Local News

Army suicides up in 2017

05arny suicides The Army said active-duty soldier suicides were up in 2017, according to service statistics. Since 2012, active-duty numbers have fluctuated. The Army reported 165 active-duty suicides in 2012. They dropped to 121 the following year but rose to 126 in 2014. The following two years suicides dipped, but active-duty self-inflicted deaths swelled to 138 in 2017, Defense Department statistics show. It’s the last year for which information is available.

“Like the rest of America, the Army continues to grapple with the loss of too many of our people to suicide,” spokeswoman Col. Kathleen Turner told Army Times in a statement. “The loss of any soldier or Army family member to suicide is a tragedy.”

Suicide information is closely held information at the Department of the Army. The Criminal Investigation Division, where officials said investigations continue, takes media inquiries about suicides.

“We must continue to ensure commanders have the policies and resources they need to prevent suicides, that all leaders have the tools to identify soldiers who are suffering … and that all soldiers view seeking mental health care as a sign of strength,” Turner said.

Communications firm wins stadium naming rights

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers have announced the firm that has won the naming rights for Fayetteville’s minor league baseball stadium. It will be known as Segra Stadium.

The city of Fayetteville and the Woodpeckers “have entered into a long-term agreement with Segra, one of the largest independent fiber bandwidth companies in the United States,” said Woodpeckers President Mark Zarthar. “Segra will serve as the stadium’s Official Communications Services Partner.”

He added that last spring, EQT Partners completed the purchase of a majority stake in Spirit Communications and announced it would combine with the assets of Lumos Networks, which was acquired in 2017.

Lumos Networks and Spirit just last month rebranded their company as Segra. Zarthar did not disclose what Segra paid to earn the naming rights.

Pre-school education opportunities available

Parents interested in enrolling their young children in NC Pre-Kindergarten must have their applications in by March 29. The NC Pre-K program provides free, quality prekindergarten education for families who qualify.

NC Pre-K classrooms are available in several locations, including Cumberland County Schools, private child care sites and Head Start sites. Children must be 4 years old by Aug. 31, 2019, to qualify for the program.

NC Pre-K gives priority to families who meet income eligibility. Additional consideration is given to families whose children have been diagnosed with developmental disabilities. Also given additional consideration are military dependents of active-duty service members or military service members who have been seriously injured or killed while on active duty and have limited English proficiency or chronic health conditions.

The Cumberland County Partnership for Children can provide additional information about NC Pre-K applications. Find out more at CCPFC.org

Professional baseball game start times released

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Class A Advanced minor league baseball affiliate of the Houston Astros, has released game start times for the inaugural 2019 baseball season. Local game times for April 18-June 4 are as follows: Monday-Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. For June 10-Sept. 4, game times are Monday-Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 6 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m.

“The start times provide enough time to get home from work and make it downtown for the game, said David Lane, Woodpeckers general manager. “We have earlier start times on weekends so that families can enjoy an afternoon at the stadium.”

The Woodpeckers have sold more than 1,700 advance full- and half-season tickets. Additional flexible ticket packages are now available for purchase.

The Houston Astros own the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, having agreed to a 30-year lease of the stadium now under construction in downtown Fayetteville.

Hope Mills street widening

Two congested streets in the heart of Hope Mills are scheduled for widening. The Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization requested that the North Carolina Department of Transportation widen sections of Rockfish and Golfview roads. The town of Hope Mills supports the need to improve these streets, which serve the police and fire departments, town hall, municipal park, a public library and a recreation center.

The proposal is to widen both streets to four lanes with raised medians. The section of Rockfish Road to be improved is between Golfview Road and North Main Street, which is also N.C. 59. The section of Golfview Road is between Rockfish Road and North Main Street.

Maps of the proposed plans were displayed at an open house Feb. 12. DOT project team members were on hand to answer questions and receive feedback. The public can submit comments through March 15. The DOT will consider the comments when finalizing the design. Contact NCDOT project engineer Sean Matuszewski at 919-364-0603 or P.O. Box 1150, Fayetteville, NC, 28302.

Local bank employee promotion

CresCom Bank, the second largest community bank in the Carolinas, has announced the promotion of Kayla Strickland as mortgage loan originator at the Green Street branch in Fayetteville. A native of Lumberton, Strickland has more than 12 years of banking experience. She will be responsible for originating and coordinating the closing of residential and construction mortgage loans.

“Her knowledge of the community and experience in the banking industry will be an asset to our team,” said David L. Morrow, CEO of CresCom Bank.

Before taking on her new role at CresCom, Strickland was a customer service representative.

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Hurley Plaza approved by City Council

07Bill Hurley Fayetteville City Councilman Johnny Dawkins remembers Bill Hurley as only he could. Council voted last week to name the downtown baseball stadium’s plaza in honor of the former mayor, who died in November. Hurley served as mayor from 1981 to 1987. Johnny’s father, the late J.L. Dawkins, succeeded Hurley when Hurley decided to run for election to the North Carolina House of Representatives. J.L. won re-election seven times and served as mayor for life, dying in office in 2000.

J.L. served alongside Mayor Hurley as a council member. During last week’s tribute to Hurley, Johnny recalled that Hurley picked Johnny’s father up at their home on Ellington Street in Haymount for Monday night council meetings. Both J.L. and Hurley were first elected to City Council in the mid-1970s. They were inseparable, politically and personally.

When City Council decided to name the plaza at the entrance to the stadium for Hurley, Johnny noted the irony that the corner plaza at police headquarters across the street from the ballpark had been named for his father. Hurley and Dawkins are both remembered for their efforts to revitalize downtown Fayetteville. Hurley even manned the wrecking ball used to demolish buildings long the 500 block of Hay Street.

Hurley was a sports fan and was especially fond of baseball. Mark Hurley, the oldest of the mayor’s three sons, noted his dad had envisioned a downtown baseball stadium 30 years ago. He said his father loved sports, so when talk surfaced about naming the baseball stadium plaza after him, the Hurley family was extremely  excited and humbled about the possibility of that becoming a reality.

“We want to thank the entire city of Fayetteville for the support we have received during our father’s passing,” Mark said. “It has truly been amazing to us. We are a part of a wonderful city.” Observers recall that in 1984, Fayetteville was named an All-America City, the first of three times it would win the honor.

“Many of us had the vision and knew Fayetteville could be a better place,” realtor John Malzone said, “but Bill Hurley led the way.”

Jordan Jones, Prince Charles LLC project manager, spoke of Mayor Hurley’s influence years ago shaping the $100 million in Hay Street economic development getting underway. Jones’ parents were contemporaries of Hurley.

“We fully recognize the vision and legacy he created and know that we would not be here today with that particular development without the vision he had a long time ago,” Jones said.

Jones’ firm is renovating the former hotel and is planning a 13-story structure adjacent to the stadium. Following the public hearing last week, City Councilman Jim Arp made a motion that the city formally dedicate the stadium plaza in Bill Hurley’s honor. The vote to do so was unanimous.

Photo: Bill Hurley, former Fayettville Mayor

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An idea whose time has come

06Marine Salutes Caskets “Today, we salute you,” Memphis, Tennessee, funeral director Gary Taylor said. “Today, we claim you as our own.” The occasion was a recent service for three military veterans laid to rest on a rainy morning. They were strangers to those who gathered to honor their memory. When the flags were removed from the caskets and folded, there were no family members there to receive them. The flags were passed among those in attendance.

Soldiers Arnold M. Klechka, 71, and Wesley Russell, 76, and Marine Charles B. Fox, 60, were laid to rest in the graveside service attended by about 700 people at West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in Memphis.

Over the last 20 years, funeral homesin more than 30 cities have organized about 3,000 funerals for soldiers, sailors and Marines who died alone.

The service in Memphis was part of agrowing effort by funeral homes, medicalexaminers, Veterans Affairs andlocal veterans support groups to payfinal respects to members of the militarywhose bodies were not claimedby relatives. Apparently, no organizationhas developed nationally, but the movement has grown in Tennessee.

“We are veteran-friendly,” said Ben Chambers, general manager of Fayetteville’s Jernigan Warren Funeral Home. “We weren’t aware of the program.”

Amelia Callicott attended the Memphis funeral while remembering her late father and husband, who both served in the military. Callicott, 69, said she learned about the service through Facebook and felt she had a duty to honor the men. “It touched my heart when no one came to claim these gentlemen, these soldiers, because they fought for our freedom,” said Callicott.

Unknown veterans “still deserve dignified services and burials,” said Jeff Berry, general manager of Berry Funeral Home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Berry said the process usually begins with local medical examiners contacting state or national veterans’ cemeteries with names of people whose remains have gone unclaimed. These veterans typically were either homeless or had no surviving relatives to claim them.

Local cemeteries determine whether the service members were honorably discharged. If they were, the cemeteries then contact funeral homes, which set up memorial services. The funeral homes cover the cost, Berry said. Claims can be filed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for grave markers, according to the Tennessee Department of Veterans’ Services.

Memorial services are publicized through veterans’ groups like the American Legion or social media. Honor guards and other active military members attend, but it’s the strangers who come out of respect for the military who bring dignity to the occasion. “Most of the time, it’s folks that had no knowledge of the person in life,” Berry said.

Veterans Affairs also provides money to individuals or companies that provide burials, caskets and transportation to cemeteries for unclaimed, deceased vets. “One thing I’ve learned in working with the veterans is that they are a tight knit group. They really support each other. It’s like a band of brothers or sisters,” Berry said.

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30-year-old case cleared with arrest

05Anthony Grant  Fayetteville Police Department’s Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit has charged a man with a rape and robbery that occurred more than three decades ago in Fayetteville.

Detectives investigated the case Oct. 24, 1987, but it went unsolved. The cold case unit recently reopened it after sending the sexual assault kit for DNA testing.

Anthony Keith Grant, 52, of the 2100 block of North Charleston, South Carolina, has been charged with second-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and common law robbery.

The woman was an employee of Trade Station Convenience Store on Pamalee Drive, where she was raped, according to Officer J.K. Strickland, a spokesman for the FPD. He said Grant allegedly also committed a robbery of the business.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office arrested Grant. He is being held in Charleston awaiting extradition to Cumberland County. The sexual assault kit from this case was tested utilizing federal grant funding.

Defense department funding of the wall

More than 50 U.S. House Democrats are pushing back against President Donald Trump’s proposal to use Defense Department funds to pay for a wall on the southern border. They have signed a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Washington, asking that he use the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to assure that the administration “cannot utilize a fake national emergency to co-opt the military into the construction of the president’s wall.”

The authorization bill is not expected to pass until late this year. If Trump proceeds with the declaration, it will likely be challenged in court, which could delay implementation of the administration’s potential plans.

The president has not ruled out using his executive powers to bring an end to the impasse. The White House was preparing a draft proclamation for Trump to declare a national emergency and has reportedly identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for his wall should he go that route.

CNN reported that the Army Corps of Engineers would be deployed to construct the wall, some of it on private property. That would likely require condemnation under eminent domain laws, which is permitted if it is for public use.

Cumberland County school supporters recognized

School board members, educators, students and community partners annually celebrate the work that mentors do every day to help students succeed in the classroom and beyond. Cumberland County Schools recently held its annual appreciation breakfast at the Educational Resource Center to recognize mentors who volunteer their time to support students.

The committee was unable to narrow it down to one winner and announced two individuals as Mentors of the Year — James Chrishon, a mentor at J.W. Coon Elementary School, and Ben Simmons, a mentor at Ramsey Street High School.

“It’s really humbling to receive this award from Cumberland County Schools and be amongst a group of mentors that give so much to schools and the community,” said Chrishon.

Sixteen nominees for the Mentor of the Year award were recognized during the breakfast. “We are grateful to our mentors for investing their time and resources in our students,” said Dr. Natasha Scott, executive director of CCS Student Services.

Rural bridge replacements

A pair of rural bridges in eastern Cumberland County are scheduled for replacement on a road that has been closed to traffic for 10 months. The North Carolina Department of Transportation this month signed off on two contracts totaling $4.7 million to a group of companies that will design and build seven new bridges and demolish the existing structures.

Two of the old structures are on Hollow Creek Road, where they cross Sandy Creek near Autryville. The road has been closed since April 2018.

The bridges being replaced are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. This means that, while remaining safe for travel, the bridges are increasingly requiring maintenance and road closures, and they no longer meet today’s traffic demands.

Seven bridges across Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett and Robeson counties are to be replaced over the next two years. The work will start after Feb. 25 and last through summer 2021.

School breakfast program expanded

Twelve school districts across North Carolina have received funding from the governor’s office to expand access to school breakfast. Cumberland County Schools was one of them.

Bill Hefner Elementary, Cumberland Road Elementary, Rockfish Elementary, J.W. Seabrook Elementary, Ashley Elementary, Morganton Road Elementary and Alderman Road Elementary schools will use the funding to increase access to breakfast. This funding is provided in partnership with No Kid Hungry and The Dairy Alliance.

Almost 900,000 students in traditional public schools across the state are eligible for free or reduced- price school meals — 60 percent of the student population. Cumberland County Schools officials say 75 percent of the students in the district are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

Photo: Anthony Grant

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