Author Archive for Heather Hyatt

N.C. Forest Service offers advice to landowners interested in treating ash trees for emerald ash borers

In two years, the emerald ash borer has become a notorious pest in North Carolina. From its first appearance in the state in 2013, it has already left a trail of dead ash trees in its wake, and it continues to spread, prompting a statewide quarantine in September.

But, there are options for homeowners and landowners or land managers interested in protecting individual trees. “Treatment options are available, but because of the cost and accessibility of trees in a forest, it is simply not feasible to treat large forested areas,” said Rob Trickel, head of the N.C. Forest Service’s Forest Health Branch. “However, treatment of a few individual trees may be worth considering for some homeowners or landowners.”

Options for the urban or landscape/ornamental ash tree include removing the ash tree, replacing the ash tree, or keeping the tree by treating it with pesticides.

For those interested in keeping their ash trees around, NCFS has developed an Emerald Ash Borer Insecticide Guide. The guide was developed to assist even the newest of pesticide users with selecting and treating their ash trees, covering common questions concerning tree identification, what pesticides can be used and how to make a pesticide application. The guide can be found online at www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/pdf/EAB_NCPesticidePub.pdf

The guide lists 17 pesticides for EAB treatment that have been registered through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Pesticide Section and also have been tested in field trials through universities or government agencies.

Homeowners may also want to contact a certified arborist if they are uncertain about applying pesticides themselves or if their tree is large. “Generally, it is worth hiring an arborist if you want to protect ash trees larger than 20” in diameter, but arborists can serve any size tree,” Trickel said.

To calculate your tree’s diameter, measure the width in inches around the tree at 4.5 feet above the ground. Divide that number by 3.14, and that will give you your diameter at breast height.

Another consideration is the cost of treatment. That is often a complicated issue, depending on many factors. There is an online calculator available through Purdue University that may assist landowners in making the decision. You can find it at http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/treecomputer/.

Using the calculator will give you a side-by-side comparison of the cost to remove, remove/replace and treat with different pesticides. The calculator is free, but users must register a user name and password. “Generally speaking, the developers of the calculator assert that in most cases, it is more economical to protect ash trees with pesticides than it is to replace them,” Trickel said.

For more information related to the research and science behind selecting an appropriate insecticide, the North Central Integrated Pest Management Center developed a publication, Insecticide Options for Protecting Ash Trees from Emerald Ash Borer. It is as extensive guide that answers many common questions. To learn more about insecticides for emerald ash borer, go to www.emeraldashborer.info/files/multistate_eab_insecticide_fact_sheet.pdf for this online publication.

For additional resources regarding ash trees in the urban environment, visit the N.C. Forest Service’s Managing Emerald Ash Borer in Urban Areas page at www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/forest_health_eab.htm. The Pesticide Guide is posted there, along with other tools to help in the identification and decision making process.

The N.C. Forest Service and the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division continue to monitor the emerald ash borer. If you suspect you have the insect, please contact your county ranger, call the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division hotline at 1-800-206-9333, or email information to at newpest@ncagr.gov.

An Apple a Day: Heirloom Apples Protected by Land Conservancies

The saying – “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – dates back to 1860, but the roots of some heirloom apples in North Carolina date back even farther.

Gary McCurry and his son own Fox Gap Farm in Burke County and are harvesting their first crop of organic, heirloom apples this year. “The taste kind of jumps out at you on some of these heirloom varieties. They’re really flavorful, they have strong taste. To eat a tree-ripened fruit of any variety, heirloom or not, you’re going to have a much better experience than you are to eat one that’s green in the middle, that never really did tree-ripen. ”

McCurry is donating his crop to Fonta Flora Brewery to brew a craft beer that will help raise money for the Foothills Land Conservancy. While Fox Gap Farm specifically planted heirloom apples, the fruit is also scattered on many abandoned homesteads, often protected by land conservancies. Heirloom apples grow specifically well in the mountain climate.

Doug Hundley with the NC Extension Service often works with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to hunt for heirloom apples on conservancy land, with much success, “These apples are everywhere in western North Carolina where these land trusts are so active and these are farms that are homesteads that were pioneered between 1800 to 1900.”

Hundley says heirloom apples often outlive the people who plant them, “They are the apples our ancestors grew in America starting in the 1600’s and the country survived on them until the supermarkets took over our food supply. ”

In addition to being better tasting, heirloom apples can be more nutritious than newer varieties because of their amount of vitamins and lack of potentially harmful chemicals or fertilizers often used in large-scale production.

National Forests in NC update on closures and travel warnings

All campgrounds, day use areas and some roads on the Croatan National Forest remain closed.

The following recreational areas have reopened to the public after being closed due to severe weather.

Pisgah National Forest:
Brown Mountain Off-highway vehicle trail
Black Mountain Campground
Carolina Hemlocks Campground
Mortimer Campground
Briar Bottom Campground
Curtis Creek Campground
Curtis Creek Road (FS RD 482)
Steeles Creek Road (FS RD 282)
There is still a barricade on FSR 288 at the low water crossing at the Pigeon River.

All visitors are encouraged to be aware of possible non-announced closures in the event of rock slides, or fallen trees. High-water levels and rapid flows on all rivers and streams are occurring within the National Forests in North Carolina. Swimming, wading, and boating in rivers, streams with high-water are highly discouraged. While beautiful to see during high-water events, waterfalls can be very dangerous. Please stay on trails and abide by all posted signage. Please be aware of your surroundings and travel with caution.

International Bluegrass Music Association Honors Local Asheville Venue

At an awards luncheon in Raleigh, NC, Lilliana and Scott Woody, owners of the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall, were awarded the Momentum Award for Best Festival, Event, or Venue by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

“We’re very humbled by this,” Lilliana Woody said. “When they called out our name, we were shocked. It makes us very proud of what we have accomplished as a family and with our staff.”

From its start, the venue has been a home for bluegrass, says Woody. The music hall has seen performances by many local musicians as well as internationally renowned acts like Del McCoury, Sam Bush, David Grisman and the Lonesome River Band. The Isis also hosts a regular bluegrass session and jam every Tuesday evening.

The Isis opened at 743 Haywood Road in October 2012 and quickly gained acclaim from both audiences and performers for exceptional sounding performances. The music hall is host to intimate seated shows of 170 people or standing shows for a crowd of 480.

Haywood County Rape Arrest

Anthony Avante Thompson - PicasaA 23-year-old Asheville man was arrested early Wednesday morning and charged with raping a 20-year-old female acquaintance in her Clyde home Sunday.

Anthony Avante Thompson was arrested at 1620 Brown Avenue in Waynesville and charged with Felony Rape. He is being held on a $60,000 secured bond.

WCU Homecoming Kicks Off October 21st

Homecoming 2014 cheerleaders“Purple on the Prowl!” will be the theme as the Western Carolina University community comes together to celebrate Homecoming 2015, with major public events planned over a five-day period – Wednesday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 25.

Events include comedy and country music shows featuring nationally known performers, a golf tournament, the traditional parade down Main Street in Sylva, a performance by WCU’s Inspirational Choir, and a football game pitting the Catamounts against the Samford Bulldogs.

Scheduled for Oct. 21 is a Homecoming Comedy Show featuring Colin Jost, one of the stars of NBC’s iconic “Saturday Night Live.” Jost, who is currently SNL’s “Weekend Update” host, will be joined by comedians Jose Barrientos, Chloe Hilliard and Kevin Yee. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. Student tickets, free with a valid Cat Card, are available at the information desk of A.K. Hinds University Center. General admission tickets are $10 and can be purchased at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu or 828-227-2479.

Activities set for Thursday, Oct. 22, include the “Last Lecture” delivered by Vicki Szabo, WCU associate professor of history, at 4 p.m. in the theater of the University Center. The annual event honors a WCU faculty member who has been recognized by students for teaching with great passion and enthusiasm. Szabo will address the topic “Scholars, Warriors, Cowards and Fools: Fear and Learning from Rome to Raleigh.”

A Homecoming concert featuring rising country star Hunter Hayes will begin at 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Hayes is a four-time Grammy nominee and was named New Artist of the Year in 2012 by the Country Music Association. Advance tickets are $20 for WCU students and $25 for all others, and all tickets are $25 on the day of the show. Tickets are available at ramsey.wcu.edu or by calling 828-227-7722.
Events on Friday, Oct. 23, begin with the annual Alumni Scholarship Homecoming Golf Tournament at 11 a.m. at Maggie Valley Golf Club. The cost of $100 per person includes golf, one mulligan and two raffle tickets. RSVPs are required by Friday, Oct. 16, to WCU’s Office of Alumni Affairs at 877-440-9990 or 828-227-7335, or by emailing bbusby@wcu.edu.

Also on Oct. 23, WCU’s Homecoming Parade will begin at 6:15 p.m. in downtown Sylva. University alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends are invited to cheer as community and student floats, Catamount cheerleaders, the Homecoming Court and the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band march and roll down Main Street.

Activities on Saturday, Oct. 24, will begin with the Chancellor’s Brunch and Alumni Awards Ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center. Honorees are Teresa Williams, former chair of the WCU Board of Trustees, Distinguished Service Award; Keith Ramsey, professor of medicine at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, Academic Achievement Award; Michell Hicks, former principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Professional Achievement Award; and Brandon Robinson, an attorney in Durham, Young Alumnus Award. The cost is $15 per person and business attire is requested. RSVP by Oct. 16 by calling the Office of Alumni Affairs or by emailing magill@wcu.edu.

Football tailgating will begin at noon Oct. 24, and Catamount fans will gather at E.J. Whitmire Stadium at 3:30 p.m. for the Homecoming game versus Samford. Halftime activities will include recognition of the Homecoming award winners and court, plus an announcement of this year’s Homecoming king and queen. Tickets to the game are available from the WCU athletics ticket office at 800-344-6928.

Postgame activities will include the African-American Alumni Reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Peele, Westmoreland Suhre, Hartshorn Hospitality Room at the Ramsey Center. RSVP by Oct. 16 by calling the Office of Alumni Affairs or emailing magill@wcu.edu.

Homecoming 2015 activities will conclude Oct. 25 with the WCU women’s soccer team’s match versus Samford at 2 p.m. at the Catamount Athletic Complex and a concert by WCU’s Inspirational Choir in the University Center Grandroom at 3 p.m.

After the Storm, Watch Your Wallet

Scammers are known to follow in the wake of natural disasters. They may claim to be able to fix damage done by the storm, or seek contributions to fake charities to help storm victims.
After a disaster, guard against home repair scams:

Don’t pay for work up front. Inspect the work and make sure you’re satisfied before you pay. A small down payment may be required for some projects, but don’t pay anything without getting a written contract. Avoid paying with cash.
Beware of any contractor who tries to rush you or comes to your home to solicit work. If an offer is only good now or never, find someone else to do the work. Seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had work done on their homes.
Get three written estimates, if possible, and compare bids. Check credentials and contact our office and the Better Business Bureau to learn about any complaints against the contractor. Get a written contract detailing all work to be performed, costs and a projected completion date, and get their certificate of insurance directly from their insurance company.

To help storm victims, make sure your donations will do the most good by avoiding charity scams:
Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to give, and be wary of social networking pleas for donations. Fraudulent messages may look legitimate and use the name of real charities.
Watch out for pushy telemarketers, and say no to high-pressure appeals. If a caller refuses to answer your questions about the charity, offers to pick up a donation in person, or calls you and asks for a credit card, bank account or Social Security number, donate elsewhere.
Before you make a donation, do your homework first. To report a charity scam, call the Attorney General’s Office. To check up on a charity, call the Secretary of State’s office toll‑free at (888) 830‑4989.

For more tips and information, visit ncdoj.gov. If you spot a storm scam, call Attorney General Roy Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or file a complaint online.

Friends of the Smokies & Appalachian Trail Conservancy Partnership Benefits Trails

During the fall, visitors enjoy hiking and camping along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). On the trail wildlife can pose a threat to hikers but visitors can continue to keep themselves and wildlife safe by keeping their packs out of reach of black bears, thanks to a grant that Friends of the Smokies received from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

For the fifth year, the ATC has made wildlife health and backpacker safety a priority in GSMNP. ATC provided $5,000 from its specialty license plate funds to support bear management at campsites and shelters along the trail. The A.T. is a national park unit spanning from Georgia to Maine with more than 70 miles of trail in GSMNP.

The best thing for park visitors to do is to keep food and garbage away from bears to preserve their wild behavior. “Food storage is crucial to helping us best protect bears in the backcountry,” said GSMNP wildlife biologist Bill Stiver. “By repairing damaged cables quickly, we can ensure that backpackers have the opportunity to properly store food which helps us keep backcountry campsites safe and available for use.”

Each backcountry campsite and shelter in the park has a cable and pulley system which allows backpackers to lift their food and packs out of the reach of black bears, providing a safe environment for hikers and animals. Using the grant funds from the ATC, the GSMNP staff promptly identifies bear management needs, including repairing cable systems, which become damaged by the elements and normal use over time.

Friends of the Smokies and ATC have continued to work together over the years because of their shared interest in providing hikers and backpackers a safe place to experience the outdoors. The partnership and support extends beyond bear cables to the renovation of many backcountry shelters along the A.T. in the GSMNP as well as addressing trail maintenance and hiker safety.

“Our partnership aims to improve the visitor experience and protect the natural resources of two great national park units,” said Holly Demuth, North Carolina director of Friends of the Smokies. “We can and have achieved great things when we work together.”

Website Ranks Maggie Valley as 2016 Best Value Small Town

Every year trivago.com analyzes cities across the US to reveal the year’s 50 Best Value cities and this year they also included America’s Best Value Small Towns.

This year, Maggie Valley was ranked No. 9 in the U.S.

Durham and Greensboro were also recognized as two of America’s Top 10 Best Value Cities, ranking 11th and 13th respectively.

A domestic travel trend is emerging. American travelers are craving small town comfort and charm, according to trivago.com data.

Travel interest to towns with fewer than 50 hotels has been on the rise throughout 2014 and 2015, as Americans continue to seek out less crowded and more budget- friendly destinations.

Luckily, whether traveling “small” or merely economically, losing out on quality doesn’t have to be an issue in the US. As trivago’s Best Value Index (tBVI) shows — calculated using the annual average price of a standard double room and the city’s average hotel rating* — America’s small towns and mid-sized cities offer the best value for the buck.

Former High School Coach Injured in Fatal Accident

Former Smoky Mountain football coach Lionel Brooks and his wife are recuperating after a fatal automobile accident which occurred over the weekend on Cowee Mountain.

A car driven by Kevin Kent Spurely, 57, of Conley, Ga hydro-planed and hit them head-on. Spurely was pronounced dead at the scene.

Law enforcement said some factors to the wreck include Spurely exceeding a safe speed limit for the conditions. At the time of the accident there was heavy rain and standing water on the road. Investigators said Spurely had unsafe tires on the rear of his vehicle.

Lionel, 74, and Linda, 66, are the parents of Franklin football coach Josh Brooks and Panthers athletic director Jay Brooks.

Lionel and Linda Brooks are both currently receiving treatment at Mission Hospital in Asheville.

Lionel Brooks was Smoky Mountain’s coach from 1990 and 1996. He was a defensive coordinator under former coach Boyce Deitz.

Man Arrested for Weekend Murder in Cherokee County

OriginalAccording to Cherokee County Communications shortly after 8:30 P.M. Sunday night they received a call for assistance at a Peachtree Community address.

The caller stated there had been a domestic dispute and a man had been shot.

Officers said upon arrival EMS provided services to the man shot, but the attempts made to provide lifesaving measures were not successful for the victim, Michael C. Davis, 30.

During the investigation a search warrant of the residence was completed and several items were seized as evidence.

Cherokee County arrested Kelvin Wayne Blaylock, 59, for murder. He was taken to the Cherokee County Detention Center and is being held without bond.

N.C. Teams Provide Flood Aid to S.C through EM Assistance Compact

North Carolina is sending help to its southern neighbor in response to an aid request from South Carolina emergency management officials as rain continues to pummel the Palmetto state.

“With the traumatic flooding occurring in South Carolina, I’ve directed North Carolina’s Emergency Management officials to provide as much logistical support as they need from us,” Gov. Pat McCrory said. “Our state has sufficient personnel and supplies to keep North Carolinians safe if conditions warrant.”

Four North Carolina Helo Aquatic Rescue Teams (NC HART) will deploy Sunday evening to help rescue stranded residents and motorists who are trapped in the rising flood waters. Stationed in Salisbury, North Carolina, each team is comprised of three to five rescue technicians and National Guard pilots and crew who train monthly to maintain their certification.

“Given North Carolina’s experience with severe flooding, we’re keenly aware of the critical need for experienced search and rescue teams,” said Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry. “We will do all we can to help our southern neighbors as they face unprecedented flooding.”

The NC HART combines the expertise of local rescue technicians with the training, maintenance and capabilities of the N.C. National Guard and N.C. Highway Patrol Aviation Units. Nearly 60 highly trained technicians are positioned throughout the state working routinely as first responders or emergency medical technicians with local fire or EMS teams. When called upon, the technicians are paired with a helicopter crew from the National Guard or State Highway Patrol and together, they form one of the specialized NC HART teams.

The highly-specialized teams were used extensively following hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2004 to rescue an estimated 350 residents from fast moving water and areas isolated when landslides cut off roads and escape routes. Since then, the teams also have rescued numerous stranded or injured hikers from remote mountainous regions. The NCHART program became one of the first of its kind in the nation to implement a regimented training and response program that combines the best civilian rescuers with military aviation assets.

“NC HART has been in operation for 10 years. It’s a great example of the partnership among the N.C. National Guard, Emergency Management, law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services. NC HART has rescued more than 70 people in its 10 years,” said Col. Brian Pierce, NCNG state aviation officer. “We’re going to get down to South Carolina as quickly as possible to help our neighbors during this disaster.”

Earlier today, South Carolina asked for the advanced search and rescue teams, as well as an experienced public information officer to help in their Joint Information Center.

“The Emergency Management Assistance Compact provides a coordinated relief effort for disaster stricken states ensuring that they get the right type of resources as the right time,” said state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “This helps to ensure the impacted state gets exactly what they need and not unnecessary resources that could complicate their response. This kind of coordination is a tremendous help to the emergency managers in the stricken states.”

The EMAC system was developed by state governors following Hurricane Andrew in Florida when critical resources were needed by the state of Florida, Sprayberry said. North Carolina has sent teams to help with numerous disaster response efforts including Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina and Alaska following flooding in 2007.

Haywood County Man Arrested on Drug Charges

On September 30th, 2015 Raymond Joseph Seay was arrested on outstanding warrants for the Sell and Delivery of a Controlled Substance, Oxycodone.

The U.N.I.T. initiated an investigation into Raymond Seay’s activity after he filed a report with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office on June 10th, 2015.

In this report he alleged that someone had broken into his home and taken several items inside, including his prescription pain medication.

Upon following up on this report it was determined that the report was filed based up fictitious information that was provided by Seay and that his prescription pain medications were not stolen.

It was also found that Seay, approximately 30 minutes after obtaining his new prescription took the pills, Oxycodone and immediately starting selling them.

During this investigation an Undercover Operation was also conducted and a controlled purchase of Oxycodone was made from Seay.

Upon his arrest on September 30th, 2015 Raymond Seay was found with a Trafficking amount of Oxycodone in his possession.

The U.N.I.T. along with all Law Enforcement Agencies in Haywood County are committed to identifying and addressing those who choose to misuse, sell, and deliver prescription drugs to members of our community.

Raymond Seay was placed in the Haywood County Detention Center under a $32,000 secured bond.

His court date was set for October 8th, 2015.

SMHS Science Teacher Selected For Presidential Award For Excellence

Amanda ClappAmanda Clapp, science teacher at Smoky Mountain High School, has been selected as a 2015 North Carolina State Finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). She is one of only four secondary school science teachers to receive this honor, and is now eligible to receive the national PAEMST award, the nation’s highest honor for kindergarten through twelfth grade math and science teachers.
As a state finalist, she will be recognized by the North Carolina Science Teachers Association at their annual conference in November, by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction at an awards ceremony in December, and by the North Carolina State Board of Education at their December meeting.
Up to two teachers from each state will receive the national award which will include participation in a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, a $10,000 award, and a Presidential certificate.
“We are very proud of Mrs. Clapp,” said SMHS principal, Jake Buchanan. “She is an exceptional teacher and this is a very deserving honor.”

Helpful Tips for the Severe Weather Situation

N.C. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency in all 100 counties in preparation for severe weather that is predicated to cause severe flooding throughout the state.

At a news conference at the North Carolina Emergency Operations Center, the governor said that weather systems, independent of Hurricane Joaquin, are likely to dump flooding rains on the state.

Hurricane Joaquin will increase rainfall totals should it make landfall in North Carolina. Presently, the hurricane is predicted to brush the Outer Banks.

The American Red Cross recommends the following steps as storms approach:

Downloading the free Red Cross Flood App to your mobile device. The Red Cross flood app sends location-based flood and flash flood watches and warning alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The app also includes tips on how assemble an emergency kit for your family in the event of a power outage or evacuation, an “I’m Safe” button to let loved ones know you are okay, and a real-time map to help you find the location of Red Cross shelters should you need to leave your home. The app has a Spanish language toggle switch and can be downloaded by visiting redcross.org/apps.

Creating and practicing a Disaster Plan: Talk to everyone in your household about what to do if a flood occurs. Decide where you would meet and who you would contact in case of flooding. Assemble and maintain an emergency preparedness kit. Be prepared to evacuate your family and pets at a moment’s notice. To locate the nearest Red Cross emergency shelter, check your flood app or visit redcross.org/shelter. Listen to area radio and television stations for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress.

Assembling an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Kits should contain a first aid kit and a seven-day supply of essential medications, foods that don’t require cooking or refrigeration and manual can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, copies of important documents like your insurance policies, cell phone chargers, family and emergency contact information, maps of the area and other emergency items for the whole family.
Heeding Flood Warnings: Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated flood information. A flood WATCH means flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area. A food WARNING means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.

Relocating During Flood Warnings: Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankle, stop, turn around and go another way. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.

Keep children and pets out of the water, as they are curious and can be harmed by flowing or contaminated water.

Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

For more information on what to do before, during and after a flood, please visit redcross.org/prepare/ disaster/flood.

Attorney General Roy Cooper has notified businesses and consumers that price-gouging laws are in effect.

“A hurricane shouldn’t be an excuse to rip off customers,” Cooper said. “Our strong law against price gouging in times of crisis helps protect consumers as well as legitimate businesses that play by the rules.”

Under a state of emergency declared today, the price gouging law is in effect statewide.

Price gouging—or charging too much in times of crisis—is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared or proclaimed by the Governor. The law also applies to all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer.

Cooper has enforced North Carolina’s price gouging law (NC General Statute 75-38) in the past to win thousands of dollars in refunds for consumers and penalties from violators.

“Most North Carolina businesses help their communities in times of trouble, but if you spot someone using this storm to try to justify price gouging, let my office know about it,” Cooper said.

Consumers can report potential price gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or by filling out a complaint form at www.ncdoj.gov.

Investigation into Infants Death in Haywood County

Amber-Lee-Harp-PicasaThe Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an infant death that occurred in the Lake Logan community Wednesday morning, September 30.
Deputies were called to 578 McClure Creek Road at around 8:30 a.m. as part of a medical call involving an unresponsive infant. The baby boy was pronounced dead at Haywood Regional Medical Center. An autopsy was performed this morning, and detectives are awaiting preliminary findings.

During the investigation, detectives charged 32-year-old Amber Lee Harp with felony possession of Schedule II controlled substance – amphetamine/methamphetamine. She was arrested at approximately 11:15 p.m. Wednesday and was released from custody in lieu of a $5,000 secured bond. Ms. Harp’s court date is slated for October 8.

The investigation is ongoing.

NC DHHS Reports First Flu Death of the Season

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state’s first death from flu for the 2015-2016 influenza season. An adult in the western region of the state died last week of complications from an influenza infection. (To protect the family’s privacy, the person’s hometown, county, age and gender are not being released.)

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family,” said Acting State Health Director Dr. Megan Davies. “We hope that by making people aware of this unfortunate case we will remind everyone that flu can be a serious disease and encourage people to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated.”

The CDC recommends yearly vaccination against the flu for everyone 6 months and older. “It’s not too early to get the flu vaccine. Getting your shot now will protect you through the entire season, so it’s important not to wait.” said Dr. Davies.

According to studies cited by the CDC there are several benefits from vaccination, including the following:

Protecting people who are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from flu, like older adults, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (including obesity) and young children.
Making illness milder if you do get sick and reducing the risk of more serious outcomes, like hospitalizations and deaths.
Protecting women during pregnancy and protecting their babies until they are old enough to get vaccinated themselves.
Other precautions you can take to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses include:
Staying home when you are sick until you have been fever free for at least 24 hours;
Washing your hands frequently, preferably with soap and water; and
Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discarding the tissue promptly.
For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.

New Provisions in State’s Motor Vehicle Laws Effective October 1

There are four new provisions under North Carolina’s motor vehicle laws that became effective today.

The new laws, passed by the N.C. General Assembly, affect either vehicles or drivers in the state. They include:

House Bill 6 (Session Law 2015-163) defines an autocycle. An autocycle is a three-wheeled motorcycle that has a steering wheel, pedals and seat safety belts for each occupant, antilock brakes, air bag protection, completely enclosed seating that does not require the operator to straddle or sit astride, does not require a motorcycle endorsement to operate and is otherwise manufactured to comply with federal safety requirements for motorcycles. A driver license is required to operate an autocycle. An autocycle has the same requirements for a vehicle inspection and vehicle registration as a motorcycle.

House Bill 350 (Session Law 2015-165) directs the Division of Motor Vehicles to restore the driver license of a person judged by the court to be restored to competency. This law requires the clerk of court to notify the Division of Motor Vehicles when a person is judged by the court to be restored to competency.

Senate Bill 90 (Session Law 2015-31) affects required brake light equipment. Vehicles manufactured after December 31, 1955 and on or before December 31, 1970 are required to be equipped with one stop lamp on the rear of the vehicle to operate on the state’s highways. Vehicles manufactured after December 31, 1970, are required to be equipped with stop lamps, ONE ON EACH SIDE of the rear of the vehicle to operate on the state’s highways.

Senate Bill 541 Session Law 2015-237) defines and regulates Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). A TNC is defined as any person or company that used an online-enabled application or platform to connect passengers with TNC drivers who provide pre-arranged transportation services. The legislation regulates TNCs by requiring a permit from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, maintenance of liability insurance and background checks for drivers. The legislation also requires a driver who also drives for a TNC to continue to carry liability insurance coverage while he/she is logged on to the TNC’s online-enabled application platform, but is not providing TNC service.

Last-Minute Legislation Jeopardizes SNAP Benefits for Thousands in N.C.

After taking months to iron out a state budget, North Carolina lawmakers are pushing through bills that could have just as big of an impact on citizens in the state. Among them is House Bill 318, which includes a provision that could impact the eligibility of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits for thousands of people in the state.

Specifically, the bill will prohibit the state from accessing federal waivers to the amount of time childless adults can receive the benefits and also impact any waivers offered in the future, explains Alexandra Sirota with the NC Budget and Tax Center, “You can imagine two, three years from now if we were were to have another Great Recession, the state would no longer be able to apply for this time-limit waiver to provide food assistance to those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.”

Currently unemployment is high enough for 77 of the 100 counties in the state to qualify for the waiver because of their unemployment rate. If Governor Pat McCrory signs the bill, as many as 105,000 North Carolinians would lose access to food benefits after July of next year. Supporters of eliminating the waiver argue that it is possible for people to find work to support themselves.

As lawmakers move to reduce access to food assistance, the unemployment rates in 72 counties have increased and Sirota says there is still not enough job-training assistance to help those who can’t find a job secure the training needed to make it in the workforce.

“The challenge, of course, is that in so many communities across the state, there are too few jobs and too few training opportunities to support those who want to work, who want to get the skills that are needed for work.” Sirota adds that the missing SNAP benefits will equal millions of dollars that won’t be spent in the local economy.

Unemployment Rates Again Down Year-Over-Year

From August 2014 to August 2015, unemployment rates fell in 91 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in 14 of the state’s 15 metropolitan areas. Over the same period, the size of the local labor force shrank in 56 counties and in 4 metro areas.

These findings come from new estimates released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“In many North Carolina communities, labor market conditions have been improving slowly on a year-over-year basis,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Yet the state’s ongoing, sluggish recovery increasingly is one that is concentrated in a few major metropolitan areas.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 2.2 percent more payroll jobs (+90,600). In August 2015, the state gained 700 more jobs than it lost (+/- 0.0 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,300 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 417,000 payroll jobs (+10.9 percent).

Between July and August of 2015, local unemployment rates fell in 86 of the state’s 100 counties, rose in 4 counties, and held constant in 10 counties. Individual county rates ranged from 4.6 percent in Buncombe County to 11.4 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 4 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 63 counties posted rates between 6 and 9.9 percent; 33 counties had unemployment rates between 4.6 and 5.9 percent.

“The combined August unemployment rate in North Carolina’s non-metropolitan counties was 5.1 percent,” noted Quinterno. “These 54 non-metropolitan counties are home to 21.9 percent of the state’s labor force. Compared to December 2007, non-metro areas have 4.1 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 30.5 percent greater. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 4.1 percent. In fact, non-metropolitan North Carolina has been responsible for the entire decline in the state’s labor force that has occurred since late 2007.”

Earlier in 2015, the Labor and Economic Analysis Division implemented new definitions of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties consistent with federal changes made based on the 2010 Census. With those updates, North Carolina now has 46 metropolitan counties and 54 non-metropolitan ones. Additionally, the state now has 15 metropolitan statistical areas, up from 14; the addition is the three-county New Bern metro area.

Between July and August, unemployment rates fell in 14 of the state’s metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (8.8 percent), followed by Fayetteville (8 percent) and Greenville (6.8 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.8 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (5.2 percent), Durham-Chapel Hill (5.4 percent), and Burlington (5.7 percent).

Compared to August 2014, unemployment rates in August 2015 were lower in 91 counties and in 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 56 counties and in 4 metros. The statewide labor force (unadjusted), meanwhile, was 2.1 percent larger (+98,296 individuals) in August 2015 than it was in August 2014.

All of the year-over-year growth in the size of the state’s labor force occurred in the three largest metro areas, which collectively added 112,419 persons (+4.4 percent). Among individual metros, Burlington’s labor force grew at the fastest rate (+8.9 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Charlotte (+7.1 percent) and Raleigh (+4.4 percent).

Decreases in labor force sizes occurred in Fayetteville (-9.7 percent), Jacksonville (-4.1 percent), and Goldsboro (-1.1 percent), while the size of Greenville’s labor force was basically unchanged.

With those changes, metro areas now are home to 78.1 percent of the state’s labor force, with 56.3 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

Improvements in North Carolina’s overall labor market are being driven by developments in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Over the year, unemployment rates fell in 4 of the 5 metro areas that constitute those regions and held steady in one. Collectively, employment in the 3 broad regions has risen by 9.8 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in August totaled 5.6 percent, as compared to 4.5 percent in December 2007. These regions also were responsible for virtually all of the employment growth that occurred over the year.

Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest August unemployment rate (5.5 percent), followed by Charlotte (5.8 percent) and the Piedmont Triad (6 percent).

In August, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 16,299 down from the 20,279 initial claims filed a year earlier (-19.6 percent). Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,047), followed by Wake (1,602), Guilford (1,037), Cumberland (642), and Forsyth (606) counties.

In August 2015, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $25.3 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $33.1 million received in August 2014. This decline (-23.6 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes that have restricted eligibility for unemployment insurance compensation.

“Labor market conditions in many North Carolina communities, especially the largest metropolitan ones, steadily have been improving on a year-over-year basis,” said Quinterno. “At the same time, the overall pace of recovery remains subdued, with conditions in non-metropolitan and small metropolitan places either worsening or stagnating.”