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Haywood County Meth Bust

On July 15, agents with Haywood County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force, The U.N.I.T., along with the North Carolina S.B.I., executed a search warrant at a residence located at 55 Brookside Drive in Canton.

In March agents with the U.N.I.T. began investigating and gathering evidence on individuals living at this location. Upon execution of the search warrant, an active methamphetamine lab was located on the property.

Three men and one woman were arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamines, including Phillip Heath Kent, 46; Melanie Creson, 42; Terry Glance, 38; and Justin Hensley, 35.

U.N.I.T. would like to thank the Center Pigeon Fire Department for their assistance during the execution of the search warrant and seizure of evidence.

Maggie Valley Mayor Remembered

On Tuesday, a memorial service was held to remember Maggie Valley Mayor, Ronald DeSimone.

DeSimone was killed in a tragic construction accident on Friday.

DeSimone was a contractor by trade and on Friday, he was helping build a garage onto a friend’s home when a heavy bundle of plywood fell on him.

The 62-year-old mayor was a New York native and moved to Haywood County in 1999, where he established a construction company.

He won the seat as mayor of Maggie Valley in 2011 and was currently holding that position.

Evergreen Foundation announces half-million grant funding

The Evergreen Foundation board of directors voted at its June meeting to provide funding to seven agencies providing programs and services for individuals with behavioral health, substance use and intellectual/developmental disabilities in Haywood County.

— The Arc of Haywood County: $9,000 to provide continuation and expansion of their community living and supported employment programs serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and $1,000 to support their Arctoberfest fund raising event.

— LifeSpan: $6,260 to provide furnishings and equipment for their sensory room, TEACCH training for staff and parent resource materials to enhance their services for individuals with autism.

— Meridian Behavioral Health: $150,000 to provide continuation funding for the Patient Assistance Program and associated psychiatric services which assists consumers in receiving over $2,000,000 worth of free medications annually; $100,000 to support the merger of Meridian and Jackson/Haywood/Macon Psychological Services; $3,000 for promotional materials to support the National Safety Council program to decrease the use of opiates by substituting a combination of over the counter medications for pain management; $3,500 toward the cost of training for the Sexual Offender Services Team; and $27,000 to provide for the continuation of the jail assessment and treatment programs in Haywood and Jackson Counties.

— Southwestern Child Development Commission: $50,000 to continue the implementation of the Nurse Family Partnership program which provides visiting nurses for first time, high-risk mothers below poverty level in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

— Mountain Projects: $23,497 to set up distribution sites for Naloxone kits throughout WNC and provide biohazard boxes for IV drug use needle collection throughout WNC.

— Youth for Christ Outdoor Mission Camp: $2,225 to provide art supplies, recreation equipment, boat rides and horseback riding for the Camp Ability program serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

— Family Resource Center of Cherokee: $20,000 to provide transportation for voluntarily committed consumers from throughout WNC who need to have a plan in place for transportation home after discharge from an inpatient psychiatric hospital; $39,366 to provide for the continuation of an alternative service for consumers with behavioral health and substance abuse, replacing the formerly state funded community support team; and $67,500 to provide funding for the jail assessment and treatment programs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, and Swain counties.

Applications from nonprofit organizations are accepted on a rolling basis, with the next award cycle in September. The mission of the Evergreen Foundation is to improve access to and public awareness of quality prevention, treatment, and support services by the provider community to individuals and families with intellectual/developmental disabilities, behavioral health, and/or substance abuse needs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

Follow the Famous Dog The Road “Max” Traveled to Bring Hollywood Back to the Mountains

Mountain movie-goers are seeing more familiar scenes on the big screen. The film “Max”, now in theatres, tells the story of a dog helping Marines in Afghanistan. Look closely, and you may notice the backdrop for Max’s new mission in the U.S. is North Carolina.

One setting prominently featured is the DuPont State Forest, a short distance off U.S. 64 near Brevard.
“It’s so beautiful. All the different types of areas, the forest, the waterfalls, all the little cities around,” says hiker Kevin Toshner of Greensboro. “It’s got everything you need for a movie.”

Hollywood plots have also made the forest frightening. DuPont was the site of Katniss Everdeen’s first foray into “The Hunger Games”, which led many to discover the scenery for themselves.

“Many times, when these locations are shown, it’s like a commercial for North Carolina and our beautiful sites,” says Guy Gaster, director of the North Carolina Film Office. “You can certainly see a correlation between visitor attendance figures after productions are shown, like we saw with the forest after “The Hunger Games” and Chimney Rock after “Last of the Mohicans” came out.”

There’s a lot of responsibility making the real world look as good as the digitized Hollywood version. It’s a mission accomplished with the help of the state forest service, and the roadside environmental teams of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

“We know visitors come to the mountains expecting them to look as pristine as they’ve seen portrayed, and have the area be as nice as their friends and relatives who vacationed here told them it was,” says Richard Queen, NCDOT Division Roadside Environmental Engineer. “We want to exceed their expectations, from beautiful landscaping to litter-free roadsides.”

Roadside environmental crews from NCDOT’s 14 statewide divisions cultivate award winning wildflower beds, maintain everything growing along the roadways, and protect waterways and animal habitats. Their work plays an important part in a making a good first impression to visitors, as well as filmmakers who drive from shoot locations to their hotels and area restaurants.

“Preserving the natural beauty of North Carolina is so very important,” says Division Roadside Environmental Engineer Jason Joyce, whose crew takes care of N.C. 268 near Elkin. A railroad trestle there at the junction of the Yadkin and Mitchell rivers is also seen in “Max”. “You can’t find scenery like this just anywhere. We’re glad it attracts Hollywood and tourists,” adds Joyce, “but it’s also a big reason a lot of folks want to live here. We’re proud to care for it.”

It’s what keeps bringing stars to the state, and audiences to the box office, from “Dirty Dancing” in Lake Lure to “Dawson’s Creek” in Wilmington and locations in between. Those productions also continue to fuel film tourism for fans. The North Carolina Division of Tourism features links for road trips to scenes used in TV and movies. In addition to “Max”, there are links to tours for “Nights in Roadanthe”, “Under the Dome”, and “The Longest Ride”.

However, the famous locales don’t get treated any differently by NCDOT. “We want everywhere to be “camera ready” all the time,” adds Queen.

Property reappraisal is under way in Haywood County

The Haywood County’s County Assessor’s Office has begun the process of reappraising all 50,000 residential, commercial/industrial, vacant land, farm and forest properties in Haywood County for the tax year 2017.

Appraisers will be verifying the physical condition of buildings and any additions or deletions to the property since it was last inspected. Most of these inspections are conducted from the exterior of the property.

North Carolina law requires all counties to reappraise real property at least every eight years. Haywood County’s last reappraisal was done in 2011. Due to market conditions, the 2015 reappraisal was postponed until 2017 since there was not a considerable market change from 2011.

County staff will be gathering data and reviewing the activity in the local markets. Market value is not determined by the tax office but is reflective of the sales activity, building and cost data for the county.

To value 50,000 parcels, the county uses different uniform standards to develop estimates of value to complete a mass appraisal from the standards a single fee property appraiser uses; even though techniques may be similar.

All Haywood County Assessor personnel will be driving marked vehicles and carrying Haywood County identification. The Haywood County Assessor’s office is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 452-6654 if you have any questions.

WCU students study controversial shootings, make recommendations

Western Carolina University students not only studied numerous cases this summer in which young African-American men around the country were shot by white police officers, but the students also compiled 11 recommendations that were sent to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and other law enforcement officials and legislative bodies across the country.

The students were part of a special summer school criminal justice course taught by former DeKalb County, Georgia, district attorney and criminal defense attorney J. Tom Morgan. The course was the brainchild of Steve Brown, professor and head of WCU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The idea stemmed from the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer – a case that was debated nationally for weeks.

“We want our students to have the opportunity to examine those issues in a thoughtful sort of way as opposed to the highly spirited public debate that injects a lot of other issues that are not necessarily focusing in on the actual workability of different approaches for reform in the justice system,” Brown said.

Morgan said he was initially skeptical as to whether the Ferguson case could provide enough material for an entire summer course. That was until he discovered how many other similar cases there had been across the country.

“It seemed like every time we picked up a paper or turned on the news, there was another fatal shooting,” Morgan said. “We ended up having plenty to talk about all summer, unfortunately.

“It did give a lot of different perspectives that students got to see because many of these were actually on video. It was very eerie seeing people get shot and killed. I’ve been to a lot of autopsies as a district attorney, but I’ve never actually seen anybody gunned down, and we saw it over and over again. And then the students were finding cases that I actually hadn’t even heard about,” he said.

In addition to the Brown shooting, the students reviewed evidence, videos and statements from the deaths of Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York; Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio; Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina; Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Maryland; Cedric Alexander of Chamblee, Georgia; and John Crawford III of Beavercreek, Ohio. The class also examined video from New Richmond, Ohio, where an officer did not fire his weapon, even though it appeared he had legal grounds to do so. They also heard from law enforcement officers from Charlotte.

The class was comprised of African-American and white males and females, all under 30 years of age and hailing from various backgrounds and academic majors, which is what Brown was hoping would occur.

After learning about the law on use of force by law enforcement officers and when lethal force is appropriate, the students examined each case individually and then came up with recommendations on how to decrease the number of fatalities and expand the public’s perception.

The students’ recommendations, titled “Lessons Learned From Ferguson and Other Fatal Encounters With Law Enforcement Officers,” include:

· Having a national protocol that mandates fatalities caused by law enforcement officers be investigated by a special task force comprised of federal- and state-level law enforcement agents and not by fellow officers;

· The jurisdiction for prosecution of these cases should solely be with the U.S. attorney’s office, not the local district attorney;

· Grand juries reviewing fatalities caused by law enforcement officers should consider both evidence of guilt and innocence, and if they decide not to indict, the transcripts should be made available to the public;

· All replicas of real firearms should be required to have a bright orange, easily recognizable band on the end of the muzzle and it should be a crime to erase, remove or paint over the band;

· There should be a national database that keeps track of all fatalities caused by law enforcement officers.

“It was very interesting, from my standpoint, having been in law enforcement both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I was fully unaware of how many of these cases were happening,” Morgan said. “I was learning with the students.”

While this particular course will not be offered again, Brown said there may be some variation of it in the future.

“I don’t think this is a flash-pan issue,” he said. “It’s one that will evolve and discussion will continue for a great while. I think we’re at a turning point in terms of how decisions are made to control police discretion.”

State Highway Patrol to Focus Efforts on Seatbelt Use

According to the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it is estimated that approximately 33,000 people are killed due to motor vehicle collisions across the nation. While the effectiveness of seatbelts is rated between 40 to 65 percent, they are the single most effective means of reducing the risk of death in a motor vehicle crash. The use of seat belts and child safety restraints also prevent serious injuries that may occur when motorist find themselves involved in a vehicle collision.

Statewide in 2014, the State Highway Patrol reported 333 fatalities and 2,969 injuries where the occupant was not using a provided seat belt. Through a partnership with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, the Highway Patrol has identified seven counties that have reflected a high rate of unrestrained fatal collisions. These counties are Columbus, Cumberland, Guilford, Johnston, Mecklenburg, Robeson, and Wake.

Beginning on Monday, July 20th through Friday, July 26th a special enforcement project will be conducted in these counties to increase the use of seat belts by motorists. The use of child safety restraints will also be monitored by troopers throughout this allotted time frame. According to North Carolina state law, motorist must utilize a provided seat belt while occupying the front and rear seats of a motor vehicle. The driver of a motor vehicle must ensure child safety restraints are used if there are occupants within a motor vehicle under the age of 8 or less than 80 pounds.

N.C. General Statute 135.2A – Each occupant of a motor vehicle manufactured with seat belts shall have a seatbelt properly fastened about his or her body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion on a street or highway in this State.

The current fine for a seat belt violation in the front seat is $25.50 and carries court cost of $135.50 for a total cost of $161.00. The fine for a rear seat violation is $10.00 with no court cost applied.

Folkmoot International 2015 Parade

Swain County Illegal Gaming Operation Shut Down

teddy-bear-motel-restaurantA gambling bust on Wednesday left a few businesses in Swain County out of service.

Dozens of gaming machines are now in the custody of the sheriff after Anonymous tips from the community got an investigation started.

The investigation was ongoing for six months placing some deputies undercover in March.

The sheriff’s focus has been on three businesses: Lucky Shack and Teddy Bear in Whittier and 777 Arcade in Bryson City. The sheriff says they were running a gambling operation and that’s against the law.

Numerous gaming machines, prizes, cash registers, and ATMs were taken as evidence that now goes to the district attorney to keep the investigation rolling. Some of the owners were left with empty buildings. Up to 6 people now face charges.

North Carolina Gets Failing Grade in National Report on Democracy

Forget the honor roll – North Carolina isn’t making the grade when it comes to the democratic process. That’s the assessment of a national report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “The Health of State Democracies” awarded the Tar Heel State an F when it comes to ballot accessibility, and the fact elected leaders do not always reflect the demographics of their community earned the state a D minus.

Lauren Harmon co-authored the report and says democracy isn’t a partisan issue, “These are really common sense things that most people should agree on, unless their ultimate goal is in fact to impact the outcome of elections either by making it harder to vote or by making it so that money is seen as having the same weight in election as someone’s actual speech. ”

Beginning in 2014, North Carolina eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and starting next year will require a government issued photo ID. That law is currently being challenged in court. Overall, North Carolina ranks 42nd in the country in terms of the health of it’s democracy.

Harmon says much of the damage to the state’s democratic process has happened in recent years, “As these voting laws are taking effect, the government just doesn’t look like who’s actually in the state, in terms of people of color and women. We find that districts are being skewed in favor of partisan outcomes. In North Carolina’s case it happens to be Republican outcomes. ”

On a positive note, North Carolina received an A for its accessibility of legislative data for members of the public.

Traffic Delays at Western Carolina University

Traffic delays are expected on two of Western Carolina University’s main thoroughfares – Centennial Drive and Central Drive – to allow blasting activity associated with site preparation for WCU’s planned mixed-use facility.

Traffic delays can be expected at regular intervals in the area where the two roads intersect at the red light. Delays can be expected at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily beginning Wednesday, July 15, and continuing through Saturday, July 25.
Officials have warned that the schedule may be revised due to weather and other factors. Those traveling through campus are advised to consider alternate routes.

The 120,000-square-foot mixed-use facility will include a mix of residential units and commercial and dining establishments. It will replace the commercial strip along Centennial Drive where three businesses were destroyed by fire in November 2013. Completion is expected by August 2016.

Harrah’s Cherokee Donates $30,000 to MANNA FoodBank

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort donated $30,000 to MANNA FoodBank for the organization’s 2015 fundraising efforts. This is the 17th year Harrah’s Cherokee has supported MANNA’s mission to end hunger.

“When you examine MANNA’s more than 30 years in operation, their success is due to their interest and concern for the people they serve and the relationships they build with their corporate sponsors, volunteers, and generous donors,” Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Regional SVP and GM Brooks Robinson said. “We proudly support MANNA and their commitment to the communities our employees live in.”

The $30,000 donation from Harrah’s Cherokee was used to fund the Blue Jean Ball and will also support MANNA’s upcoming fundraiser, Empty Bowls in September. The Blue Jean Ball, this year themed “Bowl Full of Soul,” raised enough money to provide more than 283,000 meals to WNC families in need. The sold-out event was attended by 900 guests and was held on the MANNA campus along the banks of the Swannanoa River in Asheville on June 6. Empty Bowls, which will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton at Biltmore, celebrates community, art, and collaboration while bringing awareness to the problem of hunger in Western North Carolina.

“While many families are busy planning vacations, too many families in our region are busy trying to figure out how they will keep food on the table once the school year ends. In some of our rural communities this is especially difficult,” said MANNA FoodBank Executive Director Cindy Threlkeld. “We are especially grateful to Harrah’s for their generous monetary sponsorship and culinary sponsorship of the Blue Jean Ball and Empty Bowls. They bring a large team of culinary professionals to the event each year and provide first-class fare and service.”

The Blue Jean Ball is MANNA’s largest annual fundraising event. Every dollar raised or donated to the food bank provides enough food for 3 meals. Current estimates in Western North Carolina indicate that 107,600 people in the area sought food assistance last year. MANNA partners with 248 agencies throughout the region to get food to those facing hunger. In 2014, MANNA distributed 15 million pounds, or enough food to provide 34,000 meals a day throughout the 16 counties in Western North Carolina.

Blasting Set to Start on I-40 in Haywood County

Starting Friday, July 10, blasting operations will cause temporary morning closures on a rural stretch of Interstate 40 in Haywood County near the Tennessee border. The North Carolina Department of Transportation continues a project to make the rockslide-prone area safer, blasting unstable boulders from the mountainside near mile marker 7.

“The contractor can block the road for up to one 30-minute period between sunrise and 10 a.m.,” says Aaron Powell, NCDOT resident engineer. “We initially plan on blasting six days a week to minimize the length of the total project.”

When the contractor is ready for the daily detonation, westbound travelers will encounter a “rolling roadblock” at exit 20 near Maggie Valley. Eastbound travelers will encounter one at Tennessee exit 447, Hartford Road.

“Law enforcement cruisers and contractor vehicles will lead drivers at 10 miles per hour,” Powell explains. “Once crews determine the blasting area is safe, traffic can continue through and resume regular travel.”

During the rolling roadblocks, the on ramps at exit 15 and the I-40 westbound rest area will be closed, to make sure no vehicles end up approaching the blast area before crews give the “all clear”. Travelers should stay alert for stopped or slowed traffic from westbound exit 20 to exit 7, and from Tennessee exit 447 to North Carolina mile marker 5 on I-40 East.

“We appreciate drivers’ patience as we work to make the highway safer. It’s obviously dangerous to be near the area during the blast, so the delays are necessary. While there will be congestion and backups likely at blast time, we are working to get drivers through the rolling roadblocks safely and back up to speed as quickly as possible,” says Powell.

The project is scheduled to be finished in October.

Following Rules of the Road to Avoid Boating Tragedy

This summer has been full of fun for some boaters on North Carolina’s waterways, but it’s also been tragic for others. Three deaths over the July 4th weekend bring the total number of people killed in boating accidents so far this year to 21 in the state.

The past commander with the Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron, Steve Stuart, was on the lake this weekend and says he saw dangerous behavior, “Wow people are falling so close behind you and at a high rate of speed. They pass you both on the right and left within sometimes 15 feet. That doesn’t give you a lot of reaction time if you want to make a small turn to avoid someone coming at you.”

Stuart says there are basic rules of the road when it comes to boating and North Carolina is one of several states that require boat drivers to take the America’s Boating Course. It teaches navigation rules, safety and operation, but people born after 1988 are exempt. Stuart is among those calling on the regulation to be expanded to include all boat operators.

Stuart says it’s important boat operators be accountable for the safety of others on the water, “There’s some responsibility there as captain not only to you but your passengers and what happens if you cause an accident. I don’t think that people think about that enough and what’s best for other people too. ”

Besides promoting boater education, Stuart says the squadron is working with marinas to encourage them to offer boating safety courses, “Some marinas are considering doing that as part of the sales, they’ll pay for your first America’s Boating Course, which is perfect.”

The North Carolina Wildlife Services Commission is also reminding boaters to follow basic safety rules, including staying sober, wearing a life jacket and always knowing your surroundings.

WCU grant to help increase family nurse practitioners

The College of Health and Human Sciences at Western Carolina University is recipient of a $225,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation to help increase the number of family nurse practitioners working in health care settings in rural Western North Carolina.
Announcement of the two-year grant-funded effort was made Thursday, July 2, at the Good Samaritan Clinic in Sylva. The project is called INPUT, or Increasing Nurse Practitioners in Underserved Territories.
It also is designed to decrease the number of hospital emergency room visits by uninsured residents of rural WNC seeking primary care by providing them with an alternative through access to family nurse practitioner services at the Good Samaritan Clinic.
The project will fund a professional family nurse practitioner at the clinic who will assist in the training of nine graduate students annually from Western Carolina’s FNP program, said Judy Neubrander, director of the WCU School of Nursing.
“Project INPUT will provide valuable training to tomorrow’s family nurse practitioners by giving them experience working in a rural setting while simultaneously improving the health and health care of the region that is served by our friends at the Good Samaritan Clinic,” Neubrander said. “The project also will improve access to health care for people in our region who do not have health care coverage and rely on the emergency room as their primary care medical home.”
The project is expected to be of benefit to residents of Jackson, Swain, Macon, Graham, Clay and Cherokee counties, the primary service area of the Good Samaritan Clinic. Most of those counties are designated tier 1, or economically distressed, by the N.C. Department of Commerce, and all six are designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “health provider shortage areas.”
The project also will seek to identify additional sites in WNC beyond the clinic in Sylva to enable family nurse practitioners to provide health care services to a larger number of patients, said Dan Gerlach, president of Golden Leaf.
“The Golden LEAF Foundation created a special health care initiative to help reduce shortages in the number of professional and highly skilled health care workers in rural, underserved areas of North Carolina,” said Gerlach. “Research has shown that residents trained in rural areas are more likely to practice in rural areas.”
As part of the project, Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva will be collecting data on current emergency room visits for primary care and other non-emergency situations to help determine how successful the project is at diverting those patients away from the ER and to clinics and family nurse practitioners.
If the two-year study demonstrates financial savings for the hospital system, project organizers will seek additional funding sources to sustain the program.
WCU’s School of Nursing launched the family nurse practitioner master’s degree program in 1999 to meet a recognized need for primary care providers in WNC.
The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy through grants made possible by a portion of the state’s settlement agreement with cigarette manufacturers.

Amber Alert out for a missing child, Hayleigh Wilson.

hayleigh2As part of its ongoing search, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is asking for the public’s help to locate 14-year-old Hayleigh Wilson.

Hayleigh disappeared from her residence in Surgoinsville, Tennessee, on the night of June 22, 2015. Hayleigh has been spotted at a Walmart in Marion, North Carolina, in the early morning of June 23, 2015.

She was in the company of the listed 41-year-old suspect, who currently has an active warrant for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender out of Georgia.

Hayleigh and Benjamin may be in the Appalachian Mountains area of Smyth/Washington County, Virginia.

Hayleigh is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. Hayleigh has brown eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a sleeveless flowery top with dark colored shorts or a skirt and boots.

Benjamin is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. Benjamin has blue eyes and brown hair. He has multiple tattoos. He may have shaved off his beard and may have removed his glasses. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt with the letters “Ford” written on it, dark shorts and a camouflage baseball hat.

The public is urged to call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) with any information concerning the disappearance or current whereabouts of Hayleigh and/or Benjamin.

Calls may be made anonymously.

Observe Safe Food Habits This Summer

Warm weather picnics and cookouts can produce opportunities for food-borne illness if safe food-handling practices are not closely observed, state health officials caution.

“We encourage families to get outside and enjoy our state, but remember to take the necessary steps for food preparation and storage to enjoy healthy meals safely,” said Nicole Lee, the Food-borne Disease Epidemiologist for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health.

Nationally, an estimated one in six Americans, or 48 million people, get sick from unsafe food each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food-borne diseases.

U.S. outbreaks of staphylococcus, salmonella and botulism over the past few years have called attention to the importance of safe food handling practices. Lee recommends taking the following steps to reduce the risk of food contamination and food-borne illness:

Clean – Wash hands, utensils and surfaces before and after food preparation, especially after preparing meat, poultry, eggs or seafood. Keep all countertops and work areas clean.
Cook to Proper Temperature – Read cooking directions on packaging before preparing. Cook food to the proper internal temperature and check the final temperature with a food thermometer.
Chill – Refrigerate properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Make sure the refrigerator is set no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer at zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Separate – Don’t cross-contaminate foods. Keep raw meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood and their juices – and any utensils that may have been in contact with these items – away from ready to eat food.
Leftovers – Heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If they appear cloudy, mushy or have an unusual odor, dispose of them.
Time – Once foods are properly prepared, be sure to keep hot foods hot (maintain them at a temperature greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold foods cold (maintain them at a temperature of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Foods should not remain in the “Temperature Danger Zone” of 40 F-140 F for more than two hours, and no more than one hour if the temperature is greater than 90 F

Park Reopened in Hazel Creek Area

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are reopening trails and backcountry campsites in the Hazel Creek area effective Thursday, July 2. The area has been closed since June 6 following the recent bear attack.

Park rangers and wildlife biologists have been monitoring the area daily using traps and cameras.

Biologists recently detected bear activity at two other trap sites at locations within the Hazel Creek area and were able to collect hair samples for DNA analysis which was completed this week. The analysis determined that the bears active in the area were not associated with the bear attack.

“Based on this information, I feel it is reasonably safe to end the closure at this time,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Our staff has demonstrated extraordinary dedication and determination over the last several weeks to help ensure hiker safety in the Hazel Creek backcountry.”

Campsites will be marked with bear activity warning signs to remind hikers to exercise caution while hiking in the area and follow all food storage regulations.

Hazel Creek Trail, Jenkins Ridge Trail, Bone Valley Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail, Derrick Knob Shelter and backcountry campsites 82, 83, 84, 85, 86 and 88 will reopen July 2. For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.

NC Commerce receives $5.25 million to create new program to train job seekers for high-demand occupations

More people in North Carolina will receive help preparing for jobs in high-demand occupations, thanks to a $5.25 million federal grant awarded to the state. The money will be used to create and implement a new program called NCWorks Certified Career Pathways.

The state received a Sector Partnership National Emergency Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to support education and training programs, such as on-the-job and classroom training, for people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own or have struggled with long-term unemployment.

This funding will help more job seekers gain meaningful employment, as well as ensure that employers have access to a steady pipeline of talent.

North Carolina was one of 27 states to win the competitive grant award.

“This grant will support our ongoing efforts to find out what employers need from us and align our workforce services to meet those needs,” said Will Collins, executive director of NCWorks. “By working collaboratively with our partners, we’re creating the best workforce in the nation and making North Carolina a top destination for business.”

NCWorks Certified Career Pathways was developed by a collaborative team across education and workforce programs including community colleges, public schools, and local Workforce Development Boards.

Employers lead the development of a career pathway by identifying the workforce needs in high-demand occupations, such as those in advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology.

Workforce and education partners use this information to develop clear education and training plans to meet those requirements.

Pathways helps prepare individuals for work in a shorter period of time because they follow a path that leads to success without duplication of effort or added cost.

The NCWorks Commission will begin certifying career pathways this summer to ensure they meet the commission’s high-quality criteria such as being data driven, meeting existing and future workforce needs and educating students on potential careers and work-based learning opportunities.

NCWorks

The NCWorks initiative includes the NC Commerce Division of Workforce Solutions, the North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development, the NC Department of Public Instruction and the North Carolina Community College System.

The goal is to 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

NCDMV State Moped Registrations Begin July 1

On Wednesday, July 1, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles will introduce new statewide requirements for moped operators in accordance with House Bill 1145. These new regulations require all moped operators to register their vehicle with the DMV, and obtain a registration card and license plate, which must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle at all times.

Moped operators will be required to visit their local license plate agency for the registration process. The office locations can be found on the DMV website.

The cost of registering each moped is $18 annually. Durham ($15), Orange ($15), Randolph ($1) and Wake ($5) counties each charge an additional transit tax.

Operators must be 16 years of age or older and must have a valid N.C. driver license or N.C. ID card along with the moped manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO). If an operator does not have an MCO for their vehicle, the operator can fill out an Affidavit of Facts for the Registration of a Moped form (MVR-58) to serve as proof of ownership.

State statute defines a moped as having two or three wheels with an engine capacity of 50 cubic centimeters or less, no external shifting device or the ability to exceed 30 miles per hour on a level surface.

To help customers determine if their vehicle falls within the moped category, Division License and Theft Bureau inspectors will be available at most license plate agencies during the first week of issuance to answer questions. If an L&T inspector is not available, you can visit your nearest L&T District office.