Report: NC Health Coverage Gap Impacts Mom and Dad

Parents in North Carolina are among those feeling the effects of the state’s decision to turn down federal dollars to expand Medicaid. A new report released this week by the Urban Institute examines the impact to the more than 300,000North Carolinians who fall into the coverage gap – they don’t qualify for publicly funded-health coverage, or an insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act.

Genevieve Kenney with the Urban Institute says there’s a growing disparity between parents in states that opted for the expansion, and those that chose not to,”The parents in the states that have not expanded Medicaid have an uninsured rate that is close to 20 percent, where it’s closer to 10 percent for the states that have expanded Medicaid.”

The report says states that have accepted federal funding have seen nearly a 33%drop in the rate of parents without health insurance. North Carolina lawmakers turned down the funding because of concerns over costs to the state. The federal government is paying 100% of the cost until 2016 and will reduce its funding to 90% by 2020.

Adam Linker with the Health Access Coalition says knowing that the expansion could have provided care for thousands of uninsured people is a bitter pill to swallow,  “The most frustrating thing about this is that there’s really no reason that North Carolina is not expanding, other than ideological reasons.”

17% of uninsured parents surveyed reported having fair or poor health, and slightly more said they had mental health concerns. Linker says research indicates when parents have access to preventive coverage and care when they are ill, they’re also able to care for their families, “We know that insured parents are able to be more present in their children’s lives. They’re able to take better care of their children, because they are not themselves sick.”

According to the research, nearly half of the uninsured parents studied lived in southern states and more than half were Latino.

Search Continues for Missing Appalachian State Student

540e241252300.imageThe search continues for a missing Appalachian State student. Today marks one week since 18-year-old Anna Smith went missing. State and local investigators say Smith may now be in danger.

She was last seen at her residence hall room on campus in Boone, around noon last Tuesday, September 2nd. Smith, from High Point, is now classified as a missing and possibly endangered person.

Investigators are actively using all means to locate Anna.  Anna is possibly carrying a bright blue LL Bean backpack that contained a blue ENO hammock. Anna was possibly last seen wearing a red or orange top and black leggings. Anna typically carries a red purse as well.

Anna has short red or blonde hair, blue eyes, and stands 5 feet 9 inches tall with a slender build. She has nose piercings, a black and white sunflower tattoo on her upper right chest near her collar bone and Latin lettering over her lower left ribs.

Investigators are utilizing all means including interviews, forensic examination of records, surveillance video analysis and any other available means to attempt to locate Anna.

Her parents ask anyone with information to come forward. On Saturday morning, university police were joined by Boone police and other personnel in a search of several wooded areas on campus which turned up nothing.

Smith’s friends and family members said they distributed fliers around the campus and elsewhere in the Boone area over the  weekend. The fliers also were distributed among tailgaters outside Kidd-Brewer Stadium prior to ASU’s football game Saturday night against Campbell University.

WNC fall color may be spotty, but last longer, says WCU’s foliage prognosticator

Fall 2013 Color shot by Heather L Hyatt

Fall 2013 Color shot by Heather L Hyatt

The combination of a wet spring and forecasts for above-average temperatures this fall could produce a long-lasting leaf display in the mountains of Western North Carolina, but with spotty color development.

That’s the word from Western Carolina University’s autumnal season soothsayer Kathy Mathews in her annual prediction of how foliage around the region will perform as the sunlight of summer wanes and days become crispy.

Mathews, an associate professor of biology at WCU, specializes in plant systematics and bases her color forecast in part on weather conditions. She believes that the formation of higher levels of pigments in the leaves correlates with dry weather throughout the year, especially in the spring and September.

Predicting the quality of the fall leaf color is a combination of a science and an art, Mathews says. “Forecasters combine knowledge of environmental effects on pigment formation, climate history and forecast, and a healthy dose of observation and experience of past autumns in the region to make their best prediction,” she said.

Rainfall measurements for the Asheville area indicate that April was a very wet month, with about two inches above normal precipitation, and rainfall amounts slightly above normal fell in May and June, Mathews said.

“The rainy spring months this year portend somewhat muted pigments on the leaves in the fall,” said the fearless foliage forecaster. “On the bright side, our abundant tulip poplars, which are typically among the first trees to change color in the fall, perform well in wetter conditions, developing a golden hue that persists longer before browning. Overall, however, trees that produce red leaves, including sourwood, red maple and dogwood, perform best in dry conditions. Therefore, we may see fewer brilliant reds during the peak of fall color change.”

Still, the development of dry conditions in late August and September could improve the overall outlook and produce the best bursts of color, she said.

On the other side of the weather coin, the seasonal forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for slightly above-average temperatures this fall in the Southeast, and if that prediction pans out, the color season could be longer than normal, extending well into November, Mathews said.

Fall foliage fans always want to know when the “peak color” will happen, but the timing of the color change is highly dependent on the decreasing amount of sunlight that comes with the passing days, plus the elevation of a particular location, she said. “The peak of fall color often arrives during the first and second week of October in the highest elevations, above 4,000 feet, and during the third week of October in the mid-elevations, 2,500 to 3,500 feet,” Mathews said. “However, the timing of the first frost is important, as well. Because freezing temperatures quickly degrade the green chlorophyll, leaves peak in color intensity four to five days after a frost.”

Several periods of unusually chilly mid-summer weather in WNC, which included some of the highest peaks of the Smokies dipping into the 30’s, already may have had an effect on some trees in the mountains, Mathews said. “We’ve been seeing very early color change already in individual trees, mainly red maples, around the western part of the state,” she said.

Regardless of all the factors that affect leaf color, visitors to Western North Carolina always will find a pleasing leaf display somewhere in the mountains from September into November, with a smorgasbord of color made possible by the region’s more than 100 tree species, Mathews said.

Winning NC U.S. Senate Race Could Come Down to Youth Vote

gr-41562-1-1The race for North Carolina’s open US Senate seat could be a fight ’til the end, but the key to victory could come down to the youth vote. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is defending her office against Republican opponent State Representative Thom Tillis. New research from a nonpartisan research group known as “CIRCLE” at Tufts University suggests the youth vote in North Carolina could determine the outcome of the November race.

The unknown, says Peter Levine with the organization, is how recent changes in voting law will impact voters, “In North Carolina, there’s a lot of controversy about the changing rules regarding photo I.D. and voter registration and stuff so some would raise questions about whether youth turnout would get suppressed by that. We don’t know, but that’s certainly a part of the story.”

North Carolina’s photo I-D requirement will not be in effect in this midterm election. Levine says almost 46% of registered North Carolina voters, ages 18 to 29, turned out for the 2010 midterm elections. There are 1.4 million citizens in that age group in the state, making it one of the ten highest in the country.

Millions are being spent on both sides in the form of traditional print and T-V campaign ads, but Levine says according to his research, the key to the youth vote comes down to old-fashioned hand shaking,”The answer is direct contact. Young people really respond well to being asked to vote, and to a conversation – either at their doorstep or on the phone – about voting, because that allows them to ask questions and find out more.”Based on historical trends, he says it is also incorrect to assume that the youth vote will automatically sway toward the Democratic Party.

Sylva to Celebrate 125 years

The Town of Sylva is planning to honor its rich past on Saturday, Oct. 11 with a free 125th anniversary celebration downtown for all ages. The event will pay homage to the start of the cozy northern Jackson County town back in 1889. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and will run through 3 p.m. At 9 a.m., the farmers market will open and run throughout the day adjacent to the Bridge Park. At 10 a.m., there will be a horse parade, starting at Mark Watson Park and proceeding through Main Street to Mill Street and ending back at Mark Watson Park.

Free After 30 Years: Convictions Overturned for Two NC Men

Henry Lee McCollum, seen with his attorneys, and Leon Brown were declared innocent and released from prison after serving 31 years for a crime they did not commit. Photo credit: Gerda Stein.

Henry Lee McCollum, seen with his attorneys, and Leon Brown were declared innocent and released from prison after serving 31 years for a crime they did not commit. Photo credit: Gerda Stein.

They spent 30 years behind bars and today, two North Carolina men can walk free. On Tuesday, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission presented DNA testing to a Robeson County judge exonerating Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown in a 1983 rape and murder. District Attorney Johnson Britt agreed they are innocent of all charges and consented to their release.

Ann Kirby, an attorney for Brown, says the case highlights the need for better investigations and people willing to stand up for what’s right, “District Attorneys with the kind of courage that Johnson Britt has, as a true minister of justice, which is what prosecutors are charged to be – Not going in just to get convictions, but to go in and just give the truth. Because that’s what we need is the truth – and sometimes, we stop before we get there.”

McCollum and Brown were sentenced to death, accused of the rape and suffocation of an 11 year old girl. Brown’s sentence was later reduced to life in prison, but McCollum has remained on death row through decades of appeals. The DNA evidence matched a man currently serving a life sentence for rape and murder, who lived at the time near where the victim’s body was found.

Both McCollum and Brown have intellectual disabilities and were teenagers at the time of their arrest. James Payne, who also represented Brown, says the evidence that tied them to the crime was false, coerced confessions and investigators rushed to judgment, “Taking the easy answer and ignoring all the other indicators that there was another answer to the question led to two of them being on death row – one for five, one for 31 years. ”

Henry McCollum’s attorney, Ken Rose, called it “terrifying” that the justice system allowed the men to be wrongfully imprisoned. He added there’s a problem with the reliability of the convictions of people on death row.


Cut 45302 :14  “Mostly, these cases are old cases, before there were important reforms in the state. And I think there are a lot of problems in a lot of those cases. So, it’s a powerful message that we should not restart executions, and we should consider abolishing the death penalty.”

Tag:  According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, there are 153 people on death row.



Vaccinations are the Cure for Unnecessary School Suspensions

VaccineThe North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reminding parents to ensure children are up-to-date with vaccines to avoid suspension from school. North Carolina law requires children who are home-schooled or attend a public, private, charter or religious school to be up-to-date with North Carolina-required vaccinations within 30 calendar days from the first day of school.

Failure to show proof, such as shot records, will result in the suspension from school until the required immunization has been obtained.

Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as chicken pox, meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough) and others, are still experienced throughout North Carolina. Staying up-to-date with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended vaccinations is the best way to protect schools and communities from diseases that can cause unnecessary illnesses and death.

For a complete list of required vaccines or additional information, visit: www.immunize.nc.gov

Another Record Enrollment at WCU

One year after total student enrollment at Western Carolina University topped 10,000 for the first time in the institution’s history, records continue to tumble at WCU as this fall’s official enrollment stands at 10,382.

 University officials say the 2.7 percent jump in the total student population over last year’s tally of 10,107 is driven in part by an increase in the size of the freshman class and another year of improved retention rates.

 That’s the word from WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, which compiles official census statistics for reporting to the University of North Carolina system.

Experts Say Pick Up a Book to Better Bond with Your Child

Finding time to stop and read to your child can be hard at the end of the day, but experts say making the time will pay off in the long run. Programs in North Carolina, such as Reach Out and Read, work to encourage reading.

Brian Gallagher with the organization explains how the simple act of reading aloud to your child can make a difference, “By having the parent hold the child, sit with the child, have the child hear the parent’s voice, the book in many ways helps to create that interaction.”

Tag:  In North Carolina, Reach Out and Read distributes almost 223-thousand books annually. The program works with North Carolina pediatricians to hand out books at annual well-check visits. According to Child Trends, 55% of children aged three to five in the US are read to every day.


H.W. Cumming is a technology executive and dad who in spite of travel made time for nightly reading to his children. Some nights he made up stories and recently turned them into a children’s fantasy novel that’s been published this summer.  “It was always something that we kept very sacred. It was just something that we had to do. It was something that we did that was our bonding time, and we never missed it.”

Gallagher says by working with doctors to distribute donated books, Reach Out and Read is able to connect with children and their parents, “The doctor is that trusted messenger. When the doctor hands that child a book, starting when they’re babies, the parent’s going to hear that message very early on that this is something that’s good for your child, it’s good for you.”

Tag 2:  In addition to making reading to your child a part of your everyday routine, Gallagher recommends letting your child turn the pages, talk about the pictures and ask your child to retell the story.

September is Grape And Wine Month in NC

grape muscadineIn recognition of the state’s growing wine and grape industry, Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed September 2014 as North Carolina Wine and Grape Month.

The state’s wine and grape industry has grown significantly in recent years. It now employs more than 7,600 workers and has an economic impact of nearly $1.3 billion.

One indicator of the industry’s maturity is the federal government’s recent designation of a fourth American Viticultural Area in the state. The Upper Hiawassee Highlands AVA covers 690 square miles within the upper Hiawassee River basin in Western North Carolina. It joins the Haw River, Swan Creek and Yadkin Valley AVAs.

Having four distinct AVAs in North Carolina is a testament to the variety and quality of wines that NC is able to produce.

North Carolina boasts more than 400 commercial grape growers. Muscadines are grown mainly in the East, while European-style vinifera grapes are grown in the West and Piedmont. While many of the grapes are used to make wines and other specialty products, there is also a significant fresh market for the fall fruit. In September and October, shoppers can find fresh, native muscadine grapes at farmers markets and roadside stands.

North Carolina’s grape-growing history dates to the late 1500s, when Sir Walter Raleigh’s explorers first noticed wild scuppernongs on Roanoke Island.

Americans Are Not Saving For Retirement

Much has been written about the “sandwich generation” — middle-aged Americans who are caught between their financial obligations to elderly parents and to their children, while they also try to prepare for their own retirement years.

Yet millions of Americans face an even bigger bind: More than one-third of all working-age adults haven’t managed to save any money toward retirement, according to a new survey by Bankrate.com. The personal finance site found that 26 percent of people 50-to-54-year-olds and 14 percent of those age 65 and older have no savings.

The survey of over 1,000 adults living across the U.S. also found that 69 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds and a third of 30-to-49 year-olds have yet start putting something away for their later years.

The Bankrate findings jibe with other research that illustrate the death of retirement savings. The median retirement account balance for all working-age households in the U.S. is $3,000, and $12,000 for near-retirement households, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security.

However,  Those who are saving for retirement are starting earlier than in the past. And Millennials — people born between 1980 ad 2000 — at least feel more financially secure than any other age group surveyed, which may account for their lack of retirement savings.

Of course, preparing for retirement in a post-recession economy is easier said than done. A recent CBS News poll found that about 70 percent of working Americans are finding it hard to save for retirement at all, as they attempt to pay bills and meet their basic living expenses.

Only 18 percent of U.S. workers say they are very confident of having enough money to live comfortably during their retirement years, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Tunnel Repair Begins on Newfound Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced upcoming tunnel repair work inside the Morton Mountain Tunnel from September 2 through September 27. A full-time, single-lane closure will be in effect throughout the duration of the project. The tunnel is located 12 miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road.

 A leak in the tunnel ceiling and walls caused significant damage on the north end of the tunnel. Last winter, the leak formed very large icicles and an ice mound on the road surface causing roadway hazards for drivers that had to be cleared before the road could be opened for safe travel. During the repair, the tunnel will have one lane closed to allow workers to cut channels for the installation of drainage pipes in the walls and ceiling of the tunnel. Debris curtains will be set up to shield vehicles from construction activities in the closed lane.

 Visitors should expect delays through the 0.25-mile, single-lane closure area. Bluegrass Contracting Corporation of Lexington, KY was awarded the contract and will maintain traffic flow through the area using a temporary traffic signal. On weekends, flaggers will direct traffic through the area from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Report: Not All Cancer Care in NC is Created Equal

UNC research found that proximity to care impacts publicly insured patient's ability to continue cancer treatment. Photo courtesy National Cancer Institute

UNC research found that proximity to care impacts publicly insured patient’s ability to continue cancer treatment. Photo courtesy National Cancer Institute

The quality of cancer care you receive in North Carolina could depend on where you live. That’s the conclusion of two studies recently published in the North Carolina Medical Journal.

Stephanie Wheeler at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill analyzed people on Medicaid in the state to evaluate the frequency and availability of chemotherapy treatments, “Distance does matter, and we found that in urban areas, as we would expect, the further away that you live from a radiation provider, the lower odds you have of receiving radiation.”

One surprising outcome of Wheeler’s research – rural patients living less than 10 miles away from their provider are less likely to receive therapy than those living further away. She attributes that to the fact that people who live in rural areas are accustomed to driving further for their needs.


A separate study released this summer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology found there is a projected shortage of 1,500 physicians over the next 10 years to care for cancer patients.Wheeler also points out rural areas often have fewer specialists in close proximity. “There’s quality of care issues everywhere. I think what some of the issue might be in rural settings is that sometimes the oncologist practicing in those settings are more often generalists.”

The study also found that two-thirds of small oncology practices reported they were likely to merge, sell or close within a year. The report suggests an expansion of tele-medicine to give patients greater access to specialists and reducing the instability of payments from publicly insured patents that have a disproportionate impact on small community practices.

Women’s Equality Day Activities Planned Across North Carolina

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote 94 years ago this week. Now the anniversary of the amendment's signing marks Women's Equality Day nationwide. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote 94 years ago this week. Now the anniversary of the amendment’s signing marks Women’s Equality Day nationwide. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Today marks the 94th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment – granting women the right to vote. Events are planned in cities across the state including Charlotte and Raleigh to commemorate the day. Women’s groups are also using it as an opportunity to talk about policy changes that impact women in their pursuit for equality, including education and health care.

Ashley Simons-Rudolph with the Women’s Center at NC State explains what the day means to her,”There are always going to be ebbs and flows with equality, but you know I’m really proud to be North Carolinian and really proud of my state.”

Today in Raleigh women will gather at the State Capitol in recognition of Women’s Equality Day. The event is part of a Moral Week of Action, with citizens gathering all week to urge state leadership to reconsider public policies they see as counterproductive to the wellbeing of citizens.

Tara Romano with NC Women United is coordinating the Raleigh event and says the Moral Week of Action is a platform to discuss issues like the repeal of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and the decision to not expand Medicaid, “We are excited to be a part of it because we do feel it’s an opportunity for us to talk about issues that don’t typically get talked about, like child care and women’s dual roles as breadwinners and caretakers.”

Simons-Rudolph says budget cuts to health and education programs in recent years are forcing organizations to maximize resources. “I think everyone in the state is learning to do more with less, and we just need to continue to do the good work that we’re doing. ”

Wednesday the Moral Week of Action will continue with discussion of Medicaid expansion, health care and environmental justice, and Thursday will conclude with a rally for voting rights in North Carolina.

A Little Help Please? Fewer Teaching Assistants in NC Classrooms

gr-41300-1-1School is well under way and public school teachers may be feeling the burden of a new year a little more this year. Many teachers in younger grades won’t have the help of teaching assistants this year, as North Carolina lawmakers opted to shift$105-million dollars away from a funding source for hiring teaching assistants.

Mark Jewell with the North Carolina Association of Educators says with fewer Teaching Assistants now being shared between classrooms and grade levels, it will be impossible for them to meet students’ needs,”The quality of the work that they’re able to do has been diminished. That’s a big concern for us out there, when you’re removing another highly qualified adult away from direct contact with their students out there.”

Teaching assistants work with individual and small-group learners, communicate with parents and help create materials used in the classroom.

The multimillion-dollar cut from the teacher assistant budget eliminates 22-percent of the money local schools have to hire them. It’s left school systems such as Charlotte-Mecklenberg without funding for 90 positions, and Winston-Salem with a potential loss of 125 assistants. Jewell sees this cut as part of a larger problem, “You can’t educate North Carolina children on the cheap, and this is the kind of philosophy that North Carolina has transitioned to over the past two years.”

Speaker Thom Tillis publicly defended the budget change, saying the money was shifted to a fund where schools can decide if they increase teacher pay or continue to pay for assistants. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the move makes it more difficult for schools to reallocate the money to Teaching Assistants.

Local Hospitals Earn Top Awards for Patient Satisfaction

WestCare Emergency Medical Services and Swain County Hospital Emergency Department were recently awarded for excellence in patient satisfaction in the U.S. by Professional Research Consultants, a national healthcare research firm and leader in gauging healthcare consumer perceptions.

PRC annually recognizes healthcare facilities, providers, outpatient service lines, and inpatient units scoring in the top percentages of their national client database for the prior calendar year through the National Excellence in Healthcare Awards.

WestCare EMS received the 5-Star Award, scoring in the top 10 percent of the national database.

Swain County Hospital Emergency Department received the 4-Star Award, scoring in the top 25% of the national database.

The awards are based on the percentage of patients who rated the units “excellent” for the overall quality of care question.

WestCare EMS staffs three ambulances daily, responding to over 400 calls a month, in addition to providing support for the Jackson County First Responder program as well as educational and outreach programs for a variety of local institutions. The unit is also a North Carolina Office of EMS accredited teaching institution and an approved teaching site for many of the National Association of EMT’s courses.

The Swain County Hospital Emergency Department has provided emergency medical care to residents of Bryson City and surrounding communities for many years, offering the full spectrum of emergency care. The department is staffed with physicians with special training in emergency medicine, as well as an outstanding nursing staff with many years of clinical experience.

NC Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional

On Thursday, a Wake County judge ruled against the state’s new school voucher program, immediately ending the transfer of millions of public education dollars to fund private schools. The judge found fault with the “Opportunity Scholarship Program,” set to begin this school year.

Chris Fitzsimon with the North Carolina Justice Center explains the reason behind the court’s ruling,  “It seems to clearly violate the constitution of using public money for a private purpose. This program allows our public taxpayer dollars to go to entirely unaccountable, unregulated schools and we have not idea where this money is going.”

Judge Robert Hobgood said the funds should be “exclusively used for establishing a uniform system of free public schools.” Supporters of the voucher program argue that it is increasing access to educational opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to lower-income families.

Hobgood also noted that private schools receiving the voucher funds are largely unregulated and therefore, are not obligated to demonstrate improvement in student performance.

Fitzsimon says based on the judge’s ruling, the vouchers won’t be dispersed, leaving qualified North Carolina families unclear whether there will be funding for their child’s private education this year, “The judge was clear that funds will be frozen. It’s my understanding that no funds will be dispersed until there’s either a trial that finds this program constitutional, or the Court of Appeals rescinds the stay.”

In 2013, state lawmakers allocated 10-million dollars for the “Opportunity Scholarships” to begin this fall. The vouchers are worth $4,200 dollars apiece.

Macon County House Fire Investigation Leads to Murder

Charles Cochran is considered the prime suspect in the murder.

Charles Cochran is considered the prime suspect in the murder.

According to the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, a victim that died in the August 2 house fire in the Burningtown Community has been identified as 71-year-old Day Williamson.

The body was found in the upstairs back bedroom following a fire that destroyed the home. Although the body was recovered after the fire was put out, the  medical examiner’s findings of strangulation as a cause of death means that Williamson was deceased before the fire.

The Sheriff’s Office say Cochran, the prime suspect in the case, escaped custody from the Macon County Detention Center on July 30 while on trash detail. Cochran was on the run from authorities for five days until he was captured shortly after midnight on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

Authorities indicate Cochran had ties to Ms. Williamson. Her Chevy Tracker was reportedly missing at the time of the fire.  The tracker was found abandoned about a mile away from a residence where Cochran was found. He is also a suspect in a shooting in the town of Franklin on West Palmer Street WRGC reported on a code red alert sent to residents by Franklin police urging to lock windows and doors in the early August incident.

When arrested, he was in possession of a .38 caliber revolver. The investigation also led authorities to discover a bag filled with items , was identified by Day Williamson’s grandson as belonging to the victim.

No charges have been filed yet in the case. Cochran is currently being held without bond at the detention center on charges stemming from a trespassing incident from Colorado.

NC DOT To Replace Bridges in Jackson and Haywood Counties

As part of a continuing effort to upgrade and improve infrastructure across the state, the N.C. Department of Transportation has awarded a contract to replace two Haywood County bridges and four Jackson County bridges.


The $5.5 million contract for the bridge replacements was awarded to Simpson Construction Company, Inc. of Cleveland, Tenn.


Construction can begin as soon as Aug. 25, with all six bridges completed by November 2017.


The bridges scheduled for replacement include:


Haywood County:

-Bridge on Hemphill Road over Hemphill Creek, built in 1954 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient

-Bridge on Johnson Branch Road over Johnson Branch, built in 1963 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient


Jackson County:

-Bridge on Moses Creek Road over Moses Creek, built in 1963 and considered functionally obsolete and  structurally deficient

-Bridge on Woodfin Road over Woodfin Creek, built in 1957 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient

-Bridge on Johns Creek Road over Rich Mountain Branch, built in 1961 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient

-Bridge on Dills Cemetery Road over Fisher Creek, built in 1963 and considered functionally obsolete


Bridges considered functionally obsolete and/or structurally deficient remain safe for the traveling public, but they were built to outdated design standards and need to be replaced to meet current and future traffic demands.

For more details about improving North Carolina’s bridges, visit NCDOT’s bridge information website.

This is one of the 11 road and bridge contracts worth $43.4 million recently awarded by NCDOT for projects across North Carolina. The contracts were awarded to the lowest bidders, as required by state law. The low bids received on the projects were 2.8 percent, or about $1.2 million, over NCDOT estimates.

Scratch That Itch: How Climate Change is Bugging Us

This time of year, it’s hard to step out into the yard without getting a bite from a mosquito, fire ant or tick. If you think these pests are becoming more common, it may not be your imagination, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.

In North Carolina, warmer temperatures, reduced rainfall and the introduction of non-native species like fire ants all are affecting whether people can enjoy the outdoors, explains report author, Dr. Doug Inkley. “It’s not our imagination. This is already happening. We must take action now, for our children’s future, for our outdoor experience future. These things are happening now.”

Inkley says deer ticks are another growing problem in North Carolina, and that warmer winters are allowing the population – known to carry Lyme disease – to spread quickly. The report recommends supporting limits on carbon pollution and alternative energy sources to curtail climate change and thereby decrease the spread of problem pests.

The EPA is in the process of establishing carbon pollution limits for existing power plants and is accepting public comment.

Morganton resident Richard Mode with the N-C Wildlife Federation says increased outdoor pests and extreme weather are reminders of how the Tar Heel State is affected daily. “These are things that impact people. It’s not political – it’s a real issue that impacts humans, wildlife, wildlife habitats, our outdoor experience, and things that we love about living in North Carolina.”

In addition to creating problems for humans, pests like fire ants are also impacting the agricultural industry.

Inkley says they damage at least 57 species of crops and other plants. “Fire ants do eat, and are pests in, various agricultural crops. They’re also a problem for our wildlife, because you know fire ants – you don’t want to ever get messed up with fire ants.”

Fire ants are believed to have been transported to the country by ship from South America in the 1930s and 40s. They bite with a venom that can cause burning and blistering, and can even be deadly to humans and animals.