EDENTON — Six area school districts and two public charter schools will split $500,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding allocated by the N.C. General Assembly.
State Rep. Ed Goodwin, R-Chowan, held a press conference Thursday with officials from the districts and schools to announce the $500,000 CARES allocation. Most said they plan to use the funding to expand access for students to broadband internet service.
The districts receiving CARES Act funding include Bertie County Schools, $107,712; Camden County Schools, $98,702; Edenton-Chowan Schools, $99,645; Perquimans County Schools, $82,529; Washington County Schools, $68,258; and the Tyrrell County Schools, $34,028.
Also receiving CARES funding are two charter schools: Three Rivers Academy in Bertie, $3,961; and The Pocosin Innovative Center, $7,059.
The allocations were based on each district’s or school’s average daily enrollment.
“This money ... is a significant appropriation for our schools and the students,” Goodwin said. “Earmarked for nutrition, technology and transportation, this funding will be a significant impact for all of us. I am very grateful to have been a part of this. It’s $500,000 that you didn’t have before that’s being spread out among you — I think it’s fantastic.”
Camden County Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell thanked Goodwin for his district’s appropriation. He said his district’s challenge is improving access to broadband internet.
“We certainly have in Camden some of the same challenges as everyone else,” he said. “The biggest issue that we face right now is connectivity for the students who either are on Plan C (remote-only instruction) by choice or because we are on Plan C at some of our schools. We are very grateful for the resources and for the support from Representative Goodwin.”
Perquimans County Schools Superintendent Tanya Tucker also thanked Goodwin for her district’s appropriation. “Perquimans is grateful for the funds received,” she said.
Turner and other superintendents discussed a list of needs they can use the money for — everything from extending and improving the quality of internet access for remote learning to plugging holes in strained transportation and food nutrition budgets.
“I think everyone in rural northeastern North Carolina is going to have the same theme as far as what they need the money for: transportation, technology, child nutrition,” Turner said.
No matter which plan a school system employs regarding in-class and/or remote learning, improving internet access and connectivity are top priorities.
“The continual work and the burdens of providing access to make sure there is equity in our connectivity in providing hot spots and ensuring that we can provide cellular service — these are all things that these dollars will be able to support moving forward,” Edenton-Chowan Schools Superintendent Michael Sasscer said.
Tyrrell County Schools Superintendent Oliver Hardy also discussed his district’s challenges providing students with internet access.
“Once you get right outside — not even half a mile outside Columbia — cell phone service is horrible,” he said. “One of the things we have been fighting is looking at WiFi hotspots. The state, thank-you, did a wonderful job of providing hotspots and companies have stepped up, but WiFi hotspots run on cellular service. Where cellphone service is not going to work, we’re actually looking at being able to use some of this funding to look at satellite options as well. That is one of the things we’ve definitely been talking about as well for a long time — how can we expand broadband into Tyrrell County.”
Turner echoed that point.
“When we closed school in March, we didn’t have the hotspot availability to help our students connect from home,” she said. “Where we are now compared to where were in March is drastically different and it’s because of the money we’ve been able to get to provide the services and be more prepared to serve our children remotely than where we were in March. We’re very appreciative of this money. Everything that we’re getting has definitely helped serving our children much more effectively than what we did in March.”
Washington County Schools Superintendent Linda Jewell-Carr said her district will use the state grant money providing subscription services to families that do not have internet service as well as adding more WiFi hotspots. She said in some cases, larger families have to determine a pecking order for who uses livestream WiFi.
The school district is working on ways to allow multiple children in the same household to access their classes, Jewell-Carr said.
Margene Curtice doesn’t usually go into playing a raffle thinking she’ll win.
But because of the smaller number of ticket holders in Elizabeth City Downtown Inc’s Downtown Digs Elizabeth City Raffle — ECDI’s goal was to sell 1,000 tickets and it sold 776 — she had a “funny feeling” she might just win.
Turns out that funny feeling was right.
Curtice, a longtime supporter of the downtown, received a call on Friday from ECDI Director Debbie Malenfant, informing her that she had won the agency’s first-ever raffle.
And as the winner, Curtice had the choice of taking either a rent-free apartment for a year at the Weatherly Lofts or the raffle’s cash prize of $15,000.
The value of the apartment free for a year was $23,600, which included a $5,000 decorating allowance and $2,400 that can be used toward the cost of utilities. But because Curtice already owns her own home, she decided to take the money.
Asked how she’ll spend the $15,000, Curtice said she hadn’t decided yet.
“Ordinarily I might take a trip, but because of COVID you can’t travel right now,” she said, noting she recently had close her own travel agency because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Curtice said she’ll likely spend the cash on some new furniture, some donations to “worthwhile organizations” in Elizabeth City, and then live on the rest.
“I’m so excited. I’m very, very excited,” she said Friday evening.
Malenfant said she was happy Curtice was the raffle’s winner.
“Margene has been a longtime supporter of downtown and has had a business presence in downtown for as long as I can remember,” she said. “She is an awesome person and we are excited that she is the winner of the Downtown Digs Elizabeth City Raffle.”
COVID put a strain on ECDI’s income to promote the downtown and proceeds from the raffle will be used to make up that shortfall.
“This was a creative partnership to raise money to help us fulfill our mission of revitalizing downtown Elizabeth City,” Malenfant said. “That runs the gamut of beautification, marketing and promotion, economic development, community events. Most of our community events are free.’’
Malenfant said the raffle raised about $38,000. With Curtice taking the cash option, ECDI’s net from the raffle will be $22,463.
“This was an international raffle,” Malenfant said. “This is not just an Elizabeth City downtown raffle.’’
The raffle tickets were sold as 2-for-1 for $100.
In addition to purchases from people in Pasquotank and surrounding counties, tickets were sold to individuals from several different states — including Florida, Arizona, Delaware, Virginia and South Carolina — and one ticket was even purchased by someone in Ireland.
Malenfant said the downtown area will benefit from the publicity generated from the raffle.
“The value of the promotional perspective, doing it with free living, was invaluable,” Malenfant said. “The dollars are great, but it was a super-great partnership with Weatherly Lofts. Weatherly Lofts are great community partners for downtown.”
Weatherly Lofts opened along the downtown waterfront in March and features 43 upscale units that occupy the space that once housed a former candy factory and a Chevrolet dealership in an adjacent building.
Weatherly Lofts was developed by J.D. Lewis Construction Management and the firm is now planning to convert the old Elizabeth City Middle School into approximately 70 market-rate apartments.
Malenfant has already asked JDL to partner on a similar raffle for the middle school project, which does not yet have a name. That project is expected to take up to 36 months to complete once construction begins.
“It would be great to do it on the front end where the winner could choose from multiple apartments,” Malenfant said. “This one (Weatherly) there was only one apartment left that they were graciously holding for us. I would love to do it again because that project (middle school) is super-exciting.”
Developers Dean Schaan and Paul Robinson have been recognized with a prestigious state award for their restoration of the Historic Fowler Building on Water Street in downtown Elizabeth City.
Schaan and Robinson were recipients of the Gertrude S. Carraway Awards of Merit handed out during a virtual awards presentation at the Preservation N.C. Conference on Friday.
The Awards of Merit is given to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated a “genuine commitment to historic preservation” through extraordinary leadership, research, philanthropy, promotion and significant participation in preservation.
The award is named after the late Dr. Gertrude S. Carraway, a noted New Bern historian and preservationist. Presented since 1974, a maximum of 12 Carraway awards are given each year.
Schaan and Robinson purchased the then vacant Fowler Building in 2016 and set about restoring it. The building now features two retail tenants — Brackwater Brush Studio and Zaribel’s — and two upstairs apartments. Two additional apartments were added to the back of the building in an area that was not part of the original building.
During the virtual awards ceremony, the narrator of a video describing the project called the building a “vacant eyesore” before Schaan and Robinson purchased it.
“It long laid dormant,” the narrator said. “Dean and Paul were determined to restore and renovate the building to its original early 20th century appearance and create retail and residential spaces to contribute to the growing historic preservation efforts underway in historic downtown Elizabeth City. Their multi-year effort has resulted in a beautifully restored brick structure.’’
The property is now referred to as the New Fowler Store and it is located a 113 Water Street.
“It is a major transformation from an aesthetic point downtown and on Water Street,” said Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. Director Deborah Malenfant. “Those guys did a fabulous job.’’
CAMDEN — A candidates forum Thursday introduced voters to the two women vying for the South Mills seat on the currently all-male county Board of Commissioners.
Tiffney White, a Republican, and Barbara Riggs, who is running as a Democrat, were among the four candidates participating in a forum hosted by the Camden County Republican Party at the county courthouse Thursday evening.
The other two candidates at the forum — both Republicans and running unopposed — were Randy Krainiak, who represents the Courthouse seat, and Ross Munro, who holds the at-large seat.
Included among the audience of roughly 35 people, all of whom were donning facemasks, were state Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, and state Rep. Ed Goodwin, R-Chowan. Both Steinburg and Goodwin addressed the audience for about 15 minutes each.
The moderators opened the forum with several questions the candidates had received ahead of time and were allowed to provide prepared responses. The remaining questions were posed by attendees.
White, who edged GOP incumbent Gary Meiggs in the March 3 primary by 12 votes, said her first priority if elected would be to examine county expenses to ensure and maintain a balanced budget. Riggs said she would focus on issues related to Camden’s growing population.
“I’d like to address the needs that are forthcoming due to the housing development coming,” she said, referring to South Mills Landing, a planned 581-unit development on more than 229 acres being developed near Horseshoe Road and U.S. Highway 17 in South Mills.
Commercial development is more important for the county than residential growth at this point, Riggs said.
“We need to bring in more tax money for our county,” she said.
On the same topic, White also said that commercial development is more critical to the county. However, she pointed out she’d rather see more business growth than new housing projects.
“Commercial as in industrial business, not as commercial in apartments,” White said. “I believe we need grocery stores; we need restaurants here, so we can keep our money here in Camden County.
“Our people, most of them, go out of county,” White continued. “They go to Pasquotank, they go to other counties, to buy their groceries. We need to keep them here in Camden.”
Riggs said if elected she would strive to get acquainted with other elected officials in the county. White said she would work to improve the line of communication between elected officials.
“To have more clear and open communication between myself and all departments,” White said. “To work with them anyway I can to benefit our county.”
The early voting period in Camden County began Thursday and continues till Oct. 31. After two days of early voting, nearly 900 county residents have voted in Camden.
Voters must cast their early ballots at the Camden Board of Elections at 117 N.C. Highway 343 in Camden from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.
Albemarle Regional Health Services reported another COVID-19 death at Edenton Primetime Assisted Living on Friday, the fifth at the assisted living facility this week.
ARHS said the person who died was over 65 and that their death was connected to an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at Edenton Primetime. As of Friday, ARHS was reporting 31 coronavirus cases at the facility, 24 involving residents and seven involving staff.
Twelve other outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living centers in ARHS’ eight-county region include 124 staff and 203 resident cases and have resulted in 33 resident deaths.
The death at Edenton Primetime was the ninth related to COVID-19 in Chowan County and the 106th in ARHS’ eight-county region.
The number of COVID cases in the eight-county region, meanwhile, surpassed 3,500 on Friday. The number of active cases was 316.
The number of those in the region considered to have recovered from COVID rose to 3,103 — 88% of all cases.
Noting that early voting for the Nov. 3 election began this week, ARHS Director Battle Betts encouraged residents on Friday to safely exercise their right to vote.
“Community members who plan to vote in-person should wear a facemask and keep it on throughout the voting process, stay 6 feet apart from others at the polling location, and wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after voting,” he said.