Highway patrol suspends academy, freezes hiring

Published 9:04 am Friday, September 30, 2011

N.C. Highway Patrol recently said budget cuts forced it to suspend its trooper academy and freeze hiring even though it has about 100 unfilled trooper positions across the state.
The state legislature has reduced funding for the highway patrol by more than $8 million (or about four percent) in the current fiscal year and by up to $15 million over the next two fiscal years. The reductions come after the highway patrol lost about $28 million in funding in the previous two years.
Highway patrol officials said the number of vacancies will rise, with an average of about eight troopers retiring or resigning each month. Officials at the agency said they’re concerned it will take a long time to fill those openings without the academy in operation.
First Sgt. Pat Staggs, who handles highway patrol operations in Buncombe County, said the agency has not added troopers there in at least 10 years so it’s difficult to provide the type of 24/7 service needed for a growing population. Highway patrol will reduce costs considerably while the academy is shut down. It costs the state approximately $100,000 to pay the salary, benefits, shelter, clothing and vehicle costs for one cadet through the 29-week academy, and cadets must then complete another 12 weeks of field training. The state recently graduated 38 state troopers from the N.C. Highway Patrol Basic School, but it’s unclear when the academy will resume operations and the next class will graduate.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 9/18/11
Home sales have declined faster through the first half of this year in the 12-zip-code Asheville area than they have nationally, but prices have remained stable, according to data reported in the Asheville Citizen Times. The newspaper reported home sales were down 3.7 percent nationally through the first half of 2011, while they were down 12 percent in the Asheville area over the same period. However, median prices in the Asheville area were down only 0.5 percent during that period, compared to an average price decline of 4.7 percent nationally.
Since the start of the recession in 2008, the median price of homes sold in the Asheville area has declined 15.1 percent. Nationally, the price declined 16.2 percent over the same 3.5-year period. The newspaper reports the median price of a single-family home sold in 2008 in the Asheville area was $225,000. In the second quarter of this year, the median was $191,500.
After nearly 2,000 homes sold in the Asheville area in 2008, the number declined to 1,683 in 2009 and then rose to 1,706 last year. The area is on pace to finish below the 2009 low for home sales after recording 788 sales through the first six months of the year.
Sales of condos and townhouses have fared even worse in the Asheville area, declining by nearly 40 percent since 2008 compared to a national average drop of about 20 percent. The Citizen Times reports that residential real estate investment, though, is one of the fastest-growing segments in the Asheville area as developers start projects to meet the demand of an increased number of renters.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 9/4/11
In Henderson County, sales of existing homes were down 12.1 percent in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, based on N.C. Mountains Multiple Listing Service data reported in the Asheville Citizen Times.
Although the figures show a substantial price decline in the past year, the report notes that federal tax credits artificially inflated home sales in the first half of 2010. Real estate brokers said the area will get a better comparison over the second half of this year because the tax credits primarily impacted sales only in the first half of 2010.
Steve Dozier, a broker at Prudential Lifestyle Realty in Hendersonville, said Henderson County homes sold in three months or less so far this year were sold at about 94 percent of the original list price, while homes on the market for three to six months went at 92.6 percent and homes on the market more than a year sold at 71.1 percent.
Dozier said some buyers continue to look for foreclosure-level prices, although only about 4.6 percent of homes for sale in Henderson County are foreclosures.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 9/7/11
Charlotte was among 17 large metropolitan areas that saw home prices climb in July, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The average price of homes sold in the Charlotte area was up 0.1 percent in July compared to June.
Only three of the 20 metropolitan areas tracked by the index showed price declines in July. It was the fourth straight month that prices increased in the markets tracked by the index.
Despite the increases, the July home prices were still lower than last year. The average price of homes sold in July in Charlotte was down 4 percent, and the average for Case-Shiller’s 20-market composite was down 4.1 percent compared to July 2010.
– source: charlotteobserver.com, 9/28/11
Greenville County recently welcomed job announcements from a few companies that will bring more than 200 jobs combined to the area.
NEM USA Corporation announced plans to establish its North American headquarters in Greenville. The company, which designs, engineers and produces heat recovery systems for steam generators and boilers used by industries and utilities, plans to create about 40 jobs at the headquarters. The company’s global headquarters is in the Netherlands.
Carbures LLC plans to create its first manufacturing facility in American at the South Carolina Technology & Aviation Center in Greenville County. The manufacturer of carbon fiber composite structures plans to invest $6.5 million in the facility and create at least 50 jobs. Carbures, a spin-off from Spain-based Carbures, creates products for the defense, aerospace and automotive industries.
Both Griffin Thermal Products LLC and Confluence Watersports recently announced expansions of their operations in Greenville County. Confluence Watersports, a manufacturer of kayaks, canoes and paddle sports accessories, said it will invest more than $13 million and create 72 jobs at its expanded operations in Greenville. The company plans to move into a 300,000-square-foot building on Mauldin Road by the end of the year.
Griffin Thermal, a manufacturer of thermal transfer products for automotive and industrial companies, plans to create at least 50 jobs after refurbishing and moving into a vacant former Delta Mills Estes Plant in Piedmont.
– source: S.C. Department of Commerce, 9/1/11, 8/17/11, 9/18/11
Stray animals that end up at the Spartanburg Humane Society will be kept there a little longer before they are euthanized. Spartanburg County Council approved a requirement that animals be held at for at least five days, which will bring the shelter into compliance with state law. The Spartanburg Humane Society had a policy for years of holding stray animals for three days before euthanizing them.
Spartanburg County Council member Michael Brown said the longer waiting period is expected to raise costs at the shelter by up to 50 percent. The humane society said it already switched over to the longer holiday period, and it’s struggling to find enough room to hold cats for five days.
– source: thestate.com, 9/20/11
Delayed-harvest trout waters are opening in 15 counties in Western North Carolina this weekend. The 26 delayed-harvest areas are open between Oct. 1, 2011 and June 1, 2012.
The areas include in Polk County the part of the Green River from the Fishtop Falls Access Area to the confluence with Cove Creek, and in Henderson County, the gameland portion of the North Fork Mills River below the Hendersonville watershed dam.
No natural bait is allowed, and anglers can fish only with single-hook, artificial lures that have not been treated with any substance that attracts fish.
Both residents and non-residents can fish in the 26 areas with a three-day, $5 Mountain Heritage Trout Waters license, or with any trout fishing license.
For more information on delayed-harvest regulations, weekly stocking updates, or trout fishing maps, visit www.ncwildlife.org.
– source: ncwildlife.org, 9/20/11
The fall festival season is under way with a variety of events across the region this weekend.
The WNC Nature Center will host the 35th annual fall family festival with games, crafts, music and animals. The Hey Day festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the center, 75 Gashes Creek Road. Funds raised from the event will go toward improvements at the center (www.wildwnc.org).
Farm City Day will be held at Jackson Park in Hendersonville from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The festival includes antique and modern farm equipment, music, square dancing, clogging, food and a petting zoo (www.historichendersonville.org).
A Scarecrow Festival will be held at Lake Julian Park off Long Shoals Road in Asheville. The festival, which goes from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., includes crafts, a scarecrow contest and more (www.buncombecounty.org), and, in Burnsville, the Toe River Council’s 26th annual festival with songs, stories and various musical styles in the “old-timey tradition” will be held from 5 – 8 p.m. at the Burnsville Town Center (toeriverarts.org).
– source: www.citizentimes.com, 9/26/11
Wade Mainer, a North Carolina native sometimes referred to as “the godfather of North Carolina country music,” died recently at his home in Michigan at the age of 104.
Mainer was a mountain-born banjo picker who became Charlotte’s most-recorded country artist during the 1930s. Mainer performed during the Great Depression at the White House for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and he once performed in New York City with folk legend Woody Guthrie. He last performed publicly in Charlotte in 1985 at the Charlotte Country Music Story.
After hitchhiking from Buncombe County to Concord, Mainer took a job working in a cotton mill in the mid 1920s. In 1934, he and his older brother, J.E. Mainer, got a spot on the “Crazy Water Barn Dance” radio show, and the two brothers soon became one of the hottest country acts in the southeast, releasing albums under RCA’s Bluebird Series.
Although Mainer moved to Michigan in the late 1940s, he told the Charlotte Observer in a 2003 interview that the mountains where he grew up always lived in his music.
Mainer is in the Michigan country music hall of fame, and last year the University Press of Mississippi published “Banjo on the Mountain: The First 100 years of Wade Mainer.”
– source: Charlotte
Observer, 9/14/11

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