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Finding new home for monument proving difficult

Finding a new home for Pasquotank County’s Confederate monument is proving difficult.

The Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 in July to move the controversial monument, claiming it poses a risk to public safety at its current site on the courthouse grounds. Commissioners tasked the board’s Special Projects Committee with finding a new home for the statue.

But Special Projects Committee members Cecil Perry, Jeff Dixon and Barry Overman were advised Monday by County Manager Sparty Hammett that the county has not yet been able to find a new location for the monument.

Hammett presented the committee with four “strategies” to help the county move forward, one of which has the county asking the United Daughters of the Confederacy if would be interested in working jointly with the county to find a suitable relocation site.

Hammett told committee members that the UDC is the likely owner of the monument since the organization paid for most of the statue when it was erected on the courthouse grounds in 1911. But the county and city also paid for part of the monument, Hammett said.

Hammett also told the board that Salisbury worked with a local UDC chapter to move that city’s monument to a nearby cemetery where unknown Confederate soldiers are said to be buried.

Because the Pasquotank UDC chapter is no longer in existence, the county will likely try to work with the North Carolina division of the organization.

The committee voted unanimously to have County Attorney Mike Cox draft a letter to the state chapter of the UDC. The group will be given 14 days “to respond to provide any input and discussion on relocation,” Hammett told commissioners.

If the UDC has no interest in helping move the monument, the Special Projects Committee could consider the three other options presented by Hammett.

Those include soliciting plans from private citizens to relocate the monument to a private location; moving the statue to a museum, graveyard or other appropriate location outside Pasquotank County; or removing the statue from the courthouse grounds and storing it temporarily until a permanent location is found.

A 2015 law passed by state lawmakers prohibited the removal of “objects of remembrance” like Confederate monuments from public property without state approval. The law, however, included several exceptions, one allowing removal if the monument has become a “threat to public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.”

Voting in July to move the monument were Commissioners Perry, Overman, Lloyd Griffin and Charles Jordan. Voting to keep the monument on the courthouse square were Dixon and Commissioners Sean Lavin and Frankie Meads.

The Special Projects Committee originally planned to meet Aug. 17 to discuss a new home for monument, and how much the relocation could cost. However, that meeting was pushed back to Monday because Hammett said the county needed more time to find a new location for the statue.


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Forest meets with supporters at still-shut movie theater

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Dan Forest warned of violent Marxists destroying American cities and the prospect of Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris having to take over the presidency if Joe Biden is elected during a campaign stop in Elizabeth City on Saturday.

Accompanied by his wife, Alice, Forest attended an event at the RCE Theater billed as “Popcorn and Politics.” The movie theater, owned by Janelle and Blaine Given, was one of dozens in the state forced to close under an executive order issued by Forest’s November opponent, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The incumbent governor issued the order in March as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. Movie theaters still can’t reopen in the state because of virus restrictions on indoor gatherings.

“Great to see you all today. What a great turnout,” Forest said. “How awesome is this to even be able to gather in a movie theater? We’re thankful for our entertainment industry. We’re thankful for the folks that are making a greater sacrifice than others right now.”

Forest said if he defeats Cooper in the Nov. 3 general election, owners of businesses like the Givens won’t have to worry about having to close their doors because of the pandemic.

“Here’s one thing I’ll guarantee you,” he said. “When I get elected governor, I will never tell a business they’re non-essential. I will never tell a business they have to close their doors.”

That remark prompted the first of several rounds of rousing applause for Forest from the audience.

Forest also discussed the violence that has erupted in some American cities like Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, where protesters have confronted police over concerns about racial justice and inequality. Referring to the violence, Forest said the biggest challenge facing Americans is what he described as the “foundation of freedom.”

“We’re not just watching rioters smash buildings; we’re watching Marxists,” he warned.

Just a few years ago the United States saw socialists running for president and for seats in Congress, Forest said. Now, the socialist movement’s adherents are trying to take over American cities, he charged.

“Now we have self-avowed Marxists destroying our cities across America,” Forest said. “Portland, Oregon, has been taken over by a bunch of communists.”

He claimed those clashing with police in cities “want communism here in the United States.” As a result, he sees Americans pitched “in a battle to truly defend freedom our country at the very, very base level.”

With fewer than 50 days remaining before the general election, Forest challenged supporters to question others about their favored candidates for governor and president of the United States.

“Then make them defend their choice,” Forest said. “Ask them why. If they’re not voting Republican this time you need to ask them why.”

As he has done previously during his campaign for governor, Forest asked the audience to imagine a scenario where Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden won the election but wasn’t able to complete his four-year term because of poor health.

“Can you imagine if Kamala Harris is president of the United States?” he asked, referring to the California senator, Biden’s running mate. “I can’t either. That would be the most extreme leftist president we’ve ever had.”

Forest suggested Biden — who is only three years older than President Trump but if he wins would be the oldest person ever elected president — wouldn’t complete his first four-year term.

“I’m pretty sure that Joe Biden with his health and his situation right now that he may not make it very long if he gets elected,” Forest said. “He may not, and I don’t say that with any great pride. He can’t string together two sentences. So, Kamala Harris could be the president if we don’t do our job in 50 days.”

In closing, Forest expressed confidence in sweeping Republican victories in November, if voters turn out.

“We sense overwhelming support,” he said. “Listen, with your help, if our grass roots turn out in mass; you guys do your job and make sure your friends and your neighbors are registered to vote; you get people out to the polls to vote; we’re going to win. And we’re going to win overwhelmingly in November. You have my word for that.”

Following his roughly 15-minute speech, Forest and his wife gathered for photos with supporters near his campaign bus in the parking lot.

Betsy Meads, a local Republican, helped arrange Forest’s campaign stop. Meads said when she learned Forest would be barnstorming through the region on Saturday, she contacted the Givens to ask their interest in hosting.

Meads said Forest’s campaign had expressed interest in meeting with Elizabeth City area supporters at a movie theater or bowling alley. That’s because under Phase 2.5 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s phased plan to reopen the state’s economy, as a precaution against COVID-19, movie theaters are still ordered to remain closed. Albemarle Lanes, the city’s local bowling alley, was allowed to reopen the weekend of Sept. 5.

Meads praised the turnout Saturday, which included a packed theater auditorium. Not all the seats inside the auditorium were filled, though, as many supporters stood spaced out along the left and right aisles to honor social distancing rules. Meads said supporters were given disinfectant wipes and had their temperatures taken before the event and facemasks were available.

Another business sector that remains closed under Cooper’s orders is auto racing. Several drivers from Dixieland Speedway had their race cars on display in the parking lot outside the theater.

Among the first to have their photo taken with Forest and his wife were the Givens. Later, Janelle Given said she told Forest that she wanted him to understand that federal and local grants she and her husband received have done little to help keep their business afloat.

“I just wanted him to understand that it did nothing to help us,” she said.

RCE Theaters was the recipient of a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan and small business grant administered by the city. Many of the businesses that received similar relief money have reopened since Cooper ordered most businesses to close in March. RCE Theaters has remained closed, so any relief funds the Givens received have been spent and their business is still closed, Janelle Given explained.

Phase 2.5 was announced Friday, Sept. 4, and is set to expire on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Blaine Given noted that North Carolina is one of three states where movie theaters are still not allowed to reopen. The other two are Nevada and New York. Given said lobbyists for the state’s movie theater industry have sought meetings with Cooper to explain their plan to safely reopen. The governor refuses to meet with them, though, he said.

There are steps theaters can take to reduce crowd size, such as increasing the frequency of and alternating show times, Givens said. They can also close off seats in the auditorium to enforce social distancing mandates, he said.

“We are masters at social distancing,” Given said.

Earlier on Saturday, Forest addressed a crowd of over 75 supporters in the parking lot of the Pass the Salt Restaurant in Currituck County.

Forest criticized Cooper’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the governor’s policies of closing or limiting capacity at small businesses in the state has had a negative economic impact on those businesses’ owners. Forest said a recent study showed that 60 percent of small businesses in Raleigh face closure and that all businesses are essential.

“There is no such thing as a non-essential business in America,” Forest said. “Nothing in the Constitution allows the governor or anybody else to tell our churches they can’t open on Sundays.”

Forest also encouraged those in attendance to vote for Republican candidates up and down the ballot on Nov. 3.


Local
Camden schools plan in-person return next month

CAMDEN — Camden County students will return to in-person classes next month — at least for part of the school week.

The Camden County Board of Education signed off on a plan last week that allows a mix of both in-person and remote learning at all Camden schools starting Oct. 12. Currently, all five schools are teaching students remotely.

Using the state’s “Plan B” option, in-person classes are slated to start at Grandy Primary School and Camden Intermediate School on Oct. 12;, at Camden Middle School and Camden Early College High School on Oct. 19; and at Camden County High School on Oct. 26.

Because the Plan B social distancing guidelines call for staff and students to remain six feet apart, students will not be allowed in their school building at the same time, Camden Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell explained.

For that reason students are being assigned to two groups: Group A or Group B.

At Grandy Primary School, students in Group A will attend on Mondays and Tuesdays and students in Group B will attend on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday will be a day of remote learning for both groups.

Camden Intermediate School will host Group A students in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and Group B students in person on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday will also be a remote learning day for both groups.

At Camden Middle School, Group A students will attend in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, while Group B students will do so on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday also will be a remote learning day for both groups.

Camden Early College will hold in-person classes for Group A on Mondays and for Group B on Wednesdays. On all other days, classes will be held remotely.

At Camden County High School Group A students will attend in-person classes on Tuesdays while Group B students will do so on Thursdays. On all other days, students will be in class remotely.

Ferrell said school officials are currently ironing out other details of the plan.

“The most critical hurdle to clear at this point is getting transportation finalized,” he said.


Public_info
ARHS: 2 virus deaths reported in Pasquotank

Two more Pasquotank County residents have died from COVID-19, raising the death toll from the respiratory disease to 29 in the county and to 71 in the eight-county region.

Albemarle Regional Health Services reported the two deaths on Monday, saying both persons were over 65.

Statewide, 3,060 persons have now died from COVID-19, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, the number of lab-confirmed cases in ARHS’ eight counties rose to 2,579, an increase of 64 from Friday. The number of active cases rose only one from Friday: to 328.

Hertford County, with 641 cases, and Pasquotank, with 630 cases, had the most active cases, 84 and 90, respectively. Chowan County, which has 281 total cases, had 55 active cases but no other county in the region had more than 35.

Elizabeth City State University, meanwhile, was reporting 18 total COVID-19 cases on Monday, 16 involving students and two involving staff members. Of those cases, only six — five students and one staff member — were active. Five students were in quarantine after testing positive, ECSU said.

The number of persons who’ve recovered from COVID-19 in the eight-county region rose by 62 to 2,180. That’s roughly 84.5% of all cases.

DHHS said Monday that statewide, 167,257 persons with COVID-19 have recovered from the disease. That’s 90% of the 185,781 lab-confirmed cases in the state.

DHHS also said 2.6 million COVID-19 tests have been performed as of Monday. The positive test rate in the state was 4.8 percent.

Of area counties, only Bertie County, which has 515 cases, nine of them active, and Pasquotank reported higher positive test rates than the state. Bertie’s positive test as of Monday was 11.1%. Pasquotank’s positive test rate was 5%.


Local
Two shootings, one fatal, probed in Perquimans

HERTFORD — Local and state law enforcement officials are investigating two weekend shootings in Perquimans County roughly 13 hours apart, one that claimed the life of a Hertford man, another that sent a man to an area hospital.

The Perquimans Sheriff’s Office also arrested a county woman Saturday in connection with a stabbing in Holiday Island that sent a man to a Greenville hospital.

According to the Perquimans Sheriff’s Office, authorities received a report of a shooting in the 100 block of Miller Street outside Hertford at 2:36 a.m. Sunday.

Tay’quan Coleman, 23, of Hertford, was shot in the incident, the Sheriff’s Office said. Coleman was transported to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City where he died from his injuries, the sheriff said.

Roughly 13 hours later, at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Hertford police and the Perquimans Sheriff’s Office responded to a second shooting incident in the area of King Street and Edenton Road in Hertford.

Responding officers found a man who had been shot numerous times. Police did not identify the man but said he remains in critical condition at an area hospital.

According to witnesses, occupants of a tan or brown older model Buick sedan and an older model boxy silver SUV shot the man and then left the area, Hertford police Chief Dennis Brown said.

“Officers are working several leads. However, we are asking anyone with information to call 252-426-5751,” Brown said.

Perquimans Sheriff Shelby White said it’s unclear at this point in the investigation if the two shooting incidents are connected. The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting with both probes.

White also said a Holiday Island woman has been charged in the stabbing of a man Saturday night. Brittany Knight, 20, of Holiday Island, is charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, he said.

According to White, the stabbing victim was airlifted to Vidant Health in Greenville where we was doing well Monday.

Knight was scheduled to appear in Perquimans County District Court Monday.