Drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. This April, during Alcohol Awareness Month, the Jackson County Department of Public Health (JCDPH) encourages you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the dangers of drinking too much and drinking underage.

According to the NC State Center of Health Statistics, more traffic crashes are alcohol-related in Jackson County than in Western North Carolina or North Carolina—29% more than Western North Carolina and 42% more than in North Carolina. To spread the word and prevent alcohol abuse, JCDPH is joining other organizations across the county to honor Alcohol Awareness Month.

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:
· Limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.
· Keep track of how much you drink.
· Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
· Don’t drink when you are upset.
· Avoid places where people drink a lot.
· Make a list of reasons not to drink.

If you are concerned with underage drinking, a new tool is available. Talk it Out NC is a statewide initiative launched by the ABC Commission to fight back against underage drinking by starting the conversation between parents and youth. Statewide, underage drinking is not only a financial burden to the state, but also results in lives lost, crimes committed, and hundreds of teen pregnancies. This initiative reports that the average age that children in North Carolina take their first drink is 13.9 years and more teens will die as a result of alcohol use than all other illicit drugs combined. Further, in 2009, underage drinking led to 60 murders, 26,800 violent crimes, and 67,400 property crimes. Finally, alcohol use by teens is one of the strongest predictors of teen injury, fighting, academic problems, truancy, unprotected sex, unwanted sexual advanced, illegal activity, and other illicit drug use. These statistics, while alarming, only scratch the surface of the physical, social, and emotional damage that can weigh down teens for the rest of their lives.

For more information on Talk It Out NC, visit the initiative’s website at http://www.talkitoutnc.org/.

Study Shows Dangers of Teen Driving Distractions

A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety simulated with dash cams what happens when a teen is distracted behind the wheel.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety hopes the study will shed light on the magnitude of the dangers in teen driving.

New statistics show the majority, 6 out of 10, of teens who crash were distracted. Those distractions don’t only include texting while driving but also talking to passengers and adjusting the radio.

Those numbers are more than four times the rate that officials previously estimated based on police accident reports.

People with the study, traffic safety groups, and Johnson all hope these shocking numbers are a wake up call for all teens behind the wheel and their parents.

44 states, including North Carolina and D.C., ban texting for all drivers. Now, people want tougher laws on teen driver cell phone use.

Be safe during National Work Zone Awareness Week

This is National Work Zone Awareness Week and North Carolina DOT workers are urging motorists to be extra careful.

On Monday, a NCDOT worker was hit and killed on the job in Goldsboro.

Spokespersons for the DOT says warmer weather leads to more road and bridge construction projects. It also brings more tourists, unfamiliar with the roads.

According to the NCDOT, there were 4,000 work zone accidents nationwide in 2014, leading to 22 deaths and nearly 2,000 injuries. DOT advises drivers to go slow in a work zone, leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you, and don’t pass other vehicles.

The penalty for speeding in a work zone is a $250 fine on top of the speeding ticket and court costs.

WCU’s Alexander Macaulay named among UNC system’s top teachers

Alexander Macaulay, associate professor of history at Western Carolina University, has been named one of the best teachers in the University of North Carolina system in recognition of his ability to convince students that history is more than just the memorization of dates and the study of accomplishments of “dead white men.”

Macaulay, a member of the WCU faculty since 2004, is among 17 recipients of the 2015 UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching, announced Monday, March 23.

A member of the Board of Governors is scheduled to present the award at WCU’s undergraduate commencement ceremonies that begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9. Macaulay also will speak at the Graduate School commencement ceremony Friday, May 8.

The UNC committee noted that Macaulay regularly wins rave reviews for being a dynamic teacher who combines the qualities of a gifted storyteller, engaging discussion leader and rigorous academician, prompting many students to continue studying history beyond their undergraduate years.

“Dr. Macaulay demonstrates that he reads every word of the assignments he grades. His comments are thoughtful and concise, and students end up not only with assessments of their work but also with feedback that is useful in developing them as writers and as thinkers,” said 2014 graduate Joshua Wilkey, a WCU master’s degree student in history planning to earn a doctorate and teach at the university level. “Dr. Macaulay is the sort of professor who pushes students to unlock their potential.”

Kaylynn Washnock, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, applauded Macaulay’s availability and open-door policy. “Dr. Macaulay is concerned with both the intellectual and personal development of his students. He takes an interest in his students and their well-being long after time in the classroom has ended,” Washnock said. “Even when I was no longer in his class, Dr. Macaulay would suggest stories for my projects and spend time brainstorming future research topics with me. He truly understands what teaching is all about.”

Macaulay’s faculty colleagues praise his ability to engage students – many of them confessing to not liking the subject of history because they don’t think it matters – in dynamic classroom activities that make history relevant to their lives.

He has linked historical lynchings with more modern cases of institutional violence and injustice, and has shown the connection between late 19th-century labor unions and contemporary issues of free market economy and workplace regulation, said Elizabeth McRae, associate professor of history. “Over and over, students leave his classroom engaged in issues that began for them as facts to memorize about a distant past but ended with them critically analyzing the thorny political issues of both the past and present,” McRae said. “And it is those debates and those discussions that they tell other students about, who then decide to take his class.”

Macaulay’s interest in oral history has led to his students recording histories of veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War and recent conflicts in the Middle East; members of the Jackson County African-American community; residents forced to leave their homes when the construction of Fontana Dam flooded their communities; and long-time residents of Sylva in connection with the town’s recent 125th anniversary celebration.

That work has resulted in the launching of an Appalachian Oral History Project modeled after UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Project. The new project, a collaboration with WCU’s Hunter Library and Special Collections, involves Smoky Mountain High School students who, after training, will conduct the first oral histories for the effort.

In addition to oral history, Macaulay teaches classes in 20th-century U.S. history, the American South, U.S. cultural history, U.S. diplomatic history and gender history. He is author of the book “Marching in Step: Masculinity, Citizenship and the Citadel in Post-World War II America” and numerous articles, book chapters and professional papers.

“I seek out familiar, yet nontraditional topics and sources that will not only pique students’ interests, but also alert them to ways they can analyze and understand the past and the present,” Macaulay said. “For those who believe history is the study of dates and ‘dead white men,’ they learn that history is made by millions of ordinary and extraordinary people who live both everyday and exceptional lives. It also helps me democratize the past and the classroom, encouraging contributions from those who may not know about Alger Hiss, but do know about Elvis Presley.”

The 2011 recipient of WCU’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, he received his bachelor’s degree from the Citadel, master’s degree from the University of Tennessee and doctorate from the University of Georgia.

Macaulay and the other recipients of the UNC honor, representing an array of academic disciplines, were nominated by special committees on their home campuses and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Personnel and Tenure. Established by the Board of Governors in April 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the university, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus. Winners must have taught at their present institutions at least seven years. No one may receive the award more than once.

Monica Lewinsky and the Scourge of Adult Cyberbullying

A growing awareness of adult cyberbullying was underscored last Friday when Monica Lewinsky adressed it in a TED Talk. Cyberbullying can happen to people of any age, according to author Blair London, who heard some of her adult friends share stories of their experiences on social media.

After researching, she realized they were not alone. She says the “distance” provided by online communication can sometimes make people more cruel than in “real life.” “So, you get the friend of a friend of a friend, who doesn’t really care who this original person is, and so they don’t care if any harm comes to them.”

London recently published “Lure to Death,” a novel that centers on the issue of adult cyberbullying. Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky spoke publicly at a TED Talk in Vancouver last Friday on her experience with bullies who sent cruel messages to her via social media. According to no-bullying-dot-com, cyberbullying or “trolling” can play out with harassment, impersonation, or sharing someone’s secrets online.

In her speech, Lewinsky offered others encouragement as they struggle with cruelty online, “Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing. You can survive it. I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.”

London says while adult cyberbullying may be a growing problem, online cruelty between young people is nothing new. She says it often starts as “tweens” “friend” people for the sake of quantity and not quality, “Young people, I think that they collect friends. They go on the Internet at that young of an age and put things out there and they think nothing of it. They think they’ve got a friend out there.” North Carolina law prohibits anyone from using a computer or computer network to intimidate or torment a minor. The state also makes it a crime to “intimidate or torment” teachers online.

Help Wanted: Businesses Call for Early Childhood Education Funding

Fortune 200 companies say they are having trouble finding a qualified workforce in North Carolina at times. Photo credit: morguefile.com/phaewilk

Fortune 200 companies say they are having trouble finding a qualified workforce in North Carolina at times. Photo credit: morguefile.com/phaewilk

Businesses wishing to locate and hire in North Carolina are at times having trouble finding a qualified workforce.

That’s according to Bill Millett with Charlotte-based Scope View Strategic Advantage, a firm that works with companies looking to fill positions utilizing a variety of skill sets. Millet joins other business owners in the opinion that it starts with early childhood education, “There are some companies that go overseas because it’s cheaper over there, but there are some major Fortune 200 companies that we work with that just can’t find the talent here. They are patriots. They want us to up our game in terms of workforce development and they believe that workforce development begins in the earliest months of life.”

The First Five Years Fund estimates that children who receive early education are 33% more likely to be employed and earn a higher average salary and 70% less likely to be arrested for a violent crime before the age of 18.

According to the NC Early Childhood Foundation, for every dollar invested in early education in the state, North Carolina sees between a seven and 10% return on its investment. Tracy Zimmerman with the Foundation says it’s money well spent, “Really, at the state level, the more that we can do to be ensuring that children have what they need, that they have access to high quality early environments and learning experiences, that they have good health, that we’re supporting families. That is in the best interest of this state.”

Millett says in the global economy it’s important to remember what was adequate education in the last generation won’t make the grade as the US works to compete with other world economies, “Their competition for quality lives and quality jobs is growing up on at least four other continents, and those kids have access to information and in many cases better early education than our kids have.”

He says multiple bodies of scientific research support the opinion that the brains of children under five years of age are able to absorb information and develop in ways that’s not possible once their brain is fully developed.

Teacher Pay Still Falling Behind In NC

The latest public school teacher pay rankings show North Carolina still below the national average but making improvement after raises were approved last summer.

The new annual National Education Association report showed North Carolina ranked 47th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia during the 2013-14 school year in average teacher pay, at almost $45,000.

The NEA’s average pay estimate this year for North Carolina is about $47,800, compared to the national average of about $57,400. North Carolina’s 6.2 percent increase represented the highest jump in the country. The legislature raised the minimum salary to $33,000 and gave raises of varying amounts to others

The North Carolina Association of Educators said the state is now ranked 42nd. This year’s per-pupil expenditures show North Carolina behind Southeastern neighbors.

North Carolina Taxpayers Report Leaner State Returns in 2015

If you’re among the North Carolinians who already have filed your taxes, you may have noticed your state tax burden is a little greater this year. Greg Elder, a Spruce Pine tax preparer for H & R Block, says the state’s decision to eliminate tax credits like the earned-income tax credit from the tax system is impacting the budgets of his clients, “Most people, it boils down to a smaller North Carolina refund than they’ve received in the past. So if you’re making a plan prior to getting your taxes done that you’re going to use your North Carolina refund, don’t go buy that refrigerator just yet.”

The new system eliminated the tiered income-tax rates that were tied to income levels, setting the tax rate at 5.8% for 2014 and 5.75% for this year. The tax changes are a result of a tax overhaul passed in 2013 and put into effect for the 2014 tax year.

Alexandra Sirota, director of the NC Budget & Tax Center, says while her organization doesn’t take issue with the necessity of taxes, her analysis indicates the new tax model disproportionately impacts the working class, “The key thing about a tax system is it absolutely has to be adequate to meet the core public-service commitments that we need to be making as a state, but the way in which we raise revenue is really critical. ”

Sirota says taxpayers making less than $67,000 a year, about 80% of the state, will see their taxes increase under the tax plan. Even with that, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates state tax revenue will be down by about one-billion by the end of this year because of an overall reduction in corporate taxes.

Elder says while a tax refund is never a guarantee, the abrupt change in the state tax system is leaving many of his clients without a much needed boost this spring, “People do count on that money. It’s been similar for years and years and years, and so they had no reason to think that it wouldn’t be for tax year 2014.”

In addition to the EITC, deductions for medical expenses, retirement income, child care expenses and college 529 plans also were eliminated.

Expect traffic delays on I-40

Safety improvements are coming to a stretch of Interstate 40 in Haywood County prone to rockslides.

Beginning Monday, March 16, traffic along mile marker 7 on Interstate 40 in the Pigeon River Gorge will be stopped for up to 30 minutes at a time between 30 minutes after sunrise and 10 a.m. The closure will help crews safely remove timber from the rock slope. The work is part of a $6.4 million project that will remove potential rockfall hazards and help prevent future slides from happening.

During the road closure, the contractor will be performing rolling road blocks in both directions with assistance from law enforcement between the North Carolina/Tennessee state line and Exit 15. Due to the limited time frame in which the contractor has to work, the removal of the timber will take several days to complete.

Motorists are encouraged to adjust their travel plans to avoid this area during the time frames mentioned above if possible. An alternative route would be to take I-240 in Asheville to I-26 West toward Johnson City and then I-81 South back to I-40. However, this route adds a considerable amount of travel time for anyone traveling from the Asheville area to Knoxville, Tenn.

Mile marker 7 has seen several rockfall events in recent years. The area was closed briefly in early June 2014 while crews scaled the rock wall and removed potential rockfall hazards. In 2009, a major rockslide closed I-40 westbound at mile marker 3. During cleanup and repair from that rockslide, another rockfall event occuured at mile marker 7 that would have closed I-40 westbound had it not already been closed.

Due to its location in a sharp downhill turn, mile marker 7 on I-40 is seen as the most beneficial location for a slope stabilization project. The new engineered slope will have state-of-the-art design and construction and bring it up to the safety standards of new interstate slopes, similar to those on I-26 in northern Madison County.

For real-time travel information at any time, call 511, visit the Traveler Services section of the NCDOT website or follow NCDOT on Twitter. You can also access NCDOT Mobile, a version of the NCDOT website especially for mobile devices. Visit m.ncdot.gov from your mobile browser.

WCU board approves tailgating changes for 2015 football season

There will be more places to tailgate at Western Carolina University home football games this fall.

The WCU Board of Trustees unanimously approved a revision to the university’s tailgating policy that adds an additional parking lot to areas in which alcohol may be consumed on campus as part of fans’ pregame festivities. Approval of the change came during the board’s regularly scheduled quarterly meeting Friday, March 6.

Beginning this fall, the Belk Building parking lot, which previously had been designated as an alcohol-free zone, will be among the alcohol-permissible tailgating areas.

The move became necessary because of increased interest in pregame tailgating at WCU in the wake of recent improvements to the football program. In 2014, the WCU football team enjoyed its first winning regular season since 2005, earning a second-place finish in Southern Conference play.

With the revision to the policy, parking lots at the H.F. Robinson Administration Building, John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, Camp Building, Jordan-Phillips Field House, Ramsey Center, E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Hennon Baseball Stadium and Belk Building are considered alcohol-permissible areas during approved tailgating hours.

Lots located at Walker and Scott halls remain alcohol-free tailgating areas.

Tailgating at WCU may begin no earlier than three-and-a-half hours before kickoff of the football game. Consumption of alcohol must be discontinued at the start of the game, and tailgating without alcohol beverages may continue after the game for a period of two hours.

Only malt beverages (beers and other brewed libations) and unfortified wine are allowed in approved tailgate areas. Spirituous liquor and kegs or other common-source containers are not permitted.

Campus officials vigorously enforce laws regarding underage consumption of alcohol.

NC Bill Would Increase Citizen Involvement in Police Probes

 Rep. Rodney Moore's legislation would remove the current requirement that North Carolina communities have to receive permission from the Legislature to create a Citizen Review Board to oversee police-related complaints. Photo courtesy Moore's office.

Rep. Rodney Moore’s legislation would remove the current requirement that North Carolina communities have to receive permission from the Legislature to create a Citizen Review Board to oversee police-related complaints. Photo courtesy Moore’s office.

The issue of racial profiling is front and center this week in Raleigh, with the introduction of a bill Tuesday that supporters hope will be the first step to ending racial profiling in North Carolina. House Bill 193, introduced by Representative Rodney Moore, calls for more diversity training for law enforcement and additional oversight through Citizen Review Boards.

Representative Moore says his proposal reaches beyond race, to include other groups sometimes marginalized by the system, “I think all of those particular subcategories – nationality, religion, sexual identity – are subject to some type of profiling, one way or another.”

North Carolina communities have to receive permission from the Legislature to create a Citizen Review Board – the bill would remove that requirement. It comes after instances of police shootings across the country in which profiling was thought to be a factor. In September 2013, Charlotte police shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell after mistaking him for a suspect in a breaking and entering case – when Ferrell had been looking for help after a car wreck.

Angeline Echeverria works with El Pueblo Incorporated, an advocacy group for the Latino community in North Carolina. She says her group anticipates the cultural education law enforcement would receive if the bill passes, and the opportunity for people to be involved in providing it, “We’re excited for the possibility that there might be an additional body that provides community members with the opportunity to have oversight and have more interaction, direct interaction, with police departments.”

She adds her organization receives regular reports of profiling during traffic stops, “What we hear from families who come to El Pueblo is that they are often stopped in traffic stops and that the only ticket that they receive is a ticket for driving without a license. This is very common in communities where a lot of community members are undocumented.”

Charlotte and Durham have Citizen Review Boards in place, but Fayetteville’s recent request to create one was denied twice by the State Assembly.

Law enforcement involved shooting in Transylvania County

The SBI is the lead investigating agency in a fatal shooting of a suspect in
Transylvania County near Brevard this evening.

The investigation is in its very early stages, but the SBI can confirm that
Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Alcohol Law Enforcement and a
federal agent were serving warrants when a suspect was fatally shot. More
information on the law enforcement involved and the person shot will be
shared as promptly as possible.

Information from the Sheriff’s department has not been release whether it was a deputies or another agency’s officers who pulled the trigger.

Medical Marijuana Could Be in NC Soon

A North Carolina bill would legalize medical marijuana in the state, nullifying the federal prohibition.

Introduced by State Rep. Kelly Alexander, House Bill 78 (HB78) would allow medical marijuana to make its way into the hands of the qualified patients after receiving ID cards issued by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; something that federal law says is illegal.
Under HB78, a qualified patient would be defined as someone who “has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.” There is no specific or finite list of specific conditions necessary to qualify. Patients would be allowed to keep a 24 ounce supply.
Additional provisions make it illegal for a person to be denied entry to a school, a job position, visitation or child custody rights, or a lease with a landlord due to their use of medical marijuana.

Medicinal products would go towards treatment of such physical and mental illnesses as anorexia, PTSD, Chrohn’s disease and cancer treatment, depending on patient.

Bill H78 will now go to a special House Committee, which will conduct further studies into the proposal and offer amendments and recommendations to the bill before it comes up for consideration by the NC House of Representatives.

Report Card: Unhealthy State Could Create Unhealthy Economy in NC

North Carolina isn’t making the grade when it comes to the health of its citizens – according to the 2015 N-C Prevention Report Card released by Chapel Hill based Prevention Partners. The evaluation gave the state failing marks when it comes to nutrition and obesity.

Rachel Zucker with Prevention Partners says the state’s overall health could ultimately impact its economic development as out-of-state companies evaluate whether to locate or expand in the state, “We could really start to see North Carolina losing out on opportunities for economic development if companies are seeing ‘Oh, North Carolina is not doing so well in health. Do we really want to locate there and pay a bunch more in employee health-care costs?’ ”

According to the report, slightly more than 12% of the population eats the recommended serving of at least five fruits and vegetables every day, and two out of every three North Carolina adults are overweight or obese. Together with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Center for Health NC and the North Carolina Hospital Association, Prevention Partners is coordinating the “Healthy Together NC” initiative, which is working in all 100 of the state’s counties to meet specified health goals by 2025.

Zucker says programs such as “Healthy Together NC” are working with policy makers, employers, health-care providers and schools to increase the availability of healthy food and means for exercise, “If we put those policies into place where we can create tobacco-free spaces, where we can create cheaper foods that are healthy, that’s where we can start to see the change is really at that policy level of change.”

Zucker says individuals should set a goal of 30 minutes a day for physical activity to improve their health. That time can even be broken down into shorter increments to make it easier to make it a part of your daily routine.

SBI Investigation Results in Four Arrests From October Underage Drinking Party in Jackson County

Four people, including a former Jackson County deputy and a jail nurse, were arrested by the State Bureau of Investigation Tuesday in connection with alleged rapes and underage drinking during a Halloween party at a Sylva business in October, 2014.

Michelle Watson Dillard, 40, and James Wesley Henry, 39, both of Sylva, were each indicted Monday by a Jackson County grand jury on one count of obstruction of justice in relation to the alleged incidents.

Dillard was a jail nurse and Henry was a K-9 officer for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at the time of this party held at Dillard’s husband’s business, Dillard Excavation.

Dillard and Henry surrendered themselves to SBI agents at the county jail where they were processed. They both appeared before Superior Court Judge Marvin Pope who set their bonds at $10,000 each, though their attorneys argued for unsecured bonds. No court dates have been set for them.

Austin Trent Davis, 19, and Cody Jacob Scott Jenkins, 24, were also indicted by the grand jury yesterday for one count each of felony statutory sex offenses. Their bonds will be set later today and their court date is April 15.

Sheriff Jimmy Ashe requested the assistance of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement Branch to investigate the initial reports of underage drinking received by his department and then later requested the SBI investigate after learning that employees from his department may be involved. The sheriff’s office cooperated fully in this investigation.

NCWorks Commission adopts new direction for workforce system

The NCWorks Commission approved a ground-breaking strategic plan today that creates an integrated workforce development system that is responsive to the needs of employers and better prepares workers for North Carolina’s economy. This means that for the first time, North Carolina now has a comprehensive plan that sets the direction of the entire workforce system.

The two-year plan identifies the goals, objectives, and strategies for improving North Carolina’s workforce development system, which includes access to training programs for job seekers and working with employers to find qualified candidates. The Commission’s goals are as follows.

Create an integrated, customer-centered workforce system.
Create a system that is responsive to the needs of the economy.
Prepare workers to succeed in the economy by improving their skills.
Use data-driven strategies to ensure accountability.
The plan was developed by the NCWorks Commission and includes key input from representatives of the Department of Commerce, Department of Public Instruction, Community College System, as well as more than 70 local organizations. The Commission’s goals advance the mission of the NCWorks initiative—connecting talented workers to employers by streamlining how services are delivered and aligning state agencies.

“The amount of positive momentum and work done since NCWorks was announced has been significant,” said Korey Coon, chairman of the NCWorks Commission. “NCWorks Career Centers have been streamlined, the workforce development team has visited more than 1,000 employers, partnerships have improved, and our unemployment rate has declined significantly. Now, with this comprehensive strategy in place and the buy-in of all responsible groups, we can progress even further by focusing on the details outlined in the plan.”

The 25-member Commission oversees the state’s workforce development system. The Governor appoints its members, a majority of whom represent private businesses, educators, community leaders and labor representatives. In addition, leaders of state workforce agencies are members by virtue of their office.


In April 2014, Governor Pat McCrory announced NCWorks, a new partnership between the N.C. Department of Commerce, the N.C. Community College System, and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to improve the state’s workforce system. Through the NCWorks initiative, partners will create a stronger alignment of services and resources to meet the workforce needs of businesses, connect North Carolinians to technical training and quality careers, and use data to monitor and assess program outcomes. For more information about NCWorks, visit www.nccommerce.com/ncworks.

The N.C. Division of Workforce Solutions is a part of the N.C. Department of Commerce. For more information about the division, visitwww.nccommerce.com/workforce.

Report Alleges American Kennel Club Lax on Puppy Mill Laws

Dogs at AKC Breeder FacilityPurebred dogs are the picture of perfection, and their popularity was highlighted recently at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show – America’s second-longest continuously held sporting event. But an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States alleges that the American Kennel Club – a major player at dog shows – has opposed more than 150 different laws around the country, including North Carolina – that would help protect dogs in puppy mills.

Kim Alboum, the North Carolina state director of the Humane Society, says it’s important consumers understand what their pup’s paperwork means, “It’s very frustrating because I think consumers are duped into thinking that there’s some level of comfort with having a dog that’s AKC registered, but it absolutely means nothing.”

Alboum says in addition to lobbying efforts, two former AKC “Breeders of Merit” reportedly were found to be keeping dogs in poor conditions after recently passing their AKC inspections. A spokesperson for the American Kennel Club says the organization would “never support disreputable breeders,” and any violation of their policies is met with a quick response.

Kathleen Summers with the Society’s Stop Puppy Mills campaign says the organization has an incentive to register more dogs. “There’s a profit motive involved. The AKC does get income from litter registrations, and the more puppies they can register, the larger their market share as a dog-registry organization.”

Alboum says the best thing consumers can do is investigate breeders before doing business with them, and if they decline a request to visit their facilities, it could be an indication they don’t have the dogs’ best interest at heart.”What you’re looking for is you’re looking for a breeder who welcomes you into their home, welcomes you to interact with all of their dogs, and a breeder that’s perfectly willing to give you references, and a breeder that asks you for references.”

Alboum also emphasizes that many purebred dogs can be found at local animal shelters and asks consumers to report any suspicious breeding facilities they encounter to the local authorities.

Gov. McCrory Declares March 1-7 Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Governor Pat McCrory has declared March 1-7 Severe Weather Preparedness Week in North Carolina, cautioning North Carolinians to practice how to be safe when thunderstorms and tornadoes threaten. While damaging storms and tornadoes can occur any time of the year, March through May is peak tornado season for the state.

“Severe thunderstorms can strike quickly and spawn dangerous winds and tornadoes,” Governor McCrory said. “Despite the snow, sleet and freezing rain over the past few weeks, we are now entering the peak severe storm season, and we need to prepare and practice what to do when severe weather occurs. It’s critical to have emergency plans in place, put together an emergency supply kit and listen for weather alerts.”

Schools and government buildings statewide will hold tornado drills Wednesday, March 4, at 9:30 a.m. to practice their emergency plans. Test messages will be broadcast on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios and the Emergency Alert System. All North Carolinians are encouraged to participate in the drill.

In 2014, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued 81 tornado warnings for North Carolina and recorded 36 tornadoes that killed one and injured 34 people. Combined, the tornadoes caused more than $22 million in damages. In addition, the NWS issued more than 632 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded more than 686 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and/or large hail. The severe storms killed three people, injured seven others and caused $3.5 million in damages.

While spring and late fall are typically peak tornado season, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can happen at any time of the year.

Tornadoes usually form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air collides with cold air. These storms can also produce large hail and strong winds. Damaging winds are equally as dangerous.

Last April, nine tornadoes touched down in one day in Beaufort, Bertie, Chowan, Currituck, Greene, Halifax, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Pitt counties, killing an 11-month old child and injuring 28 others. More than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Emergency Management officials recommend having a weather radio that broadcasts NWS alerts when severe weather threatens. Many North Carolina tornado fatalities have occurred at night when people are asleep and less likely to receive a warning without a weather radio.

Emergency officials recommend people use the following safety tips:
Know the terms: WATCH means a tornado is possible. WARNING means a tornado has been spotted; take shelter immediately.
Know where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room and away from windows, and go there immediately if you hear or see a tornado.
If driving, you should leave your vehicle immediately to seek safety in an adequate structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle, and do not stop under an overpass or a bridge.
If you are outdoors, and there is no shelter available, take cover in a low-lying flat area. Watch out for flying debris.
Following a storm, wear sturdy shoes, long sleeves and gloves when walking on or near debris, and be aware of exposed nails and broken glass.
Be aware of damaged power or gas lines and electrical systems that may cause fires, electrocution or explosions.
More information on tornadoes and overall emergency preparedness can be found in the ReadyNC mobile app and online at www.ReadyNC.org. View and download the full proclamation here.

Volunteers sought to adopt tree plot

Smokies rangers are looking for tree-lovers who want to try their hand at science to adopt a tree monitoring plot on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A training session will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at Oconaluftee Visitor Center just north of Cherokee.

Volunteers will take data throughout the growing season to help researchers answer questions like “was spring early this year?” or “when will the fall colors peak?”

Volunteers will collect data on their assigned plots multiple times throughout the growing season.

Plots up for adoption are located near parking areas in the Deep Creek, Fontana, Oconaluftee, Purchase Knob, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, Newfound Gap and Davenport Gap areas of the park.

RSVP to Leah Nagel, 828.497.1945 or leah_nagel@partner.nps.gov.

Public Comment on Murphy Branch Rail Line

The N.C. Department of Transportation (Rail Division) will hold a public meeting to review results of the recent study of reactivating the Murphy Branch rail line between Andrews and Murphy (A2M- Rail Reactivation Study). The meeting will be held on March 11 from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Enloe Building on the campus of Tri-County Community College in Murphy.

In November 2014 NCDOT completed the Draft A2M Rail Reactivation Study which evaluated the market and investment viability of returning rail service to the Murphy Branch rail line.

NCDOT representatives, consultants and public officials will be available during the open-house style meeting to provide information, answer questions and collect comments regarding the study and the project in general. Citizens are welcome to attend at any time during the meeting hours. There will not be a formal presentation.

NCDOT purchased the 14 mile long Murphy Branch between Murphy and Andrews in 1988 from Norfolk Southern Railroad. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) purchased the segment between Andrews and Dillsboro in 1996, and operates tourist excursions and some freight interchanges in Sylva.

With construction on a new casino resort in Murphy, this expansion could offer direct rail service from the Andrews Aiport.