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LOCAL NEWS

Thursday, January 15th

Today's headlines from www.unifournews.com

 

Early morning accident blocks lanes on interstate 

An accident on Interstate 40 in Burke County blocked the eastbound lanes early this morning (Thursday, January 15). All of the lanes reopened by 5:30 a.m. According to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the accident, which was reported to be a head-on collision, happened at approximately 3:40 a.m. Published reports say an 83-year-old woman was traveling west in the eastbound lanes when she crashed head-on into another car near mile marker 101, just west of Morganton. She was transported to the hospital with what officials described as serious injuries. The wife of the driver of the other car was also brought to the hospital, with a broken arm. Drivers were detoured to Highway 70 and Highway 64 while crews cleared the roadway.

Authorities continue to urge citizens to be aware of scam 

Hickory Police are warning citizens to be wary of a scam in which callers claiming to represent Duke Energy have demanded immediate payment from at least five local businesses under the threat of shutting off their power. The caller typically states that the business’ power bill payment was never received and power to the business is about to be shut off. The caller says they will not accept a check and payment is needed immediately.The victim is instructed to purchase a Red Dot or Green Dot pre-paid card in the amount of $500, $1,500 or $2,500. The victim is then told to call back at a specified number with the code number from the pre-paid card, thus allowing the caller to obtain the funds on the card. The callback numbers have varied in each case. Approximately $5,000 has been lost in the five reported incidents, all of which occurred late last year or early this year. A Hickory Police spokesperson says it’s possible that other incidents have occurred, but have gone unreported. Duke Energy says they have received about 100 reports of similar incidents per month, statewide. For more information, visit www.dukeenergy.com/north-carolina/billing/fraudalert.asp. Local Police encourage anyone who may have victimized to contact them at 828-328-5551. Police also remind the public that the scammers will not have customers’ account numbers or recent billing information. If the caller is unable to confirm account numbers, invoice numbers, the last amount due, the last amount paid and other similar information, the call is most likely to be a scam.

Woman arrested in Burke on drug charge 

 

31-year-old Felicia Jean Knox was arrested Tuesday (January 13) by authorities in Burke County. She’s charged with felony possession of schedule II controlled substance. Following the arrest, Knox was jailed under $7,500 secured bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled for today (Wednesday, January 14).

Law enforcement agencies work together to protect victims 

Representatives of Catawba County law enforcement, the District Attorney's Office, Catawba County Social Services, and the Children's Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County have signed an inter-agency agreement pledging to work together to protect the child victims of sexual and serious physical abuse. The CAPC collaborates with these other agencies to respond to cases of suspected severe child physical abuse and child sexual abuse in a manner that reduces trauma to the child victim and non-offending family members. The agreement notes that the criminal justice system is "designed for and oriented to adults." The CAPC and partner agencies agreed to minimize the trauma to child victims while working to aggressively prosecute offenders.Specifically, those signing the document agreed to minimize the number of interviews to which the child is subjected, work together to improve coordination, and attend training and educational events sponsored by the CAPC." Catawba County's CAPC is recognized throughout North Carolina as a model for its collaboration between law enforcement, prosecutors, and Child Protective Services," said John Eller, director of Catawba County Social Services. "We are pleased to have the continuing support of these agencies as we work together to ensure the safety of our county's children." There are 78 counties in North Carolina being served by a Children's Advocacy Center. Thirty of these, including Catawba County's CAPC,are accredited by the National Children's Alliance.

Man arrested on drug charge 

36-year-old Billy Lamour Jones was arrested today (Wednesday, January 14) by authorities in Burke County. He’s charged with felony possession of schedule II controlled substance. Following the arrest, Jones was placed in jail under $15,000 secured bond. A court appearance was scheduled for today.

 

Wednesday, January 14th

 

Today's headlines from www.unifournews.com  

Man AWOL From Texas Army Base After Conviction On Sex Offense Charges Located in Morganton 

A man who U.S. Marshals say went AWOL from Fort Hood in Texas was apprehended in Morganton. According to published reports, O'Jay Rufus Woods, Jr., was wanted by the U.S. Army in Fort Hood, Texas, for leaving the base after he was convicted on sex charges. Officials say the offense occurred in Texas. Authorities learned that Woods may have been staying in Burke County. The reports say U.S. Marshals conducted interviews and followed up on numerous leads before locating Woods in Morganton. Woods was detained at the Burke Catawba Confinement Facility and was scheduled to be extradited back to Texas. Authorities have not yet revealed what charges he will be facing. 

Conviction of sex offender announced, minimum 21 years jail time imposed 

The Burke County Sheriff’s Office announced the conviction of a man on a statutory rape charge. According to a news release issued Tuesday (January 13), on December 17th 2014, Joshua Michael Benfield entered a guilty plea in Burke County Superior Court to Statutory Rape of Person Who is 13, 14 or 15 Years old.  Benfield was sentenced to a minimum of 21 years and 2 months to a maximum 30 years and 5 months.  Benfield was a registered sex offender from a prior out of state sex offense conviction in Mississippi. 

Weapon and drug charges filed following incident at Morganton lodging establishment 

30-year-old Robert Clint McNeely was arrested Monday (January 12) by Morganton Public Safety Officers. He’s charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor as well as possession of a firearm by felon, possession with the intent to sell and deliver methamphetamine, possession of a schedule I controlled substance, trafficking opium or heroin, possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver a schedule IV controlled substance, possession with intent to sell & deliver marijuana, resisting a public officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts of felony probation violation. Morganton Public Safety Officers responded to a disturbance call at The Comfort Inn on Burkemont Ave. at approximately 10:40 p.m. Monday. The caller told officers after they arrived that a male suspect had threatened use of and displayed a firearm.  Three people, including McNeely, were searched and were said to exhibit highly suspicious behavior.  All three gave Officers fictitious information regarding their identities.  Officers learned that one female was a 16-year-old runaway from western N.C. and the other female was 17 years old. Several glass pipes, a bag of hypodermic needles, multiple cell phones and a large amount of cash led Officers to suspect drug trafficking. McNeely was placed in jail under a $125,000 secured bond. A court appearance was scheduled for today (Tuesday, January 13).

Scam under investigation 

The owner of Backstreets Bar & Grill on 14th Avenue N.E. in Hickory was the victim of a scam yesterday (January 12). At about 6 p.m., a caller who claimed to be with Duke Energy told the victim his power would be turned off if he didn’t immediately pay a power bill in the amount of $1,500. The victim used a debit card to pay $500 and used a credit card to purchase a pre-paid Green Dot card in the amount of $504. Hickory Police are investigating.A number of similar scams have been reported in the Unifour in December 2014 and earlier in the fall. Those include callers who claim to represent Microsoft Windows and the Internal Revenue Service, in addition to those who demand immediate payment for overdue utility bills.In the last few days, three Town of Boone commercial water customers have received phone calls from someone claiming to represent the Town of Boone. The caller demanded immediate payment for a delinquent account or the customer’s water would be shut off. A press release from the Boone Police Department states that the calls are a scam. The Town of Boone may contact customers, as a courtesy, if their water account is delinquent and will accept credit card payment over the phone, but the Town of Boone never will demand immediate payment. All calls from the Town of Boone should come from a local number. The Town of Boone never uses independent contractors to make calls on its behalf. Anyone who receives a call from a person claiming to be from the Town of Boone should feel free to contact the Water Department at 828-268-6220 before making any payments or sharing any financial information.The scam is similar to a scam reported by New River Light & Power on January 9. Authorities in Morganton also reported a similar scam last October.

Heroin trafficking charge filed 

30-year-old Harrell Bruce Powell was arrested Monday (January 12) by authorities in Burke County. He’s charged with trafficking heroin, possession with with intent to manufacture schedule six controlled substance, and probation violation. Following the arrest, Powell was jailed under $55,000 bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled for Tuesday (January 13).

Burke woman charged with drug offense 

31-year-old Alisha Diane Harrison of Miller Bridge Road in Connelly Springs was arrested by Hickory Police late Monday night (January 12) on a warrant out of Burke County for felony possession of a schedule II controlled substance. The warrant for her arrest was issued on October 8 of last year.Harrison was taken into custody without incident and placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $7,000 secured bond. She has since been released. An appearance in District Court was set for February 16 in Morganton.

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 13th 


Today's headlines from www.unifournews.com 

 

State Representative announces resignation to take new job 

 

State Representative Edgar Starnes of Granite Falls announced Monday that he was resigning, effective at noon today, to take a new job. Starnes will become the senior policy advisor and legislative liaison for the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer. Starnes, who is 58-years-old, has completed 10 terms as the N.C. State House representative for the 87th District. Starnes won election to an 11th term in November 2014, running unopposed. At the State Treasurer’s Office, Starnes will replace former state Rep. Bill McGee, who retired last summer. Starnes’ replacement will be selected by the Caldwell County Republican Party’s executive committee and submitted to Gov. Pat McCrory. An official from McCrory’s office said the governor appoints whoever the committee selects. The Caldwell County GOP executive committee is scheduled to meet at 7:00 tonight (Tuesday, January 13) at the Caldwell County Library.

Silver Alert issued for missing Hickory man canceled 

The Silver Alert for Jay Richard Zeidel of Hickory was canceled, according to a news release issued late Monday night by the Raleigh-based N.C. Center for Missing Persons. According to reports, the man was found safe with his children. The Silver Alert was issued Monday for Zeidel, who is 50-years-old and was reported to be suffering from dementia or some other cognitive impairment.

Catawba County man charged in connection with theft from store 

29-year-old Joshua Wayne Kirby of Cape Hickory Road in Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police at about 6:30 Saturday evening (January 10) on one felony count of obtaining property by false pretense.He was arrested after a Loss Prevention Officer at the Kohl’s store on Catawba Valley Boulevard saw Kirby go to the electronics department where he selected a speaker. Kirby then allegedly removed the security device from the speaker and attempted to return it for a refund at customer service. The speaker was valued at less than $80.Loss Prevention held Kirby until H.P.D. arrived and placed him under arrest. He was processed and later released under a $10,000 unsecured bond. A first appearance in District Court was scheduled for today (January 12) in Newton.

Hickory man charged with weapon offense 

26-year-old Walter Villarreal of Highland Avenue Northeast in Hickory was arrested Monday by Catawba County Sheriff’s Officers. He’s charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Following the arrest, Villarreal was placed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under no bond, a first court appearance was scheduled for Monday (January 12).  

Man faces several charges on warrants from 2013 

21-year-old Brandon Lee Yarborough of Marlene Road in Newton was arrested Monday (January 12). He’s charged on warrants from 2013 with habitual breaking and entering, possession of a firearm by a felon, felony larceny, breaking and or entering, two counts of obtaining property by false pretense, misdemeanor larceny, and assault on a female. Following the arrest, Yarborough was detained at the Catawba County Detention Facility under no bond. A court appearance was scheduled for Monday (January 12).

Man receives jail time in case involving stolen vehicle, chase with officers 

39-year-old Tony Ray Shatley of Claremont pleaded guilty to three felonies and a driving while impaired charge in Catawba County Superior Court last Friday (January 9). Shatley was convicted of felony larceny, fleeing to elude arrest with a motor vehicle and habitual felon status stemming from a January 17, 2014, incident when he stole a pickup truck and led officers from Hickory Police Department on a chase that resulted in multiple accidents before coming to a stop on U.S. Highway 70. The Honorable Hugh B. Lewis, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, sentenced Mr. Shatley to 5-8 years of active prison time. The defendant was placed in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections. Mr. Shatley was convicted of three prior felonies, including a breaking and entering in 2005, larceny of a motor vehicle in 2011 and felony breaking and entering of a motor vehicle in 2012. Assistant District Attorney Dawn Tutterow prosecuted the case for the DA’s Office. HPD Officers Joshua Null, Matt Williams, Carlos De Los Santos, John Radford and Keith Yount were involved in the chase and apprehension of Mr. Shatley as well as accident investigation, and Officer James Crapps was the lead investigator for the case.

 

 

Monday, January 12th 

Today's headlines from http://www.unifournews.com/ 

Sunday night fire burns home in Catawba County, firefighters from three counties respond

A fire that burned a home in Catawba County Sunday night is currently under investigation. Firefighters from seven departments in three counties responded to the blaze at the home on Stewart Road just north of Conover. When firefighters arrived, flames were reportedly shooting out of the home. In addition to departments from Catawba County, firefighters from Alexander and Iredell also responded. It was unknown if anyone was home at the time of the fire and the cause is under investigation.

Man pleads guilty in sex offense case, receives minimum of 14 years in prison

 

50-year-old Edmundo Bello-Gomez, of Conover, pleaded guilty as charged to three counts of indecent liberties with a child and one count of attempted first-degree rape in Catawba County Superior Court last Thursday (January 8). The offenses involved a 10-year-old female child and occurred between April 2009 and May 2010. There was no plea bargain in this case. Bello-Gomez received a prison sentence of 14-17 years from the Honorable Nathaniel J. Poovey, Superior Court Judge from Catawba County who presided over the case.When Bello-Gomez eventually is released from prison, he will be required to register as a sex offender. The case was investigated by Detective Lori Dingess of Hickory Police Department. The District Attorney’s Office and Hickory Police Department partnered with the Catawba County Child Advocacy and Protection Center during the investigation of this case. The CAPC also provided additional services for the child victim.  Assistant District Attorney Michael Van Buren prosecuted the case, with the assistance of DA's office Victim Witness Legal Assistant Kathryn Isenhour. All involved worked closely with the minor child, the parents, Det. Dingess, DSS and the CAPC.

Catawba County man charged with drug offenses, failing to appear 

58-year-old Terry Lee Shook of Highway 16 North in Conover was arrested Sunday (January 11) by Conover Police Officers. He's charged with felony maintaining a vehicle, dwelling, or place to keep controlled substances and simple possession of schedule six controlled substance. Shook is also charged with failure to appear on counts of felony possession of cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Following the arrest, Shook was placed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $23,100 bond. A District Court appearance is scheduled for February 4.

Officials discuss funding to study possible uses of buildings at Broughton 

Burke County officials are reportedly closer to getting the money needed to conduct a study regarding potential uses of the buildings on the former Broughton Hospital campus. According to a published report late last week, the Burke County Board of Commissioners approved two grants one for $100,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation and the other for $10,000 from Duke Energy. The grant money is designated to go to a study that would be directed by the N.C. Department of Commerce. The study is expected to cost $400,000. According to the published report, the state budget included $200,000 for the study if there was a 50 percent match from local entities. In the report, State Representative Hugh Blackwell of Burke County is quoted as saying there is some concern that not all the money appropriated for this fiscal year for the study will be spent. Blackwell said he and state Senator Warren Daniel may need to get a new provision done that will allow any money appropriated for this fiscal year that is not spent before June 30 can be carried into the next year. The Department of Commerce, Burke Development Inc., the City of Morganton and Burke County are working together in an effort to find partners to help fund the study. The published report states Burke County Manager Bryan Steen said applications will be filed for an Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $50,000, and a $10,000 grant from Piedmont Natural Gas. $10,000 will also be requested from AT&T, and the remaining $25,000 needed for the study would be split between city of Morganton and the county. The report says Steen told commissioners that at this point, it’s unclear what buildings the state will surplus on the old Broughton Hospital campus once the new hospital opens. He said the study could help determine the best use of the buildings and could also help to market them for reuse. It is likely the study will be done in phases and the report says officials would consider what buildings on the Broughton Hospital campus are salvageable and which are not, as well as what types of opportunities are available for redevelopment. Local officials say they don’t want to see the buildings quickly fall into disrepair once the new Broughton Hospital opens. As it says in the published report, that’s what has happened to buildings that haven’t been used on the campus of the North Carolina School for the Deaf, also in Morganton.

Man charged with felony false pretense offense 

27-year-old Curtis Chase Clark was arrested Sunday (January 11) by authorities in Burke County. He's charged with felony obtaining property by false pretense. Following Sunday's arrest, Clark was placed in jail under $30,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance is scheduled for today.

Mayor of Unifour town passes away, funeral today 

Mayor of Valdese Jim Hatley died Friday morning at the age of 74. Hatley died at Hospice House in Valdese, Town Manager Jeff Morse told the media Hatley's health had been failing over the last several months. Valdese Town Hall will be closed today until 1 p.m. so employees can attend the mayor’s funeral, according to town officials. Hatley was first elected as mayor in 1999 and his latest term expires in 2017. He was first appointed as a councilman for the town in November 1997 and served in that position until being elected mayor in 1999. The family received friends Sunday at Heritage Funeral Service in Valdese. A graveside service was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Waldensian Presbyterian Church Cemetery and a memorial service will follow at 11 a.m. at the church.

 

 

 

 

Friday, January 9th

Today's headlines from
www.unifournews.com

 

Prison sentence in sex offense case 

 

27-year-old Derrick Allen Black of Catawba County, pleaded guilty to child sex crimes in Catawba County Superior Court on Tuesday (January 6.) Black pleaded guilty as charged to statutory rape of a child and a statutory sex offense in reference to offenses that occurred on April 4, 2013. The charges were consolidated, and the defendant received a prison sentence of 12 to 19 years from the Honorable Hugh B. Lewis, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County who presided over the case. When Black is released from prison, he will be required to register as a sex offender and also have electronic monitoring for the rest of his life. The case was investigated by Detective Rick Younger of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office. The Catawba County Sheriff's Department and the District Attorney’s office partnered with the Catawba County Department of Social Services and the Catawba County Child Advocacy and Protection Center during the investigation of this case. DA's office Victim Witness Legal Assistant Kathryn Isenhour assisted with case preparation and support for the child victim and family. Assistant District Attorney Michael Van Buren prosecuted the case, working closely with the minor child, the parents, Det. Younger, DSS, CAPC and Mrs. Isenhour.

 Only rabies case of 2014 in Caldwell County confirmed in early 2015 

On January 2, Caldwell County Animal Control was notified by the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health that a raccoon submitted for testing was infected with the rabies virus. On December 30, a resident of Granite Falls contacted Animal Control and reported that there was a raccoon fighting with their dog. Animal Control Officer, Joe Watson, responded to the property and found that the dog in question was not current on rabies vaccinations, so the raccoon was euthanized and prepared for rabies testing. Reports from the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health stated the raccoon tested positive for the rabies virus. Animal Control has taken the dog and placed it in quarantine. Greene stated, “At this time, Animal Control is waiting for the owner of the dog to decide whether they will quarantine the dog for six months or will have the dog euthanized in accordance with state law.” Please make sure your pet’s rabies vaccinations are current as this will help to protect the animal against rabies. This is the only confirmed rabies case in Caldwell County for 2014. If there are any questions concerning rabies and its prevention, please contact the Animal Care & Control Division of the Caldwell County Health Department at 829 Fairview Drive SW, Lenoir or call 828-757-8625. If there is an emergency situation outside the normal working hours of 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday, please notify the Caldwell County Sheriff Department at 828-758-2324.

Woman arrested on drug, shoplifting charges 

38-year-old Debbie Shannon Watson of Lawing Street in Lincolnton was arrested at about 6:20 p.m. Wednesday (January 7) by Hickory Police on one felony count of possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver marijuana, shoplifting and possession of drug paraphernalia. According to Police reports, the drug charge was filed after Watson was found to be in possession of 18.1 grams of marijuana. She was taken into custody without incident at Hickory’s Valley Hills Mall and placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with bond set at $5,000, secured. A first appearance in District Court was scheduled for tomorrow in Newton.

Alexander woman charged in Catawba County  

36-year-old Natasha Marie Bolden of Highway 16 South in Taylorsville turned herself in at Hickory Police headquarters at about 10:45 yesterday morning (January 7) on two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense. Events leading to her arrest began on November 4 when Police responded to Neill Grading & Construction Company on Tate Boulevard in reference to worthless checks written by Bolden for construction on two businesses located in the Moretz Mill building. The checks were returned for insufficient funds. Police did not release the amount of the bad checks, but did say the total value was less than $100,000. The businesses in question were to be a florist and a restaurant. Bolden was processed at H.P.D. and then released after posting a $2,000 unsecured bond. She was scheduled to make a first appearance in District Court tomorrow in Newton.

Two women arrested on heroin, cocaine charge 

 

23-year-old Jessica Lee Anderson of Lakeside Avenue, Granite Falls, and 47-year-old Laura Ruppert Berry of Quailridge Court, Lenoir, were both arrested Wednesday (January 7) by Granite Falls Police Officers. Anderson is charged with felony possession of heroin and felony possession of cocaine. Berry is charged with felony possession with intent to manufacture, sell, and deliver heroin and felony possession of cocaine. Following their arrests, both women were detained at the Caldwell County Detention Center, Anderson under $75,000 secured bond, Berry under $85,000 secured bond. Both were scheduled to appear in District Court today (Thursday, January 8.)

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 8th

Today's headlines from http://www.unifournews.com/

First cold snap in a year brings frigid temps, school delays 

The first cold snap of 2015 has brought single-digit temperatures to many parts of the area this morning. These are the coldest temperatures the area has seen since last January’s Polar Vortex. With temperatures forecast to reach only the mid and upper 20s today, officials are warning citizens to take measures to protect themselves, their loved ones, and pets from the cold weather. A wind chill advisory is also in effect until 9 a.m. today.
Due to the severely cold weather, several area school systems are on delays this morning.  Hickory Public Schools, Newton-Conover City Schools, and Catawba County Schools are all operating on a two-hour delay for students. Alexander, Burke, and Caldwell County Schools are also on a two-hour delay for students. The WrapAround program will also be on a two-hour delay. Staff is on a regular schedule in the Caldwell County and Newton-Conover City Schools systems. The City of Newton has also announced that the restrooms at all city parks are closed due to cold weather. The restrooms will reopen on Monday, January 12, weather permitting.

Conover man charged with sex offenses 

26-year-old Joshua Lee Lipford of Spencer Road, Conover was arrested by Catawba County Sheriff’s Officers today (Wednesday, January 7) and charged with statutory rape sex offense when the defendant is six or more years older than the victim, and indecent liberties with a child. Following the arrest, Lipford (pictured) was detained at the Catawba County Detention Facility under $50,000 bond, a District Court appearance is scheduled for Friday (January 9.) (Photo of Lipford courtesy of Catawba County Sheriff's Office.)

Shoplifting cases under investigation at Lowes Foods locations 

Hickory Police are looking into the possibility that three separate shoplifting incidents at three different Lowes Foods stores may be linked.Between 6:20 Monday evening (January 5) and 10:20 the next morning, an unknown female at the Lowes store in Viewmont took Prilosec, Zyrtec, Nexium, an early pregnancy test, Allegra and Breathe Right strips valued at $335.Between 4:30 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. Monday, an unknown suspect at the store on 29th Avenue Drive N.E. near Sandy Ridge Road took Zantac, Prilosec, Zegerid and Omeprazole valued at $365. Sometime between December 18 and December 27, at the Lowes store on Highway 127 South in Mountain View, two unknown white females and a male juvenile concealed and stole over the counter medication including Coricidin, Zyrtec, Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid and Omeprazole. The stolen items were valued at $696. The incident was not reported to Police until yesterday (January 6).Anyone with information should call Hickory Police at 828-328-5551.

Asheboro man charged with offenses in Catawba County 

24-year-old Justin Gary Sanders of Allread Street, Asheboro, was arrested by Catawba County Sheriff's Officers Wednesday, (January 7) and charged with larceny by changing price tag and resisting a public officer. Following the arrest, Sanders was placed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under no bond, he was scheduled to make a District Court appearance Wednesday.

Morganton Smart Grid Pilot Project underway 

The City of Morganton Smart Grid Pilot project is now underway with more than 90 customers having received new smart meters. The Smart Grid Pilot will test and evaluate using smart meter technology with the City's electric and water utility systems.The Morganton City Council approved the pilot project during its September meeting, and the new meters were installed in December to locations on Rand Street, W. Fleming Drive, and Burkemont Avenue. The pilot area was selected because of the diversity of electric meters, different type of residences, varying terrain, and proximity to City Hall.After working with the Electric Services Department and Water Resources Department to get the new meters up and running, Haim Shaul from NexGrid gave a system demo to City staff Thursday Dec. 18. The smart meters will allow the City to monitor and communicate with the meters from City Hall. City staff can log into the system's software and check how much electricity or water a meter in the pilot group has used, turn meters on or off, and see if meters are having any problems. The software doesn't show how customers are using their electricity or water or what devices may be running in their homes, only the amount of electricity or water used."Smart meters could help the City save money and help customers save money in many ways," said Electric Services Department Director Brooks Kirby. "A smart grid allows for real-time monitoring of the meters on our utility systems. We'll be able to see issues when they happen and where they happen; we'll be able to see some issues before they happen; and we'll be able to respond to issues faster after they happen." Even if an electric meter loses power, the smart meter stores enough energy to send one last notification to City Hall, so electric staff will know exactly which meters are offline. That should help speed up response times."Our typical response and repair time is between 30 minutes to two hours depending on the problem," Kirby said. "But with smart meters, we'll know which meters are out and where they're out before we start rolling trucks."Smart meters could also help prevent some problems like water loss due to leaks. If a customer's water use increases more than normal, like when a customer has a water leak, then City staff in the Water Resources Department will be notified and be able to contact the customer and check for possible problems. "The main benefit for us would be the ability to detect water leaks before they become a major problem," said Water Resources Director Brad Boris. "As it stands now, someone could have a water leak that runs for an entire month before it's noticed, and not only would that waste a lot of water, that customer is going to have to pay a costly water bill. With a smart water meter, we'll be able to detect the leak early, which will save water, save money, and help mitigate property damaged caused by an undetected water leak." Brooks, Boris, and other City staff will evaluate the new meters and software for a few months. They will make sure the meters are reading electric and water use properly, communicating with headquarters at City Hall, and generally functioning properly. Staff will report the pilot program results to the City Council later this year.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 7th


Today's headlines from http://www.unifournews.com/

 

Plane crashes in Long View, four injured

Four people were injured and transported to the hospital when a plane crashed in Long View Tuesday. The crash happened at approximately 5 p.m. near the Hickory Regional Airport and involved a single-engine plane. WHKY's Fentress Chestnut reports four people were on board at the time. Officials say the pilot was airlifted from the scene with serious injuries. The other three on board were injured but are expected to be okay. According to reports, one of the people on board the plane, which was en route to Greenville-Spartanburg, told officials that the plane's engine quit right after takeoff when the aircraft was about 300 feet in the air. The pilot attempted to bring the plane back in and was reportedly able to just miss several houses before crashing into a tree. The names of the people on board have not been released. (Photo courtesy of Fentress Chestnut, WHKY.)

 

Arctic blast coming to Unifour, tips offered by officials for dealing with cold weather

Catawba County Emergency Management has received questions about extremely cold weather expected beginning Wednesday night and Thursday morning and what kinds of actions citizens should consider taking. The National Weather Service forecast for Catawba County for Thursday, January 8, 2015, calls for temperatures in the range of 10 degrees Fahrenheit for a low early Thursday, with a high around 30. Winds are predicted to be strong during the day on Wednesday, January 7 and around 10 miles per hour in evening but are predicted to become light on Thursday.


Tips on how to dress during cold weather:


• Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Trapped air between the layers will insulate you. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.


• Wear a hat, because 40% of your body heat can be lost from your head.


• Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.


• Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.


• Try to stay dry and out of the wind.


Wind chill could become a factor on Thursday morning. If the temperature is 12 degrees and winds are 9 miles per hour, then wind chill will feel like 0 degrees. While this wind chill range does not fall into the scientific range of frostbite for a 30 minute or shorter exposure, frostbite risk depends on how someone is dressed and whether or not they are wet.  “Wind chill is what the temperature ‘feels like’ outside and is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold,” said Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County Emergency Management Coordinator. “As the wind increases, the body is cooled at a faster rate causing the skin temperature to drop. Wind chill does not impact inanimate objects like car radiators and exposed water pipes, because these objects cannot cool below the actual air temperature.”


• A Wind Chill Warning means wind chill temperatures are life threatening.


• A Wind Chill Advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are potentially hazardous.


Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing body tissue. The most susceptible parts of the body are the extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the extremity and a white or pale appearance. Medical attention is needed immediately for frostbite. The area should be slowly re-warmed. Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature (below 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. Medical attention is needed immediately. “Don’t forget that family pets are cold sensitive, too,” Yaussy said. “Make sure they spend only limited time outdoors when temperatures drop. If they are outdoors, dogs and cats need access to a protected, draft free shelter that is large enough for your pet to turn around and lie down but small enough to hold in their body heat. They need access to drinking water that is not frozen and may need extra food to compensate for the extra calories burned when they are cold.” These guidelines are for your information, but we also urge you to stay on top of changing weather conditions by monitoring local TV/radio stations (Charlotte or Hickory) or an internet source such as the National Weather Service,” Yaussy added.  

Woman charged with aid and abet felony larceny

25-year-old Shelley Carol Pettigrew of Battery Circle, Clover, South Carolina, was arrested by the Catawba Police Department. She’s charged with aid and abet felony larceny and possession of drug paraphernalia. Following the arrest, Pettigrew was placed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $9,500 bond, a court appearance is scheduled for today (Wednesday, January 7.)  

Hudson man charged with strangulation

54-year-old Joel Baker of Freezer Locker Road, Hudson, was arrested Monday (January 5) by authorities in Caldwell County. He’s charged with assault by strangulation and non-support. Following the arrest, Baker was incarcerated at the Caldwell County Detention Center under no bond on the assault charge and $1387 cash bond on the non-support charge. A District Court appearance is scheduled for today (Tuesday, January 6.)

Water shut off in Burke County town

The City of Morganton Water Resources Department plans to temporarily shut off water today (January 7) on Catawba Street in Glen Alpine. The water shut off was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Service should be restored by 4 p.m.Ronnie Suttles, Collections & Distribution Supervisor in the Water Resources Department, said the city needs to install a valve and replace a fire hydrant on the water line on Catawba Street. Customers on Catawba Street from the post office to the intersection of Turkey Tail Lane and Watermill Glen Alpine Road will be affected, including side streets and residents of the River Glen subdivision. For more information, call the Water Resources Department at 828-438-5276.

Special meeting today for Catawba Commissioners

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will hold a Special Meeting in the form of a Board Retreat today at 12:00 p.m. at the Catawba Valley Community College Corporate Development Center, 2601 21st St Drive SE, Hickory. The purpose of this retreat is for the Board to review board procedures, proposed Federal and State legislation, Catawba Valley Medical Center Community Health Survey, and economic development policies. The Board will also hold a closed session to discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body, including agreement on a tentative list of economic development incentives that may be offered by the public body in negotiations.

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