05NewsDigestThe City of Fayetteville and Houston Astros will break ground on the downtown minor league baseball stadium Monday, Aug. 21. August was set as the original groundbreaking target date a year and a half ago.

The ceremony will be staged across from Fayetteville Police Headquarters on Hay Street. The new $33-million stadium will be located in the triangular area behind the former Prince Charles Hotel on city-owned property which today is a large parking lot. The Army’s Special Operations Parachute Team, the Black Daggers, will take part in the ceremony. The Black Daggers will perform a freefall parachute jump flying in the U.S flag, a North Carolina flag, a City flag and an Astros flag. City and Astros officials will also be present.

GenX Controversy Heats Up

North Carolina is denying Chemours permission to discharge GenX into the Cape Fear River, but the chemical company has already stopped doing so.  GenX will be slow in leaving the Cape Fear River and may never be completely removed, experts said.

The most recent testing by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has shown decreasing levels over the past several weeks. The company has said the chemical had been discharged into the river for up to 37 years. Chemours announced in June that it had stopped discharging GenX at its Fayetteville plant.

“The levels haven’t dropped as much as I would have expected if really the discharge had gone away,” said Detlef Knappe, a professor at N.C. State University who was part of the team that detected the chemical in the river. The levels are below the 140 ppt standard advised by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, but the chemical may never vanish completely. GenX persists in the Cape Fear River thanks to higher temperatures and a lack of rain.  The river’s flow has been slowed. That means the unregulated chemical has been able to spread out and get onto vegetation in the river, said Lawrence Cahoon, a professor and biological oceanographer at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. “It won’t ever get to zero because that stuff is all over the ecosystem,” he added.

New Military Family Clinic now Open

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic has opened in Fayetteville. An open house was held last week at its new offices in the Tochari Center at the corner of Village and Fargo Drives. 

The Cohen Clinic, in conjunction with Cape Fear Valley Health System, provides military veterans and their families treatment regardless of insurance or the ability to pay. The expected wait between an intake screening and a first appointment is one week. The network’s founder and namesake, Steven A. Cohen, became involved in veterans’ mental health care after his Marine son returned wounded from a tour in Afghanistan. In 2016, he launched the Cohen Veterans Network with a pledge of $275 million to support the creation of 25 clinics across the nation. The Fayetteville center is the 10th.

Cumberland County Sobriety Court

The Cumberland County Sobriety Treatment Court recently recognized three graduates and eight participants in a ceremony presided over by District Court Judge David Hasty. The three graduates completed the final phase of Sobriety Court and have begun the after-care phase. Participants received coins to recognize their commitment and progress in the court.

There are currently 72 people enrolled in Sobriety Court. It was established in Cumberland County in 2010 as a treatment program for people convicted of driving while impaired, or with pending DWI charges. The court requires participants to receive treatment, counseling and education; abide by curfews; attend meetings; and submit to alcohol and drug screenings.

Aftercare meetings are held once a week with less intensive supervision. Participants become eligible to work a 12-step program and become a sponsor for someone who is in the same situation as they were in. The special Court is funded by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. 

VA Choice Funding Passes in the U.S. House

In a flurry of 11th hour activity, U.S. House lawmakers passed legislation that includes an emergency funding measure to keep the Veterans Affairs Choice program alive for another six months.

The House overwhelmingly approved a $3.9 billion emergency spending package designed to address a budget shortfall at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill provides $2.1 billion for Choice funding, which allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense. Some Fayetteville area veterans have complained they’ve been denied care because their doctors say they were not being paid by the VA. The Choice program was put in place following a scandal three years ago when lengthy wait times were discovered at the Phoenix VA hospital. The Fayetteville VA was initially among those with record wait times. Many vets waited weeks or months for appointments. During floor debate, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., called the measure a critical solution to the problem. “We know that veteran demand for care through Choice has never been higher,” Roe said. House members have started their extended summer recess.

Broad Daylight River Trail Crime

The popular Cape Fear River Trail was the scene last week of what’s believed to be the first reported instance of crime along the popular trail. Police say a man exposed himself during mid-afternoon to two women who were walking along the trail near the 0.4 mile marker. “They observed a male subject in the wood line that was exposing himself,” said Police Lt. Todd Joyce. The women ran back to the Jordan Soccer Complex where they called 911. Officers were not able to locate the man. The FPD encourages walkers to do so in pairs and to keep a cell phone on hand. “There are emergency call boxes positioned along the trail,” Joyce noted.

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