Local News

Fayetteville homicides down from 2016

07 police probe murderThere was a day not long ago that Fayetteville had a reputation for being the crime capital of North Carolina. In 2016, the city recorded an all-time high number of local homicides, 31. As of Dec. 12, 2019, the most recent data available from police, 24 murders had occurred this year. Raleigh reported 29 homicides, Durham reported 23 and Charlotte more than 100.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles took the oath of office three weeks ago and immediately turned her attention to reducing violence as news broke of another resident’s murder. The mayor called for closer collaboration among city and county governments, as well as the police department and the district attorney’s office, to develop new strategies to combat the soaring homicide rate.

As the swearing-in ceremony took place, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department reported the city’s 103rd homicide of the year. There were 58 murders in Charlotte in 2018.

“We must change the path we have taken this year,” Lyles said of the homicides.

The latest crime report for Fayetteville is a variety of ups and downs. Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins gave her third-quarter report on crime statistics to Fayetteville City Council Dec. 9. Through September of this year, there were 66 rapes reported compared to 81 in 2018, a 19% decrease. But through the first nine months of this year, there were more aggravated assaults and robberies than last year.

There were 292 felonious aggravated assaults through the end of September compared to 269 during the corresponding period of 2018. Shootings and other serious injury crimes are included in that category. “Ultimately, we are a safe community,” Hawkins told City Council. Preventing crime is not just law enforcement’s job; it is everybody’s job, Chief Hawkins believes.

There are a variety of ways citizens can take action to reduce crime, like mentoring at-risk youth, reporting incidents and encouraging lawmakers to pass bills designed to reduce crime. Crime prevention starts with community involvement. If your neighborhood has a neighborhood watch program, join it. If it does not, start one.

There’s more to preventing crime than stopping would-be criminals in the act. You can help keep people from becoming those would-be criminals by volunteering your time and donating money to social programs that help at-risk youth, like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

In 2018, the Fayetteville Police Department investigated seven domestic-related homicides. A domestic violence unit was formed to prevent or address domestic violence cases. The concept involved comforting and interviewing family members and neighbors. This year’s third-quarter crime report indicated none of the 24 murders was related to domestic violence.

However, the connection between drugs and violence continues to be a problem. The correlation between substance abuse and violent behavior is well documented. The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment noted that more than 75% of people who began treatment for drug addiction report having performed various acts of violence, including mugging, physical assault and using a weapon to attack others.

County wins state grant for emergency services center

06 01 County Call Center 2Cumberland County has officially accepted a $2,251,387 grant from the North Carolina 911 Board to the county’s new 911 call center, which will be part of the future emergency services building at 500 Executive Pl. The money will help fund renovation, hardware, equipment and associated technology costs for the call center. Cumberland County Emergency Services applied for the grant earlier this year. The current 911 call center has been housed in the Law Enforcement Center on Dick Street since 1974, when the LEC was built. Since that time, Cumberland County’s population has grown by approximately 95,000 people, and the volume of emergency calls has increased. In addition to the 911 call center, the building will house the county’s Emergency Services Department, Fire Marshal’s office, Emergency Management and the Emergency Operations Center. The county purchased the Executive Place building in November 2018 for $5.1 million, hoping the city of Fayetteville would want to share the building and the purchase. The city chose not to get involved. Assistant County Manager Tracey Jackson has estimated the total cost of purchasing, renovating and occupying the building will exceed $30 million.

Szoka named jobs champion

The North Carolina Chamber has named Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, a 2019 Jobs Champion in its annual “How They Voted” report, which details lawmakers’ voting records on key bills identified as critical to preserving a positive climate for job creation in North Carolina. Szoka was recognized for voting with the Chamber’s jobs agenda at least 80% of the time.

06 02 john szoka“Job creation and economic development has been, and continues to be, my primary focus in the legislature,” Szoka said.

“The 2019 legislative session saw a number of successes for North Carolina’s job creators and communities,” said Ray Starling, general counsel at the NC Chamber. “We appreciate that Rep. Szoka stood up for the ideas that will fuel our state’s competitive business climate and grow our world-class workforce.”

The NC Chamber considers itself the state’s driving force for business and exists to shape statewide public policy. For more information, visit ncchamber.com.

Cumberland County Sobriety Treatment Court

The Cumberland County Sobriety Treatment Court held a holiday safety event in early December to help raise awareness of the dangers of drinking alcohol and driving. Cumberland County ranks in the top five of North Carolina’s 100 counties in alcohol-related incidents and fatalities. Since 2013, an average of 300 people died annually in nationwide auto accidents involving drunken driving during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

06 03 dui court“The holidays are an important time to celebrate with family and friends and we also want it to be a safe time,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.

The Sobriety Treatment Court is funded by the Governor’s Highway Safety Council and provides a treatment system for high-risk DWI offenders who demonstrate destructive behaviors coupled with alcohol abuse. The specialty court in Cumberland County was established in 2010. Since its inception, 35 clients have completed the court. There are currently 108 defendants enrolled.

Help with heating bills

The Cumberland County Department of Social Services is accepting applications for the North Carolina Low Income Energy Assistance Program. Applications are taken at the Department of Social Services, 1225 Ramsey St., from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. During December, only households with a person aged 60 and older or disabled persons receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services were eligible for LIEAP. Other households may apply from Jan. 2 through March 31, or until funds are exhausted. Households with Native Americans age 18 or 06 04 thermostat and dollar billolder must apply through the Lumbee Tribe at www.lumbeetribe.com. The federally funded energy assistance program provides a one-time payment directly to the utility company to help eligible households pay their heating bills during cold-weather months. Household income must not exceed 130 % of the poverty level. All households must apply for LIEAP; there are no automatic approvals.

School bus tracking

The Cumberland County Board of Education has approved a contract renewal with Synovia GPS Transportation that will allow real-time tracking of the district’s 492 yellow school buses and 62 activity buses. Cumberland County Schools will have access to the “Here Comes the Bus” mobile app. The solution will allow the district to track school buses and deliver real-time email and push notification alerts to ensure families arrive at the school bus stop on time.

“This tool will provide another way for our school system to communicate with parents and help keep our students safe,” said Dianne Grumelot, the Executive Director of Transportation. “Here Comes the Bus” will be piloted at a few schools in the spring of 2020 and implemented at all schools by the 2020-2021 school year. 
06 05 School bus and kids

FTCC Horticulture Technology Program receives new, innovative greenhouse

10 FTCC Christmas articleFaculty, staff and students at Fayetteville Technical Community College celebrated the opening of a large, state-of-the-art greenhouse on Dec. 5.

The new greenhouse at FTCC’s Wesley A. Meredith Horticulture Educational Center, adjacent to the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, replaces one that was destroyed last year by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence.

Local and state officials, community members, and representatives from two congressional offices joined the FTCC community for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new greenhouse is bigger and better than its predecessor, with numerous unique characteristics. Its features include a double-door entrance, an evaporative cooling system and a sidewall roll-up with motorized curtains. It is also built to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act — a first — and its site has been raised nearly 10 feet. It is now level with the neighboring Horticulture Educational Center, which was not flooded during Hurricane Florence.

The project was funded by the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund, which was established by the North Carolina General Assembly.

During an address before the ribbon-cutting, FTCC President Dr. Larry Keen asked students from the Horticulture Technology program to join him near the podium.

“Why we do the work we do is represented up here,” Keen said of the students. “They are the ones who not only hold tomorrow in their hands but today in their hands as well. These are our students. These are the ones we work for every single day.”

The ceremony’s guest speaker, North Carolina Rep. John Szoka, reminded the audience of the damage caused by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence in 2016 and 2018. Szoka said efforts by the legislature — including Rep. Elmer Floyd who was in attendance — helped create a reserve fund to aid in rebuilding.

“What we do in Raleigh is important,” Szoka said. “We do it because we love our community.”

Construction on the new greenhouse began in August. Pamela Gibson, FTCC’s dean of engineering and applied technology, expressed excitement about the greenhouse; the horticulture program falls under her department.

“It has been a long road since we lost the last one,” Gibson said. “The hurricanes were devastating, but the silver lining is because of the hurricane recovery funding, we have a state-of-the-art greenhouse.”

The previous greenhouse, built in 2008, was the location of “Greenhouse Operations,” a course required for an associate degree in horticulture technology. Students learned about growing plants, temperature control, irrigation and more. After the original greenhouse was destroyed, the course moved to a smaller conservatory and plants were watered by hand, said Dr. Robin Pusztay, department chair for Horticulture Technology. The program went without a greenhouse for a year — until now.

After the ribbon-cutting, people toured the greenhouse and spoke with students about the building and the plants inside — annual flowers, peppers, herbs and even pogonias, a type of orchid. A handful of guests left with more than they had arrived with —   a plant grown by a horticulture student.

Happy New Year

06 Happy New YearChristmas Day and New Year’s Day allow people to enjoy a complete week of holiday festivities. People decorate their homes and shops and purchase gifts for each other. We wish each other a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Common traditions include attending parties, eating special foods, watching fireworks displays and making resolutions for the new year.

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox — the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness — heralded the start of a new year. Festivities have varied over time. Early celebrations were more paganistic, celebrating Earth’s cycles. It wasn’t until Julius Caesar implemented the Julian calendar that Jan. 1 became the common day for the celebration.

In many countries, modern New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of Dec. 31 and continue into the early hours of Jan. 1. Americans often celebrate with parties featuring toasting, drinking and fireworks late into the night on New Year’s Eve. Some might even get a kiss at midnight. Customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” in many English-speaking countries.

New Year’s Eve has always been a time to reflect on the past, but more importantly, to plan for the future. Resolutions can be anything from meal prepping to volunteering. In many parts of the world, traditional new year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success. One example includes black-eyed peas in the southern United States. New Year’s resolutions are traditions. Some are more popular than others.

According to an Inc. study of 2,000 people, the most common resolutions that were made in 2019 include No. 1 eating healthier. More than two-thirds of American adults are considered to be overweight or obese. It should come as no surprise that diet is the first thing people want to tackle in the new year. Exercising more comes under the same umbrella as eating healthier. Working out more is the second most common new year’s resolution.

Many Americans are eager to get on top of their finances in the new year. Some want to get out of debt while others are more focused on bulking up their savings accounts. About a third of Americans make this their top goal. Debt.com says to be specific, set a budget, let go of unhealthy spending habits, track your spending, and use cash whenever you can.

Sometimes new year’s resolutions are about losing things: extra weight, debt or emotional baggage like letting go of nasty habits, such as eating junk food and smoking. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said, “it’s never too early to quit.” There are plenty of tools to help you through it. Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy products make it easier to kick nicotine without spending a fortune or even stepping a foot in the doctor’s office. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good, so don’t let a failed attempt discourage you. Happy New Year!

When is the best week to buy a car?

05 Car Dealer 2They say timing is everything. When you are thinking about a new car, timing can save you thousands if you pick the right time of year — or cost you thousands if you don’t get the timing right. As the seasons pass, transaction prices can fluctuate with supply and demand. Automotive financing, cashback and leasing incentives change month to month, based on the time of the year. The inventory of new vehicles varies as model years change, and new cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans arrive in the market.

The absolute best month to buy is December, dealers say. To understand why December is the best time to buy a car, you need first to understand the process and the whys and wherefores. Car dealers and salespeople have quotas, lots of quotas. There are daily quotas, 10-day quotas and monthly quotas for the number of vehicles they have to sell. And there is a big goal — the annual quota. The end of the year is a busy time at dealerships because the very best deals of the year are offered on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The periods that manufacturers use to determine sales do not always coincide with calendar months.

The industry’s calendar for 2017, for example, had the sales month of December end Jan. 2, 2018. Your car purchase, this week, could determine the difference between the dealership hitting its annual sales goal and the salespeople receiving nice annual bonuses — or not. That’s why December, more specifically, the last week of the month, is the best time of year to buy a car. According to TrueCar, you can save an additional 8.3% off the price of a new car if you visit the dealership on New Year’s Eve.

Let’s say you were considering a used car going for $20,000. If you go in on New Year’s Eve, which is Tuesday, you stand to slash $1,660 just because you went in on the last day — and that’s in addition to other discounts offered. According to Mike Rabkin, owner and founder of From Car to Finish, the end of the month is great “because sales managers at dealerships have monthly quotas to hit and get compensated on whether they hit them or not.”

U.S. News and World Report notes that well-informed consumers are most likely to score great deals on new cars. The magazine provides buyers with all of the information they need, from learning about the buying process to choosing a new versus almost-new car and understanding financing options. Car loans are based on individual credit ratings. The higher one’s credit score, the lower the interest rate. The better the rate, the lower the monthly car payment. Buyers with established banking relationships can usually get better financing at their banks. Financing at a dealer’s business office means a point or two more on the interest rate regardless of a buyer’s creditworthiness.


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