Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
Freedom Park to honor African Americans closer to reality
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A 48-foot-tall gleaming abstract sculpture that’s lit from within will be the centerpiece of a new park honoring the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina that’s been in the planning stages for about a decade.
A state commission approved the new design proposal for Freedom Park on Wednesday. The park will be located on a one-acre site between the state legislature and the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh.
Quotes from famous African Americans from North Carolina will be engraved on walls along walkways that lead to the Beacon of Freedom.
A groundbreaking for the park is planned for December. The proposed state budget includes $1.5 million for the park provided another $1.7 million is raised from private donors. Park supporters say they’ve exceeded that goal.
NC Republicans offer educator pay carrots for veto override
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Republican legislators are offering new carrots for Democrats to join them in overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s state budget veto through even higher raises for educators and staff.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger announced on Wednesday a bill would emerge for Thursday votes that would increase average teacher pay 3.9% through mid-2021 – the same as in the vetoed budget. But raises would reach 4.4% should that two-year budget separately become law over Cooper’s objections.
The House already overrode the budget veto, but Senate Republicans need at least one Democrat joining them to complete the override.
If there’s an override, the emerging bill also would prompt even higher pay for school janitors and secretaries, and for University of North Carolina and community college system employees.
CORRECTIONS OFFICER-DRUG CHARGE
NC prison officer charged with smuggling drugs to inmate
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Prosecutors say a North Carolina corrections officer has been charged with smuggling a narcotic substance into a state prison for an inmate who bribed him.
A statement Wednesday from the Charlotte-based U.S. Attorney’s office said 46-year-old Erice Lemond Blyther of Hoffman accepted a bribe from a prisoner to bring a controlled substance into Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Polkton in 2018. Court documents say the substance included the opioid buprenorphine.
Prosecutors say his duties included supervising inmates at what has since been renamed Anson Correctional Institution. Prosecutors also say he’s charged with using an interstate facility to facilitate bribery, extortion under color of official right and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
An attorney for Blyther didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.
Wildlife officials: Bear found dead, bound in North Carolina
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Wildlife officials in North Carolina are investigating what happened to a black bear that was found dead and bound with a rope around its neck.
Aaron Stronach with the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission says it doesn’t appear the bear had any significant injuries. He didn’t detect gunshot wounds or the hide removed from the animal when he inspected it in a mountainous area near the Mills River, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Asheville.
Stronach told McCatchy news group that a rope had been looped around the bear’s neck and attached to its hind leg. He added that it’s unusual to find an animal’s body tied that way, even if it has been dumped after hunting.
Stronach said the body weighed 125 to 140 pounds (57 to 64 kilograms.)
HURRICANE RECOVERY AID
North Carolina House advances $257M hurricane aid bill
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina legislators are aiming to locate more funds to help with the recovery from recent hurricanes, with an emphasis on lessening damages in future storms.
The full House voted unanimously Wednesday night for a bill that would allocate $257 million from state coffers for disaster recovery. Nearly $110 million would pay state government’s portion for matching federal funds to respond to hurricanes like Matthew, Florence and Dorian.
Tens of millions of dollars would help state and local governments with long-term planning and “resiliency” efforts. The bill also would carry out another committee’s recommendations for a state program criticized for slow distribution of federal housing funds.
A bill sponsor says aid details likely won’t be worked out with the Senate until next month.
CHILD ABUSE-WOMAN SENTENCED
Woman sentenced to prison for allowing husband to rape teen
(Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina woman is going to prison after prosecutors said she did nothing to stop her husband from repeatedly raping a 15-year-old girl over several years.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports 39-year-old Marcy Lynn Helms was sentenced on Wednesday to at least 18 years on a variety of charges. The sentence came a week after Helms pleaded guilty in Forsyth Superior Court. She was never accused of sexually abusing the girl herself.
Prosecutors also said Helms allowed the girl and several other children to live in an abandoned house that was about to be demolished.
The girl, now 17, told investigators that Brandon Irving Helms had raped and sexually abused her since she was 8 years old, got her pregnant, and continued raping her after she gave birth.
JURY DUTY-VOTER ROLLS
Directive focused on jury duty, non-citizens given final OK
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Lawmakers in the General Assembly have approved legislation requiring North Carolina courts to send information about people disqualified from jury duty because they aren’t U.S. citizens to election officials to remove them from voter rolls.
Republicans backing the measure approved on Wednesday by the House and Senate say it would stop non-citizens from trying to vote. It also creates a process so registered voters can appeal their voter-roll removal, such as due to inaccurate information.
But Democrats complain the directive could mean registered voters are removed for errors they know nothing about. The bill now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Voter advocacy group Democracy North Carolina is urging Cooper to veto the measure, saying it’s a wasteful directive upon election officials with limited resources.
Lowe’s joining Home Depot in cutting concerning chemical
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Home improvement retailer Lowe’s is phasing out carpets and rugs that contain a group of potentially harmful industrial chemicals that have been turning up in drinking water and some foods.
Lowe’s spokeswoman Sarah Lively said Wednesday that the Mooresville, North Carolina-based chain started the transition a year ago. She didn’t answer other questions.
Lowe’s competitor Home Depot announced last month that it would phase out carpets and rugs containing PFAS chemicals by the end of this year.
PFAS chemicals are used in firefighting foam, nonstick pots and pans, water-repellent clothing and many other household and personal items. They are nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment.
Studies have associated certain PFAS chemicals with increased risk of cancer and damage to organs such as the liver and thyroid.