Local News

City to consider doing away with 'halfway houses'

02 KearneyThe city of Fayetteville was going to host a virtual town hall this month on a proposal to update the city’s code of ordinances. But officials changed their minds at the request of city council member D.J. Haire.

Haire is concerned that proposed changes to Article 30 of Fayetteville’s Unified Development ordinance are not thorough. The planned change would strengthen regulations governing so-called halfway houses. The city’s planning commission, which has initial jurisdiction, was to have held the town hall and was asked to postpone it.

Of special interest to city council is a plan by DISMAS Charities Inc., of Louisville, Kentucky, to build a 14,339 square foot, 100-bed halfway house for federal prisoners at 901-905 Cain Road. DISMAS Charities is a private company contracted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to operate residential reentry centers. The BOP has the authority to place inmates in reentry halfway houses to serve the remainder of their sentences which it says is normally six months to a year. If built as proposed, the Cain Road institution would be the company’s largest center. The 36 establishments operated nationwide by DISMAS Charities average 25 inmates.

The company’s interest in constructing such a large facility could be to compensate for the reduction and/or cancellation of federal halfway houses which began in the summer of 2017. Sixteen federal facilities previously under contract with the BOP were closed. The goal is to provide prisoners with programs to help them successfully transition back into society. Programming can include work, education, vocational training, drug and mental health treatment as well as custodial release preparation.

The property on Cain Road abuts the Scotty Hills / Shamrock neighborhood. Residents fear an institution for housing federal prisoners would negatively impact surrounding property values and create a safety issue. In February of 2020, by a vote of 5-4, city council denied DISMAS a special use permit which would have allowed the company to build the halfway house. The firm appealed, and on Sept. 3 Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Tally affirmed city council’s decision. It is now before the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

The proposal under consideration by city government is to abandon the term halfway house and establish ‘community reintegration centers.’ Revised ordinance amendments would limit the number of residents allowed in future centers. If a community reintegration center is located within 500 feet of a single-family residential zoning district the number of residents shall not exceed 30 people. If located within 500 feet of a multi-family residential district, the number of residents shall not exceed 40 people. The distance would be measured from the property line of the community reintegration center to the property line of the nearest residential property.

Reintegration centers are defined as treatment complexes rather than housing units. Zoning districts where they would be allowed would be reduced, effectively barring them in or near housing areas. On June 15, the planning commission reviewed the proposed ordinance amendments and voted unanimously to recommend their adoption. Once a rescheduled virtual town hall is held, the commission will consider the application, relevant support materials, the staff report and comments given by the public.

Pictured above: This file photo shows a DISMAS reentry center in Kearney, Nebraska. (Photo courtesy www.dismas.com)


Thurman inspires others through work, radio and engagement

12 ai5i2550 copy copyTammy Thurman strives every day to serve the community professionally and personally. As the Senior Community and Government Relations Manager for Piedmont Gas, she is in charge of the six eastern North Carolina areas to include Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Wilmington, New Bern, Elizabeth City and Tarboro.

Originally from Dunn, Thurman attended St. Augustine University in Raleigh and received her degree in Mass Communication. She took a gap year after college while working as a teacher at E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville.

“But that’s not what I had gone to school for, my student loans were more than what I was making so I ended up at a telecommunications company, still was not where I wanted to be at but that was my first introduction to working with a utility and then I ended at Progress Energy who was bought by Piedmont Natural Gas,” Thurman said.

Thurman has been with Piedmont Gas for 18 years, first in customer service and eventually worked her way up to community relations. In her customer service role, she started many initiatives and committees where they would give back to the community on behalf of Piedmont.

She had always loved serving the community and wanted to do it for a company.

“I said ‘Lord, I am praying that you open up an opportunity for our company to see my work and see they need me in the community representing them,’” Thurman said. “Long story short, in 2013, a position opened up for community relations in eastern North Carolina and I applied for it and got the job, and it quickly changed from a job to a career.”

In her current role, she serves as the ambassador and in-between person between the company and the community for the eastern region.

“What that looks like is any non-profits, any commerce chambers, your local government, all of those people come through me when they want to ask questions or want responses from Piedmont,” she said. “I am the philanthropist for the company in this region, we support and give back huge amounts of philanthropic dollars to the communities across the state.”

She says she actively seeks out organizations to partner with like The Arts Council in Fayetteville, local music festivals, nonprofits and more.

“I would say I have an average day, but I would be lying," Thurman said. "It consists of four to five on-call meetings, some events to represent the company. For the most part it's just a matter of tossing some apples in the air, but that's part of what makes my job so intriguing, it’s always a new challenge and that’s what keeps me going.”

Her work and life are all about serving, serving and more serving, she said chuckling.

Apart from her professional role at Piedmont, Thurman is on the board and committee for many different organizations. She’s a part of the United Way of Cumberland County, board member for American Heart Associations in Wilmington, trustee at Cape Fear Hospital, board member at the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities in Raleigh, and the USO at Fort Bragg.

She noticed a while ago that she wasn’t doing much outside of her career and wanted to do something outside of that.

“My heart is to help young high school or college aged women, that's a passion for me,” Thurman mentioned.

Being a motivational speaker, she wanted to share her story, and decided to participate on an anthology project with 41 other women across the nation to write the compilation book “Women Crushing Mediocrity” by Dr. Cheryl Wood.

The book meant for women by women shares real life experiences and aims to provide motivation through true stories from the authors of things they went through, touching on topics such as self-esteem, procrastination, life after divorce, being a single woman and more. Thurman’s portion of the book is focused on how and if one wants to change.

“For me it's about the way you say things, the way you approach things, but at some point, a light goes off that has to say, ‘I cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different outcomes,’ not if I want true change.” Thurman said.

In the book, she talks about her call center experience and how unhappy and upset she was with work.

“I kept saying everything around me needs to change but someone pointed out that wasn’t the case and something in me needed to change,” she said. “And it took about 12 months to digest and work it out. When I got that new mind change, all my pain and complaining stopped.”

Thurman also hosts a radio show called, “A Nation of Sisters”’ on local station WIDU, about motivating women, and talks to women in the military, medical fields, ministries, students and more, she said.

When she’s not dedicating her life to serving others, you can catch Thurman hanging out with her two dogs, on the beach or at amusement parks.

Pictured above: Tammy Thurman is the Senior Community and Government Relations Manager for Piedmont Gas, partnering with many organizations in the region. She also hosts "A Nation of Sisters," a show on local WIDU radio.


FTCC's Student Learning Center offers academic support, encouragement

12 N2108P33005HThe Student Learning Center at Fayetteville Technical Community College is a source of positive encouragement and support for all current and future FTCC students. Students who visit the SLC find a place to ask questions and receive assistance without feeling embarrassed or inadequate.

Whether a recent high school graduate or one who hasn’t been in class for twenty years, students are welcomed and made to feel comfortable at the SLC. Staff encourage independent learning and provide students with tutoring and supplemental instruction to deepen their comprehension of key concepts.

At the SLC, there are 10 qualified instructors ready to support students as they pursue academics. Instructors in the SLC work to bridge the gap between learning and understanding. Each instructor has a higher education degree and has worked closely with adult learners for many years. SLC staff facilitate learning in the areas of English, math, science, Spanish and much more. The staff is invested in student success and constantly encourages students to not give up on achieving their academic goals.

Students learn differently, and the SLC staff understands the challenges students face each semester. In fact, SLC staff members encourage students to visit the SLC as soon as they have a question or feel assistance is needed, rather than delaying. Students are provided a welcoming atmosphere with comfortable seating, computers, laptops and group instruction rooms. Additionally, the SLC has mobile whiteboards and whiteboard tables to promote interactive learning. Students can also use the SLC as a place for study between or after classes.

In addition to one-on-one tutoring offered in the SLC, NetTutor Online Tutoring Service is available for students. NetTutor is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The tutoring service is available through FTCC student Blackboard accounts. The SLC has specialized labs for math, science and writing. These labs offer students one-on-one experiences within a more focused setting.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, the SLC maintained CDC guidelines and safely remained open to provide face-to-face services to FTCC students. For students who were unable to visit campus during the pandemic, the SLC offered students virtual tutoring appointments, enabling students to continue to receive personal assistance.

Using the SLC is free, and no appointment is necessary. Students simply present the FTCC student ID card for easy access at the sign-in kiosk. Virtual sessions are also available for FTCC students by contacting the SLC via phone call or email.

The SLC is located inside the Harry F. Shaw Virtual College Center at the Fayetteville campus. Hours of operation are Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Students may direct questions about the SLC to learningcenter@faytechcc.edu or 910-678-8266.

Join us for fall semester at Fayetteville Technical Community College for an amazing academic journey.

Cape Fear Valley Health announces employee vaccination requirement

09 N2105P66009HCape Fear Valley Health System has made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for its 7,000 employees, physicians, students, vendors and volunteers. The deadline for compliance is Oct. 1.

“With the rising trend in positive COVID-19 cases locally and nationally, vaccinations remain our best defense against the pandemic,” said Cape Fear Valley Health CEO Michael Nagowski.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rapidly increasing locally. Only 50-55% of Cape Fear Valley’s employees have been vaccinated to date, said health system spokesperson Chaka Jordan.

Cumberland County’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is 13.7%. This rate has increased significantly in the last two weeks. The CEO and other members of the health system’s leadership held town hall events with employees to answer questions before making this decision. Employees with medical or religious concerns are eligible for exemptions. Nagowski said employees will not be required to use vacation time to get their vaccines.

The Fape Fear Valley Health System includes the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, Cape Fear Valley Rehabilitation Center, Behavioral Health Care, Bladen County Hospital, Hoke Hospital, Health Pavilion North, Health Pavilion Hoke and Harnett Health.

On July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised mask guidance. In areas with substantial and high transmission, like Cumberland County, the CDC recommends that everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, wear masks in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and protect others. City of Fayetteville and Cumberland County government employees and people visiting public buildings are again required to wear masks.

City Manager Doug Hewett distributed a memo via email to city employees announcing the change. Citizens are encouraged to schedule appointments before entering City Hall. Residents can access many city services 24/7 at fayettevillenc.gov.

County Manager Amy Cannon echoed Hewett’s concerns. “We are monitoring our county metrics and the recommendations from the CDC, State health officials and our Public Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green regarding any further protective measures,” Cannon said.

The Fayetteville Area System of Transit has instituted requirements for bus riders. FAST employees and passengers must wear face masks, not face shields or bandanas. Passenger capacity has been reduced from 35 to 22 on buses. Bus seats are marked for social distancing.

Passengers should enter and exit buses from the rear doors. Daily disinfecting and cleaning of FAST facilities and buses are scheduled.

Vaccination clinics are available countywide. Walk-ins are welcome at Cape Fear Valley vaccine clinics during the month of August until clinic capacity is reached, but appointments are preferred. Visit www.capefearvalley.com/covid19.

Free vaccines are also available at the Cumberland County Department of Public Health located at 1235 Ramsey St., weekdays 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. No appointments are needed. Learn more at cumberlandcountync.gov/covid19.

Cumberland County leaders encourage COVID vaccinations, masks

08 County Covid IMG 4914Cumberland County leaders conducted a press conference Aug. 6 with health officials to encourage residents to get a COVID-19 vaccination and to continue to mask-up due to the Delta variant and the 837 new COVID-19 cases in the county over the previous seven days.

“The best protection against this virus is the vaccine and I encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” said Cumberland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charles Evans.

Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County Public Health Director, said the COVID-19 Delta variant is much more contagious than the original strand. She added that the COVID-19 positive infection rate is currently above 15% and hospitalizations are increasing. The percent positive needs to be closer to 5% for everyone’s safety according to the World Health Organization.

“I know the frustration among the vaccinated is growing with the unvaccinated, I ask you take that frustration and turn it into conversation,” Green said. “I know that conversations with your friends and family will make a difference.”

At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in January, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center had approximately 130 people admitted to the hospital, according to Mike Nagowski, Chief Executive Officer for Cape Fear Valley Health System. As vaccines started to be administered, that number had a downward trend to 14 people who were COVID positive.

“In the last six weeks, as the Delta variant has taken hold … we now have 89 people who are COVID positive in our hospital. Almost every single person in the hospital is unvaccinated,” said Nagowski, who described the Delta variant as “like the original COVID on steroids.”

The medical center is seeing younger patients. “The people dying today are far different than those who were dying in the beginning of the pandemic,” Nagowski said.

Cumberland County Schools will return on Aug. 23 for in-person learning for traditional calendar schools. According to Cumberland County Schools Director of Health Services Shirley Bolden, the top priority for the school year is to operate in-person learning all year long as safely as possible.

“In keeping with the recommendation of the local, state and national health officials, Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connolly plans to recommend to the Board of Education universal masking for all students and staff at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. This would be for all pre-K through 12th-grade students and staff, regardless of their vaccination status,” Bolden said.

This action is intended to reduce the number of students needing to quarantine in the event of an exposure. “We believe that universal masking can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the school setting,” she said.

In addition to universal masking, the goal is to maintain social distancing of 3 feet between students and 6 feet between staff. CCS is also encouraging those who are not vaccinated to do so now to slow the spread of the virus.

“Thanks to federal funding, COVID-19 testing will also be available and will provide one more layer of protection to help keep students and staff safe,” Bolden said.

Clinics will be held at Cumberland County Public Library locations on Saturdays in August from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Appointments are not needed.
Aug. 14 at Hope Mills Library
Aug. 21 at East Regional Library
Aug. 28 at Spring Lake Regional Library

The Department of Public Health, 1235 Ramsey St., offers the vaccine weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Pfizer and J&J vaccinations are available by appointment or walk-ins will be accepted.

View the COVID-19 vaccination calendar and make an appointment at cumberlandcountync.gov/covid19.

Pictured above: Chairman Charles Evans speaks at a press conference Aug. 6. (Photo courtesy Cumberland County)


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