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October 16th Earthquake Preparedness Day

Governor Pat McCrory has proclaimed October 16 as Earthquake Preparedness Day and is encouraging North Carolina families, business and schools to practice how to protect themselves in an earthquake by using three simple steps: drop, cover and hold.
An estimated 100 million people felt the earthquake in Mineral, Virginia on August 23, 2011 that damaged homes and buildings in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

If you feel shaking, emergency management and earthquake officials recommended that you:

• Drop to the ground

• Take cover under a sturdy desk or table

• Hold on to the desk until the shaking stops.

• If there is no table or desk nearby, crouch in an inside corner of a building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.

• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, bookshelves, lamps, TVs, cabinets and other objects as much as possible. Such items may fall and cause injuries.

Do not get in a doorway. It is not safe and does not protect you from falling or flying objects.

Do not run outside. Running in an earthquake is dangerous. The ground is moving making it easy to fall or be injured by falling structures, trees, debris or glass. If you are outside during an earthquake, move to a clear area that is away from trees, signs, buildings or downed electrical lines.

McCrory encouraged North Carolinians to join the other Southeastern states and Washington, D.C., in the third Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake exercise, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10:16 a.m.

Families, businesses and schools can register their participation at www.shakeout.org/southeast. Participants will be notified of events in their area and receive regular information on how to plan their drill and become better prepared for earthquakes and other disasters.

More earthquake preparedness tips can be found online at www.ReadyNC.org. North Carolinians can also download the free ReadyNC mobile app – available for both iPhone and Droid devices – that provides real-time weather and traffic alerts plus readiness tips for a variety of emergencies.

State Health Officials Preparing for Ebola In NC

Aldona Wos leads the Department of Health and Human Services

Aldona Wos leads the Department of Health and Human Services

Secretary Aldona Wos said that the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Division of Public Health has been working closely with its public health partners and health care providers since July to prepare for the possibility that a patient in North Carolina might be diagnosed with Ebola. Over the past few months, extensive guidance has been sent to health care providers and procedures have been put in place to routinely screen and evaluate patients.

“North Carolina’s health care community is ready to identify and respond to a case of Ebola,” said Secretary Aldona Wos, M.D. “If a case were to occur in North Carolina, state and local health officials would rapidly identify everyone who was potentially exposed and take immediate measures to prevent further spread. Our public health professionals have extensive training and experience with this type of investigation and response.”

Public health officials are actively monitoring for cases using a variety of methods, including surveillance of emergency department visits and collaborating with a network of hospital-based Public Health Epidemiologists. DHHS’ State Laboratory of Public Health also has successfully established the capability to rapidly detect Ebola infection using procedures and materials provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Additionally, public health officials and DHHS’ Office of Emergency Medical Services have provided assistance to local EMS agencies with triage and treatment protocols for any potential Ebola patients.

“North Carolina has a strong health care system and a multi-faceted public health infrastructure,” added Dr. Wos. “I am confident in the measures in place and the strength of our system. The keys are for all health care providers to take full travel histories from their patients and for good infection control practices to be strictly applied.”

Ebola is only contagious after the onset of symptoms. The incubation period before symptoms may appear is 2-21 days, with 8-10 days being the most common. Ebola is spread through unprotected contact with blood or body fluids from someone who is infected. Anyone who becomes ill within 21 days after traveling to an affected area in West Africa should contact a healthcare provider right away and limit their contact with others until they have been evaluated.

In addition to the current Ebola virus preparedness response, DHHS’ Division of Public Health tracks and responds to cases and outbreaks due to other infections, including food-borne, vector-borne and respiratory diseases.

Keeping the Trick Out of Halloween Treats for Food Allergy Sufferers

gr-42236-1-1A bag of Halloween candy isn’t all treats for the one in thirteen U-S kids who suffer from food allergies, which is why one group is working to make this year’s holiday a little less tricky.

Angela Fuller founded Food Allergy Families of the Triad after her child was born with food allergies. She says she really appreciates people who distribute inexpensive items that aren’t going to exclude her child as they trick-or-treat, “Whenever people do offer food-free treats like little spider rings or bouncy balls, those are the things that our kids can enjoy and they get just as much enjoyment out of those things as kids do out of a Snickers bar.”

This year Fuller and other families will be looking for houses with a special pumpkin. The group Food Allergy Research and Education is encouraging houses who participate to paint a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and put it on the porch or doorstep, along with a sign indicating the house is allergy-safe. A free printable sign and more information is online at FoodAllergy.org.

Veronica LaFemina with the group “Food Allergy Research and Education” adds that food allergies can leave many children feeling left out, and she hopes the Teal Pumpkin Project will help create a more inclusive holiday, “It’s empowering for families managing food allergies to know that their neighbors and communities really want to make sure that their children are feeling involved and safe, and able to participate in the same way their friends can.”

Fuller says with candy being such a traditional part of Halloween, her group and others are working hard to realize there are other options that can be found at a comparable cost, “It’s really just getting our generation and previous generations to get on board and recognize that it wasn’t like this when we were kids but this is where we are now. ”

Because of cross-contamination risks for allergy sufferers and other safety concerns for all kids, experts remind parents to carefully inspect Halloween treats, and to set a “No Eating While Trick-or-Treating” policy.

No Guns at NC State Fair Rules Judge

NC_State_Fair-520x300If you’re planning to go to the state fair in Raleigh, leave your guns at home. A judge ruled Monday that concealed handguns will not be allowed at the North Carolina State Fair, a decision that disappointed gun-rights advocates who asked for the ban to be overturned.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said he believed “it would be unwise and imprudent to allow firearms into the State Fair.”
An attorney for the state argued that people just want to go to the fair, eat a fried Twinkie and enjoy the rides. The attorney warned that people often lose items while on rides.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as it has in previous years, said it plans to put up signs warning against lawful conceal carry at the 11-day event and will ask anyone with a weapon going through metal detectors at fair gates to leave it in their vehicle.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says he made the decision based on what he says is a vague 2013 law prohibiting people from carrying guns at events where admission is charged.

Gun-rights group Grass Roots North Carolina says there is nothing in the law that requires Troxler to prohibit guns. The group said it believes the commissioner is choosing to keep permit-holders from protecting their families.

Fair officials said they heard from dozens of people who said they wouldn’t attend the fair if concealed weapons were allowed. Troxler says the policy has nothing to do with being against guns or the Second Amendment but that it is about concerns of accidental discharge.

NC Drivers Beware of Deer

The arrival of the fall season not only means dropping temperatures and leaves, but also an increase in the chances of a collision with a deer across North Carolina. Between 2011 and 2013, nearly half of the more than 61,000 animal-related crashes took place in October through December. About 90 percent of those involved deer.

A N.C. Department of Transportation study shows that in 2013, there were 20,308 animal-related crashes, a slight increase over the 2012 figure, but still well below the numbers reported in 2010 and 2011.

Over the past three years, animal-related crashes claimed 18 lives, injured more than 3,400 drivers and passengers, and caused more than $149 million in damages.

Counties in the far western section of the state, where there are considerably fewer drivers and road mileage, once again reported the lowest number of crashes. Swain County had the fewest number of animal-related crashes with 5, falling just below Graham (9) and Jackson (11) counties.

Serena Author to Appear At WCU for reading; book signing

Western Carolina University’s Office of First Year Experience will host “An Evening with Ron Rash” on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Coulter Building recital hall at 7 p.m.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, will read from his novel “Serena,” answer questions about the book and sign copies at the event, which is free and open to the public. Serena has now been made into a motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper which has a February 2015 release date in the US.

Deadline to Register to Vote is Today

Friday is the deadline to register to vote in North Carolina, in order to vote in the November midterm. Late Wednesday the U-S Supreme Court stayed an appeals court order that restored same-day registration and reinstated out-of-precinct provisional voting.

That means voters must register by today in their current home precinct in order to be sure their vote will count – explains Allison Riggs with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, “The deadline to register to vote is October 10th. They can go to their local county board of elections and register in person or they can mail in their registration application.”

If submitting my mail, your application only needs to be postmarked with today’s date. The new voting provisions that came as a result of North Carolina’s new voting laws were challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The case will now be heard in summer 2015 by a federal judge in North Carolina, but it will not be in time for this year’s midterm election. Supporters of the state’s new voting law argue that some portions of the law could prevent voter fraud.

According to the State Board of Elections, more than 21,000 North Carolina voters used same-day registration in the last midterm election. Riggs and others are concerned about the number of people who may have difficulty voting in this election, and hopes the new law makes citizens all the more determined to make their vote count, “It’s complicated because the Legislature acted to keep people from voting and the response to that should be anger and participation, not apathy.”

Riggs says depending on how it impacts turnout, the court’s action could have an impact on the outcome of next month’s election, and even the majority of the U-S Senate. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan has a 2-point lead over her Republican challenger Thom Tillis, according to a recent USA Today poll.

WCU social work program receives $1.1 million federal grant

Western Carolina University’s social work program is the recipient of a federal grant of more than $1.1 million to expand the number of social workers qualified to practice in the areas of substance abuse prevention and behavioral health in Cherokee and other underserved areas of Western North Carolina.

The grant, totaling $1,177,354 and to be awarded to WCU over a three-year period, is from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Working in collaboration with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and the Center for Native Health, the university will receive $321,764 in the initiative’s first year, $420,902 in its second year and $424,688 in the third year.

The grant will provide up to $10,000 in individual stipends to students in WCU’s master’s degree program in social work who plan to serve the behavioral health needs of the people of WNC. It is designed to produce social workers with the skills to prevent and intervene in the high-risk behaviors of youth by using a family-focused health care model that is sensitive to the culture and needs of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and other youth populations across the rural Southern Appalachians, said Pat Morse, head of the social work department and director of WCU’s graduate program in social work.

“It is a pleasure and honor to collaborate with the Center for Native Health, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the behavioral health services agencies across Western North Carolina on this important project,” said Morse.

Douglas Keskula, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said the grant will fund an innovative project that will contribute to promoting, supporting and sustaining a much-needed behavioral health workforce in Cherokee and across the mountain region.

“This will be an exciting project for the university and for the region we serve,” Keskula said. “This initiative will provide critical behavioral health services to a medically underserved region while providing an exceptional educational experience for our students. This is a tremendous opportunity for collaboration between WCU, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and regional providers with the shared goal of building and training the behavioral health workforce of the future.”

The funding marks the 13th grant awarded by federal or regional agencies for research conducted by faculty in WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences to date since the 2012 fiscal year, with nearly $6 million in grants for projects ranging from improving diversity in the region’s nursing workforce to health care assessment for older adults.

Prescribed Burns Begin in Nantahala, Pisgah Forests

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina plans to conduct prescribed burns in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests later this month and into November if weather conditions are favorable.

The agency will conduct burns on approximately 4,000 acres in the two national forests.

Prescribed burns reduce woody debris and hazardous fuels that could contribute to high-severity fires. These burns also produce healthier, more diverse and more resilient forests, according to the agency.

First Reported Flu Death in NC

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state’s first flu death for the 2014-2015 flu season. An elementary school-aged child in the Triangle region of the State died last week because of complications from an influenza infection. The child was at risk for complications from the flu because of underlying medical conditions.

To protect the family’s privacy, the child’s hometown, county, age and sex are not being released.

“We extend our thoughts and prayers to the family on their loss,” said State Health Director Robin Cummings, M.D. “We hope that making people aware of this tragic case will encourage preventative measures and remind everyone that it is not too early to be vaccinated. We are very early in the flu season and we expect to see flu activity increase in the coming weeks and months.”

Preventative measures that everyone can take to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
Stay home when you are sick until you are fever free for at least 24 hours.
Vigorously wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
Health officials also encourage the citizens of North Carolina to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting the flu vaccination, which is now available. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine, available as a nasal spray or shot form.

According to studies cited by CDC, the benefits of the flu vaccination include:
Protecting people who are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from flu, such as elderly adults, people with chronic health conditions and young children.
Making the illness milder if you do get sick.
Reducing the risk of more serious flu outcomes, like hospitalizations and deaths.
Protecting women during pregnancy and their babies for up to 6 months after they are born. One study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92% effective in preventing hospitalization of infants for flu.
Reducing the risk of flu-related hospitalizations in older adults. A study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness over the course of three flu seasons estimated that flu vaccination lowered the risk of hospitalizations by 61% in people 50 years of age and older.
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” said Dr. Cummings, “They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but they also help protect the entire community by reducing and preventing the spread of infectious diseases.”

As of today, NC DHHS will be releasing weekly flu numbers at: www.flu.nc.gov. Additional information on flu and locations where you can get a flu vaccination is also available on the website.

Cashiers Shooting; Suspect in Custody

A altercation has one man in the hospital and another in jail. WRGC reported a man was shot in the Ingles parking lots in Cashiers on Wednesday. The victim has been identified as 71 year old Edward Lewis Moss.

Roger Clay Bryson, 61, was taken into custody after he got into an argument with Moss in the parking lot of the grocer around 11 a.m.
Investigators say the two men were in a verbal argument in the parking lot of Ingles, which is believed to be an ongoing dispute.
After the victim left, another verbal altercation occurred in the parking lot which lead Bryson, of Cashiers, to display a handgun. The victim had made his way back to his own vehicle then attempted to drive into Bryson while Bryson pointed the gun at the victim. Bryson dodged the victim’s vehicle as it collided with parked cars in the parking lot. Bryson then went to the driver’s window of the truck and fired a single shot, striking the victim.

Bryson is charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Kill Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury and Discharging a Weapon in Occupied Property Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury. He is being held on a bond of $250,000.

Moss was taken by air ambulance to a trauma center where he remains in stable condition after surgery.

More suspects are not expected according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Any witness who has not already spoken with deputies is urged to contact Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Charles Crisp at 828 586-1382 or contact Crime Stoppers at 828 631-1125.

Energy Funds are Available to WNC Schools

WNC Communities is launching a program to fund lighting efficiency projects for public schools in Western North Carolina.

The General Assembly allocated $500,000 of TVA settlement funds in the 2014-15 state budget for WNC Communities to undertake this program.
An implementation program is being developed to ensure maximum use of funds in the most effective way, while seeking matching and/or reimbursement funds that may be available as additional assistance. An advisory committee of school representatives, energy experts and others will be named to assist WNC Communities in the implementation of a fair and equitable distribution process.

WNC communities was selected to serve the state in this collaborative effort as the organization is currently serving in similar successful programs with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the distribution of TVA settlement funds. The organization also has a rich history of serving Western North Carolina in carrying out numerous community service programs over a 65-year period.
For additional information, contact WNC Communities at 252-4783.

More Cases of EV-D68 in North Carolina

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services today confirmed the presence of three additional cases of Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, in North Carolina, totaling nine since September 22, 2014. The three specimens that tested positive for EV-D68 were obtained from children ages 10 and under with respiratory illnesses.
One additional case that meets the criteria established by CDC for their investigation of acute neurological illness with focal limb weakness was detected in the eastern part of the state. The patient with this criteria tested positive for rhinovirus/enterovirus but additional testing is being conducted to determine the presence of Enterovirus D68.
Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes. Health officials are recommending that people take the following actions to protect themselves from infection with EV-D68 and other respiratory illnesses:
1. Wash hands vigorously and often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
2. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
3. Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
4. Frequently disinfect touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and 10-15 million infections across the United States each year. Enteroviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of symptoms, including runny nose, coughing, mouth sores, fever and body aches. Some patients will also develop wheezing and difficulty breathing. If you or your child experience cold-like symptoms and difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider right away.
Since people with asthma have a higher risk of respiratory illnesses, health officials are reminding everyone with asthma to take their medications as prescribed and make sure their asthma is under good control. Health officials are also recommending getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible to help prevent another important cause of respiratory illness that could be going around at the same time.

LOCAL SHERIFF OFFERS TIPS FOR A SAFE HALLOWEEN

Christopher_3519 3504 Hi JpegSoon our streets will be scattered with little ghosts, goblins, and witches trick-or-treating this Halloween. “Halloween should be filled with surprise and enjoyment, and following some common sense practices can keep events safer and more fun,” said Sheriff Greg Christopher of Haywood County.

The Sheriff reminds all Haywood County residents to follow these safety tips:
Motorists:
• Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
• Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs.
• Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
• At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.
Parents:
• Make sure that an adult or an older responsible youth will be supervising the outing for children under age 12.
• Check the sex offender registry at sexoffender.ncdoj.gov/ when planning your child’s trick-or-treat route. You can view maps that pinpoint registered offenders’ addresses in your neighborhood and sign up to get email alerts when an offender moves nearby.
• Plan and discuss the route trick-or-treaters intend to follow. Know the names of older children’s companions.
• Make sure older kids trick-or-treat in a group.
• Instruct your children to travel only in familiar areas and along an established route.
• Teach your children to stop only at houses or apartment buildings that are well-lit and never to enter a stranger’s home.
• Establish a return time.
• Tell your youngsters not to eat any treats until they return home.
• Review all appropriate trick-or-treat safety precautions, including pedestrian/traffic safety rules.
• All children need to know their home telephone number and how to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency.
• Pin a slip of paper with the child’s name, address, and telephone number inside a pocket in case the youngster gets separated from the group.
Costume Design:
• Only fire-retardant materials should be used for costumes.
• Costumes should be loose so warm clothes can be worn underneath.
• Costumes should not be so long that they are a tripping hazard.
• Make sure that shoes fit well to prevent trips and falls.
• If children are allowed out after dark, outfits should be made with light colored materials. Strips of retro-reflective tape should be used to make children visible.

Face Design:
• Do not use masks as they can obstruct a child’s vision. Use facial make-up instead.
• When buying special Halloween makeup, check for packages containing ingredients that are labeled “Made with U.S. Approved Color Additives,” “Laboratory Tested,” “Meets Federal Standards for Cosmetics,” or “Non-Toxic.” Follow manufacturer’s instruction for application.
• If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.

Accessories:
• Knives, swords, and other accessories should be made from cardboard or flexible materials. Do not allow children to carry sharp objects.
• Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if children are allowed out after dark.
• Carrying flashlights with fresh batteries will help children see better and be seen more clearly.

While Trick-or-Treating:
• Walk; do not run, from house to house. Do not cross yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards.
• Walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
• Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, if there are no sidewalks.

Treats:
• Give children an early meal before going out.
• Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten.
• Wash fruit and slice it into small pieces.
• Throw away any candy that is unwrapped or partially wrapped or has a strange odor, color, or texture.

Homeowners/Decorations:
• Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
• Remove obstacles from lawns, steps, and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
• Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from curtains, decorations, and other combustibles that could catch fire.
• Do not leave your house unattended.

“Halloween is a fun time in Haywood County,” Sheriff Christopher concluded, “but let’s make it a safe time as well. The major dangers lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards.
• Walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
• Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, if there are no sidewalks.

Treats:
• Give children an early meal before going out.
• Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten.
• Wash fruit and slice it into small pieces.
• Throw away any candy that is unwrapped or partially wrapped or has a strange odor, color, or texture.

Homeowners/Decorations:
• Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
• Remove obstacles from lawns, steps, and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
• Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from curtains, decorations, and other combustibles that could catch fire.
• Do not leave your house unattended.

“Halloween is a fun time in Haywood County,” Sheriff Christopher concluded, “but let’s make it a safe time as well. The major dangers are not from witches or spirits but rather from falls and pedestrian/car crashes. “

Same-Sex Marriages in North Carolina Could Be Underway in Days: “Not if But When”

Attorney Annika Brock and her partner Elaine Potter of Asheville were married last year in Vermont, but say they are looking forward to having their marriage recognized by their home state. Photo courtesy: Annika Brock.

Attorney Annika Brock and her partner Elaine Potter of Asheville were married last year in Vermont, but say they are looking forward to having their marriage recognized by their home state. Photo courtesy: Annika Brock.

Legally recognized same-sex marriages could happen in North Carolina in a matter of days. That’s the opinion of groups such as the ACLU and Equality NC after Monday’s announcement by the US Supreme Court that it would not review appeals court rulings in seven states regarding same-sex marriage bans. The decision means that all of those rulings stand, and the states in their jurisdiction, including North Carolina, must comply with the law and recognize the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Chris Sgro with Equality NCsays he expects things to move fast after Monday’s announcement, “It’s at this point inevitable that this will be the law of the land, so it’s not a question of if but when, and even that when is going to be pretty much fast-tracked.”

Sgro says the federal judge in North Carolina has asked for briefing materials within 10 days, but is bound by the decision of the Fourth Circuit. The judge then would have to issue a written order declaring unconstitutional the amendment North Carolina voters passed in 2012 defining marriage in the state as being between one man and one woman.

Attorney Annika Brock of Asheville got married to her partner of 9 years last year in Vermont, but Monday’s announcement is welcome news for her, “First of all, I can’t wait for the first couple to apply for a marriage license in North Carolina, but I think for us, it’s a matter of North Carolina recognizing our marriage.”

Brock says there is still progress to be made before same-sex couples have equal protection under the law, “We still have a long way to go in a lot of different ways. There are still so many things that it’s going to take a while, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, they won’t recognize my spouse, even though we’re married in another state.”

Some in the legal community say there’s still a chance the U-S Supreme Court will have to weigh in on the issue if federal courts disagree, but for now the state’s same-sex couples stand to have their marriages recognized by state law.

NCDOT Encourages Public to Comment on Proposed Strategic Transportation Corridors

The N.C. Department of Transportation invites the public to share their thoughts on a proposed network of multimodal transportation corridors that will form the backbone of the state’s transportation system.

The proposed Strategic Transportation Corridors move most of North Carolina’s people and goods, and connect critical centers of economic activity and international air and sea ports to support interstate commerce. A study launched by NCDOT more than a year ago has mapped out these high-priority corridors, based on three main factors, which include:

Providing essential connections to national transportation networks critical to interstate commerce and national defense;
Allowing significant inter-regional movements of people and goods across the state; and
Supporting economic development and efficiency of transport logistics.

NCDOT is launching a 60-day public comment period on Friday, Oct. 3, during which citizens are urged to review the results of the study and share their feedback. The STC policy and map showing the corridors is available online. Comments may be submitted by emailing Kerry Morrow, Statewide Plan Engineer, at kmorrow@ncdot.gov or by calling the NCDOT customer service line, 1-877-DOT-4YOU, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The comment period will close Tuesday, Dec. 2.

October is Bullying Awareness & Prevention Month

Bullying is widespread and perhaps the most underreported safety problem on American school campuses. Contrary to popular belief, bullying occurs more often at school than on the way to and from there. Once thought of as simply a rite of passage or relatively harmless behavior that helps build young people’s character, bullying is now known to have long-lasting harmful effects, for both the victim and the bully. Bullying is often mistakenly viewed as a narrow range of antisocial behavior confined to elementary school recess yards. In the United States, awareness of the problem is growing, especially with reports that in two-thirds of the recent school shootings (for which the shooter was still alive to report), the attackers had previously been bullied.

The N.C. Center for Safer Schools this week kicked off a special month long effort to shine the spotlight on the issue of bullying, after Gov. Pat McCrory proclaimed October Bullying Awareness and Prevention Month in North Carolina.

Bullying impacts students across the state; recent research shows that in North Carolina, 20 percent of high school students report being bullied in the past 12 months. Nearly 60 percent of N.C. high school students have witnessed bullying in their schools during the same time period. Additionally, bullying via social media or other electronic means – or cyber bullying – is also present. In 2013, 13 percent of N.C. high school students reported being the victims of some form of electronic bullying over the past 12 months.

One part of the Center’s work to help communities prevent bullying is a Bullying Prevention Train-the-Presenter Training. This training – available for school administrators, teachers and community leaders – is aimed at preparing people from across the state to return to their communities to share strategies on ways to prevent and identify bullying, and to give them resources to use when bullying is present.

Find bullying prevention materials and links to other resources on the N.C. Center for Safer School’s website, www.centerforsaferschools.org. You can follow the N.C. Center for Safer School’s Bullying Awareness and Prevention Month social media campaign, on Twitter @NCSaferSchools (#BullyFreeNC)

Jackson County Announces Recipients for Grassroots Grants

The Jackson County Arts Council announces its grant recipients for the
2014-15 Grassroots Grants. The arts council is a Designated County
Partner of the North Carolina Arts Council, from which the Grassroots grants
are funded. The JCAC received $12, 254 from the North Carolina Arts Council
and $9,201.00 from Jackson County. They also receive funding from
membership donations and fundraising efforts. Contributions to the Jackson
County Arts Council can be sent to 310 Keener St. Sylva, NC 28779.

Grassroots Grants are awarded to local non-profit agencies in Jackson County
who produce programs of arts, culture or historic merit and who demonstrate
financial and administrative stability. The purpose of Grassroots Grants is
to recognize and support exemplary forms of artistic expression, both
contemporary and traditional, in the visual arts, the performing arts,
literature, media arts and the folk arts.

This year’s Grassroots Grant recipients are:

Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild
WNC Pottery Festival
Catch the Spirit of Appalachia
Western Carolina Community Chorus
Western Carolina Civic Orchestra
Farmers Market Family Art Days
WCU Youth Art Spring Display
Dillsboro Merchants Association – ColorFest Town of Sylva 125 Founders Day
Celebration Junior Appalachian Musicians Smoky Mountain High School Jackson
County Library for Copper Workshop Jackson County Schools Cullowhee Mountain
Arts Jackson County Visual Arts Association

Congratulations to these organizations!

Want to Make Six Figures? Brush Up on Your Tech Skills

How can you boost your bottom line in 2015? A report released this week indicates the answer for some could be a career change. Technology careers are paying big dividends compared with other job sectors. The report from human resources consulting firm Robert Half International projects almost a six-percent increase in starting salaries in the technology field.

The company’s senior executive director, Paul McDonald, says salary growth is also predicted in traditional fields such as accounting and marketing, where technology is involved, “Technology truly is running its course through all functional roles today. You need technology as a foundational, functional understanding, in order to be successful in any one of these specialty areas.”

According to the report, among the top positions to watch are mobile applications developer, data architect and chief security officer. All three have starting salaries that top $100,000 dollars a year.

McDonald points out that many careers in the technology sector don’t necessarily require four-year degrees, and can be secured with additional training that could be done at night or online, “If you find yourself unemployed, it’s really a good investment to go back and go to a trade school, go to a junior college to retrain yourself, to make yourself marketable in these very hot areas.”

McDonald adds that companies are making employee retention a high priority, since turnover is particularly challenging for high-tech positions. He says many businesses are offering flexible work hours to accommodate a work-life balance for skilled workers who are the right fit.

US Forest Service Next Round of Plan Revision Meetings Announced

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina today unveiled the schedule for the next round of meetings held as part of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests management plan revision. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Each of the six meetings will be held from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Every meeting will have the same agenda and present the same information, and provide opportunity for public review and comment.

During each meeting, Forest Service employees will share information about the proposed Forest Plan, including potential management areas and desired conditions. The meeting will open with a presentation on significant issues, management areas, and the development of plan components. The Forest Service planning team will share some proposed desired condition statements and information about watersheds and recreation settings during an open poster session.