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A Jump Start for New North Carolina Farmers

As the interest in locally produced foods grows, an increasing number of young people are looking to make a living farming the land.

Allison Kiehl with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy says there is a great need in North Carolina to have a successful flow of farmers producing local foods. But she says there are many challenges including the high price of land, which often is prime for development, “Agriculture is one of the biggest economic producers in our state, and farmers are aging and in a lot of cases they don’t have children that want to take over the farm, and sometimes the best option is to sell to development.”

The conservancy’s Farmer Incubator Program is initiating new agricultural businesses in North Carolina by offering new farmers access to land and equipment at reduced rates. Kiehl says farmers in the program also are given support, training and tools to help them run their businesses.
Second Cut: Land outside of Asheville protected by a conservation easement by the conservancy is also helping young farmers.

Gaining Ground Farm is leasing the land, and owner Anne Grier says they’ve doubled their production and expanded their Community Supported Agriculture Program. She says it provides stability because they can plan out what and how much they need to grow for the year, “The people pay ideally between now and March for produce that they’ll be getting from May until October, so it just helps us know what to grow in what volume, so it’s just a very secure thing. ”

The incubator program has allowed Matt Coffay of Second Spring Market Garden in Asheville to expand their CSA year round. He says they have more greenhouses for use, which has increased their winter food production. And aside from providing fresh, local food, he says the CSA is building community, “CSA is the pinnacle of story building with food. You’re able to actually build a relationship between an individual member of a CSA and an individual farmer, and that relationship can last for years.”

The incubator program was launched last year, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Haywood County Commissioners seek public input on Emergency Management ordinance

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners is reviewing its Emergency Management Ordinance to consider public input, and to ensure that it conforms to contemporary local, state and federal laws.

In advance of a future public hearing, citizens are encouraged to make written comments on the ordinance, either by mail, email to the Haywood County Manager’s Office, 215 N. Main St., Waynesville, NC 28786; or email Comment@haywoodnc.net. Written comments may also be delivered in person to the County Manager’s Office, which is located on the third floor of the Haywood County Courthouse, directly behind the Historic Courtroom.

In calling for a review of the Emergency Management Ordinance, Chairman Mark Swanger stated during the Jan. 20 board meeting that he believed all provisions of the ordinance are carried out under existing local, state and federal law, but that some sections may benefit from simpler language or sentence structure.

“In order to have more meaningful public input, I would recommend comments not be limited to the public hearing, but that written comments be accepted as part of the process,” Swanger said.

The deadline to submit written comments is 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 27. Copies of the Emergency Management ordinance are available online under Ordinances in the Main Menu of the Haywood County website, www.haywoodnc.net, or from the County Manager’s Office.

For questions or more information, call the Haywood County Manager’s Office at 452-6620.

Waynesville Police: Man pulls knife, pepper sprays security at store

An Old Fort man is facing several charges after police allege he stole merchandise from K-Mart in Waynesville then pulled a knife on security, pepper sprayed one of them and was later found with drugs.

Jackson C. Whisnant, 37, of 122 Parker Padgett Road, Old Fort, was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery and possession of methamphetamine after an incident at the store on Dec. 20.

According to Waynesville police reports, Whisnant stole several items from the K-Mart on Russ Avenue and after being confronted by the store’s security, Whisnant pulled a knife.

According to statements made by the security team, Whisnant pulled a knife from his pocket after he was seen putting several items into his pockets and being asked to come back inside.

Two security personnel grabbed the suspect in an attempt to unarm him. Whisnant allegedly yelled “I will kill you, I will kill you” to the two men trying to take the knife.

After a short scuffle, in which Whisnant allegedly assaulted one of the men, Whisnant also sprayed pepper spray into one of the security guard’s eyes.

Police arrived to find Whisnant fleeing from his truck in the parking lot. Police said Whisnant was shirtless, due to the scuffle and wearing two pairs of pants, one of which was stolen from the store.

After being taken into custody, police found pepper spray in Whisnant’s pocket. Whisnant said the guys assaulted him causing him to retaliate with the pepper spray.

Police then found several plastic baggies containing a “clear/white in color crystal substance” stashed in the hood of Whisnant’s truck, where police believe he was trying to hide it upon their arrival.

The substance tested positive for methamphetamine, the police report said.

Whisnant was taken to Haywood County Detention Center where he remains on $50,000 secure bond.

Appalachian Trail remeasured, total is 2,189 miles

Re-measurements and relocations of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) have brought the total mileage of the footpath to 2,189.2 miles, an increase of 3.9 miles from last year’s mileage of 2,185.3. This mileage is carefully documented in the trail’s official guidebooks, which include the Appalachian Trail Data Book and the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion. Both books are published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Every year, the latest mileage and shelter information is updated from volunteers who are constantly improving the Trail, with volunteer Daniel D. Chazin of Teaneck, New Jersey, leading the efforts since 1983. This year, more than half of the changes in the mileage are in southwest Virginia, with 2 miles added to the total following a re-measurement by volunteers.

Increases were also reported in New York-New Jersey (0.1 mile); central Virginia (0.1 mile); Tennessee-North Carolina (1.5 miles); and North Carolina-Georgia (0.2 mile).

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s guidebooks are invaluable planning resources for any Appalachian Trail hiker, whether they are out for a day hike or hiking the entire length from Maine to Georgia,” said Laurie Potteiger, information services manager for the ATC. “These guides contain the latest information from volunteers who measure, maintain and manage the Trail and those who hike it regularly.”

Current editions of official A.T. guidebooks and maps are available from the Ultimate A.T. Store at www.atctrailstore.org or by calling 1.888.287.8673.

Calls Today to End Corporate Influence in Elections

Protest events are planned around the nation today to mark the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling by the US Supreme Court. The ruling removed limits on the amount of money an independent organization can spend on political campaigns.

Adam Sotak with Democracy North Carolina says the result is that millionaires and billionaires have greater influence over elections at every level of government, “We the people need to be in the driver’s seat of our elections, not wealthy special interests who are able to hide behind shadow groups and spend exorbitant amounts of money.”

A recent report on campaign spending on Senate races by the Brennan Center for Justice found that since Citizens United, spending by outside groups has doubled. In 2014, North Carolina’s Senate race received attention for the most outside money, with groups spending $80,000,000.

Stephen Spaulding with the nonpartisan group Common Cause, says political campaign spending from undisclosed sources topped $170,000,000 dollars in 2014, and was more than $300,000,000 during the 2012 presidential election, “And we’re well over $500 million money that is untraceable, that has been dumped into our elections, that otherwise likely would not have been spent, but for Citizens United.”

Spaulding says the impact of Citizens United could be reduced or even eliminated with tougher disclosure laws for independent campaign spending. He also thinks lawmakers should support a constitutional amendment giving Congress and the states the power to regulate campaign spending and require full disclosure of its sources.

Residents May Face Fire Tax

No correlation just a coincidence—that’s what Chuck Wooten, County Manager says about the talks to levy a fire tax for the Glenville-Cashiers and Cullowhee area residents. This comes just after Macon County Commissioners discussed asking Jackson County to pay them $160,000 annually for emergency services they offer to home owners in the Highlands area.

The homes are located in Jackson County but without a substation in the area, it takes emergency services from Jackson County nearly 25 minutes to reach the homes in question. Macon County emergency services reaches those homes in about 5 minutes.

Glenville Cashiers and Cullowhee Fire Departments have consistently stated that they cannot continue to rely on the expectation of contributions to cover the majority of their budget through fundraisers and donations.

County dollars are distributed to the departments using a base rate plus additional monies for each substation, a total of $1.5 million. Closing the gaps in Cashiers and Cullowhee would require more taxes.

Due to Lower property values in Cullowhee, residents there would face higher tax than required in Cashiers-Glenville to meet the community fire department’s requirements.

In late fall the county was approached by Highlands Fire Department about providing additional support to offset a portion of the costs to operate a new sub-station that would service a number of Jackson County homes and offer them a substantial reduction in homeowners insurance since they would be in their 5 mile response district.

The county was later contacted by a group of residents in the Cullasaja Club who are residents of Jackson County asking for support to Highlands.

Macon County has now followed up with a similar request. For years elected officials in both Macon and Jackson counties have debated where the county line between Cashiers and Highlands falls. With homes in the area valued at millions of dollars, 332 properties are located in the area in question. Although the properties are currently considered to be in Jackson County, the homes receive services from Macon County such as EMS, police, fire, and solid waste. Macon County estimates Jackson receives about $1.2 million annually in property tax revenue from those homes and they are requesting 13% of that number which comes to $160,000 a year to provide those services.

In an email Wooten says as the county is considering Cashiers and Cullowhee, the county thought it would be appropriate to add the Highlands area as well. Wooten says Randy Dillard, fire chief at Cashiers, supports this concept since these home are more easily served by Macon since Cashiers does not have access to some of these properties without going into Macon County and circling back into Jackson County.

The fire tax was proposed previously but dropped when a majority of the departments did not support the tax. A timetable projects extra taxes levied as soon as July. Before that could happen, residents would be notified by mail about the plan and a public hearing held. Commissioners could choose to establish seven fire service areas but tax only the two in question now.

Medicaid Expansion Not Yet Off the Table in NC

Despite opposition from some state lawmakers, Medicaid expansion is not off the table in North Carolina. At the start of the 2015 legislative session last week, Senate President Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) both dismissed the idea of expansion. But Governor McCrory has said he would be open to the idea if federal officials allow the state to develop its own plan.

Nicole Dozier with the NC Justice Center’s Health Access Coalition says it’s time for leaders to listen to the people, “Lawmakers are elected to serve the people who entrust that leadership in them. The leadership is saying there’s no case for it, they’re not convinced, but the counties they come from there are people there who say they do need it.”

Dozier says Medicaid expansion would extend health insurance to nearly 500 thousand people and would bring money into communities. And if it had happened in 2014, she says over 370 new jobs would have been created in Berger’s district of Rockingham County; and over 500 jobs in Moore’s district of Cleveland County.

Opponents of expansion say it would still increase the state’s already overrun Medicaid expenses, but Dozier argues the federal government would take on the bulk of the initial cost, “Lawmakers say that the Medicaid system is broken, it’s a big part of the budget and it is. But the system isn’t broken and any system can always be improved, and if you bring the federal dollars down you have the money to reform it.”

She adds the federal government has allowed flexibility in expansion. The majority of the 26 states that accepted federal funds last year did so through a state plan amendment option, or the continuation of a waiver.

TDozier says she’s heard from many people around the state who cannot afford health insurance, but need it for themselves and their families so they can stay healthy and live a productive life, “For folks to not be eligible for help because they make too little who work every day, who are in construction, and in home health industry, and food and beverage. Those are the stories that break my heart, the people who deserve access to health care.

At 24%, North Carolina has one of the highest rates of uninsured adults in the nation.

North Carolina Honors Dr. King through the Lens of Service

The life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be remembered and honored today through acts of service in North Carolina and around the country. The federal holiday became a national day of service in 1994.

Samantha Warfield, with the Corporation for National and Community Service, says every year, more and more people become engaged and want to give back to their community, “Young people have grown up in school learning about what Dr. King does through the lens of service, whether through service learning projects or through history lessons. And we hope that Dr. King would be proud of a day that’s named in his honor and the work that’s being done.”

Tag: In North Carolina, schools, universities, businesses, and community organizations are hosting service events around the state. Volunteers are doing a variety of projects including sorting donations at food pantries, delivering meals to home-bound individuals, creating care packages for the homeless, and cleaning up neighborhoods.

Natasha Wayne with the United Way of the Greater Triangle says they are hosting nearly 40 projects today throughout the area. She says the day allows groups and organizations to step outside of their own mission and join others in common cause, “MLK Day is a day of service allows everyone to come together and further the vision and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, helping us to transform our community into a stronger, more powerful place.”

Wayne says engaging children and students in the MLK Day of Service can lead to a lifetime of giving back to their community, “Oftentimes the problems that we face as a community feel very overwhelming, but it’s important to help, particularly students, understand that every little bit that you do is helping. That way they kind of grow up with that and then feel part of their community from the beginning.”

According to a recent report, North Carolinians contributed nearly $5,000,000,000 of service through more than 211 million hours of volunteering in 2013.

Cherokee Woman Charged in Stabbing Death of Husband

Cherokee Indian Police Department officers responded to a stabbing call at a residence on Calhoun Road in the Big Cove Community at approximately 9:20pm on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Upon arrival, officers found that Henry Bradley, a 45 year old male, had suffered a laceration wound to his abdomen. He was transported for medical attention by Tribal EMS. Bradley died a few hours later at Memorial Mission Hospital.

Bradley’s wife, Pattie Calhoun-Bradley, 42, has been charged tribally with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury. Additional charges are pending.

Volunteers donate more than 200,000 hours to maintain AT

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is pleased to announce that for fiscal year 2014, 5,617 volunteers reported 241,936 hours to maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for hikers to use. Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T., resulting in a volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.

The number of hours reported, which is the second highest since 1983, reveals a loyal commitment to the trail despite a government shutdown in October 2013 that resulted in volunteers being unable to work on National Park Service or U.S. Forest Service lands. Despite this sequestration, volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 116 full-time workers and contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor, monitoring and removing invasive species, supporting teachers in the Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) program and assisting A.T. Communities near the Trail.

ATC volunteers represent 31 A.T. Maintaining Clubs and Trail Crews; Visitor Center and regional office volunteers; and participants in additional ATC programs, such as TTEC and the Appalachian Trail Community program. Though trail maintainers are perhaps the most visible, volunteers also participate in many other activities, from community outreach to local, regional and trail-wide management efforts.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy exists because of the generosity, talents and support of our volunteers – they are the very soul of the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, executive director of the ATC. “The impressive number of volunteer hours reported for fiscal year 2014 illustrates a continued dedication to the preservation and management of the trail.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/volunteer.

Texas Hearing Has Implications for North Carolina’s Immigrants

North Carolina is among states involved in the national battle over immigration reform, with a court hearing today in Texas on a lawsuit filed over President Obama’s executive action. About two dozen states, including North Carolina, are seeking an injunction against the plan, claiming it’s unconstitutional.

But Hector Vaca with Action NC says removing the threat of deportation for certain undocumented workers, students and their parents – which is what the president’s order does – is vital for future financial stability, “This would also mean more people would be able to come out of the shadows and contribute to the local economy by purchasing. And it would also means stronger workers rights for immigrants and for everybody else. The governor and the 25 states that are suing, it sounds to us like they just don’t understand it.”

An estimated 120,000 people in North Carolina would qualify for the president’s executive action, which Vaca says would generate about $170,000,000 in tax revenue in five years.

Vaca says this battle playing out in the courts again points to the need for Congress to act on comprehensive, just and realistic immigration reform. He says another benefit, beyond the economic impact and the impact on these families, is that North Carolina’s roads would be safer, “If these people could get this executive action, they would be able to qualify for driver’s licenses, which means more people would be buying car insurance, therefore more people would be insured on the road.”

Under Obama’s executive order, up to 5,000,000 immigrants would be eligible to stay in the country under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs.

Petco pulls China-made food, treats from shelves

Petco has begun the New Year by quickly fulfilling one of its main resolutions — Removing all dog and cat treats made in China from its store shelves and website.

The past few years have brought headlines of tens of thousands of American pets becoming ill after eating Chinese-produced pet food; and over 1,000 pets have actually died after consuming these contaminated treats.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate the link between pet sickness and treats made in China, Petco has made good on its promise to remove these treats from its 1,300 stores across the nation as well as its website. Vets from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have faced this issue before and speak to the history of problems with pet treats produced in China as well as the ongoing efforts to provide American pets with safe food. Here are some answers to questions that may surface from these new headlines:

Is Petco the only retailer to pull Chinese-produced pet foods?

While Petco is the first to pull Chinese-produced pet treats, it has been reported that PetSmart, Inc is going to follow in its footsteps and pull these treats later in 2015.

How can pet owners make sure the food they are giving their pets is safe?

While further investigation is underway about China-made chow, the safest bet is to purchase domestically produced pet food and treats. A vet will be able to give pet owners safe and appropriate recommendations for their pet’s diet.

What are some of the symptoms to lookout for in case pets have eaten these treats in the past?

While the investigation into these treats is still underway, the FDA has advised pet owners that symptoms can include: vomiting, decreased appetite and movement, increased urination, and water consumption. Some of the more severe symptoms have led to the diagnoses of kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding and pancreatitis.

For more information about pet food safety, visit www.AVMA.org

Jackson County Landowners Work with LTLT to Preserve Parkway Viewshed and Create Conserved Land Corridor

(Franklin, NC)—104 acres of forested land in the viewshed of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Jackson County are now conserved thanks to two local landowners and The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee. LTLT worked with landowners Joan Byrd and George Rector to conserve the tract of land in the Bo Cove area of Speedwell, near Cullowhee. The owners donated a conservation easement on their property, which LTLT holds in trust.

This is the second conservation easement that Byrd and Rector have donated to LTLT. The first was a 40-acre tract in the same area, donated in 2006. The new 104-acre easement connects the Nantahala National Forest to the original 40-acre easement, creating a corridor of conserved lands. The newly conserved tract includes miles of forested streams, including a portion of Bryson Branch. The conservation easement permits forest management, small-scale agriculture and the construction of one home, but ensures that the land will not be subdivided or used for a high-density residential or commercial development.

Byrd, a retired professor from Western Carolina University, and Rector, a potter, reside in Cullowhee and are passionate supporters of conservation in western North Carolina. “We both wanted in some way to help preserve the historical, rural character of Jackson County,” said Rector, who himself grew up on 30 acres of farmland in Andrews. “This is one of the fastest growing counties in the region, and as the population increases, it is essential to protect the resources that people will demand in the future: farmland, clean water and healthy forests.”

John Culclasure, LTLT’s Land Protection Manager, was particularly pleased to work on this project. “This project conserves over a mile and a half of forested streams, whose cool waters are important for fish and other aquatic life. The diversity of forest community types is important for wildlife, and the adjacency to the national forest ensures critters have room to roam. George and Joan have made a tremendous contribution to conservation in Jackson County. ”

This project was made possible thanks to funding support from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

LTLT is a regional non-profit dedicated to conserving the land and waters in the six far-western North Carolina counties and northern Rabun County, Georgia. LTLT employs 12 staff members who work to sustain quality of life and economic vitality in the mountains

Gov. McCrory’s Financial Ties Questioned in Ethics Complaint

As he enters the second half of his term this week, Governor Pat McCrory is facing allegations of ethics violations. Progress North Carolina Action filed an ethics complaint against the governor, accusing him of failing to disclose ownership of stock in Duke Energy, failing to report income from Tree.com, and failing to report he was on the board of Tree.com.

Progress North Carolina Action executive director Gerrick Brenner says it shows a pattern of omission and incomplete answers that covers up conflicts of interest, “This is not some mid-level bureaucrat in state government who failed to report rental income. This is the chief executive of the ninth largest state in the country who campaigned on transparency and open and clean government, and his ethics forms are a mess.”

McCrory has previously denied any wrongdoing, and when questioned about the complaint at a news conference Monday, the governor said it would be inappropriate to respond to what he called ‘a left-wing, very closed-eyed group.’

The complaint also alleges discrepancies in how the governor describes his relationship with the firm McCrory and Company. Brenner says public documents and the firm’s own website describe the governor as a “partner,” while McCrory has only described himself as a “consultant.” “Calling himself only a consultant, he doesn’t have to answer key questions on the Statement of Economic Interest which would reveal and acknowledge that McCrory and Co. has business dealings with the state, which raises concerns about other conflicts of interest.”

Brenner says it’s a felony to intentionally fail to disclose financial interests on Statements of Economic Interest, and adds that he hopes the State Ethics Commission launches an investigation.

World’s best young Elvis’ performs Jan. 31 at WCU

Travis LeDoyt, acclaimed by critics as “the world’s best young Elvis,” will bring his tribute to the king of rock ‘n’ roll to Western Carolina University Saturday, Jan. 31, in honor of what would have been Presley’s 80th birthday.

LeDoyt will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. at WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, as part of the 2014-15 Galaxy of Stars Series. Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935.

Paul Lormand, director of the Bardo Arts Center, says there are five reasons why LeDoyt wins accolades as the top young Elvis.

“He looks like Elvis, he sings like Elvis, he moves like Elvis, his personality and mannerisms both on and off stage are strikingly similar to Elvis, and he sells out nearly every show,” Lormand said. “To those people who think they have seen it all when it comes to Elvis tribute acts, this is the one that makes them do a double take. There is simply no way to describe Travis and his performance except ‘unbelievable.’”

LeDoyt captures the essence of Elvis in his prime, and restricts his shows to the hits and ambience of 1954 through 1962, Lormand said. Utilizing a three-piece band featuring guitar, bass and drums, LeDoyt takes his audience back to the fun and excitement of a 1950s Elvis concert, he said.

“For those who missed seeing an Elvis concert during those years, it is a chance to relive the excitement and aura of an Elvis show and the fun and energy experienced by the audiences,” Lormand said.

LeDoyt has been selling out shows and receiving accolades from audiences from around the world. He has been on four tours in the United Kingdom and has performed in Hong Kong, China, Chile and Canada.

Tickets for the WCU show are $21 for adults ($15 in groups of 20 or more), $16 for WCU faculty and staff members, and $7 for students/children of any age. Contact the box office at 227-2479 or at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

Turn that gift card into a gift, soon

Gift cards you got over the holidays should be considered cash that needs to be spent, and sooner rather than later.

If you set a gift card aside planning to use it in the future, you could be out of luck. The store could go out of business, or close the location near you making it more difficult to shop. You could misplace the card, or forget that you have it.

Gift cards can also lose their value over time. By law, gift cards are good for 5 years from the date of purchase. But merchants can begin charging a monthly inactivity fee if the card hasn’t been used within a year after it was bought.

Don’t let that happen. Instead, turn that little plastic card into a little something for yourself, as soon as you can.

Get more information about gift cards, and if you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly by a merchant, file a consumer complaint with our office at www.ncdoj.gov or call us toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-NO-SCAM.

AMBER Alerts on Facebook

The North Carolina Center for Missing Persons, which issues AMBER Alerts in this state, welcomes a new partnership with Facebook to help find missing children.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children joined with Facebook to send AMBER Alerts to the social network’s community to help find missing children. Facebook’s distribution system will send AMBER Alerts to user’s News Feeds.

“Getting detailed information to the public quickly improves dramatically the ability to find an abducted child,” said Lt. Jeff Gordon, director of the N.C. Center for Missing Persons. “When the community is able to report sightings of the child, the suspect or the vehicle, especially in the first few hours, law enforcement are better able to find and recover the child safely.

Facebook authorities say that for most people, the alerts will be rare because they will only go to people within the designated search area. If a Facebook user does get an alert, it means there is an active search for an abducted child going on in that area. The alert will provide the critical information needed to potentially help reunite a child with his or her family.

Last year, an 11-year-old girl was safely recovered after a South Carolina motel employee recognized a photo of the girl in an AMBER alert she saw on Facebook. The woman called the police, and the child was found unharmed. Similar word-of-mouth efforts inspired Facebook to develop a more systematic way to help find missing children.

The AMBER Alert system issues media alerts when a law enforcement agency determines that a child was abducted and is in imminent danger.

Here’s how Facebook will complement existing AMBER Alert distribution systems:

1) Reach – Facebook’s distribution system will get the AMBER Alert to everyone who is logged into Facebook (on both mobile and desktop) during the alert if they are within the designated search area as specified by law enforcement.
2) Comprehensive Information – the alert will include important details about the child such as a photo, description, location of the abduction, and any other available information that can be provided to the public to aid in the search for the missing child.
3) Community Involvement – the Facebook system enables people to share the alert with friends and link to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for the most up-to-date information about the case.

AMBER Alerts are a child abduction alert system that started in the United States in 1996. AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas.

The decision to declare an AMBER Alert in North Carolina is made by the N.C. Center for Missing Persons. Information in an AMBER Alert usually includes the name and description of the abductee, a description of the suspected abductor, and a description and license plate number of the abductor’s vehicle.

Off Duty State Trooper Saves Three from Freezing Water

untitled-34Choosing to be a law enforcement officer, on occasion, can require those making that choice to place their own life in danger so that others may be saved. On Friday, January 09, 2015, Trooper Christopher J. Matos demonstrated this by placing his own life in harm’s way.

Trooper Matos, while off duty in his personal vehicle, was traveling west on John Green Smith Road in Lenoir County. Trooper Matos observed a passenger vehicle traveling east on John Green Smith Road, start to slide uncontrollably on the icy roadway. The passenger vehicle traveled off the roadway onto the right shoulder, overturned within a creek, and came to rest upright. Trooper Matos turned his vehicle around after observing the vehicle leave the roadway and proceeded to the collision scene. Upon arrival, Trooper Matos observed the passenger vehicle partially submerged within the creek, filling with water.

Without hesitation, Trooper Matos entered the frigid water to render aid. While in the water, Trooper Matos noticed the vehicle’s front passenger window had been partially rolled down. After swimming around to the passenger side of the vehicle, Trooper Matos assisted a 14 year old child out of the vehicle’s front passenger window. Trooper Matos then climbed partially within the vehicle and assisted the female driver in unbuckling her infant child from a child seat. Trooper Matos then removed the infant out of the vehicle and placed the child into the care of another motorist who had stopped to render assistance. The female driver was also removed from the vehicle by Trooper Matos and assisted to the bank.

Trooper Matos accompanied the mother and her two small children to a nearby home where they were treated by emergency medical personnel for mild hypothermia. The selfless actions of Trooper Matos and those who assisted assured the safety of the mother and her small children.

Park Sees 10 Million Visitors

More than 10 million people visited The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2014. It’s the fourth time in the park’s 80 year history.

According to the park, visitation in 2014 was just over 10,099,000. That’s an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Also, camping at the park’s developed campgrounds increased by 14 percent over 2013 and backcountry camping increased by 11 percent.

Overall visitation in 2014 was higher than 2013 for nearly every month, but July and August were especially strong and October had its highest visitation in 27 years.

The record for highest visitation ever in a year was in 1999, when 10,284,000 people visited the park.

EPA to discuss Benfield cleanup plan Tuesday

On Tuesday, Jan. 13, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public meeting about plans to clean up residual soil contamination at the Benfield Industries, Inc. Superfund Site in Waynesville, N.C. The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Haywood Vocational Opportunities Building located at 172 Riverbend Street in Waynesville.

Residual soil contamination associated with the Benfield Site has continued to adversely impact groundwater since the original site cleanup activities were completed in 2001. The contaminants that have continued to be detected in the groundwater are associated with creosote, and their concentrations are above EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Levels for drinking water. EPA has determined that these pose an unacceptable risk to the community due to the potential future use of the groundwater under the site as a potable source. No adverse impact on the ecosystem was identified.

EPA is proposing a two-step plan to clean up this residual contamination. First, hydrogen peroxide will be introduced into the groundwater to oxidize the contaminants into less harmful chemicals. Next, EPA will use microorganisms characteristic of the area to metabolize contaminants found in the soil, converting them into harmless end products. EPA estimates it will take three months to complete construction at a cost of $968,000. It is anticipated that the cleanup goal will be achieved within one to two years following construction.

EPA is soliciting public comments on the plan for 30 days beginning Jan. 13. A copy of the proposed cleanup plan and associated documents will be available as of Jan. 13 in the Administrative Record, housed at Town of Waynesville City Hall at 16 South Main Street.

Written comments should be submitted by Feb.12, 2015, to bornholm.jon@epa.gov or:

Jon Bornholm, EPA Remedial Project Manager

US EPA Region 4, Superfund Division

61 Forsyth Street SW

Atlanta, Ga. 30303

Community members interested in obtaining additional information about the Site are encouraged to contact Kerisa Coleman, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator, toll-free at 1-877-718-3752 or directly at 404-562-8831 or coleman.kerisa@epa.gov.

The Benfield site occupies approximately 3.5 acres of a six-acre parcel along Riverbend Street, and was used for industrial purposes from 1904 until a fire destroyed they facility in 1982. Benfield Industries, Inc. began mixing and packaging bulk chemicals for resale at the property in 1976. Ten above-ground storage tanks of varying capacity (1,000 to 10,000 gallons) were located on the property, including two 10,000-gallon capacity creosote storage tanks and an 8,000-gallon methanol storage tank. Spills were reported to have occurred in the vicinity of these tanks. Other chemicals reported to have been stored on-site include: lacquer, paint thinner, de-natured alcohol, acetone, xylenes, toluene, and unused oil.

The Benfield site was proposed for the National Priorities List (NPL) in June 1988 and was finalized in October 1989. Site cleanup activities began in 1997 with the on-site treatment of approximately 23,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. Following the soil cleanup effort, a groundwater extraction system was installed. All construction activities at the site were completed in 2001. Between 2001-2007, the extraction system pumped out over 22 million gallons of groundwater which was treated through the town’s sewer system.

More information about the Benfield Industries Superfund Site: http://www.epa.gov/region4/superfund/sites/npl/northcarolina/benflnc.html