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  • NWS Tornado Warning Cumberland County is preparing for severe weather Thursday afternoon as several areas in North Carolina prepare for damaging winds.

    Cumberland County is under a tornado watch until 8 p.m. This means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form. 

    A severe thunderstorm warning is also in effect for Cumberland this afternoon. Winds could gust up to 60 mph in those areas, according to the National Weather Center. Residents should expect to see some damage to roofs, siding and trees from the wind.

    For residents on Fort Bragg, Corvias Property Management sent out an email saying that all outdoor furniture, toys, trashcans and other items should be brought inside or properly secured. 

    Cumberland County Schools have announced that all after-school activities are canceled this afternoon. Prime Time parents are encouraged to pick up their students no later than 4 p.m. today.

  • Wanted Vehicles Detectives with the Fayetteville Police Department’s Homicide Unit are looking for two vehicles that were present during the shooting at the Baymont Ramada on March 19. Three men died during the shooting and three others were injured. Police have determined the shooting occurred during a confrontation between the Hells Angels, Red Devils, Infamous Ryders and La Familia motorcycle gang organizations.

    The vehicles of interest are a Ford Raptor pickup truck displaying NC registration plate 81D5DV, and a Jeep Patriot SUV displaying NC registration plate RDP1513. The rear window of the Jeep was shot out during the incident.

    Two people have been arrested in connection to the shooting. They were arrested for an aggravated assault that happened at the Exxon off 1717 Owen Drive. The assault was between rival gang members which resulted in serious injuries to the victim. The assault happened hours before the shooting at the Baymont Ramada.

    The two men were each charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury and Felony Conspiracy. 26-year-old Dalton Emmanuel Laperriere is out on a $5000 unsecured bond and his next pre-trial date is April 12. 49-year-old Kerry Helms Lawing is out on a $25,000.00 secured bond and will be back in court on April 13.

    Anyone with information regarding the location of these vehicles is asked to contact Detective R. Vernon at (910) 729-2525 or Crimestoppers at (910) 483-TIPS (8477). Crimestoppers information can also be submitted electronically, by visiting http://fay-nccrimestoppers.org and completing the anonymous online tip sheet.

  • Voting Pexels Pic Shakita Norman lives in Wake County, works, pays taxes and has five children in public school. She told a three-judge, Superior Court panel in August 2021 that she wants a voice in North Carolina’s democracy.

    But, like more than 56,000 other North Carolinians, she is being held in limbo as yet another election begins, waiting to see whether she will have the right to vote.

    On Monday, those judges declared the North Carolina law governing when the state restores the right to vote to people previously convicted of felonies to be racist and in violation of the Free Elections and Equal Protections clauses of the state constitution.

    “North Carolina’s elections do not faithfully ascertain the will of the people when such an enormous number of people living in communities across the State — over 56,000 individuals — are prohibited from voting,” wrote Judges Lisa Bell and Keith Gregory, who ruled in a 2-1 majority opinion.

    Disenfranchisement does not advance a valid state interest, the judges wrote, and in fact, harms the state by preventing equal access to the vote.

    “Denial of the franchise to persons on felony supervision harms individuals, families and communities for years even after such supervision ends,” the judges wrote.

    But legal confusion and a pending appeal by state legislative leaders, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, may still keep those residents off the voter rolls.

    The N.C. State Board of Elections cited confusion from a previous court order made during a preliminary stage in the case when it told county boards to keep voter registration requests from people on probation, parole or post-release supervision in an incomplete queue while lawyers seek clarification from the courts.

    Neither Moore’s nor Berger’s offices replied to questions for this story, and their private attorney did not respond to a voicemail. But that attorney notified the Department of Justice, which formerly represented the legislators and still represents the Board of Elections, that the legislators intend to appeal.

    Still, the groups suing to change the law announced that they are out helping people who, under Monday’s ruling, are newly enfranchised.

    “We’re not casually treating it as, ‘Well, I’ll go register to vote,’” said Dennis Gaddy, a plaintiff in the case and the executive director of the Community Success Initiative, which helps people reenter society after incarceration. “We’re having a sit-down, face-to-face conversation.”

    The situation is confusing, but there’s also a possible opportunity, Gaddy said.

    In August 2021, when the same judges issued a preliminary injunction allowing the same group of people to vote, legislative defendants appealed, and higher courts blocked the injunction. But still, the higher courts allowed the people who had already registered to stay on the voter rolls.

    Even if the Court of Appeals blocks Monday’s ruling, Gaddy said there’s a chance the people who requested voter registration between now and then could be allowed to vote.

    146 years of discrimination
    In 1876, white North Carolinians amended the state Constitution and included a felony disenfranchisement clause that said no one convicted of a felony will have the right to vote until the state restores that right. The next year, the state legislature put a law in place describing how the right to vote is restored.

    Monday’s opinion, 146 years later, said both the amendment and the implementing law target Black North Carolinians with racial intent. The judges also concluded that racial intent survives today, taking a disproportionate amount of political power away from Black communities across the state.

    North Carolina’s three Black legislators in 1973 tried to give people a full reinstatement of rights upon release from jail or prison. But those efforts were watered down by their 167 white counterparts, the judges found.

    Lawyers for the state Department of Justice agreed that the 1876 laws were racially motivated, but the 1973 rewrite was not, and therefore the current law should be valid. Judges Bell and Gregory disagreed.

    “The legislature cannot purge through the mere passage of time an impermissibly racially discriminatory intent,” they wrote.

    Definition of racial disparity
    More white than Black people reside in North Carolina, more white people are in prison, and more white people are on post-release supervision. But the percentage of white people drops at each stage, and the percentage of Black people goes up, meaning that Black people are more harmed by disenfranchisement relative to the total population.

    “African American men are 9.2% of the voting-age population, but 36.6% of those denied the franchise,” according to the majority opinion.

    “In comparison, White people comprise 72% of the voting-age population, but only 52% of those denied the franchise. These numbers are the very definition of a racial disparity.”

    Both the sheer scope of disenfranchisement and the racial disparity violate the state constitution, Bell and Gregory wrote. They pointed to the 2018 elections, which showed “16 different county elections where the margin of victory in the election was less than the number of people denied the franchise due to felony supervision in that county.”

    In several of those elections, the number of disenfranchised voters was several times greater than the margin of an election, such as in Beaufort County, where 457 people were denied the vote under the law and 63 votes decided a Board of Commissioners race. Of those disenfranchised could-be voters, 253 were Black.

    “Denial of the franchise to people on felony supervision reduces political opportunity and the quality of representation across entire communities in North Carolina,” according to the majority opinion.

    The order describes a standard legal test showing the state could keep its disenfranchisement law if it served a legitimate government purpose. But, the judges decided, defendants “failed to introduce any evidence” that the law “serves any valid state interest today.”

    The dissent, and consequences of an appeal
    Bell is an unaffiliated judge based in Mecklenburg County, and Gregory is a Democratic judge based in Wake. Judge John Dunlow, Republican from Granville, dissented.

    In his opinion, the plaintiffs wanted to challenge the constitutional provision that takes the right to vote away from people convicted of felonies, not the law that describes how they get it back. This is in line with defendants’ arguments.

    Should the appellate court back that argument, the plaintiffs’ only recourse would be to change the implementing law through an act of the legislature, the same one attempted in 1973.

    Dunlow also disagreed with the majority opinion on how the Free Elections Clause is applied to elections.

    All the judges agree that the clause’s purpose is to “faithfully ascertain the will of the people.” But where Bell and Gregory define “the people” as all North Carolina citizens, Dunlow has a narrower vision.

    “The people whose will is to be faithfully ascertained are the persons who are lawfully permitted to vote in North Carolina elections,” Dunlow wrote.

    Both majority and dissenting opinions help higher courts review a case. The Court of Appeals is controlled 10-5 by Republican judges. Though the state Supreme Court is currently 4-3 Democrats to Republicans, two Democratic seats are up for election in 2022 and the court may flip.

    Dunlow’s dissent, if picked up by higher courts, could significantly limit the state constitutional protections against discriminatory voting laws.

  • Spring LakeIn a 5-1 vote, the Spring Lake Board of Aldermen decided to revise the prayer policy to be more inclusive and compliant with federal law. However, the invocation will still be a part of government meetings.

    “This is simply a policy change to put us in compliance,” said Mayor Kia Anthony. “We want to make sure we are being inclusive.”

    The board says they never intended to remove prayer from their agenda.

    The Mayor proposed a “non-sectarian” prayer that “does not revote any one religion, so we are not showing favoritism to any one religion over the another.”

    “My whole goal is to keep us in compliance, it is not to remove God from our meetings. That is not the intent,” Anthony said.

    “We want to make sure we’re covered because, as a unit of government, we have to abide by certain rules,” said Alderwoman Sona Cooper.

    The board cites a 2017 publication from the University of North Carolina School of Government, which states that a state court identified four practices that violate the Constitution. These practices are: only board members deliver the prayer; the board members are all of the same religion’ there is no opportunity for other faiths to be represented; and the board meeting occurs in the intimate setting of a local government meeting.

    The board uses information from an excerpt from the University of North Carolina School of Government that stated meetings during meetings “violates the Constitution.”

    Alderman Marvin Lackman disagreed with creating a new prayer policy.

    “I’m a proud Christian, and people elected me to represent them,” he said. “I stand firm in my beliefs. I stand firm for the people of Spring Lake. I am firm against this.”

    The Aldermen also unanimously removed the mask mandate from town facilities and swore in new Interim Town Manager Joe Durham from Wake County.

  • Originally published by The 19th.

    For more than two decades, Kim Hunt was constantly on the move. Alongside her husband, now a retired Navy officer, Hunt moved 16 times across the United States and Europe. The couple had two daughters — pregnancies that were planned around whether her husband was on shore duty or sea duty — but they knew many other active-duty service members who struggled to conceive at all. 

    Now, as associate director of research and training at Blue Star Families, a nonprofit founded in 2009 by military spouses, Hunt helps create, collect and analyze the largest annual military lifestyle survey

    For the first time, the survey included specific questions to better understand family-building challenges among National Guardsmen, Reserve service members, veterans and their families. Hunt said that for several years, respondents would fill in open-ended questions with concerns about their families. 

    “And the more we researched, the more we realized there was not really good quantitative data,” Hunt said. “There’s a lot of stories, which are very important, but there wasn’t this sort of handle on how deep this goes.” 

    And when she saw the results, Hunt said she was surprised by just how deep it went: More than two-thirds of respondents said they had faced a family-building challenge at some point in their lives. And nearly half said military service, specifically, hindered their desired number of children or desired time between births. 

    “We had 1,600 people willing to share their stories, and it was very humbling because they’re such personal stories,” Hunt said. “And so many people said that they just gave up finally, just stopped trying.” 

    The final survey results include more than 8,000 members of the military community. The answers revealed widespread struggles: Women and LGBTQ+ service members were nearly twice as likely to mention family-building challenges, including tracking ovulation, taking hormone-based medication, trying in vitro fertilization or navigating adoption processes while continually moving across state lines. Some voiced concerns about the impact pregnancy might have on their careers. Active-duty service members are generally 17 to 40 years old, about the same range as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) definition of “women of childbearing age.” 

    “Pregnancy and postpartum recovery time affects a woman’s chances of promotion,” an active-duty Air Force service member wrote anonymously in her response. “Obligations of motherhood and military service commitment limit how many children I felt like I could have.”

    Meagan Whalen, the deputy communications director of With Honor, a nonprofit organization led by veterans that focuses on electing veterans into public service, said the military community tends to remain silent on these kinds of personal challenges. 

    “We in the military community have a mindset of facing challenges and rising to the occasion,” said Whalen, who grew up in a military family, constantly being uprooted. “I think this report will be really reaffirming for them and validating what they’ve experienced throughout their military service. And it’s so valuable in getting information out to the public, letting the civilian world into these nuances.” 

    Many respondents described inadequate medical coverage for fertility-related treatments, financial difficulties or undue stress on relationships. But the most common obstacle to growing their families was “military commitments” and an “unstable military lifestyle.” Long deployments, especially during wartime, took their toll and left fewer chances for couples to try conceiving. The CDC defines “infertility” as the inability to get pregnant after at least one year of unprotected sex. However, meeting that criteria and accessing potential treatment is nearly impossible for many military families, who are often separated for months at a time. 

    “We did IVF out of pocket and lost twins,” an active-duty Army spouse wrote. “We had to pay a loan for three years after. If we were able to afford the unlimited tries, we would have a baby together. Him being gone a lot is also a factor.” 

    One Army veteran said: “We were beginning our third attempt at IVF when I was notified that I was deploying … By the time I returned from deployment, I was 46 and my wife was 43, and we determined that we had lost our last opportunity.” 

    Another Reserve service member said she and her partner delayed having children together for a decade while they were both on active duty. When they ended up having children, they made sure the births were “very close together to be able to have them while we were stationed together.” But the only way they were able to stay together, she added, was for her to transfer to the reserves. 

    Another highly cited challenge was expensive out-of-pocket costs due to a lack of health insurance coverage. TRICARE, the health care program of the U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System, does not cover assisted reproduction. (In the civilian world, most states don’t require private insurers to provide infertility benefits). More than 10 percent of respondents with out-of-pocket expenses said they spent more than $35,000; 42 percent spent over $5,000; and nearly 70 percent spent at least $500. 

    “We tried to conceive for three years before finally becoming pregnant on our fourth round of IVF,” an active-duty Air Force spouse wrote in response to the survey. “The military and TRICARE paid for none of it. We spent most of the money we had saved for a house down payment, around $40,000 in total.”

    Another active-duty Air Force spouse said she and her spouse paid $800 for sperm, $200 for shipment and $300 for an IUI procedure each time they tried for a child. It took them five tries.

    More than 10 percent of active-duty respondents said family-building challenges are one of the main reasons they’d leave the military. Members of Congress, including military veterans, are currently working on legislation related to military benefits, mental health, spousal employment, time away from family and pay and health care for dependents. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan recently spearheaded the passage of the Military Moms Matter Act to improve postpartum care for military families. Reps. Seth Moulton and Mariannette Miller-Meeks pushed for the passage of The Brandon Act, which strengthened mental health support for service members. And Rep. Jackie Speier penned a letter, signed by more than 140 of her Democratic colleagues, to urge the secretary of defense to eliminate for service members copays for contraceptive care.

    “This is a time in which our veterans in Congress can make a distinctive difference,” Whalen said. “They aren’t just reading these numbers. They’ve experienced or have served with those who did, and they understand those unique challenges that military personnel, families and veterans go through.”

  • history to go box The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex is offering history kits for kids every first Tuesday of the month. The kits, called History To-Go boxes, are full of interactive activities for children and their families. History To-Go boxes are designed for kids ages 6 to 12. The kits invite participants to enjoy and learn about the greater Cape Fear region.

    Each month, the themed boxes have worksheets, writing prompts and crafts. February’s theme was the Underground Railroad. The kit included crafts and helped kids locate the North Star in the Little Dipper using a cardboard tube and a flashlight. In March, the boxes were centered around the American Revolution and contained decoding activities. April’s theme is textiles.

    “’Textiles’ is going to have a little cardboard loom that comes prestrung with yarn, so the kids learn how to weave,” said Sarah Stubbs, museum administrative assistant.

    The box is also going to delve into the history of mill villages. These villages were created by the mill owners close to their textile mills. Textile mills required running water from streams and rivers, and these often were in rural settings, meaning workers needed to either travel from larger towns or live nearby. Setting up the villages for their workers gave the mill owners a way to keep staff around and keep an eye on their workers.

    “There’s a worksheet that we call ‘mill village math,’ and that plays off of an oral history interview that is included (in the box),” said Stubbs. “What is unique about that time period is that we do have audio-recorded oral history interviews. I took a transcription of one of those about two people, a married couple, who worked at a mill when they were children, roughly the same age as the kids who will get the boxes. Using the information we got out of that oral history interview, the kids have to learn how much money they would’ve been making as kids and the cost of living at that time.”

    The Museum launched History To-Go boxes in the summer of 2021. The museum holds a yearly summer camp for kids, but with the uncertainty of COVID-19 restrictions, the museum decided to make summer camp mobile.

    “They (the boxes) were so popular; we decided to bring them back on a monthly basis,” Stubbs said.

    Boxes are available for pick up beginning on the first Tuesday of every month. Currently, families are limited to two boxes per family.

    “We have a section on our website where every month we put PDFs of what we have in the box, including a list of materials that you would need to do your own hands-on-activity, so if you have other children or if you are a large homeschool group and you want to replicate the boxes yourself, you can do that from our website,” Stubbs said.

    The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex is located at 801 Arsenal Ave. in Fayetteville and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

  • Bible As we head toward Easter, you’re bound to see a big-production movie (or at least a listing) that seems remarkably like a story you heard. Maybe you heard it in Sunday School or heard it told during one of the countless sermons preached about when God parted the Red Sea to allow the people of Israel to escape the Egyptians who had long enslaved them.

    On-screen or off, the imagery is striking and worthy of all the mentions we can give it; God’s faithfulness to his people is amazing!

    But why were the Israelites enslaved in the first place? You can trace that throughout Israel’s history leading to that parting of that sea, but more specifically to Joseph – as in the ‘coat of many colors’ son of Jacob, whose name God eventually changed to Israel.

    Joseph is the one who was thrown into a pit and then sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and the one whose trials, tribulations and rise to a place of prominence in Egypt are all told within the pages of the very first book of the Bible: Genesis.

    The book details how Joseph trusted God through his enslavement, betrayal and situations that would leave most of us in utter despair. It details how in a wild turn of events, he becomes the very one who saves his father and the descendants of his 11 brothers when Joseph’s homeland is dying during a devastating famine.

    Even after all they did to him, Joseph helps his brothers and their enormous tribes, which leads them all to relocate to Egypt. They flourish and become productive, growing in both stature and number, and eventually, there’s a change of power in Egypt. The new king wasn’t fond of foreigners thriving in his kingdom, so he enslaved the Israelites – this continued and worsened over more than 400 years.

    So yes, God parting the waters to allow them to march out unharmed under the leadership of Moses (that’s another story) is a big deal and worthy of every telling.

    But there are so many points worth making along the way.

    The Bible is rich with stories of pain and struggle, forgiveness and redemption, and when we study it all in context, we begin to understand God’s love for us in all-new ways.

    From the table of contents in the front to the maps in the back, reading and gleaning truth from the Bible is worth your while. And just like this story about the Israelites marching out of a 430-year captivity through a sea which parted to allow them to cross on dry land, and then comes crashing in on the army chasing them, there are many pieces to every story.

    So, take time to study the Bible.

    Don’t miss a moment. Don’t look past a hero or a healing because if you miss a piece, you just might miss the point.

  • TechNet2 The annual TechNet Symposium is returning to Fort Bragg with the intent to help build solutions and share best practices that promote valuable results to technology challenges the military faces today.

    The symposium is hosted by the North Carolina chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). They are a non-profit volunteer association of technology professionals that promotes technology in the military community. The local North Carolina chapter hosts monthly luncheons, golf tournaments, professional development classes, college scholarships, STEM grants to local schools and the annual TechNet Fort Bragg conference.

    The president of the local chapter, Marv Gordner, says this has been the biggest exposition in the Fayetteville and Fort Bragg area every year for the past 12 years. In 2020, the conference was canceled due to COVID-19 and last year, it had to be held off base.

    “This year, we are back at Fort Bragg and right where and when we need to be,” Gordner said.

    The two-day military technology conference will be held at the Iron Mike Conference Center. TechNet Fort Bragg offers an opportunity for experts and leaders from across the Army and Fort Bragg community to address various sides of the challenging, controversial issues facing the U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command and U.S. Army Special Operations Command communities.

    The topics covered during the conference will address hard-hitting issues facing the military technology community over the next 12 to 18 months.

    Attendees can pick a specific topic they would like to focus on during the symposium and go to those breakout sessions. Those tracks include Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Cyber, Data, Small Business and Other.
    Gordner says there are three main things people can take away from the exposition: Networking, Education and Giving to a good cause. The AFCEA will use the money raised at the conference for local charity efforts such as local teaching STEM grants, scholarships for high school seniors, and ROTC cadets in college.

    The keynote speaker will be Brig. Gen. Jeth B. Rey. He is the Director of the Network Cross-Functional Team within Army Futures Command. He is responsible for the continuous improvement of network, command, control, communications and intelligence to enable mission command across the tactical network. On Wednesday, April 6, he will be speaking about how the Army is modernizing the tactical network and increasing integration with the strategic network through the Army Unified Network Plan to deliver data-centric capabilities in support of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) and Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

    “Everyone is welcome from E1 to people with stars on their shoulders. You will make good contacts. You can always learn something,” Gordner said. “You can always get that one percent or five percent better every day.”

    Gordner told Up & Coming Weekly that he hopes for at least 700 to 800 people to attend.

    The conference will take place on Tuesday, April 5 and Wednesday, April 6.

    Military and Government attendees can attend for free, while retired military and non-government attendees can attend for $175.

    Tickets are available at https://www.technetfortbragg.com/Register. People can also register at the door.

  • In my last column, I wrote about the Mediterranean diet. Nutrition trends are popular and frequently discussed topics. There are as many opinions on the best diet as there are a variety of diets. The industry has taken an active approach in marketing to us to impact the way we eat. Marketed products come in the form of vitamins, powders, planned meals and drinks. Specialized diets have become so popular that it is not unusual to see diet-related options on restaurant menus. In the long run, proper nutrition depends on individual consumption and how our bodies respond to nutrition interventions. Lifestyle, current health, and genetics also significantly impact how we react to a diet. Two people of the same age, sex, height and weight will respond differently to the amount of weight loss in the same period and see weight loss in different areas of their bodies.

    I am not suggesting that you go on the Paleo diet, but it is an interesting subject. Enthusiasts of the Paleo diet believe it is the healthiest way to eat because it works with your genetics, resulting in more energy and keeping you lean and strong. The Paleo diet has a heavy focus on protein consumption. It is considered a caveman diet or a stone-age diet consisting of foods thought to be eaten by humans in the Paleolithic era, dating approximately 2.5 million to ten thousand years ago. The significant difference in eating during this time was the food was obtained by hunting, gathering fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. When farming emerged, foods that became part of our diets included dairy products and legumes. Advocates of the diet believed that the addition of legumes and dairy products resulted in obesity and heart problems.

    Preferred Paleo foods are vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, wild game, grass-fed lean meat, fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and olive and walnut oils. People on the Paleo diet are advised to drink lots of water, black coffee or green tea. Foods to avoid are grains, legumes, dairy products, sugar, salt and potatoes. Some examples of a Paleo menu: Breakfast — smoothies with a combination of kale or spinach, banana, apple and almond milk or scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach, grilled tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. Lunch — mixed salad greens, fried sea bass, pumpkin seeds and olive oil dressing or roasted chicken with mixed greens, tomatoes and olive oil dressing. Dinner — roasted chicken stuffed with carrots and fresh rosemary or baked salmon with roasted asparagus.

    The Paleo diet emphasizes fruit, vegetables, animal proteins, nuts and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish and less consumption of meat products.

    A safe approach to weight loss involves losing one to two pounds per week. Fad diets that cause a large amount of weight loss in a short time are not sustainable.

    A healthy approach to dieting includes a combination of diet and exercise. While going on a quick-fix diet for a special occasion or trying a friend’s diet can be tempting, the bottom line is that a sustainable lifestyle with good eating habits will result in a healthier you. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, saturated fats and sweets.

    Take your time selecting a diet and educating yourself or see a qualified nutritionist for meal plans. Live, love life with health and diet.

  • USASOC Last week, Fort Bragg ranges were busy playing host to an elite group of local, national and international special operators. Annually, Fort Bragg sets the stage for U.S. Special Operations Command Sniper Competition (USASOC). The event is created with great attention to detail and secrecy by the Special Forces Sniper School Instructors (SFSC) from the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Each competition and each event are different, keeping highly trained competitors on their toes.

    This is the 13th time the competition has been held. In the wake of COVID, the event has had to shift and adapt. Last year, fewer teams competed, and the French team was the only international partner able to attend. During the 2020 competition, the USASOC Sniper Competition was held entirely in-house, with soldiers already at Fort Bragg representing the different Special Forces Groups and special operations elements.

    21 teams were in attendance to compete; six of the teams were international, including teams from Ireland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland,
    Non-descript white, gray and silver government issue vans ferried soldiers and their equipment between events on precise timelines. Six minutes to here, eight minutes there. Upon arrival at any given range, competition organizers provided each team with relevant details of the challenge before them. The teams collected the appropriate weaponry and scopes, bundled out of their vans and were given one minute to ask the SFSC instructor in charge questions.

    On Tuesday, March 22, a white van rolled up to Range 61 with a two-person team from the U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Raider Unit. One team member climbed to the first floor of a six-floor structure facing a long-range, and the other situated himself in the back of a Humvee next to the building. Each in the prone position. Spotters stood at scopes to check their accuracy and the instructor in charge handed the operator on the first-floor platform a tile with one of eight possible images. The team member in the Humvee, who played spotter for this event, was given a key with all eight images and each image corresponding to a specific target shape and color.

    The soldier in the Humvee has a carbine, the other a long gun or sniper rifle.

    "… background, there are several shapes," called the soldier on the platform. "On the background is a large five-pointed star."

    "Yup," the soldier in the Humvee confirmed.

    "Inside of that is a large circle, inside of the circle is a square inside of the square is hexagon… an octagon, inside of the square is an octagon, and then inside the octagon is an orange circle with a blue border," the soldier on the platform said.

    "Alright, it's going to be a green piece of steel. It's literally just a vertical … a green two-by-four," the soldier in the Humvee said.

    "Got it."

    The soldier on the platform lines up the shot, accounts for the distance and wind and pulls the trigger.

    "Miss," calls the spotter.

    And another tile is given to the soldier on the platform. This continues until the team's time has run out. The Marine Raiders praised the challenge, loaded up and headed to their next event.

    Each event is designed to test the team's marksmanship and ability to communicate and work as a team.

    On Range 62, the next event tested the teams on their ability to shoot at "known distances."

    "A big problem with shooting is wind," explained SFSC Instructor Rick Cuza.

    He explained that the targets were placed 500 to 800 meters out. Each bank of targets had been small, medium and large targets of about the same height but not the same width. The targets range in the number of points they are worth; more for smaller targets less for the larger ones.

    "They have to decide based on the distance and what they see the conditions which target they are going to shoot," Cuza said.

    At another event, soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) completed an event designed to test their ability to discriminate between their targets, deciding which targets are threats and which are not.

    Organizers staged this event in an urban setting with targets placed between 385 meters and 650 meters. The team was positioned in a room on an upper floor of a building shooting out of a window. The teams would need to use their scopes to determine if objects near their targets were weapons, indicating they were a threat.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Chuy Almonte, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Special Warfare Group believes the event does not simply measure marksmanship; the events measure a soldier's ability to perform under stress.

    "It's really about to be able to problem-solve … managing your stress," Almonte said.

    Almonte says that the competition is of value beyond measuring skills; that it lays a foundation of communication and collaboration and facilitates the sharing of knowledge with international partners.

    This is important from a perspective of personal experience, Almonte explained.

    While deployed in Afghanistan, Almonte worked on a firebase in a "very kinetic area during a very kinetic time." They needed help and were supported by a group of Czech Republic special forces. They built a strong relationship.

    "We brought a lot of white space to that region … we went from a 500-meter freedom of movement to an almost 10 kilometers freedom of movement," Almonte said. "Because of that partnership with the Czech soldiers."

    Further down the line, while working on a different problem set based in Africa, that relationship was again a benefit.

    "Focused in a totally different content and area of the world, but because of our previous relationship together, we were basically able to pick up where we left off," Almonte said.

    The events culminated in a banquet Friday, March 26, where the event's winners were recognized. A USASOC team for Fort Bragg took first place, France second, and 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) third. Ireland was disqualified during the competition for a negligent discharge.

  • Citys Mural By the time Jermaine "JP" Powell finishes a state-of-the-art mural where the I-295 Overpass crosses North Ramsey Street, motorists traveling into and outside the Fayetteville city limits will admire the attractive scenic design on both sides of the underpass.

    Without words, the mural will speak to ways in which the City of Fayetteville recognizes and supports the ways in which the arts can enrich a community. People may wonder why it took so long to have such an attractive mural painted. That's where my inside story begins.

    If you take time to drive past the early phases of the mural being painted, you will be able to see the stages that take place to create a very large mural titled We Are Fayetteville: Legacy and Future.

    So why is it important to know the process as the artist begins working – you can drive by and enjoy it when it's completed? In short, you will see why the mural looks the way it does; and you may be surprised at the logistics of a project of this scale.

    Factors include but are not limited to finding sources to support the project, planning, leadership knowledgeable about the arts, countless hours of coordinating with individuals, committees, agencies and groups, and of course, finding the right artist for the task.

    The I-295 and Ramsey Street Corridor Project started in 2017/2018 when the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County (Arts Council) applied for and received partial funding from the National Endowments for the Arts.

    Over the next few years, the project was paused several times due to budgetary concerns and the ability to receive approval for the work. COVID restrictions and people working remotely further delayed coordination with organizations.

    In early 2020, Michelle Horn and I were contracted to coordinate the mural project. Michelle and I had worked together coordinating the Veterans Park Project, we work well together, and both bring varied expertise and strengths.

    Bob Pinson, interim president/CEO of the Arts Council, and his staff worked closely with us to carry out many of the administrative details, interfacing with Michael Gibson and Tim Johnson with the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation Department (and too many others to list), NC DOT representatives and suppliers.

    So, the planning begins. Before launching the project with a nationwide "request for proposals (RFP)," an advisory board of individuals in the visual arts/architecture was created. Coordinators met with members of the City's Revitalization Committee to determine themes. Finally, the coordinators and Pinson met with a group of citizens to discuss themes they believed best represented the north side of Fayetteville.
    Now the RFP could be published, initializing a national search for submissions by artists. Artists sent their resumes and examples of mural designs using themes from the meetings: "diversity, agricultural past, forward-thinking, a pleasant and fun place to live and work and the colors of green and gold... since Methodist University and Pine Forest High School anchor this area."

    North Carolina Department of Transportation owns the bridge and the concrete surface on each side of the abutment that will be painted. If the design was going to be approved, the process first had to meet the detailed guidelines of the NCDOT Aesthetics Committee from planning to pre-approved paint for the project.

    The preliminary guidelines had been met: (1) a good location for a mural and a design that is not distracting, (2) the coordinators provided the engagement and expertise required, (3) the community was engaged early in the process, (4) a five-step process of selecting an artist was used, and (5), the RFP went to as many national websites as possible for the search to be inclusive and diverse regardless of race, color, national origin, sex or age."

    After the June 2020 deadline for artists to submit their ideas, the coordinators selected the top three artists based on resume, design and if they were suited for such a large project. The members of the Advisory Committee chose the artist in a blind selection process (blind selection means the committee did not see the names of artists or where they lived – only viewed prior murals by an artist and ideations for this project).

    Two of the finalists included an Italian artist creating murals in the US and a muralist living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Through the blind selection process, the advisory committee selected a third artist: Jermaine "JP" Powell, an artist living in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina!

    The decision was overwhelmingly unanimous. Powell, a mixed-media fine artist and mural artist living in North Carolina, is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, located in Brooklyn, New York. He was selected for the project due to his strong design skills, creative use of patterns and textures, and his uplifting and positive approach to subjects in prior murals and content.

    By August 2020, Powell, the coordinators and Pinson had met with residents, and they discussed the piece's themes with the artist. Residents shared what they valued in their part of the community.

    Over the next few months, the artist worked with coordinators and advisory committee members, revising and presenting his drafts for approval.

    By March 2021, the design was approved by the city's Public Art Committee, Revitalization and Corridor Committee and Fayetteville City Council.

    A year later, this month, after many COVID-related delays, the project is starting. Unexpected delays included the length of time it took for two NC DOT Aesthetic Committees to review the approved design and paint being used, COVID and Zoom meetings, approved paints on backorder finally arriving and weather preventing priming of the walls. Finally, Powell has begun laying the foundation of the design on the walls.

    During the delays, meetings on the project continued with the coordinators, Powell, Arts Council staff, and staff from Fayetteville City Parks and Recreation. Discussions included logistics of the site, equipment and supplies. A small team of volunteer assistants was selected, met and were briefed on safety standards at the location and the practice of working with the artist.

    Everyone who has participated in the project is excited to have Powell as the artist and share a mural we know the community will find pleasing and attractive.
    The mural, like other public art projects, will add enormous value to the cultural, aesthetic and economic vitality of our community. State-of-the-art projects contribute to our identity as a community, foster community pride, and enhance the quality of life for the residents.

    The entire mural process has been documented and archived at the Arts Council as a resource for future projects. The Arts Council marketing team is creating a video to share when the mural is complete. Visit http://www.wearethearts.com/295mural for more information.


    Photo Credit: Location for a new mural at the intersection of I-295 and north Ramsey Street. Depending on weather conditions, the murals are expected to be completed by the end of June. Photo courtesy of the City of Fayetteville.

  • Artists for Austism April is Autism Awareness Month, and “Jammin’” Jon Kiebon knows what Fayetteville needs to kick it off in high style. The first annual Artists for Autism Awareness benefit concert will take place at the Fayetteville Bakery and Cafe on Saturday, April 3, from 12 to 5 p.m.

    Formerly called Jammin’ Jon’s Rocking for Autism Awareness, the event was conceived in 2012 on the boardwalk of Rockaway Beach in New York and inspired by his daughter, Gail, who was diagnosed on the spectrum before age two.

    Kiebon, a New York musician heavily inspired by the work of Frank Zappa, saw a concert as an opportunity to bring more visibility to people on the spectrum and fundraise for important causes.

    “The autism community can be so fragmented, and people are so leery of one another. This event is about raising awareness for autism, available resources to those on the spectrum, and bringing the community together.”

    In search of affordable housing amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, Jammin’ Jon found his way to Fayetteville by chance, then quickly found his tribe in business owner Franco Webb and local spoken-word artist “Little Niecie.”

    What began as a discussion between sets at the open-mic nights hosted by Webb’s Fayetteville Bakery and Cafe would eventually become the blueprint for April’s concert.

    Little Niecie, who also has a child on the spectrum, is incredibly passionate about this project, taking on the co-coordinator role.

    At her suggestion, the concert will keep its origins as a fundraising event, with 100% of its proceeds going to Cumberland County special education teachers.

    “Special-Ed teachers go through so much and pay for so much out of pocket. So we’ve teamed up with School Tools,” another business based in Fayetteville, “to ensure these teachers get what they need.”

    Niecie’s involvement also stems from a place a bit closer to home. Like Jon, she wants to be an agent of awareness regarding autism.

    “People tend to think of autism in one scope; this event is an opportunity to educate the community about what autism is and what it can be. We also want people to have fun at an awesome family event.”

    In that vein, Artists for Autism Awareness has plenty to offer.

    The 1-hour open mic stage will give local artists, many of whom are on the spectrum themselves, an opportunity to shine. In addition, performers can look forward to an awards ceremony at the end of the set, presented by “Little Niecie” herself.

    Attendees can pursue various vendor booths selling everything from woodcraft, wreaths, and jewelry to children’s books and poetry.

    Information booths for veterans and those with disabilities will be on-site to offer more information on available resources in the community.

    Complete with food trucks, a raffle, and plenty of activities for kids in attendance, the Artists for Autism Awareness is an event for anyone and everyone.

    Not forgetting its roots as a musical festival, the main stage has quite a show for those in attendance.

    Several local musicians, such as Fat Freddy’s Cat and Kevin Taylor, to name just a few, will be there to rock the crowd.

    By no means a local, but proud to now call Fayetteville his home, Jammin’ Jon will also take the stage to give back to a community for which he is so grateful.

    “This is surreal,” Jon says reflectively of the event, “this is much bigger than what I did in Rockaway; I never had anything like this.”

  • Hotels Very few people know that my first career out of the Army, in 1970, was in the hospitality industry. My degree, earned in the Army's Project Transition Program, was in hotel/motel management. And fortunately, my first job was with Pinehurst, Inc. I was a hotel management intern at their elegant and historic Carolina Hotel in the village of Pinehurst. I worked under and with the industry's most experienced and dedicated hospitality professionals. From bell hopping to the front desk to housekeeping, night auditing and food and beverage, I learned from the best. At twenty-one years old, I was eager to learn the craft and even keener to immerse myself in a satisfying career dedicated to making people feel welcomed, comfortable and happy.

    It's a colossal transition from hotel management and hospitality to newspaper publishing, and there were several other experiences and careers in-between. However, I learned one thing for sure, the rules and principles they taught me in the hospitality industry apply to every aspect of work and life I have experienced since then. This is why I have dedicated the past 26 years to showcasing and accentuating the Fayetteville community.
    When I created the Up & Coming Weekly newspaper in 1996, the Fayetteville community had no shortage of warm and welcoming residents, arts and culture, dedicated and involved business professionals or municipal leadership. What the Fayetteville community did lack was somewhat of an enigma to me, and that was an advocate for the city. In the absence of sufficient media, a dedicated local TV and radio station, the marketing and promotion of the uniquely friendly nature of our diverse Fayetteville community was lost. Filling that void became our mantra and, ultimately, our business philosophy. The rest is history. So, you may be asking what all this information has to do with apartments and hotels. Much.

    It is commendable that Jordan Jones of Prince Charles Holdings LLC and the city have agreed to build over 200 apartments above the $17 million-plus Hay Street Parking deck. The deck without the elevator! Residential apartments may seem like a good alternative after the Hyatt hotel, and office building didn't materialize. I do not think it is the best alternative because of all the hard work the Arts Council, Cool Spring Downtown District, Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Alliance and many others are doing to enhance historic downtown Fayetteville. Everyone wants to make downtown Fayetteville a thriving destination and a successful environment for local businesses, organizations and guests. With a background in the hospitality industry and after spending decades traveling for business, I can say, without a doubt, a first-class 3.5 or 4-star property located downtown would create a tourist and economical tour de force for Fayetteville and the downtown business community. The Exit 49, Skibo Road and Cross Creek Mall areas have good businesses; however, they are not in downtown Fayetteville. People wanting to experience the heart of our city want to stay in the heart of our city. Visitors, guests and travelers spending the night on the city's perimeter are reluctant to venture downtown and instead seek out more convenient restaurants or entertainment venues. However, if they stayed in the heart of historic downtown Fayetteville, the entire city would become their dining, entertainment and fun destination. I'm convinced that quality properties like Hyatt, Courtyard, Fairfield, Hilton or Hampton Inns would do exceptionally well while drawing travelers off I-95 and providing guests and visitors a favorable and hospitable impression of our community. Local downtown businesses and city and county agencies would support such a venture because a quality hotel would provide lodging and meeting space convenient to both city and county offices. A quality downtown hotel would be a win-win for the local downtown businesses, the city and the county government, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, the Woodpeckers, the Arts Council and citizens. The apartments are good, but a quality downtown hotel would make historic downtown Fayetteville even better.

    I'll close by sharing this: On July 29, seven Harley Davidson motorcycle riders (and one BMW) will be leaving Fayetteville and traveling to Sturgis, South Dakota, a distance of 1850 miles. Our itinerary includes spending the night in hotels in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, downtown Cleveland, Ohio, downtown Ludington, Michigan, downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin and downtown Deadwood, South Dakota. We are not the exception to the rule of travel enjoyment. Without a quality hotel, downtown Fayetteville deprives itself of a substantial economic opportunity by neglecting to provide the facility and amenities this market
    demands.

    In closing, if you know of any local hotel or business entrepreneurs who agree with this assessment, have them contact me. After I retire from the newspaper business, I will gladly come and manage their hotel for them. Full disclosure, I was never very good at housekeeping!

    Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

  • Ukraine Demonstration This past week, March 24, marked one month since renewed aggression in Ukraine in the ongoing Russo-Ukraine War. Beginning in 2014 and resulting in the Russian annexation of Crimea and unrest in the Donbas region, the war has culminated in a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. While the war may seem very far away for many in Cumberland County, it is hitting home for some.

    Dmitry and Alena, whose last names are being withheld at their request because Dmitry is in the U.S. Army Special Forces, are from and grew up near Kyiv. The couple immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine. Dmitry joined the U.S. Army in 2009 and graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2014. He currently serves on active duty and is stationed locally at Fort Bragg.

    While Dimitry and Alena now live in the U.S., their families are still in Ukraine. This includes brothers and sisters and their children, aunts, uncles and cousins. Dmitry's nephew and brother-in-law are currently fighting in Kyiv along with thousands more throughout Ukraine who have vowed to defend their homeland.

    Shortly after the invasion, Dmitry put out a call through his personal network and via social media for support and medical supplies to be donated and sent to Ukraine. Just one day after the invasion began, Dmitry posted.

    "If you [are] not too far away from me: Fayetteville NC, we've got some request[s] from Ukraine," Dmitry said in his post.

    He was requesting medical supplies to send home. And the community answered.

    "Russian and Belorussian terrorists are still attacking my home country, and I am still looking for equipment to send to Ukraine. We successfully shipped off today 22 40-gallon boxes of amazing medical equipment worth $98,000," Dmitry said in early March.

    In support of his call for help, the Special Forces Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission of supporting Green Berets and their families, helped Dmitry and Alena establish a fund supporting their cause.

    "The Green Beret Humanitarian Fund (GBHF) was created to support humanitarian efforts in which Green Berets coordinate, work with or otherwise support outside of their line of duty. The fund was created in the first days of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine when a fellow Green Beret and his wife reached out for assistance in helping their former countrymen," the Special Forces Foundation said in a statement. "Dmitry and

    Alena have actively been gaining support within their community in the form of monetary and material donations and physical help in preparing those donations for delivery to Ukrainians in dire need. The GBHF has been set up so that they, along with other advocates, can actively raise funds to aid in the expenses accrued when shipping donated items to Ukraine."

    Since the creation of the GBHF, a Facebook page, UkrainianEfforts has been created, demonstrations in Fayetteville have been organized, and Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom and Dirty Whiskey Craft Cocktail Bar have scheduled an event in support of Dmitry and Alena. The brewery is accepting donations by collecting Meals Ready to Eat, dry freeze foods, blankets, water filtration systems, socks and undergarments and medical supplies.

    The efforts to support the GBHF will culminate in an event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 3.

    For information on how to help the GBHF visit the Facebook UkrainianEfforts, and to make a donation, you can text GBHF to 41444 and follow the link provided.

  • We Americans take great pride in our Constitutional right to free speech. It is, after all, the very first amendment we made to our Constitution in our clarifying Bill of Rights in 1791. The First Amendment protects us from government restrictions on our speech, but it is widely interpreted as a right to voice our thoughts in public. We cherish it, in part, because other nations do not have such a guarantee for their people, a sad reality on full display during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

    So, it is not surprising that a recent editorial in the New York Times with the headline America has a free speech problem" caught my attention. The Times' editorial board describes our problem this way. "For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned... the old lesson of 'think before you speak' has given way to the new lesson of 'speak at your peril.'"

    The Times lays much of the blame for this dangerous situation on the vicious ideological war between the right and left of our political system, with one side pretending "cancel culture" does not exist and the other side attacking rapid societal change with laws banning books and censoring some discussions in schools and colleges.

    What's more, the newspaper has teamed with Siena College to poll on this issue. Here are some of its questions … be honest with yourself as you read them!

    • Over the past year, have you held your tongue because you were concerned about retaliation or harsh criticism?
    • Over the past year, have you retaliated against or harshly criticized another person because of something he or she said?
    • How much of a problem is it that some Americans do not exercise their freedom of speech in everyday situations out of fear of retaliation or harsh criticism?

    No matter how you responded personally, 55% of those polled said they had indeed held their tongues, more women than men and slightly more Republicans than Democrats. Fewer, 22%, reported that they had done the retaliating, more younger folks and more liberals than conservatives.

    And, not surprisingly, fully 84% believe fear of retaliation for expressing one's opinions is a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem. Nearly half said they feel less free to talk about politics now than they did ten years ago.

    Millions of us are worried about this, and with good reason.

    Living in a free society requires respectful communication, not the free-flowing, often incorrect and false and/or unattributed vitriol on various social media platforms. Large numbers of us read, believe and disseminate misinformation, and disinformation is damaging our nation.

    We cannot communicate with — much less understand — each other if we do not respect each other's right to express our opinions, no matter how much we might disagree with those opinions. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us identify with one political side.

    At this time in our nation's history, few of us actually have open minds. Conversion is not the point.

    The point, the concern, the danger is that we have lost the will and the ability to communicate respectfully when we disagree with each other. We see each other not as fellow Americans with differing points of view but as enemies.

    If that is true, we have squandered our precious right to free speech.

    Therefore, we have canceled each other and our precious First Amendment right.

  • Market House The Market House was a major topic of discussion during Fayetteville’s City Council meeting Monday night and will continue to be for the next few months.

    The U.S. Department of Justice, which held two workshop meetings with 80 members of the community in October and January, presented a final report to the Council.

    Dion Lyons, a specialist from the DOJ who oversaw the two meetings, says these meetings were different than his usual City-SPIRIT workshops. This was because a decision was already made by the City to repurpose the Market House so the groups that met could not talk about demolition or moving the Market House. Instead, they discussed topics surrounding structural modification, art exhibits and themed events.

    “Both groups want to see the Market House as a symbol of education. They want the true comprehensive story of the history of the Market House to be told. Both groups want to see the Market House handicap accessible and ADA compliant. They want to see vibrant displays of art that connect Market House visitors with activities that promote positive emotional responses and insight. It would feature various genres of art that represent African-American culture and history, as well as an alternate space that is representative of Fayetteville. There were recommendations to enclose the arches to allow the structure to be secured once the proposed solutions are implemented," a spokeswoman for the Human-Rights Commission told the council.

    The goal of the DOJ report and the Human-Relations Commission was for the council to approve the report so the commission can go back and create a more detailed plan on which suggestions took the highest priority and create detailed plans on how to fulfill the suggestions.

    “We've narrowed down the community's input into a set of sort of action plans and recommendations for city council,” Lyons said. “Instead of reconvening all 80 or more citizens who participated, we would now go forward with the recommendations that we have and a subcommittee on a subcommittee of those same 80 people now represented by five from the first group in October and five from the second group in January. Those would be the people on the committee now tasked to work with the City Council to implement the plans that they came up with.”

    However, many council members felt that not enough community input was allowed for the DOJ meetings. The meetings were not open to the public, and the number of people allowed in the meetings was limited because of COVID-19. The people involved in the decisions were also chosen by the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Rights Commission.

    Councilmember Courtney Banks-Mclaughlin motioned for the council’s staff to open these discussions back up to the public in order to receive more input about the repurposing of the Market House. That motion was approved 9 to 1, with Councilmember Johnny Dawkins voting against it.

    Fencing to come down
    The City Council also voted Monday night to take down the fence surrounding the Market House.

    The fence was put up around the Market House shortly after rioters set fire to the building following protests in May of 2020. City Manager Doug Hewett says the repairs are completed and it was up to the council to decide whether or not to keep the fencing up.

    "We're having open dialog on how to deal with it with the citizens of Fayetteville and we trying to hear back from them because it is a sticky, sticky subject,” Councilmember D.J. Haire said. “But I just don't see where the need to continue to have it surrounded with the temporary fence with all of the work has been done and the improvements has been done and the fence doesn't make it look any better.”

    Councilmember Antonio Jones said that he believes the fence is divisive and this is the right time to take it down.

    “At some point we have to trust the community to do the right thing, just like some would trust them to do the wrong thing,” Jones said.

    The motion passed nine to one, with Councilmember Banks-McLaughlin voting against.

    The City Manager said that the fence wouldn’t come down immediately, but would probably happen within the month.

    “We would probably want to make sure we gave notice so that we had made everyone aware and probably several days for that. We would need to remove the fencing, clean up, probably brush and sweep the area,” Hewitt said.

  • The water is safe at Fort Bragg, according to officials during a town hall last week. The virtual town hall addressed the concerns of possible water contamination and illness that have been rumored online.

    Col. Scott Pence, Fort Bragg Garrison Commander, hosted a town hall alongside Steve Wykel Director of Public Works, Audrey Oxendine from Public Works, LTC Teresa Pearce from Public Health and LTC Easter Strayer from the post’s Veterinary Clinic on Friday afternoon to answer questions from Fort Bragg residents.

    “Fort Bragg Garrison takes these issues seriously and an investigation is ongoing,” said Col. Scott Pence, Fort Bragg Garrison Commander. “The health and welfare of the Soldiers and their families are our number one priority.”

    The American States Utility Services routinely tests 70 different sites across Fort Bragg. The samples are used to test for bacteria and fecal matter present in the water. Based on recent concerns of possible, the garrison commander ordered additional samples this week, which have all come back negative.

    “We’ve never had an actual true positive sample where we had to do a boil water notice, but if we did have a sample come back positive for bacteria they immediately notify that location,” said Oxendine. “We resample upstream and downstream of that location, and then if it is positive, we issue a boil water notice.”

    Pence says what sickness is being seen on the installation is Norovirus. Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. Fort Bragg says there has been a small number of norovirus cases reported in the area.

    Pearce stresses the importance of washing your hands and cleaning your home to help prevent this virus. She says the virus is very contagious and usually spreads within the household and from person to person.

    Since Norovirus spreads among children, Fort Bragg Schools and Child Development Centers have been notified of the concerns and to take extra precautions such as proper hand-washing, according to Pence.

  • Spring LakeFollowing a State Auditor's Office report about the misappropriation of funds in Spring Lake, the Local Government Commission (LGC) will officially step in to avoid payment processing problems.

    Following the release of the audit report, Interim Town Manager Samantha Wullenwaber was fired by the city. According to the LGC, Wullenwaber had the authority to sign checks and her abrupt dismissal left the town with limited options to perform that function.

    During a special meeting on Wednesday, March 23, the LGC voted to retain David Erwin as the town's finance officer and appointed Tiffany Anderson and Susan McCullen as deputy finance officers. All three are State and Local Government Finance Division employees. Erwin was retained as account signatory. Anderson and McCullen also were named account signatories. These appointees should ensure that checks go out on time.

    The Board of Alderman held their own closed session meeting the following night. While the board took no formal action and nothing was voted on, a new interim town manager was announced. The board agreed to hire Joe Durham from Joe Durham and Associates.

    Additionally, Spring Lake's town attorney, Jonathan Charleston, submitted his resignation on Wednesday, March 23.

    According to the LGC, in Charleston's letter to Spring Lake Mayor Kia Anthony, he expressed appreciation for the opportunity to work with the board.

    "While we have worked with the town through several challenges, we believe now is a good time to transition to new counsel," Charleston's letter stated, as recounted by the LGC.

    Charleston has provided a 30-day notice, but he said he "can accommodate a sooner departure with the town's express consent," according to the LGC.

  • Residents in rural Cumberland County with limited access to high-speed broadband internet may have more options in the coming years due to local and state funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

    The county Board of Commissioners approved $1 million in local ARPA funding Monday to partner with Brightspeed, an internet service provider headquartered in Charlotte.

    Cumberland County received $65 million from ARPA, federal legislation passed last year to combat the public health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    To fund the needed infrastructure, Brightspeed is applying to the N.C. Department of Information Technology for a Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology, or GREAT, grant, which is also funded through ARPA money allocated to the state.

    GREAT, which started in 2018 before the pandemic, was redesigned for 2022 to incorporate $350 million from the federal dollars.

    ISPs, like Brightspeed, can apply for the GREAT grant. If accepted, ISPs can receive up to $4 million.

    The ISP, as dictated from state legislation in 2018 that started GREAT, must match that grant anywhere from 35%-50%.

    However, ISPs can partner with counties, such as Cumberland, to request local ARPA dollars to be used as part of the required matching funds.

    “That is a big focus of the way that this particular state legislation is written,” said Angela Bailey, director of the broadband infrastructure office at NCDIT. “To encourage partnerships with counties so that we’re leveraging both the state ARPA dollars and the local ARPA dollars.”

    At the meeting Monday, County Manager Amy Cannon told commissioners that Brightspeed plans to bring high-speed fiber access to 2,017 residences and businesses.

    The company estimates the total cost of the project to be $7.5 million, costing about $3,700 per location.

    If accepted into the GREAT grant program, Brightspeed and Cumberland County would invest $2.5 million and $1 million, respectively, as the company has applied for the maximum grant amount of $4 million.

    The application period for the $350 million in the grant program began Jan. 31 and will end April 4.

    NCDIT will begin assessing applications after that date.

    Brightspeed is the second company in recent months to announce expansion of its fiber network into Cumberland County.

    Metronet, a fiber internet company based in Indiana, launched its fiber network in the county earlier this month, Carolina Public Press reported.

    The company is investing $70 million of its own money into the new infrastructure. According to the county and the city of Fayetteville, neither is spending any money on the project.

    The city’s Public Works Commission, however, is investing $1.7 million in the construction.

    Metronet has announced plans to expand to parts of rural Cumberland, including the small towns of Falcon, Godwin, Linden and Stedman.

    Brightspeed has not been in contact with the PWC, a spokesperson with PWC said.

    Requirements of the GREAT program
    To be eligible for the GREAT grant that Brightspeed is pursuing, the funds must be used to build eligible infrastructure in economically distressed counties or rural census tracts with limited broadband access in other counties.

    The state defines eligible counties as the first and second of the N.C. Department of Commerce’s three-tiered county system, with tier one being defined as the most economically disadvantaged. Cumberland is among the tier one counties.

    Brightspeed’s construction plan for its fiber network includes many rural parts of Cumberland, stretching from Gray’s Creek through the Rockfish Road area in Hope Mills to the Hoke County line, Cannon said. The coverage area will also go from Wade to the Harnett County line, she said.

    The purpose of the GREAT grant program is to serve rural communities like these as it often isn’t profitable for ISPs to build infrastructure in remote areas, Bailey said.

    “(The program) essentially incentivizes private-sector providers, broadband providers, to build into areas of the state that are unserved with broadband service,” she said.

    NCDIT defines unserved as locations with no access to internet service with speeds of at least 25 megabytes per second download and 3 megabytes per second upload.

    While more than 99% of Cumberland County has access to that level of service, according to data from NCDIT, most of that is centered in Fayetteville.

    Less than 10% of the entire county has access to fiber internet service, which typically offers speeds well above the state’s minimum threshold.

    A Brightspeed spokesperson said in an email to Carolina Public Press that the company offers speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second upload and download, which is about 1,000 megabytes.

    During the GREAT grant program’s vetting process, NCDIT will administer scores to applicants that account for how fast the service is, how many unserved locations there are in the project and the cost of construction, among other things.

    Applicants with the highest scores, based on available funding, will be accepted into the program.

    After the application phase, accepted ISPs will have a two-year window to complete construction, though a Brightspeed spokesperson said the company would anticipate the project in Cumberland to be finished before that window lapses.

    After construction, NCDIT will continue to monitor the ISP’s service to ensure deployed speeds are maintained as part of the grant requirements, Bailey said.

    As a federal requirement of ARPA, ISPs must also participate in the affordable connectivity program, which requires that households at 200% or below the federal poverty level receive certain discounts on internet service.

    GREAT prior to ARPA
    Prior to ARPA, the GREAT grant program operated initially with $10 million from the state. In the years after, it received $15 million annually.

    The first ISPs accepted into the program completed construction last summer.

    According to NCDIT, the program throughout its history has awarded over $55 million to ISPs to expand broadband service to over 40,000 residences and businesses in North Carolina.

  • Cumberland County CourthouseLast Friday, Cumberland County filed a lawsuit against Chemours and DuPont chemical companies, accusing the companies of causing severe groundwater contamination in the county.

    The law firm companies, Crueger Dickinson L.L.C. and Baron & Budd, P.C., filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cumberland County.

    DuPont has had a chemical facility in Cumberland County dating back to the 1960s. In the 1980s, DuPont started discharging a chemical known as PFOA into the Cape Fear River. PFOA was a type of PFAS chemical, also known as a "forever chemical" because they do not naturally break down and accumulate in the environment and the blood and organs of people and animals. In 2005, PFOA was phased out after the Environmental Protection Agency penalized DuPont for failing to report information about its risk to human health and the environment. In 2009, the company began using a substitute known as GenX, another type of PFAS substance, claiming it was safer. However, the E.P.A. has since said that GenX exposure is associated with an increased risk of health problems in animal studies, including issues in the kidney, liver, immune system and others. Additionally, it can increase the risk of cancer.

    Chemours promised in 2017 to capture, remove and safely dispose of the contaminants in the drinking water source.

    In October 2020, North Carolina filed a lawsuit against DuPont and Chemours, alleging they were aware of the health threats associated with GenX. North Carolina officials announced in August that Chemours had exceeded limits on how much GenX it's Fayetteville factory was emitting and fined them $300,000 for the violations.

    The Complaint alleges that the companies discharged these toxic chemicals into the air, groundwater, and surface water for decades.

    "These companies have used the environment surrounding the Fayetteville Works facility as a dumping ground for hundreds of chemicals while assuring the E.P.A. and state agencies that they were doing no such thing," the Complaint alleges.

    According to the county, these chemicals have been detected at two elementary schools and have impacted thousands of Cumberland County residents who use groundwater wells as their sole water source.

    Up & Coming Weekly has reached out to the Chemours Company F.C., L.L.C., DuPont de Nemours, Inc., and Corteva, Inc. about the lawsuit but has not heard back.

  • Fort BraggA visit from the 10th Marines Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Bragg will mean a larger than usual presence of loud explosions and artillery fire.

    The Marines will be conducting their semi-annual field artillery section certifications, command-post exercise, and live-fire training, Operation Rolling Thunder, March 24 through April 10. The field artillery live fire portion of the exercise starts on March 28. The 10th Marines will fire significant amounts of M777 Howitzer 155mm ammunition from twenty different M777 Howitzers, which can be associated with loud explosions and reverberations upon detonation.

     At the same time, field artillery units from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Field Artillery Brigade will conduct live-fire training resulting in additional loud explosions and reverberations.

    “The training conducted at Fort Bragg is necessary to help maintain the 10th Marine Regiment’s readiness,” said Sharilyn Wells, Fort Bragg spokesperson. “We ask the communities surrounding Fort Bragg to be understanding while they are here training.”

    According to Wells, all field artillery units will comply with existing requirements that prohibit them from massing fires larger than battalion size between 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily or from firing during the hours of 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays.

  • IMG 0854The Gilbert Theater, "Theater with a Pulse," brings "Othello," a tale of love, envy, betrayal and race to its stage from March 25 to April 10.

    The Gilbert is an award-winning community theater located in the heart of downtown Fayetteville, founded in 1994 by Lynn Pryer. Now in its 28th season, the theater prides itself on bringing a diverse selection of topics, tastes and artistic styles to the stage.

    "Othello" tells the story of Venetian general Othello, a nobleman of Black Moorish descent. Othello struggles to hold on to his reputation, his secret marriage to Desdemona and his military career at the hands of Iago, a scheming, lower-ranked soldier driven by jealousy.

    Written around 1604, Othello tackles themes that co-directors Lawrence Carlisle III and Montgomery Sutton believe still resonates with audiences today.

    "This play is about something that at its heart is universal," said Carlisle, who is also artistic director at the Gilbert Theater.

    While the idea of Shakespeare may seem intimidating for some, Sutton's adaptation is designed to be accessible, bridging the gulf between classical works like Shakespeare and modern-day audiences.
    The production will be modern, with the characters dressed in everyday clothing. Sutton wants the characters to be "incredibly recognizable" to the people in the audience.
    The play will unfold as a "psychological thriller," with the run time cut to 90 minutes and one intermission.

    "We've taken fine-grit sandpaper to this play and made it smooth and aerodynamic."

    "The goal," Sutton explains, "is to tell a story simply and clearly," Carlisle echoes the sentiment, expressing his deep appreciation for this play. He feels it is one of Shakespeare's "most focused and straightforward works."

    "We've trimmed a lot of fat off the language," Sutton explains. "It's still rich; it's still heightened; it's still Shakespeare, but with nothing extraneous."

    Ultimately, Carlisle and Sutton want theatergoers to feel connected. Engagement is a word that comes up a lot when speaking about the play's production and their hopes for the audience.

    "I want people to walk away really connecting with questions the play asks about human nature, what it means to be a villain, and what culpability we have for our actions," Sutton said. "Come ready to have your assumptions challenged."

    Carlisle invites the audience to come and truly experience theater, stating that "live theater is a much more visceral experience than other forms of entertainment."

    "I want people to come to enjoy live theater, enjoy the show, and come away with more appreciation for Shakespeare," Carlisle said. “If you don't like Shakespeare or feel you don't understand Shakespeare — this is the show to see."

    While online ticket purchases are recommended, the box office will be open one and a half hours prior to the show's start.

    General admission tickets are $18; discount tickets for first responders, military, students, and seniors are also available. Tickets can be purchased at www.gilberttheater.com. For more information, call 910- 678-7186.

  • in her shoesThe Rape Crisis of Cumberland County at the Phoenix Center has set a date for their 10th annual Walk Awhile in Their Shoes event, Friday, March 25 at 7 p.m., in front of the Encore Academy Building on Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville.

    “The event originally started as a fundraiser, but it has really grown into an awareness event as well as a fundraiser about sexual assault in our community,” said Deanne Gerdes, executive director of Rape Crisis of Cumberland County, at the Phoenix Center. “We will stroll down to Segra Stadium, and that is where we will be having our after party.”

    The Rape Crisis of Cumberland County at the Phoenix Center supports sexual and domestic violence victims in multiple ways.

    “Last year, we had 412 victims of sexual violence and 398 victims of domestic violence in Cumberland County, and we provide services from a crisis hotline, responding to the emergency room, responding to law enforcement and going to court,” said Gerdes. “Last year, domestic violence cases were different, but the numbers were not necessarily up because of COVID-19.”

    Gerdes added that last year schools were closed, many worked from home or were unemployed and much domestic violence was contained to the home. Many victims did not feel comfortable reaching out or leaving their homes for help for many reasons.

    These conditions have impacted federal funding for the center.

    “We had closed shelters whether it was due to staffing, COVID-19 outbreak or just closed, and we all took a big hit in federal funding,” said Gerdes. “The services that used to be prior to COVID-19 were not there, and coming out of COVID-19, we are still feeling those effects.”

    She added, “For domestic violence, we are focusing on really trying to get victims to a safe place which is more than likely outside of Cumberland County.”

    Walk Awhile in Their Shoes event will see men walk four blocks down Hay Street wearing high heels; the walk will end at Segra Stadium.
    The traditional red heels have been challenging to source this year, so event planners welcome the support regardless of footwear.

    “Originally, it was red high heels, but we just can’t find enough red high heels to be honest with you,” said Gerdes. “Some men don’t wear red high heels for the walk, so they wear red shoes, black flats or their tennis shoes, and we are okay with that. We have some seasoned, older gentlemen that may have hip or knee problems but want to come out and support, and they do, and we are so grateful for that.”

    Plans for the Phoenix Center involve working to return to where they were before COVID-19, building back up their volunteer advocates, a pilot program to support the need for sexual assault nurse examiners, advocating for a bill in Raleigh and using funds to rehab their building.

    “One of the most amazing things about this walk is that we have victims, their family members and husbands that come to this walk, and they walk the walk,” said Gerdes. “It is so incredible to see these victims in awe of seeing these people supporting them, not knowing who they are.”

    Registration begins at 6 p.m. on the day of the event, and the cost is $25, $15 with a student ID; for more information, call 910-485-7273.

  • 3283081The All American Races include the All American Half Marathon and a 5K, which are now open to the public for participation.

    "This is a virtual event, and our runners are able to run at any time between now up until Tuesday, May 31," said Jennifer Fayson, Fort Bragg MWR special events office. "Now that it has gone virtual, they will be able to run on their own and select the location of their choosing, and we would like for runners to know that the new Liberty Park is available for them to use."

    The event is a morale booster and community event. While it is usually an in-person race, due to the current 82nd Airborne Division's Immediate Response Force Deployments to Europe, virtual, seemed the way to go for race planners.

    "The purpose of the event is to bring some morale to our families, soldiers, veterans and members of our community," Fayson said. "Recently, it was supposed to be an in-person event with a half marathon and 5K; however, due to various events going on, we transitioned it to a virtual event."

    The virtual event allows runners freedom of venue and includes mail-out swag.

    "Winners now have an opportunity to run a 5K or a half marathon at a place of their choosing, and they will submit the results to us, and we will mail them an event shirt, half marathon or 5K medal, and a commemorative event bib," Fayson said.

    The All American Races, formally known as the All American Marathon, held its inaugural event in 2014. The marathon was a collaboration between the City of Fayetteville and Fort Bragg. It began as a marathon, half marathon, and 5k.

    In previous years, the marathon and the half marathon started in downtown Fayetteville, and runners ran the All American Freeway onto the installation and crossed the finish line at the Main Post Parade Field.

    "After the race going virtual in 2020 and 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic, we felt this would be a good time to make some changes," said Fayson.

    "The transition to a loop course that started and finished at the new Liberty Park was one of the changes that we were most excited about, and we are looking forward to a return to the in-person event in 2023."

    Previously, the half marathon was nicknamed "Mike to Mike."

    At that time, the run started at the iconic Iron Mike statue in front of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in historic downtown Fayetteville and passed the Iron Mike statue on Fort Bragg located near the finish line at the Main Post Parade Field.

    These virtual marathons are non-competitive with no age group or overall awards. Participation costs $40 per race.

    Registration is going on now and will run until May 31. Visit www.zippyreg.com/online_reg/?e=1610, to register, or call, 910-908-5977.

  • Monster Truckz Crown Thumbnail ea5e6f03f8Truckz! Truckz! And more Truckz are headed to Fayetteville's Crown Complex Arena from March 25 to March 27.

    "This is a thrill-show featuring highly trained professionals, so first and foremost, we want to tell people: do not try this at home," said Ariel Valeires, on-site manager for Monster Truckz Extreme.

    The show offers a variety of "gravity-defying" acts to shock and amaze, emphasizing a "high-octane" experience.

    "Most people have heard of monster trucks, but we have so much more than that. We have a human cannonball. Our show is very fast, high speed, high energy and high risk," Valeires said.

    This event aims to bring spectacle and awe to its audience, focusing on fun that's appropriate for all ages.

    "We want to offer our audience a good time with their family, the whole family, which is entertainment that's hard to come by nowadays. We want to entertain people aged 0-110," Valeires said.

    The show will be packed with opportunities for kids to learn, engage and play with the gigantic machines right there on site.
    The Monster Truckz Pit Party is a free pre-show at the Monster Truckz event where kids can take pictures and snag the drivers' autographs. Additionally, attendees can learn about the physics and mechanics behind the incredible vehicles before seeing them in action.

    Visitors are encouraged to arrive early, as "The Pit" takes place two hours before the show. During this time, young attendees can visit the "Kids Zone," an area complete with rides on a real monster truck, a gigantic slide, face-painting and a bounce house.

    The show runs from February to December each year and performs in a different city each week with no weeks off. It's an incredible commitment for the drivers, performers and support staff.
    But for Valeires, the long weeks on the road are worth it.

    "For me, the best part of the show is to see the same look of excitement on thousands of faces all at the same time," Valeires said. "Most people have only ever seen monster trucks on TV, so they're not prepared for just how loud it is. Seeing all those faces when the engines start is hard to describe. You have to see it to believe it."

    The event will be held outdoors, and Valeires has some advice for attendees.

    "Honestly, this is an outdoor performance where we perform rain or shine. So check the weather before you come and dress accordingly. If it might rain—bring an umbrella. Be prepared for a very loud show. You're about to experience something you've never seen before."

    Showtimes are Friday, March 25, at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 26, at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 27, at 2 p.m.

    The Crown Complex Arena is located at 1960 Coliseum Dr. For more information and tickets, visit: www.monstertruckz.com.

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