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Sylva Bridge Park Makes Finals In Competition

You might be aware that a public place in your community (Sylva’s Bridge
Park) was entered into a statewide contest, the “Great Places in North
Carolina – People’s Choice: Great Public Place” contest, hosted by the NC
Chapter of the American Planning Association.
Not only that, but that Public Place was selected from a larger pool as one
of seven finalists to move forward to the online voting component!

Now, The Sylva Bridge Park is facing off against 6 other Public Places. The
Place with the most votes by 5pm on May 9th is the winner and will hold the
title of “2014 People’s Choice: Great Public Place!”

Visit www.greatplacesnc.org to view more information about the contest and
VOTE for your community. Just look for People’s Choice – Great Public Place
on the website.

Winning communities receive a framed certificate (usually presented at a
function like a concert, Council meeting, movies on the green, etc), are
recognized state-wide in various events and are able to use the award to
promote their Town. Finalists were chosen based on the online entry – the
judges were looking for Great Public Places that are not just a main Street,
but also a Great Place that acts as a gathering place for the community and
an example to the rest of the state.

Anyone can vote!

NC Retains it’s AAA Rating

NorthCarolinaSealIt was announced this week that North Carolina retained its “AAA” rating by all three agencies, the highest credit rating available to state governments. Keys to the rating according to Fitch Ratings include a low debt burden, strong debt management practices, an improving economy, and one of the strongest pension funds in the nation. “It’s great news that North Carolina has retained its ‘AAA’ credit rating,” said Governor McCrory. “Our attention to efficient spending practices, cash flow and low debt continue to prove that the state is financially stable. Our prudent and effective financial practices continue to provide a strong signal to companies thinking of relocating to North Carolina or those thinking of expanding.” North Carolina is one of 10 states in the country to have the highest rating by all three agencies, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings. “One of my top priorities is protecting the state’s ‘AAA’ bond rating,” said State Treasurer Janet Cowell. “That rating keeps financing costs low and it signals to businesses looking to locate here that we are a state that’s solid. I appreciate the strong partnership we have with the governor’s administration and General Assembly in continuing conservative debt management and in funding our pension obligations, which are key to this top rating.”

 

Internship Applications Available

NorthCarolinaSealThe Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office within the Department of Administration announced that they are accepting additional applications for the 2014 State Government Internship Program for select projects. The program has 6 remaining paid internship projects in Raleigh and Pine Knoll Shores. Internships would start May 27 and end on August 1, 2014. Application deadline is postmarked by April 21. The 2014 State Government Internship Project Booklet describing all rules and available opportunities is now online. The State Government Internship Program offers students real-world experience in a wide range of state government workplaces. Internships provide opportunities for students to work in their chosen field and to consider careers in public service. More than 3,600 students have participated since the program was established in 1970. Paid summer internships are available in locations across the state. They provide North Carolina students with compensated professional work experience that integrates education, career development and public service. Opportunities exist in numerous recognized fields of study, from accounting to zoology, and interns will also participate in seminars, tours or other activities designed to broaden their perspective of public service and state government. Interns will earn a stipend of $8.25 per hour and work 40 hours per week for 10 weeks in the summer. For more information, please visit the Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office online or by phone at 919-807-4400. Information is also available in campus career services or cooperative education offices.

NC-CDL Registeration Deadline

NCDOT LogoNorth Carolina has about 35,000 commercial driver license holders who have still not certified their driving to the N. C. Division of Motor Vehicles by next week’s deadline. During the past two years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has required all CDL holders to certify to NCDMV whether they drive interstate or intrastate and for what purpose. If required, they must also provide their current DOT medical card to NCDMV. The final deadline for contacting NCDMV with this information is April 10, 2014.  About 312,000 North Carolina drivers hold commercial licenses. To date, more than 277,000 drivers have reported their medical status to NCDMV. Commercial drivers must provide medical information that they are certified to operate a commercial motor vehicle or their North Carolina commercial driving privilege will be downgraded, allowing them to drive a Class C regular motor vehicle only. Commercial drivers with questions about complying with the requirement are urged to call (919) 861-3599.ext

WCU Student Killed in Car Accident In Greensboro

A 22-year-old Western Carolina University student was killed in an automobile accident Thursday night in Greensboro. According My Fox 8 TV News In Greensboro the student was killed when her car was hit head on by a driver driving west on the eastbound lanes of I-40 near the Wendover Avenue exit around ten fifteen last night. The student has been identified as 22-year-old Reagan Hartley who was scheduled to graduate next month from Western Carolina University with her degree in elementary education. Hartley was from the town of Willow Springs NC and a 2010 graduate from West Johnston High School. She was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
The driver of the S U V has been identified as 46-year-old Ronnie Fichera. Police said Fichera entered Greensboro on I-40, exited the interstate at the High Point Road exit leading officers around Four Seasons Mall and reentered the interstate again driving west in the eastbound lanes. He struck the convertible about a mile down the highway. Greensboro police were not involved in the pursuit but are investigating the crash. Units were called to assist when Randleman Police initiated the pursuit. “It’s a tragedy, there’s no way around that,” Lt. C.M. Shultheis said. “I don’t know what goes through a drivers mind when they are trying to elude police. I don’t know what the level of impairment was, the driver may not have realized he was going the wrong way.”
540 A-M WRGC Radio shares the grief with the entire University family with the death of this aspiring teacher who is described by her student teaching supervisor “as having all the qualities for being a really great elementary school teacher.”

NCDVA

DVA-logoThe North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs, is collaborating with the NC Division of Motor Vehicles and the Motor Vehicle Network to build awareness for veterans’ services. This interagency partnership is an example of how the NCDVA is reaching veterans across North Carolina. The MVN is a closed circuit television network located at 124 Driver’s License Offices statewide that broadcasts messages to DMV patrons. The pilot project of the new NCDVA veteran outreach effort has the potential to reach many veterans and their supporters. Current messaging provides veterans with information about the NC Women Veterans Summit and Expo to be held on April 17, 2014 at the North Carolina National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh. There, women veterans will have direct access to information and services offered by NCDVA and many others. For more information visit www.ncdot.gov/dmv.

Deadline “Reasonably Achieved”

food-stampShawn Rogers is one of the thousands of needy North Carolinians caught up in what was a massive backlog of food stamps cases. He, his wife and four-year-old son have been waiting since December for help, when their food stamps were up for renewal and the family moved to Alamance County from neighboring Guilford County. The family’s months-long wait comes despite a deadline Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture set for all backlogged cases to be processed. N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos announced Tuesday afternoon that the deadline had been “reasonably achieved” with only 375 pending cases left in the state. As of Tuesday, Rogers, who is on disability because of psychological issues, said his food stamps benefits card was still showing a $0 balance. He has turned to area food banks for donated canned goods and family members who buy him meat to help supplement the family’s diet.

ACLU Pushes Mandate

ACLUThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina sent letters yesterday to 23 sheriff’s departments across the state who to date have failed to produce documents that show they are complying with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act . Among the mandates for jails and detention centers is a requirement that inmates under the age of 18 be housed separately from adults – a chief concern in North Carolina, where 16 and 17 year olds are treated as adults by the criminal justice system. The ACLU-NC sent letters to North Carolina sheriffs on January 16, 2014, asking for policies and documents related to their compliance and offering assistance in preparing proper guidelines for the treatment of youthful offenders in custody. Of those offices that responded by April 1, 23 said they had no documentation about the compliance, prompting yesterday’s follow-up letter. Among the 23 counties in North Carolina who received a follow-up letter were Haywood and Swain county.

Voter Suppression Law

voteA federal court has ordered North Carolina state lawmakers to release some e-mails and other documents related to the passage of the state’s sweeping voter suppression law. It also rejected North Carolina’s argument that legislators have absolute immunity to keep their documents from the public.  The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a motion to compel the release of that information after lawmakers refused to do so citing “legislative immunity.” ”North Carolinians have a right to know what motivated their lawmakers to make it harder for them to vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Legislators should not be shrouding their intentions in secrecy. The people deserve better.” Immediately after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the voter suppression bill into law last August, the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed their legal challenge. The suit targets provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit “out-of-precinct” voting. The groups charge that enacting these provisions would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. ”Today’s ruling is good news for every North Carolinian who values integrity and transparency in our elections,” said Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “The public has a right to know how and why officials drafted legislation making it harder for North Carolinians to vote, and with today’s ruling, we can hopefully get to the bottom of those questions.” The case, League of Women Voters of North Carolina et al. v. North Carolina, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. It was brought on behalf of several North Carolinians who will face substantial hardship under the law, and on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, and Unifour Onestop Collaborative, whose efforts to promote voter participation in future elections will be severely hampered. ”Defendants have resisted at every turn disclosing information about their reasons for enacting this discriminatory law.  Today’s ruling will help ensure the court has a fuller picture of why the voting changes at stake are so bad for North Carolina voters,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice attorney Allison Riggs. The court will hold another hearing to determine whether other categories of documents will be released. The court’s order is available at acluofnc.org.

Troxler Announces Hemlock Restoration

NCDACSSeal_4colorAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler today announced the allocation of seed funding for a new effort to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health. Hemlocks across Western North Carolina are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that sucks the sap of young twigs, which leads to tree death. Dead hemlocks can negatively affect nesting songbirds, trout populations, plant nurseries and landscapers, homeowners and tourism. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will use $100,000 from the state’s legal settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to start the Hemlock Restoration Initiative. Troxler made the announcement at a meeting of the General Assembly’s Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission at DuPont State Recreational Forest. “We can and must do more to restore hemlocks on public and private lands as soon as possible,” Troxler said. “Our goal is to ensure that, by 2025, Eastern and Carolina hemlocks in North Carolina can resist the adelgid and survive to maturity.” Troxler said many people, groups and agencies already are working on promising approaches to return hemlocks to long-term health. These include the search for naturally resistant trees, testing of predator beetles that eat adelgids, and efforts to bring in resistance from similar tree species. “We are focused on speeding up the most promising ideas, not reinventing the wheel,” he said. The department has selected WNC Communities as its primary partner to implement the project. The Asheville-based nonprofit organization has experience in grants management, project development and using partnerships to achieve goals that benefit the region. “WNC Communities can bring together the right mix of researchers, funding organizations and others to make sure we use the best efforts to return hemlocks to long-term health,” Troxler said. The program will include efforts to convene researchers to share solutions, provide funding to advance the most promising approaches, and attract additional resources to expand these efforts in the future. As past president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Troxler also will be working with his colleagues in other states to bring more resources to the table. “Hemlocks can be found in 25 states, and state boundaries are meaningless to the adelgid,” he said. “We need to work across state lines to bring together the best people and resources to solve this problem.”

Food Stamp Deadline

NorthCarolinaSealNorth Carolina may have new troubles meeting a deadline from federal regulators demanding that backlogged food stamp applications be cleared. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos told a General Assembly oversight committee Wednesday social service offices had appeared on track to resolve the roughly 500 applications by next Monday. But now she’s worried news of additional pending applications in Guilford County could put a damper that goal. Wos says the Guilford applications hadn’t been entered into the state’s computer system for determining eligibility for government services. She didn’t immediately have a number on the additional household applications. The state met a deadline last month from the U.S. Agriculture Department to handle most pending applications or potentially lose funds to administer the program. Now USDA wants the remaining applications resolved.

NC Food Stamps Back-Log

ncsealcolorNorthCarolinaSealJust a week after North Carolina’s health secretary said it would be difficult to erase a backlog of outstanding food stamp applications by the end of the month, she now says it’s possible. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos said Wednesday the backlog is just over 1,000 cases, down from about 1,700 a week ago. She says she expects to meet the March 31st deadline set by federal regulators. The state already met a Feb. 10 deadline to handle more than 20,000 applications and renewals pending for more than 90 days. The U.S. Agriculture Department had threatened the loss of $88 million to continue administering the program unless the deadline was met. It still must resolve applications older than 30 days and emergency requests for assistance older than seven days.ncsealcolor

Poison Prevention Week

0511_prescription-drugs-500x333The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently named poisoning as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. This week marks National Poison Prevention Week, which urges the public to check their homes for hidden poison dangers. Kate Carr– President of Safe Kids Worldwide– says there has been an increase in the number of grandparents living with their grandchildren full-time, which means kids may have easier access to medication. North Carolinians are encouraged to safely dispose of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs as part of the fifth annual Operation Medicine Drop.For more information visit www.ncdoj.gov It’s time to clean out those medicine cabinets! North Carolinians are encouraged to safely dispose of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs as part of the fifth annual Operation Medicine Drop. This is just one of the prescription drug take-back events being sponsored across the state during National Poison Prevention Week, which runs through Saturday. Kate Carr– President of Safe Kids Worldwide– says that older adults tend to take more medication than younger adults.  Approximately 52.8 million total doses of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs have been turned in since Operation Medicine Drop started in 2009.

DENR Duke Energy Lawsuit

de_logoInternal emails between staff at North Carolina’s environmental agency show state regulators were coordinating with Duke Energy before intervening in efforts by citizens groups trying to sue the company over pollution leeching from its coal ash dumps. In February, DENR Secretary John Skvarla refuted reports the department intervened. The emails show a Duke lobbyist contacted the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where staff exchanged messages discussing “how Duke wants to be sued.” The emails were provided Thursday to The Associated Press by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which had filed notice in January 2013 of its intent to sue Duke under the Clean Water Act. The agency used its authority to intervene in the lawsuit, quickly negotiating a proposed settlement where the billion company would pay a ,100 fine but be under no requirement to stop its pollution. This information comes on the same day Democrats at the North Carolina legislature say Duke Energy should be forced to move all of its coal ash to lined landfills away from water and make shareholders – not customers – pay for the cleanup. House and Senate Democrats unveiled Thursday the framework of a bill they intend to introduce when the General Assembly reconvenes in May. They want Republicans in charge of the legislature to join them given last month’s coal ash pond rupture along the Dan River. Durham Democratic Representative Paul Luebke says the spill is Duke’s responsibility.

Litter Free NC Campaign

LitterFreeNClogo-150hState officials want to get rid of the litter on North Carolina roads, and save taxpayer dollars to clean up the mess. State troopers and the Department of Public Safety have started an education and enforcement campaign called “Litter Free NC.” Patrol spokesman First Sgt. Jeff Gordon says one issue involves unsecured loads being blown to the sides of the road. The effort will include highlighting the harm litter causes to the environment, wildlife and public safety. The state Department of Transportation says it spent more than a million to remove about 7 million pounds of roadside litter last year. Law enforcement is stepping up this way to stomp put littering on the highways. Kick-Off Litter Free NC Highway week across the state, which is a combined enforcement and education effort to reduce the amount of trash which winds up on roadsides. There are penalties for tossing those cigarette butts and soda cans. The Department of Public Safety and the State Highway Patrol  are cracking down on offenders. Patrol first sgt. Jeff Gordon littering is costly.

Tag & Tax Together

dmv_frontpage_tagtax_pageUnder a new North Carolina law, the DMV now collects vehicle property tax and license plate renewal fees at the same time…in one bill. Lawmakers say the “Tag and Tax Together” program will increase county revenues.   While Wake County says it’s seeing 1.9 million dollars less, they say western counties are expecting an improvement.   Haywood County leaders say revenue collection rates have increased from the mid to high 80′s to the low 90′s. They say while there may have been some initial inconvenience, the benefits outweigh any costs.  Surrounding counties say the Tag and Tax program is working out fine. But Swain County says it’s having to issue refund checks to Cherokee residents living on the Reservation who’ve paid for vehicle tags so they can drive…when…as Native Americans, they’re exempted from the tax.

NC To Designate Veterans On License

Example Of NC-DL

Example Of NC-DL

Beginning this week, qualified North Carolina military veterans will be able to carry the designation “VETERAN” on their driver licenses and identification cards.Thanks to a law passed by the General Assembly, veterans who have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces who present their DD-214 discharge form can apply at a driver license office for the new designation. Veterans who are interested in applying for the designation should take their DD-214 discharge form to their local driver license office to show they been honorably discharged. They can request the designation be added to their license at their next renewal at no additional charge.

Duke Energy Coal Ash Ruling

de_logoA North Carolina judge says Duke Energy must take immediate action to eliminate the source of groundwater pollution at its coal ash dumps. The ruling stems from legal action taken by the Southern Environmental Law Center in 2012. Frank Holleman, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said “there is no way the current status will protect the environment”. A statement issued from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said “these interpretations were made under the Perdue administration”. Wake County Judge Paul Ridgeway says state regulators failed to properly apply the law.  The group asked the Environmental Management Commission to force Duke to take immediate corrective action when groundwater problems were discovered at the state’s 32 ash dumps. But the commission ruled against the environmental group in December 2012 and they appealed the ruling. The judge’s ruling comes a month after a massive coal ash spill from a Duke facility in Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge.

Sen. Nesbitt Funeral Scheduled Tuesday

Mark Nesbitt

Mark Nesbitt

Members of the General Assembly are pausing to remember Sen. Martin Nesbitt who died Thursday after being diagnosed last week with stomach cancer. Wake County Sen. Josh Stein says “Nesbitt was one of the kind”. Funeral services are scheduled in Buncombe County. Nesbitt died just three days after he relinquished his post as Senate Minority Leader due to the illness. Wake County Sen. Josh Stein says “Nesbitt was an advocate for the environment”. Nesbitt’s funeral will be held Tuesday afternoon at Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, with a private burial to follow. A visitation will be held before the service at the church.

Report On Unmanned Aircraft

Unmanned Aircraft

Unmanned Aircraft

The Office of the State Chief Information Officer presented a report to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology Thursday that supports the safe and responsible use of unmanned aircraft systems by local and state governments.  A working group led by the State legislative oversight committee Office and the Department of Transportation developed the report as directed by the General Assembly in the 2013-14 budget. The UAS Working Group included representatives from local government, state agencies, and universities. The report states Unmanned aircraft present a significant economic development opportunity for the state in partnership with Research Triangle Park, the technology sector, the agricultural industry, and colleges and universities. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates a UAS industry could create nearly 1,200 jobs and $600 million in economic activity in NC by 2025.