Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
VOTING RIGHTS HEARING
US reps hold hearing on voting rights in North Carolina
WELDON, N.C. (AP) – Members of Congress want to hear about barriers to the ballot in North Carolina before Democrats in Washington propose changes later this year.
A U.S. House subcommittee conducts a field hearing on Thursday in the Halifax County town of Weldon. U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina and other Congress members plan to hear from people describing voting barriers.
Democrats in Congress are working on legislation to restore part of a federal law the U.S. Supreme Court overturned in 2013 that required many Southern states to get federal approval before changing voting rules that could affect minorities.
A similar congressional field hearing was Tuesday on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Others are planned for the next month in Cleveland, southern Florida and Birmingham, Alabama.
HANDICAPPED PARKING SPACES
NC Woman: Dog show reserved handicapped spaces for judges
(Information from: WRAL-TV, http://www.wral.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A disabled North Carolina woman says more than 20 handicapped parking spots near the Raleigh Kennel Club Dog Show were reserved for judges, forcing her to walk over a quarter mile.
Raina Jones tells WRAL-TV that trash bags covered the accessibility signs and notes labeled them for show judges. Jones says the judges were able-bodied and were missing handicapped parking tags.
She says she emailed the club and was told that the club couldn’t control if the other 50 or so handicapped spots were taken as parking is on a first-come, first-served basis. Jones says she also reached out to the National Kennel Club, which she says told her that it expects clubs to comply with the law.
Jones says she is “only handicapped whenever other people take away her accessibility.”
North Carolina transportation board OKs airport improvements
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The state transportation board has approved grants that will help provide safety improvements to six North Carolina airports.
The N.C. Department of Transportation says more than $2.1 million will be used to provide upgrades such as new lighting and improved aprons for aircraft parking.
More than $562,000 will go to Davidson County Airport to replace a system which tells pilots if they are approaching the runway at too steep or too shallow of an angle. Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport is getting close to $691,000 to design the runway, taxiway and apron rehabilitation with apron expansion.
Grants also have been awarded to Duplin County Airport, Kinston Regional Jetport, Mount Airy-Surry County Airport and Richmond County Airport.
PET SUPPLY RETAILER-JOBS
Pet supply retailer to create 1,200 jobs in North Carolina
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – An online pet supply retailer says it is opening a fulfillment center in North Carolina that will create 1,200 jobs.
The Charlotte Observer reports Chewy, whose corporate offices are in Florida and in Boston, announced on Wednesday that it will spend $55 million on the new center, which will be in Salisbury in Rowan County. It’s not known when the center will open.
Chewy specializes in pet food and supplies, such as chew toys, bird cages, fish tanks and litter boxes. It operates as an independent subsidiary of PetSmart, which purchased it in 2017.
The company has eight other fulfillment centers around the U.S.
Smokies campgrounds and picnic areas opening for spring
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) – Most campgrounds, picnic areas and roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are opening just in time for Easter weekend.
The partial government shutdown over the winter caused a small delay in facilities openings at America’s most visited national park. But spring opening day for a majority of facilities is scheduled for Friday. The remaining facilities will open between now and Memorial Day weekend.
Superintendent Cassius Cash says in a news release that staff has been working hard to hire seasonal employees, de-winterize water treatment and waste water systems, and clear fallen trees and limbs.
More information about specific facility openings and park events is available on the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm .
The park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border had more than 11.4 million visitors last year.
NORTH CAROLINA-DISPUTED ELECTION-SUBPOENAS
Federal grand jury investigating N Carolina ballot fraud
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A federal grand jury meeting in North Carolina is weighing whether to recommend criminal charges in the tainted congressional race.
The grand jury is meeting Tuesday through Thursday in Raleigh to review election irregularities in the 9th Congressional District.
State elections board spokesman Pat Gannon said Wednesday that the agency turned over extensive documents subpoenaed last month. Documents also were turned over by former Republican candidate Mark Harris.
Harris had a narrow lead after November’s election before details emerged that his political operative in rural Bladen County collected ballots from voters.
Leslie McCrae Dowless and four people Dowless allegedly hired to collect ballots were charged with state felonies, including possessing mail-in ballots. A state district attorney is investigating additional potential crimes in connection with activities leading up to the election.
ELECTION 2020-US SENATE
Ex-legislator Mansfield forms exploratory US Senate campaign
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A former North Carolina legislator says he’s seriously considering a U.S. Senate run next year and formed an exploratory campaign committee.
Democrat Eric Mansfield announced Wednesday his interest. He’s one of at least three Democrats either running to unseat Republican Thom Tillis or seriously considering it.
Mansfield served in the state Senate briefly and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2012. Previous military service brought him to North Carolina. He’s an ear, nose and throat surgeon now living in Holly Springs.
Mansfield said in a news release his own recent medical recovery brought him more clarity about serving the state. Mansfield was driving last year after a gym workout when his heart went into ventricular fibrillation. He said his car struck a tree, and a rescue squad restarted his heart.
North Carolina pitmaster mistaken for car thief, detained
(Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A renowned North Carolina pitmaster trying to rent a car in Florida was detained by police after he was mistaken for a car thief.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Sam Jones called his ordeal “one of the most dehumanizing things I’ve ever experienced.”
Cpl. Rose Silva of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said deputies agreed with employees at the car rental agency who believed Jones looked like a suspected car thief who had visited their shop in the past two months.
Police handcuffed Jones, put him in the back of a patrol car and detained him for two hours. He said it took an extensive background check to prove he wasn’t the suspected thief.
In addition to his own restaurant, Jones’ family owns the Skylight Inn in Ayden.