Local News

NC city seeks to combat crime with community group grants

Fayetteville is set to start a grant program next month that aims to reduce the city’s crime rate.

Police Chief Gina Hawkins and Chris Cauley, the city’s economic and community development director, presented the City Council with plans for the program, known as the Community Safety Microgrant, on Monday.

Last fall, the council approved $250,000 to go toward the program, to be distributed in four cycles over the next two years, amid concerns of increasing violent crime in the city.

Violent crimes in Fayetteville increased last year as part of a national trend, Carolina Public Press previously reported.

The grant program was inspired by a similar program in Charlotte, Hawkins said.

“Charlotte had ideas of not just community involvement, violence and intervention, but they had microgrant programs as well,” she said. “We wanted to figure out how we could bring it here.”

Any eligible nonprofit organization or individual with an idea for community crime reduction that needs funding can apply for the program.

Council member Shakeyla Ingram showed support for the program at Monday’s meeting.

“Though there is a police effort, there also is a community side as well,” she said. “I believe if we really want to attack or address violent crime, the community has to do with itself.”

Applications for the program start May 2, and the deadline for submission is May 29.

How the program works
The program is limited to any individual or nonprofit organization that has an operating budget of less than $100,000. For-profit businesses cannot participate in the program.

Accepted applicants will be limited to those who pitch an idea that can be shown to limit community crime, which will be gauged through a scoring system. The details of that scoring criteria will be determined in a future council meeting.

All ideas for crime reduction will be considered though, Hawkins said.

“Education, empowerment, history of their community,” she said. “It even talks about family stability. But we’re not just limited to these criteria. When people are having an idea of it, these are just going to give a little bit more weight when the scoring comes up.”

In each of the four grant cycles, the city has allocated $50,000. Among that funding, three payment tiers are available for each applicant — up to $1,500, $2,500 and $5,000.

While nonprofits are eligible for the $5,000 tier from the outset, individuals must go through the other two tiers first.

As individuals progress through the tiers, the city will conduct classes that teach them how to organize and operate a nonprofit organization. The final $5,000 tier requires the grantees to be a nonprofit or be fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit.

“The nonprofit is a high barrier,” Cauley said. “That it is an IRS tax designation. Paperwork, you have to have an accountant and you’ve got to have an audit.”

Describing the classes, Cauley said, “We talk about the board composition and fundraising and the organizational development part of it. And then ultimately, we talk about the longevity and how you help your nonprofit continue year over year.”

Classes are a part of each six-month cycle. That cycle includes the first month when application vetting takes place. For the next four months, the program is implemented, and in the last, grantees report back with results.

In response to concerns from Mayor Mitch Colvin about the ability to adequately measure the success of the program, Hawkins said determining that isn’t entirely dependent on hard results.

“We know, it’s difficult to say,” she said. “The bottom line, if you got youth involved in your community, doing something different, that’s success.”

The council will appoint a committee to determine which applications are accepted.

Options on how to comprise that committee will be presented to the council in the next few weeks.

Paid parking in downtown Fayetteville to be reduced 2 hours

Fay City Council The Fayetteville City Council officially approved to reduce paid parking Monday, April 11, during a council meeting.

The new paid parking hours will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. This will be in effect Monday through Friday. Parking will remain free on Saturdays and Sundays.

The rates will remain the same, $1 per hour, and a maximum of $5 daily.

Lee Jernigan, city traffic engineer, told the council during a work session earlier this month that changing the times on the parking signs would cost about $8,000. 

The new times will be effective and enforced on May 2.

Visit parkfayettevillenc.com to see all parking facilities, parking enforcement rules and pay station instructions.

 

Police investigates deadly stabbing

Fayetteville Police have a suspect in custody following a stabbing that happened early Thursday morning.

Police officers arrived at Bayfield Loop around 4:05 a.m. to a reported disturbance. While officers could not locate anyone at the scene, they did find evidence consistent with a disturbance. At 4:11 a.m., officers at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center noted that a young man arrived in a personal vehicle with stab wounds.

24-year-old Alan Trump was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Detectives have a suspect in custody, however, their identity is being withheld until they are formally charged.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Detective J. Olsen at (910) 709-1958 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.

Taking a swing at Alzheimer’s, one putt at a time

The PWC JayWalkers are asking people to pick up their golf clubs and swing on the greens for a good cause.

The Jaywalkers Alzheimer's Awareness Golf Tournament will be held at King's Grant Golf and Country Club on April 15. The fundraiser seeks to raise money to support the Alzheimer's medical treatment of Jay Reinstein and benefit the Fayetteville Walk to End Alzheimer's.

Before retiring as Assistant City Manager, Jay Reinstein was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in 2018 and has since been a tireless advocate for Alzheimer's Awareness.

Reinstein, along with his team, the JayWalkers, has participated in the Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's for the past four years, raising tens of thousands of dollars.

"Jay is about community and moving things forward. He wants people to get along and come together to make a difference, which makes it so easy for us to want to do this for him," Carolyn Justice-Hinson of the Public Works Commission said. "There is no cure for this terrible disease. Even if you don't know Jay personally, this fundraiser brings awareness and support to all people affected by Alzheimer's."

Alzheimer's is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the most common type of dementia. It is a neurologic disorder that causes degenerative impairment to memory, thinking, and behavior.

Over 6 million Americans have Alzheimer's, 180,000 of whom live in North Carolina.

While there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer's, specific treatments and medications can slow the progression of the disease. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services do not grant coverage for all treatments and drugs that manage Alzheimer's Disease. The trials, treatments, and medications can become very costly without coverage.

"This fundraiser is not only to raise money for Jay's medical treatments," Event Committee Member Mark Brown said. "But to raise awareness and further research for all the promising treatments ahead."

Though serious in its objective, this fundraiser is chiefly about bringing people together to enjoy golf, beautiful weather, and each other.

"Jay loves people and camaraderie. This fundraiser epitomizes who he is," Justice-Hinson said.

Registration for the event is currently open, and those interested can sign up online or at 7:30 a.m. on site.

A shotgun at 8:30 a.m. kicks off the fun, and participants can play as individuals or on teams. Prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams will be awarded. In addition, participants can look forward to awards for the longest drive, closest to the pin, and a raffle.

The tournament will also feature a Hole-In-One contest where the top prize is a new car.

The event is open to all; no golf experience is necessary. "If you want to come out, pick up a golf club, and have fun for a good cause—we want you," Brown said. "We just want people to come out and have a good time."

The entrance fee of $100 covers both breakfast and lunch. Additionally, the tournament will move forward, rain or shine.

For information regarding registration, contact Mark Brown at 910-223-4224 or Elaina Ball at 910-309-6411.

What governments are doing to bring high-speed fiber internet to rural NC

PWC Fay When COVID-19 transformed day-to-day life over two years ago, people across North Carolina were suddenly forced to work and learn remotely to curb the spread of a contagious, deadly virus.

“The pandemic drove home how urgent access to a high-speed internet connection is to every part of modern life, the ability to work from home, learn from home, complete homework, access telemedicine services, apply for jobs or access government services,” said Nate Denny, secretary for broadband and digital equity for the N.C. Department of Information Technology.

That access to a consistent, high-speed broadband connection is a service that many in the state, especially in its rural areas, don’t have.

According to NCDIT’s broadband availability index, more than 92% of the state’s population has access to download speeds of at least 100 megabytes per second, but that’s concentrated in North Carolina’s major urban centers such as Raleigh and Charlotte.

In the Sandhills’ rural Sampson County, for instance, less than 60% of residents have speeds that high.

Among households in Rutherford County in rural Western North Carolina, fewer than a quarter have access to speeds of 100 Mbps or above.

That’s not accounting for upload speeds, which are often much lower than the accompanying download speeds. To get synchronized speeds, the installation of fiber optic cables is often required.

“Fiber projects can hit those speeds,” Denny said. “Not many other technologies can hit those speeds reliably.”

The rural-urban gap for fiber technology is even greater across the state, even in counties just below the most populous.

In Cumberland County, North Carolina’s fifth-most populous county, less than 10% of households have access to fiber technology.

Some investment in fiber is taking place within the private sector. Metronet recently launched its fiber service in Fayetteville with expansion planned for rural Cumberland County along with other parts of the state, Carolina Public Press previously reported.

But the state has a long way to go as less than 40% of households statewide have access to fiber.

State Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, said bringing fiber access to rural North Carolina is an economic problem.

“There’s a cost involved in running fiber,” he said. “You got to pay for it. So, if you’ve got one house every half-mile opposed to one house every 200 feet, the economics don’t work.”

For many internet service providers, or ISPs, the cost isn’t worth the return on investment.

That’s where the American Rescue Plan Act comes into play.

Public-private partnerships
To address this gap in high-speed broadband access between rural and urban counties, North Carolina is committing more than $1 billion in federal funds from ARPA.

Per federal guidelines, ARPA dollars used to invest in broadband infrastructure must have not only download speeds at 100 Mbps but also that level of upload speeds.

With these federal funds, 98% of households in North Carolina can reach that connection standard, Denny said.

One part of that goal is the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology grant.

The GREAT grant, which started in 2018, is now revamped to include $350 million of the more than $1 billion in broadband ARPA funds.

The grant operates as a public-private partnership in which a county or municipality partners with an ISP to use ARPA dollars to fund the construction of high-speed broadband infrastructure in areas that didn’t have access previously.

One example is the ISP Brightspeed, which is working with Cumberland to bring fiber internet to rural parts of the county.

Electric cooperatives can also take advantage of the GREAT grant. Blue Ridge Energy, which covers parts of Western North Carolina, is working with SkyLine SkyBest to bring fiber to Caldwell County, much of which is along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Crystal Spencer, director of marketing for Blue Ridge Energy, said the grant allowed the companies to reach areas that are expensive to cover.

“It is very cost intensive to have this infrastructure, particularly in our areas where everything is so mountainous and rocky,” she said.

Another $400 million from the ARPA funding is going to the Completing Access to Broadband, or CAB, program.

CAB allows counties to partner with NCDIT by matching each other’s ARPA dollars to procure an ISP to reach an area in need of broadband service.

“Governments need more flexibility to build those kinds of public-private partnerships, and we think the CAB program in particular is a really good new option for county governments to help more proactively address unserved parts of their community,” Denny said.

More flexibility
In 2019, Szoka helped pass Senate Bill 310, which allows electric cooperatives to lease fiber space on their electric grids to expand broadband access to their members.

Szoka said he saw the legislation as a way for cooperatives to reach rural parts of the state with high-speed internet, as they once did nearly 100 years ago with electricity.

He said internet access should be viewed as infrastructure as opposed to merely a service.

“We should look at this more like digital infrastructure,” Szoka said. “We have people that aren’t connected. How can they participate in what’s going on in the world? I’m not talking about Netflix and Hulu and all that kind of stuff. I’m talking about emails. I’m talking about running businesses online. I’m talking about things like that.”

The law from 2019 also allows electric cooperatives to build subsidiaries that service the internet to their members.

One cooperative that has done that is Roanoke Electric Cooperative, which covers Bertie, Gates, Halifax, Person and Northampton counties.

Roanoke’s director of broadband sales and marketing, Angela Washington, said that the co-op created Roanoke Connect as a way to bring internet access to the community as it once did with electricity.

“We saw a need years ago, given the digital divide, especially in rural areas in North Carolina and specifically our rural area, northeastern North Carolina,” she said.

Another similar bill in 2019, House Bill 431, would have allowed municipalities to lease fiber space to private ISPs.

That bill stalled in the General Assembly. Szoka, a co-sponsor, said he would have liked to see it passed to give municipalities more flexibility in reaching their rural residents.

But he said given the political will for broadband access amid the pandemic and the money being invested, he’s confident that many rural areas will start to see more access to high-speed internet.

“Two years from now, who knows, with all the money that’s coming in, I’m very encouraged that we’re going to be looking at a real different community,” Szoka said.

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