capital and the new request is $371,000. It is weighted by $221,000 for furniture and equipment. That category, in turn, included $65,000 to upholster the Pamlico County High School Auditorium’s 762 seats.

Steve Curtis, the schools’ finance director, told the commissioners and a crowd of about 70 school staff, supporters and school board candidates that the auditorium is used heavily by the community. He called the current seating “an eyesore.”

“It would be huge for the community,” he said. “It is used more by the community than by the high school.”

The furniture and equipment grouping also includes the technology request, which totals $101,600, an increase of $34,000.

Some other high-dollar capital requests included $36,000 for new bleacher seats on the visitors’ side at the Pamlico High gym and $60,000 for four new light poles for the high school baseball field.

The schools made no requests for new vehicles.

During commissioners questioning, Ann Holton noted that she did not see anything for increasing teacher supplements, which are currently $1,500.

She pointed out that it had been years since teachers got a pay hike from the state. She mentioned the figure $100 while talking about increasing the supplement.

“I know $100 is not a lot, but it is a thank you,” she said.

Curtis said the last local supplement increase came in the 2007-08 year, when teachers got an extra $100 to the current level.

As for another increase, Curtis agreed that teachers “deserve it absolutely,” but said the schools were “not comfortable asking.”

Commissioners Chairman Paul Delamar III was straight-forward in his rebuke of that answer, saying it “doesn’t hold water when you look at the capital request.”

Curtis noted that the school’s capital allocation declined the past two years from a high of $400,000 in consecutive years.

He added that state funding by the legislature had taken a heavy toll, decreasing $1.7 million in the past five years.

The schools local request for the operations of four schools under the Pamlico County Board of Education is $2.6 million, a $34,000 increase.

The schools also make local operations budget requests for the Arapahoe Charter School, which is a public school with its own board. Charter schools are not allocated capital government funding.

The charter school request is $567,000, an increase of $55,000.

Curtis supplied numbers on the average daily membership for the four schools in Bayboro and the charter school.

It showed 1,272 students for 2013-14 in the four county schools and 254 for the charter school. Estimates for 2014-15 show an anticipated decrease for the county schools of 12 students and an increase of 21 at the charter school, which will add the 10th grade.

The commissioners’ public budget workshop Monday begins at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the county courthouse in Bayboro.


 

Cancer Survivor Proudly Leading the Fight

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

ARAPAHOE – Vanessa Gaskins, a Pamlico County employee with Environmental Health, is a team leader for the county’s Relay for Life on May 2. She will walk the Survivor’s Walk as a breast cancer survivor with her mother and two aunts; this has been a family disease and it has taken a toll. One of her aunts died in 2012.

Gaskins had just graduated from Pamlico County High School in 2002 when she discovered her mother had cancer. Two of the aunts had cancer before Gaskins’ mother. One aunt discovered her cancer in 2011 – the same year as Vanessa.

“She discovered hers in June,” said Gaskins. “That was really what made me go. I had just had a baby. That was when I really felt the lump in my breast. They were treating it like a milk duct. It was still there. It hadn’t moved or gotten smaller. I just felt like I should really call somebody.”

She called a nurse, Kelly Matthews, who was working at the Pamlico County Health Department at the time.

Matthews said she needed a second opinion and made an appointment for Gaskins at the East Carolina Women’s Center in New Bern. She was operated on in November, 2011.

“I hate to have that 5-year survival rate hanging over my head,” said Gaskins, “but I am glad I’m still here. My mother has been a survivor for 12 years.”

In three weeks, Gaskins goes for a consultation about a hysterectomy. Doctors have told her she can’t have more children because of her family history. She hasn’t come to grips with that yet. Her child Is 3 years old.

 “I have been having so many issues,” she said. “My port had to be taken out.  I went into the hospital twice with blood clots, one behind the port and one in my arm.”

Gaskins goes to the hospital every six months for a blood test to check for metastasis.  

“I am tired,” she said. “Right now I’m trying to get back into shape because I was always into sports – volleyball, basketball, softball. For me not to be doing much now is hard on me. Right now, we’ve started a women’s volleyball league at Pamlico Middle School two days a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that’s been wonderful.”

She said precaution is the best advice she can offer to any woman, along with an upfront attitude.

“I would say the best advice I could give them is to keep an eye on it and get checked,” she said. “Unless you tell the doctor what is going on they won’t check. Particularly, talk to your doctor if you have a family history.”

She mother and her attended Relay for Life at Pamlico County High School before she was ever diagnosed.

“The nurse saw my mom walking the Survivor Walk and asked why she was walking. I told her about my mom being a survivor and about my aunts and she said ‘We should get you checked,’” Gaskins recalled.

It was a wise decision.


Simpson Takes Interim Head Job at Cooperative Extension

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

ALLIANCE – Daniel Simpson, agent for horticultural and environmental education, has accepted the interim job of Cooperative Extension director for Pamlico County, beginning May 1.

“Our director since Bill Ellers retired has been Tom Glascow, the director from Craven County,” said Simpson. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen because we’re going through extension restructuring. It will go on until late spring.”

Simpson is a native of Pamlico County. His father is the minister at the Oriental Free Will Baptist Church; the elder Simpson, a plumber, also teaches the plumbing course at the prison. His mother teaches at Fred Anderson Elementary School.

“I was raised in Alliance,” said Simpson. “That’s where I’ve been for the past 15 years.”

He graduated from Pamlico County High School in 2003.

As a cooperative extension agent, one would assume that Simpson attended N.C. State University. He did, but it was two years after going to West Point and discovering that military life was not his cup of tea.

So where did his interest in agriculture come from?

“The only true farm work I did was to help bale hay for Denard Potter, the career technical teacher at the high school. That was between West Point and N.C. State,” he said. “I also helped my daddy and granddaddy with his garden. When I came home from college in the summer, I came home and only had one summer in between N.C. State and I worked for Camp Seafarer. That was one summer job. The other one was scouting cotton. Scouts go out in the field and look for bugs and disease and let the farmers know their recommendations.”

Simpson said most of the growers had gotten out of cotton because it is so labor-intensive to grow.

“Two weeks after I graduated, I went to work for Pamlico County Cooperative Extension,” said Simpson. “I’ve been there for six years.”

Asked what he would need to become the permanent head of the cooperative extension, Simpson said a very involved resume and application and his Master’s Degree.

He will achieve the degree the end of this month in Agriculture and Extension Education. He would also have to achieve associate level. That is where the involved application comes in; he is now an assistant agent.

“Essentially I am assuming administrative responsibilities for the office,” he said. “I can always call Tom Glascow if I need to know something. Basically, I am still doing my job.”

Simpson said he was looking forward to doing the best job he could in terms of administrative roles.

“We’re here to offer advice to the citizens of Pamlico County,” Simpson said. “Whether that advice falls in beekeeping, growing fruits and vegetables or to help the farmers and just to help folks be healthier – that’s what we’re here for.”


 

Motorcycle Wreck Fatal for Well-Known

Pamlico County Pastor

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

A Pamlico County minister, well-known for his charitable work within the community, was killed Saturday during a benefit motorcycle ride.

Richard C. Baldwin died Saturday in Craven County when his motorcycle crashed during a charity ride. Baldwin, 68, of Oriental, was the pastor of Amnity Christian Church in Grantsboro; the former pastor of Stonewall/Bayboro United Methodist Church; a man who played Santa Claus and one who worked tirelessly for Pamlico Partnership for Children as well as other charities.

According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Baldwin was operating a 2013 Harley Davidson motorcycle in the Journey of Hope Cancer Support Center ride, which began at the New Bern Cancer Care.

At 10:40 a.m., while traveling. on Aurora Road near the Beaufort County line, he tried to pass some of the other riders, lost control and went off the left side of the road in a curve, striking a railroad tie on the shoulder of the roadway. He then hit a ditch bank and rolled over into a water-filled ditch.  

 According to investigators, speed was a factor in the crash.

“It was just a shock,” said Dixie Gatlin, a member of Stonewall/Bayboro United Methodist Church.  “We had him for nine years. He went ahead and got some courses to become a Christian church minister and he was at the Amnity Christian Church in Grantsboro for two years. He got the churches together and did a lot for Fishes and Loaves. Richard just left an impression on everyone – to do more, to use our hands and feet more to serve others.”

The Rev. Ray Lewis, pastor at Rock of Zion Free Will Baptist Church in Grantsboro, rode with Baldwin as part of the Christian Motorcyclist Association.

“I knew Richard very well,” said Lewis. “We had breakfast together every Thursday morning and we were together when he had his accident. It was a difficult time, that’s for sure. It happened in a curve and it looks like he just ran off the road.”

Lewis said he had known Baldwin for five years.

The Rev. Penny Dollar Farmer, a friend of Baldwin’s, said he was an incredibly giving and creative man.

“If he knew there was a problem with somebody – if they needed a home or shelter – he would be after it just like a dog with a bone,” she said. “But he never took credit for anything. He just was tenacious. He was always cheerful but he was so compassionate and sympathetic that he would cry. He wanted to push for justice for everybody. It was just the bare bones of wanting people to have the physical help they needed. He would bend over backwards to help. He was always volunteering, always helping. He was always a true friend.”

A celebration of Baldwin’s life will be held on Thursday, April 17, at 3 p.m. at the Broad Creek Christian Church, 45 Olympia Road.

It will be officiated by the Rev. Farmer, the Rev. Lewis, and the Rev. Grady Burroughs. Visitation with the family will be at 2 p.m.


Stop Hunger Now Packs Meals in Pamlico County

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

ORIENTAL – On Saturday, 45 volunteers met at the Oriental United Methodist Church to pack 10,000 meals costing 25 cents each for the national Stop Hunger Now program.

“It was wonderful,” enthused Joan Lilley, in charge of the Missions Team that planned and carried out the packing of foodstuffs – mainly soy and rice – for delivery within the next two years to countries needing assistance from storms, volcanoes, bad weather and disasters. “The young people didn’t show this time. They had all kinds of outings – trips to Washington, D.C. But this turned out to be a community event, not just for folks in our church. We did have some visitors come and pitch in. Now, everyone wants to know if we’re going to do it again. They had a good time.”

For two hours or more, the volunteers weighed, measured and sealed the packages for storage and transport.

“We placed them in boxes and each box has a two-year date on it,” said Lilley. “These boxes go into storage. Most of the boxes from this part of the country go to central and South America. They go to schools, orphanages and to areas hit by the Tsunami that hit the Philippines or earthquakes. We bought shares. We figured that if we had 100 people that would buy a share for $25, the cost would be covered.”

Lilley said she was still getting donations coming in.

“It has really created a lot of synergism – when energy seeps off energy,” Lilley said.

Lilley said they would not do it again this year.

“We’re going to have a missions committee meeting tomorrow to discuss it,” she said. “We do take care of the needs in our county through Fishes and Loaves. We participate in the knapsack project where we send food home for children for the weekend. We do a lot in the county but we also do outreach.”

Lilley said the Stop Hunger Now ministry was begun in 1998 by a Methodist pastor.

“It’s nationwide,” she said. “We had a cousin who did it in Pittsburgh. She is 87 years old – a real ‘energizer bunny.’ She does it through her church.”

Lilley said she brought up the idea when she attended a Methodist Conference in Greensboro last year.

“They wanted people at the conference to help when they weren’t going to meetings,” she said. “It took us about two hours yesterday. We were there at 8:30 and were done by noon. The church was cleaned up by 12:30 p.m.  The people from Raleigh brought in the equipment to pack the meals – scales, funnels, plastic tubs and plastic bags. Then they had the sealing machines and the boxes that had to be set up to hold the food.”

According to Lilley, it was a great project.

“We used ‘runners’ – 7 and 8 year olds to run the bags of food to the next table,” she said. “There was something for all ages.”


Boat show’s new venue brings steady crowds for weekend

 

 

Pamlico News Staff


ORIENTAL - The new venue for the sixth annual Oriental In-Water Boat Show accomplished some goals this past weekend.

It provided an expanded venue setting on the Oriental waterfront, allowed visitors easy walking-distance access to most downtown businesses and it brought new faces to town - where tourism is in the forefront.

The event is a fundraiser for the Oriental Rotary Club and its community projects.

Event organizer Sam Myers said Monday morning that the total attendance was more than 1,500 people over three days, a 5 percent increase from 2013. Saturday’s crowd of more than 960 was about equal to the 2013 record-breaking Saturday visitors.

Myers said that numbers were still being collected for food, a raffle and T-shirt sales, but it appeared the show cleared about $25,000 - a record and about 10 percent more than in 2013.

There were visitors from as far away as the North Carolina Mountains.

As with many events such as this, it fulfilled a local goal of bringing in first-time and returning visitors.

Brian McGlynn, a Duke University professor, hydrologist and fresh water scientist, is relatively new to North Carolina, moving to the state less than two years ago from Montana.

He took advantage of the suddenly-spring weather to come “looking and exploring” with his three children, Isla, Marin and Eoin.

“We’ve never been here,” he said, guiding the children along the docks. “I like this area.”

He grew up in the Great Lakes area and wants his children to experience the sailing he enjoyed growing up.

“In the short term, we’ll look for something to help them learn,” he said. His “dream boat” is a 40-foot-plus oceans vessel.

A boat show attracts those with a background in sailing such as Richard and Penny Flaherty, who now live in Oriental.

They first discovered oriental in the mid-1980s when their Lexington, Ky., sailing club took a “five-day weekend” to the North Carolina coast. They chartered a boat from Whitakers Creek for a trip to Ocracoke.

In 2005 they bought property and bought a house in 2011.

“We lived in Florida for 18 years and never had a hurricane,” he said. “We came here and within a week and had a hurricane - our first. Hopefully, it’s our last.”

 They had already made plans to go cruising for the next two years on their 40-foot Manta Catamaran. They left in January 2012.

They returned and have proudly called Oriental home since last year.

“There is nothing not to love here,” said Penny.

They had the 40-footer for sale Saturday at the show.

Another local couple who were “just looking” and enjoying the weather was Bob and Lisa Bernett, New Jersey transplants who have lived in the Dawson Creek area for nine years, come August.

They own two power boats and lived on the water in New Jersey, as well.

She found their Pamlico County home online and they contacted Mariner Realty. The acre and a half with a 200-foot bulkhead area was a quick sale.

“We went to Marina and got the key. I got half-way down the road and said there is nothing else to look at,” said Bob. “It is beautiful. We really got lucky.”

Brokers and boat company owners such as Sonny Conover of Cape Lookout Yachts in downtown Oriental were having a good time, too.

Conover, a businessman here for 11 years, brought three boats to the show. They were among 36 which were docked for visitors to visit.

“I think the new location is the way to go,” he said. “By incorporating the town, it is helping local businesses It is helping the town more than the other side of the bridge.”

The show had been a Pecan Grove Marina, located across the Robert Scott high-rise bridge, with eyesight of town. Pecan Grove’s success and the growth of the boat show prompted a moved to the Oriental waterfront this year.

“It’s amazing what a bridge does,” Conover said. “People come into town. They go over the bridge to get to the boat show. They leave the boat show and fly over (the bridge) and they don’t get a chance to meander into the town like they are now.”

Conover said that from a worst year (2008) during the economic downtown, the boating industry has rebounded.

“We’re all feeling it, but I think it’s getting stronger each year,” he said. “It’s not back where it really should be, yet.”

A sign of the upswing was the increased number of boats and vendors, including large companies such as Bennett Brother Yachts of Wilmington.

The 28-year-old company, with a 75-slip marina dockage and repair facilities for power, sail and trawlers, gets business from this area as far as north as the Chesapeake Bay, according to broker Peter Kurki.

The company decided it needed to visit.

“It’s a new area for us,” he said. “We’ve had clients sail and steam down from Oriental. The work in the region (here) is good. They just can’t get in. There is a little bit of an up-kick in the economy and people want to get their boats done quickly.”

The show offered opportunity for out-of-town nonprofits to get exposure, such as the Hope Floats NC kayak group, which raises money and awareness for cancer research. They ended a long trip down the Neuse River at the show, and had a booth.

The Military Missions in Action of Fuquay-Varina and Southern Pines was on hand, with leader Mike Doorman, whose group is currently raising funds and seeking volunteers for continued work on an American Heroes Home Build at the Nature’s Run subdivision near Arapahoe. The new home will be given to a disabled American veteran.

Pamlico County nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity and Girls on the run benefitted by operating parking lots to raise money for their work.

One of the attractions was a boat-building demonstration by Carteret County master-builder Heber Guthrie and his crew.

Henry Campen, an attorney from Raleigh, won the Heber Guthrie skiff. 

“As hoped Mr. Guthrie’s skiff proved a nice new attraction,” said Myers.


Community Forum Brings Out Most Pamlico Candidates


Pamlico News Staff


BAYBORO - Most of the Pamlico County candidates who will be either seeking office or a chance at a place on the November general election ballot came to a nonprofit-sponsored public forum last week at the county courthouse.

There are contested Democrat primary races for sheriff and a county commissioner seat on May 6. The school board has two seats open, with four candidates. The primary is the general election for those offices.

The Pamlico County Board of Education race is for two at-large seats, currently held by Chairman Reginald Hawkins, along with Garry Cooper. They are being challenged in the May Primary non-partisan school board general election by former educators Judy Humphries and Paul Delamar, Jr. All but Delamar appeared at the forum, sponsored by the 3-year-old nonprofit Citizens Involved in Government.

In two Democrat primary races for sheriff and county commissioner incumbent Sheriff Billy Sawyer sent a written statement, as did John Buck, who is seeking the District 3 county commissioner seat, vacated by the retirement of Jimmy Spain of Stonewall.

Sawyer’s primary opponent, David Spruill, was on hand for the forum. The winner faces Republican Chris Davis in November.

 Democrat Derek Potter, who goes against Buck in May for the chance to meet Republican Ed Riggs in the fall, was also at the forum, which attracted a crowd of about 50 people. Buck also sent a written statement, which was read by the organizers.

Others who appeared at the two-hour forum were Congressional District Republican candidate Al Novinec and Democrat state Senate hopeful Fernie Hymon. Hymon is one of three Democrats in the primary and will face incumbent Sen. Norman Sanderson from Pamlico County in November.

Spruill, a former Pamlico Emergency Management director and fire marshal, said he wanted to bring improved standards to the department, along with a better line of communication between law enforcement and the public.

 “What I want to bring to the office is more professionalism,” he said. “The guys over there are good. But in my opinion, I think we need new leadership, more leadership, a different leadership.”

He noted that there are successful Community Watch programs in the county, pointing specifically to one in Reelsboro. He said those programs are vital to help the sheriff’s department in its battle against the county’s top crime issue - drugs.

“If we hired 100 deputies, we can’t do this by ourselves,” he said. “The community groups are one way. Tips lead to arrests.”

He cited his experience in Emergency Management and ability to work with state and federal agencies. He pointed to grant opportunities at the state and national level to assist with funding training and equipment.

Humphries and Delamar, Jr. previously announced they were running as a team to gain the two school board positions.

Humphries gave the audience an overview of her background, which includes 36 years in public education in Wake and Pamlico counties.

When she retired in 2007 after 25 of those years in Pamlico County, she was the system’s director of technology. She told the audience that the local schools are “ready for the 21st century.” She noted that when she was hired in the early 1980s by then Superintendent George Brinson, the county had two Apple computers.

She promised to carry her approach as an educator into the board seat. She said, “Before we can oversee effectively, we must understand and examine all the issues.”

Humphries also expressed concerns that progress needed to be made in the way of local student performance results on state test scores.

She told the audience that she brought personal caring to the job, noting that she once gathered the information and wrote the grant to get heating and air conditioning units at Fred Anderson Elementary School.

“That did not have to do with technology,” she said. “That was because I care.”

Hawkins and Cooper both told the crowd that the current board of education is a solid, dedicated and detail-oriented group.

They also pointed to vastly improved graduation rates at the high school in recent years.

Each of the incumbents also echoed Humphries’ note of caring for the children.

Hawkins said his involvement with the schools includes daily visits and his work with programs dates to “Helping Hands” when he moved here.

“That is going into the schools, reading and doing anything that needs to be done,” he said. Hawkins was the school volunteer of the year in the state in 2005.

“We’ve got some very good teachers and I don’t know any other job where you can work six years and not get a raise,” he said. “That’s not from Pamlico County. It’s because of the state. I think our students do well and our teachers do a good job. And, it all works together.”

Hawkins and Cooper both said retaining teachers was a key issue, especially in light of the state plan to eliminate teacher tenure.

“We work hard to make sure that every kid in Pamlico County gets a fair shake and the best education that can be afforded for them,” he added.

Cooper, another local candidate who is a county native, has been in the public eye since his days as a star basketball player in the mid-1970s, through his tenure as county recreation director the past 20 years, along with adding the title of county public works director.

Cooper, who has served two different terms on the school board, pointed to his record of service and involvement in the county, especially with young people.

“My door is open. My phone line is open for anyone,” he said. “I don’t have a very elaborate speech, because I am who I am. People who know me - I am who I am. I’m a worker. I get in the trenches and that is what I do.”

He said his approach in recreation and education has always included all children of the county.

“I’m going to fight for you and I’m going to fight for your child and also, as long as I am on the school board, I’m going to fight for the teachers,” he said.

Potter called his bid for county commissioner his personal goal to give back to a county he said had been good to him.

He is a native, an N.C. State chemical engineering degree graduate who returned to Pamlico to farm.

“I’ve been farming ever since, a job I love, probably the largest industry in Pamlico County,” he said. “I want to give back and hopefully lead it into the future so far as strategically planning and long term goals. Along with those, there are short-term goals that have to be met.”

He used the ongoing repairs at the county courthouse as an example.

“We know the courthouse needs fixing. It has a crack in the wall back here,” he said. “We’ve known that, the building is going to deteriorate at some point. There should have been a plan in place to have that done already, not get to that and have to put a band-aid on it.”

He also called for the county to “become a leader.”

“We are rural. We always have been and always will be,” he said. “But we have some of the smartest minds and some of the best people on this earth. The salt of the earth live here in Pamlico County. They can be used and generate ideas so that we are the leader. Money helps, but money is not everything.”

He called for “wise use of our money” without waste. He also vowed support for the county’s 150 employees and those working for the public schools.


Pamlico Relay for Life In Need of Volunteers

 

 

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News


BAYBORO - The Pamlico County Relay for Life was once an all-night event that attracted hundreds and its support in raising money for cancer research was award-winning for the size of the county.

But, that has dwindled since 2011’s Hurricane Irene devastated the county.

People who normally would volunteer and support the fundraiser were busy putting their lives back together.

Again this year, the need for volunteers is dire with the Relay scheduled at the Pamlico County High School Track on the evening of May 2.

There are currently 14 teams and according to the Cancer Society, the goal is 15 teams.

Erin Bright, based in Wilmington is the event coordinator and said that about $10,000 had been pledged to this point.

The Pamlico event has scaled back in recent years and is from 6 p.m. to midnight on May 2.

The Relay opens on the track at Pamlico County High School at 6 p.m., with opening ceremonies.

A luminaria ceremony, with the lighted tributes around the track, is slated for 9:30 p.m. The public can purchase these until about an hour before the ceremony.

The white bag luminaria are $10. Gold bag with stars are $25. Tribute Torches are $50.

With teams set up in the infield of the track, there should also be entertainment, although a band is still being lined up.

“We’ve got Zumba planned,” Bright added. “We will also have a womanless beauty pageant.

Some of the teams will be offering food, ranging from hot dogs to steak plates.

Bright said this year’s event needs volunteers. Even the night of the event could help in future Relays, she said.

“If anyone is interested, please call me,” Bright said. “If anyone is interested in helping just with the day-of activities, that’s fine. Or, if they want to volunteer to help on the committee, that would be wonderful. Any way we can get help, I will take it.”

Her telephone number is 252-559-0026.

At this point, Bright said she had only one Pamlico County committee member. Runnell King is the event co-chair, who lives in Bayboro.

She is excited about some of the team leaders, such as Vanessa Gaskins, a breast cancer survivor. She has three aunts and her mother who are also survivors.

“I am really excited that she is involved this year,” Bright said. “Hopefully, she will be able to pull a younger crowd in to get excited about it.”


Week of April 2, 2014


County Tackles $1.5 Million Deficit

Pamlico News Staff

 

BAYBORO - When Pamlico County Commissioners received a 380-plus-page preliminary budget packet prior to Monday’s special work session, they quickly saw their work - cut a $1.5 million deficit.

Many of the board members went no further than pages 5 through 7, which contained $533,000 in county departmental requests under the heading Capital/Major Projects/Supplies Request.

By the end of the hour-and-a-half morning session, they had identified nearly $300,000 in items that could be cut, adjusted or deferred to the future.

County Manager Tim Buck presented a budget with nearly $16 million in expected revenues, countered by requested expenses of $17.2 million.

Among the requests for increases were those of the Pamlico public schools, with $256,000 in increased spending requests for current expense ($89,340) and capital ($167,096.) The commissioners did not address the schools, pending an April 21 formal presentation.

Buck told the board that one possible adjustment was to increase the projected jail lease beds revenue from its conservative budget amount of $700,000 upward toward what the past two year’s rentals have produced - $1 million-plus.

That adjustment could be put to use to address jail and sheriff’s department requests later in the new fiscal year when “trends” show the potential bed lease income for next year.

The new fiscal year 2014-15 begins July 1.

The budget calls for about $210,000 for county employees to receeive a 2 percent cost of living hike totaling $100,000 and the cost of health insurance premiums, about $110,000.



Candidate Forum Set for Tuesday

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

 

BAYBORO – A public forum is scheduled next week for all Pamlico County candidates in the 2014 elections, which includes some races in the May primary and others in the November general election.

The forum is being sponsored by The Citizens Involved in Government, or CIG.

The April 8 forum will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Pamlico County Court House.

According to GIG Vice President Darryl Gibbs, producing the forum will aid people in making their own decisions for whom to vote. It will be accomplished by allowing the audience to ask questions of the candidates.

“Mainly it’s because there are a lot of senior citizens and there are a lot of citizens who don’t know the candidates,” said Gibbs. “Also some people will need ID cards by 2016.”

The Citizens Involved in Government (CIG) states their objective as identifying and resolving problems “within the community that can be solved through the political process and other means.”

Gibbs said CIG has been in existence for almost 3 years. There is a board of 15 members, who must go before the board to be admitted. Gibbs is the vice president; Monica Gibbs (no relation) is the president; Sandra Hawkins is the secretary.

“The reason for this forum is to let the people know what the candidates are saying,” said Gibbs. ”A time for each speaker can not be determined until we know how many we have, but we can say we’ll give them around 15-20 minutes,” said Gibbs. “All the candidates are welcome.” 

Gibbs said each candidate will introduce themselves and let the public know what they are offering to the community. The audience will have a chance to question candidates about issues they have and ask candidates how they can resolve them.

The forum comes five weeks in advance of the May 6 primary, which will decide the fields for several November races, as well as serve as the general election for the school board.


Wet, Cold Weather Deals Blow to Local Farmers

By Martha L. Hall

Pamlico News Staff

 

The weather is always in the farmer’s eye, especially this time of year.

Coming off a cold, wet winter, early spring has not been much kinder.

The forces of nature affect a major segment of the local economy.

The total value for crops in Pamlico County in 2012, according to the state Department of Agriculture web state, was $23 million. That value ranked 49th among the state’s 100 counties.

Farmers are at a time now when wheat is still in the ground and they are preparing to plant corn.

 “I don’t know that wheat has been affected much,” said Daniel Simpson, agriculture and horticulture agent for the NC Cooperative Extension. “Corn is a little late right now and they’ve had some problems with potatoes. It just depends on when they get it planted.”

He said corn was usually planted by mid-April.

 I think a lot of folks were hoping to plant by this week but they’ve got to wait for the soil to warm up and it a little bit drier to get out there,” he said. “Other than the wheat, there’s nothing in the fields. It’s just a matter of waiting for it to warm up and dry up enough for them to plant corn. The only two crops I see out there field-crop-wise now are the wheat and rapeseed.”

Soybeans are a crop that doesn’t usually get planted until May.

“There’s probably a good chance they will be fine,” he said.

   Al Spruill, who farms off N.C. 55 near Oriental, plants 900 acres of winter wheat, 1,300 acres of corn, 100 acres of soybeans and 100 acres of sorghum. And, because the wheat is a winter crop, the weather conditions are not worrying him so much.

Spruill looked over his wheat crop Friday and spoke from long experience.

“Weather doesn’t affect winter wheat as much as other crops,” he said. “It will fare pretty good. It has had enough rain, so it is time for it to start doing its thing. It’s ready for some dry weather. It is going to delay it, but I can’t say how much damage I think has happened to it.”

The corn crop is straddling the fence.

“We would like to be planting corn now, but we’re not late,” he said. “But neither the weather or the (soggy) field conditions are right at this time. We won’t plant any corn this week. Normally we start planting corner the last week of March until the 10th of April. We’re not late, but the weather and the field conditions have got a lot of changes to do before we can get started.”

Spruill has farmed his entire life, just like his father and grandfather did. He received a degree in agriculture from N.C. State.

The land has become a family tradition. He has two sons who help on the farm.

His 21-year-old daughter is a senior at State and plans to get her graduate degree in animal sciences; his 18-year-old son will be attending State next fall and will major in accounting/agricultural business. Spruill said his 16-year-old son had not made a decision yet.

Jim Holton, who grows strawberries in the Olympia community, said the weather has “slowed” the natural process.

The cool weather slows the growing.

He produces an acre of strawberries for self-picking. They are put in the ground in early October, with a normal harvest the third week of April.

“Hopefully it will survive this cold,” he said. “It depends on how warm it gets. If the weather straightens up, we might have some the latter part of April.”

 He has covered some of the plants and has sprayed water on the rest of them in the hopes that the forming ice on the plants to protect the leaves. He said an acre will produce five or six tons of berries.

For more information on crops on the web: www.ncagr.gov/stats