Outer Loop Progress
The next phase of Fayetteville’s Outer Loop is scheduled to open to traffic in four months. North Carolina Department of Transportation Division Engineer Greg Burns tells Up & Coming Weekly the section of what will eventually be I-295, from Ramsey Street to Bragg Boulevard, will open in August. Overhead signs and guard rails are being installed now. The section from Bragg Boulevard to the All American Freeway is set to open in the fall. “Bragg Boulevard will not be closed until the work on Murchison Road and Bragg Boulevard through Spring Lake is complete,” said Burns. “We anticipate that work to be finished by December 2016 to January 2017.”
The Army’s ability to close Bragg Boulevard (NC 87-24) to thru traffic motivated the North Carolina Board of Transportation to place the Fayetteville Outer Loop project on a fast track several years ago, bypassing a major highway project in Charlotte. But in 200, the project was temporarily stalled because of a shortage of highway funds. Military officials made a twofold request to DOT; first that it gain direct access to I-95 and second that an alternate high-speed route to Bragg Boulevard be provided so the Army could close off the boulevard in the vicinity of Stryker Golf Course thereby improving security on post. Murchison Road was upgraded with a loop to Bragg Boulevard.
Downtown Parking a Problem, Again
Remember the days of parking meters on Hay Street, downtown? The Fayetteville City Council is seriously giving some thought to bringing back the dime-eating devices. A 7-year-old ordinance allowing on-street paid parking under some circumstances could make a comeback. The local law isn’t being enforced currently, and the Downtown Alliance isn’t anxious for its comeback. About 40 members of the Alliance held a quarterly meeting last week to hear City Traffic Engineer Lee Jernigan bring them up to speed. “Free parking has been a luxury in this community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mitch Colvin at a March 29 City Council meeting. The Downtown Alliance will conduct a study on how to improve downtown marketing and the Council seems willing to wait for the findings. Parking is a big part of enhancing the downtown area. Since the opening of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum more than 15 years ago, real revitalization has revived commerce and good living and reduced crime downtown. One of the challenges is figuring out how to encourage people to use the Franklin Street parking deck. One way would be the resurrection of those meters on Hay Street.
VA Health Center to Close?
A blue-ribbon panel created to evaluate the Veterans Affairs healthcare system is floating a radical proposal to eliminate all VA medical centers and outpatient facilities over the next 20 years. Instead, the VA would transition 9 million veterans to the private sector. This, after a $120 million health center was opened in Fayetteville six months ago. Seven of the 15 outside advisers appointed to recommend ways to improve veterans’ health services proposed the startling move. David Blom, president and CEO of the Ohio Health System, authored the report with input from the six other members. Blom wrote that the goal is to “meet the needs of every veteran,” something he claims is not being done now.
“The commission finds the current VA healthcare system is seriously broken … and there is no efficient path to repair it,” Blom and other commission members wrote in their report. Shuttering the largest medical system in the country would leave the VA primarily a payer, like Medicare. To entice physicians and facilities to accept more veterans as patients, the document proposes that VA reimbursement rates be set 5 to 10 percent higher than Medicare pays.
Backlash from veteran service organizations was swift. The American Legion noted many commissioners are medical-industry executives who stand to gain financially if VA care is privatized. Paralyzed Veterans of America said placing vets with special needs into private-sector care “is a death sentence.” Veterans Affairs Undersecretary of Health Dr. David Shulkin told commissioners March 23 that the VA is already undergoing a “bold transformation” to improve care at in-house health facilities.
Nextdoor Polls Residents
Connecting neighbors with one another via social networking is what Nextdoor is all about. More than 9,000 Fayetteville households are already signed up. Now, using www.nextdoor.com, members can participate in a new polling feature. Subscribers are asked to respond to questionnaires about crime and crime fighting. “It’s a way for us to follow chronic crime issues,” said Police Chief Harold Medlock. It’s an outgrowth of the White House Open Data Policing Initiative, in which Medlock has participated. He’s in Washington this week. The police department has used Nextdoor for nearly two years. Polling can be done in individual neighborhoods or citywide. It’s administered by the PD’s Crime Prevention Division and is the first use of the social media by a police agency in North Carolina.
Fayetteville Murder Rate Up
“This sort of thing creates fear in our city,” said Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock. “I’m angry,” he added. Medlock was referring to Fayetteville’s eighth homicide of the year. That’s twice the number of murders during the corresponding period last year (and there’s been a ninth murder since then). Joseph Alexander Cason Jr., 22, of Amanda Circle, was jailed on a first-degree murder charge and two counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle following a rolling gun battle. Police identified the shooting victim as Thomas Durane Evans, 28, of Dudley Drive.
The shooting stemmed from an incident the week before at a Graham Road convenience store in which Evans’ brother was shot. “This was a straight up retaliation shooting,” said Medlock. Cason and Evans faced off each other in the parking lot of the Rayconda Shopping Plaza off Raeford Road. They then got into their cars and began shooting at each other as they drove along Raeford Road. The vehicles turned onto Strickland Bridge Road, and at one point, Medlock said, the vehicles were side by side as the drivers exchanged gunfire. “Too many young black men are taking lives in this community and if they want to fire me for saying that, so be it. At some point folks have to take responsibility for their actions … I’ve had it. We can’t police stupid,” Medlock added.
If you’ve eaten at Golden Corral ® on Skibo Road recently, you likely were asked to make a donation to Camp Corral. It’s the latest effort by the Raleigh-based restaurant chain to support summer camp for the children of wounded, disabled and fallen service members. Fayetteville was home to the first Golden Corral ® restaurant, which was opened on Bragg Boulevard in 1973. The fledgling company began as an affordable steakhouse. Forty-three years later, Golden Corral ® is well known as America’s #1 buffet and grill. According to its website, when you make a gift to Camp Corral, you’re not only giving military children a week of fun, but also providing them with life-changing experiences. “Both of my kids came home with tons of new knowledge, skills and confidence. We have moved 13 times in 19 years, and the kids never really seemed to fit in with non-military kids because their lives are so different from the friends from school,” said one grateful parent. The fundraiser, which began this month, coincides with the fifth anniversary of Camp Corral. More than 2,300 kids are on the waiting list to attend 21 camps including one in eastern North Carolina. The company says it has raised more than $5 million for Camp Corral.