Local News

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.

Local Government Commission notes several concerns with Spring Lake board

Spring LakeThe Local Government Commission (LGC) has written a letter to elected officials in Spring Lake noting several concerns about the Board of Aldermen's choices in the past few weeks.

Their first concern is the hiring of a new interim manager. The Board of Aldermen held two closed session meetings where the board discussed and then swore in a new interim manager, Joe Durham. The problem lies in that the vote to hire Durham should be public. In addition, Durham was sworn in without having a contract in place. The LGC states that no payments can be legally made for Durham's services without a contract.

The second concern noted is the discussion of lifting a furlough on town employees put into effect on March 14. The furlough reduced pay for all general fund employees, reduced staff hours and closed Town Hall on Fridays to walk-in traffic. The LGC is concerned they were not consulted on lifting the furlough; the LGC still has complete control of the town's financial affairs.

"The town's board does not currently have the authority to make this decision unilaterally," the letter states.

The third concern involves Town Attorney Jonathan Charleston. Charleston submitted a resignation letter on March 23 and provided a 30-day notice. However, the LGC states that the board has not officially accepted his resignation, nor has it determined the last date of Charleston's employment. The LGC asks the board to clarify the final date of Charleston's employment and that the town stipulates a plan for obtaining legal representation.

A fourth concern noted in the LGC letter is that the Board of Aldermen voted to remove the LGC's presentation of interim financial information at the March 28 board meeting. The LGC states that while the presentation and information were not available when initially requested by the town in preparing the meeting's agenda, it was available that night.

The LGC is requesting the town respond to these concerns by April 13.

"The LGC and its staff are committed to assisting the town in implementing policies and practices that will restore the town's fiscal health and establish a path to long-term viability. We ask the board to demonstrate that same commitment," the letter states.

Alderman Raul Palacios posted on his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon that the letter from the LGC was a one-sided condemnation.

In his rebuttal to the LGC concerns, Palacios stated that the board would vote on Durham's hiring when they are presented with a contract. He also clarified that the board had not accepted Charleston's resignation yet.

Regarding the March 28 board meeting and the LGC report, Palacios writes that the board did remove the financial report from the agenda because they did not receive the report in advance of the meeting after requesting it three times. He says the LGC will be presenting the financial report at the April 24 scheduled meeting.

"The town of Spring Lake is better than it was a year ago because of internal control handling, LGC oversight and a change in leadership. My only hope is that the next town that receives an investigative audit report receives the help they need versus those hoping to gain political points," Palacios wrote.

Up & Coming Weekly has submitted requests for comments to Mayor Kia Anthony, Durham and Charleston but has not received comments at the time of this publication.

City Council discusses change to downtown parking

Fay City Council After lengthy debate, negotiations, and an offering of a "friendly" amendment, the Fayetteville City Council, on Monday, moved to consider decreasing the time motorists must pay for downtown on-street parking by two hours at the end of a weekday.

The motion to change the paid parking times from the current 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to the proposed 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. was made by Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Jensen.

The Council voted 6 to 4 to accept the idea of reducing the weekday on-street paid parking by two hours during its first work session held in the newly redesigned City Council Chambers.

Mayor Mitch Colvin and Councilmembers Antonio Jones, Chris Davis, Larry Wright, and D.J. Haire voted in favor of Jensen's motion.

Council members Shakeyla Ingram, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, Yvonne Kinston, and Johnny Dawkins opposed the change.

Ironically, it was Ingram – participating in Monday's workshop remotely – who initially asked that that on-street paid parking be changed from its current 12-hour time frame to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. She said her request was based on conversations she had with downtown business owners. At first, she considered asking that on-street paid parking ceases at 5 p.m. because it was hurting downtown businesses.

"Paid parking after 5 p.m. and during events on weekends has a negative impact on the cultural and economic vitality of downtown," she states in her written request to add the issue to the Council's agenda. The Council adopted the on-street paid parking fee structure in July 2021.

Ingram also asked that the special event parking times be reduced before and immediately after the event, specifically baseball games at Segra Stadium. Currently, a $5 parking fee starts two hours before a baseball game until two hours after the game. She asked that those times be shortened to one hour before the game and a half-hour after the game. Additionally, she asked that the city no longer reserve often unused and remote parking deck spaces for baseball game attendees. Neither of those two requests was considered by the council for inclusion in the upcoming agenda.

Lee Jernigan, city traffic engineer, said that changing the times on the parking signs would cost about $8,000 to keep them aesthetically pleasing. Before the vote, he told the council that the financial loss incurred by Ingram's proposal to cease charging after 6 p.m. would total $83,000 annually, although the city would incur a savings of $12,900 by not having to pay the third-party contract to enforce parking after 6 p.m.

Jernigan also displayed a 2019 baseball parking revenue chart totaling $92,799. He said he used 2019 figures because it was the last year not affected by COVID. The chart showed that Ray Avenue and Franklin Street parking were the greatest revenue producers coming in a $23,636 and $24,166 respectively. The city's parking fund provides $158,726 for debt services for Segra Stadium.

NC city to split $20M from ARPA among housing, infrastructure, biz funding

City Council members unanimously put their support behind a preliminary plan Monday to use federal dollars to fund local businesses, housing and infrastructure.

The funds are from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March 2021, from which the city of Fayetteville will receive more than $40 million.

The city will receive the funding in two sets. The first arrived last May, and the next round will come next month, according to the city.

The council accepted a preliminary plan for the first set of dollars at Monday’s agenda session. Once city officials finalize details for the federal funding, a detailed report will be presented to the council.

ARPA can be used on initiatives involving response to COVID-19, local income loss due to the pandemic and investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

According to federal guidelines, ARPA funds must be earmarked for a specific purpose by the end of 2024, and the dollars must be spent by 2026’s close.

Where the money will go
Each focus area — business, housing and infrastructure — will get $5 million from the first batch of $20 million from ARPA. The other $5 million will be used for administrative purposes.

Plans for the business portion include loans and grants for businesses and child care assistance.

The $5 million for housing would go to nonprofit agencies that service low- to moderate-income households.

A portion of the housing dollars would also go to a housing trust fund that would, among other things, fund construction of housing for households earning 80% of the area median income or less.

Council member D.J. Haire asked that city officials focus on housing near Amazon’s new plant currently under construction. The online retail powerhouse is projected to create up to 500 jobs by the time operation begins, Carolina Public Press previously reported.

Infrastructure funds would be used as contributions to existing construction associated with stormwater mitigation and renovations to public buildings, among other projects.

Some of the dollars would be used as matching funds with other federal programs, which would allow for increased investment, Assistant City Manager Adam Lindsay said.

“We are facing an opportunity to make a major, major advancement ahead in those projects if we spend the dollars in a strategic way,” Lindsay said.

“We can take those same dollars and turn them into a match, which means that leverages those dollars into a potential 5-to-1 ratio.”

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