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Local
Commissioners mandate masks in county facilities

No mask, no service.

That will be the policy at all Pasquotank County facilities as soon as the signs go up, which, according to officials, could be as early as today.

The move follows commissioners’ 5-2 vote Monday approving a resolution requiring the public to wear a face covering in all county facilities, including the courthouse, as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Commissioners Lloyd Griffin, Barry Overman, Cecil Perry, Charles Jordan and board Chairman Jeff Dixon voted for the resolution. Commissioners Sean Lavin and Frankie Meads voted against the motion.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order last month that requires the wearing of face coverings when people are in public places in attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But Cooper’s executive order did not mandate the wearing of face coverings in local government facilities.

“It is mandatory everywhere else,” said County Manager Sparty Hammett. “I think it should be mandatory in county facilities.”

Hammett said the new policy will exempt a person who has a health condition from wearing a face covering. He also said the county will provide a person with a face mask if they don’t have one.

“This will line up with the governor’s executive order and I would say it would end when the executive order expires,” Hammett said.

Meads stated there are warnings on N95 masks — the masks used by most health professionals on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 — that say “this can cause sickness or even death” if worn for long periods of time. Meads added that he believes that regular face coverings are ineffective against slowing the spread of the virus.

“From what I have been told the virus will go through those (regular face masks),” Meads said. “The virus is so fine, and the particles are so small, they will go through masks.’’

Griffin quickly responded by saying that was a discussion for medical professionals.

“We are here to discuss if everyone should wear a face mask or not,” Griffin said.

Overman, who is 51, voiced support for the resolution after saying one of his cousins is currently battling the deadly virus.

“He is my age and he is in bad shape,” Overman said. “I’m not taking any chances.”

Dixon said he supported the resolution since it is already mandated by Cooper in most public places.

“They are already doing it in the Food Lions, why not do it in all county buildings?” Dixon asked.

County employees already must wear a face mask if social distancing from fellow employees is not possible. The county also installed glass or plexiglass barriers at all customer service windows weeks ago but a county employee has to wear a mask when business cannot be conducted behind a barrier.

“There is a barrier between the public and employee,” Hammett said. “With employees, it is mandatory if they are not behind the glass.”


Car ends up in retention pond

Elizabeth City police and firefighters investigated the scene of an accident that involved this vehicle ending up in the retention pond off Halstead Boulevard near Hughes Boulevard, Wednesday afternoon. Elizabeth City police were investigating the accident. Details were not available Wednesday evening.


Public_info
Colleges to host virtual town hall on students' return

Students and parents of students returning to area colleges this fall are encouraged to attend an upcoming virtual town hall.

The “Returning to Elizabeth City” online forum will be hosted by Elizabeth City State University and held Tuesday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. ECSU, College of The Albemarle, Mid-Atlantic Christian University and the city of Elizabeth City are all scheduled to participate, with officials from each institution providing information for students returning to classes.

To attend the meeting, visit ecsu.edu and click on the “Virtual Town Hall” link, which will direct you to a youtube page.

“We are excited about having the three institutions of higher education come together with the city of Elizabeth City to provide updates and share critical information about returning to our campuses and to Elizabeth City,” said ECSU Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon. “This town hall event is for employees, students and families from all three institutions of higher education as well as interested community members.”

Joining Dixon will be Jack Bagwell, president of COA, and Jay Banks, MACU’s vice president for student life, and each will provide updates on preparations for students’ return to campus during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today we are operating in an environment that is fluid and changing by the day,” said Bagwell. “Even so, COA is putting the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and our communities at the forefront of our plans. It is vital to our community that the three higher education institutions come together to serve our community with one voice and collectively determine how to best complement one another in our practices as we navigate this unprecedented new norm in which we find ourselves.”

MACU President John Maurice said his campus has been awaiting the return of students since classes moved online back in March.

“We believe the best learning environment (for students) is in the classroom sitting alongside their peers, studying in the library and sharing community life in our dorms and cafeteria,” Maurice said.

He said MACU is taking precautions that include thoroughly cleaning campus areas, ensuring masks are available and setting up physical distancing measures.

“The safety of our students, staff and faculty is the first priority as we fulfill our mission of transforming ordinary people into extraordinary Christian leaders,” Maurice said.

Also participating in Tuesday’s town hall will be Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker and city police Chief Eddie Buffaloe. Parker will discuss city-related updates and expectations, while Buffaloe will offer an overview of safety and security for students.

Students from each campus will have the chance to submit questions prior to the meeting. Dixon will moderate the question-and-answer period.


Local
3 firms eyed for manager search

The committee tasked with searching for Elizabeth City’s next city manager narrowed its pick for a search firm to three this week and planned to interview each of them on Thursday before selecting a finalist.

The City Manager Search Committee will meet in City Council Chambers at the Municipal Administration Building at 5:30 p.m. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, City Hall is not open to the public but the meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s website and on Channel 11.

The committee, which includes Mayor Bettie Parker and Councilors Michael Brooks, Billy Caudle, Chris Ruffieux and Johnnie Walton, was formed following City Manager Rich Olson’s announcement last month that he plans to resign on Aug. 22. Olson, who has been city manager since 2003, has taken a town administrator’s job in Argyle, Texas.

To assist with its search, the committee plans to enlist a professional search firm. At Monday’s meeting, the panel decided to interview three of the six search firms that sent proposals. The firms include Slavin Management Consultants of Norcross, Georgia; The Mercer Group of Raleigh; and Developmental Associates of Chapel Hill.

The city also received proposals from Baker Tilly of Plano, Texas; Ralph Andersen and Associates, Rocklin, California; Strategic Government Resources, Keller, Texas.

Olson told the committee that each of the firms is considered a leader in conducting city manager searches.

The firms’ fees are as follows: $24,500 for Baker Tilly; $15,580 for Slavin Management Consultants; $18,000 plus expenses not to exceed $3,500 for The Mercer Group; $17,850 basic fee and $19,400 maximum total fee for Developmental Associates; $24,500 for Ralph Andersen and Associates; and $24,900 for Strategic Government Resources.

Committee member Billy Caudle asked if Olson had any experience with any of the firms.

“I have worked with all of these over the years,” Olson said, adding that he had dealt with them when he was a candidate for positions.

John Leidy, a local attorney working with the city on the search, said the town of Southern Shores was very happy with The Mercer Group’s work.

Ruffieux said he wanted to be sure councilors had had adequate time reviewing the firms.

“How prepared are we to start weeding them out?” he asked.

Committee members said they had read the proposals and were prepared to discuss them.

Parker said that based on cost and their experience working with cities in North Carolina she prefers Slavin, The Mercer Group and Developmental Associates.

“These are the most price-friendly three,” agreed Walton.

Brooks also agreed on the three firms for the interviews.

Ruffieux said he especially liked Slavin and was interested in Developmental Associates’ proposal to place an emphasis on psychological assessment. He said that process could discourage some candidates but might yield a good result.

“I think we’re all on the same page,” said Caudle.

Parker said the committee could select which firm to hire after the virtual interviews on Thursday.

Parker also said city officials need to find a way to involve the community in the process by finding out what people are looking for in a city manager.

“They really need to feel included,” she said.


Local
Chowan Sheriff Goodwin announces retirement

EDENTON — Chowan County Sheriff Dwayne Goodwin said he plans to retire on Aug. 1, more than two years before his current four-year term expires.

“It was just time to retire,” Goodwin said this week. “You kind of just always know.”

Goodwin, who is in the middle of his fourth four-year term as Chowan sheriff, said he had volunteered with the Center Hill-Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department for 22 years before recognizing it was time to step away. He suggested he had reached a similar point with his job as sheriff.

“Like I said, when you come to a certain point, you know it’s time,” he said.

Goodwin said his chief deputy, Scooter Basnight, will take over as acting sheriff after his retirement becomes official Aug. 1.

“He’s paid his dues and then some,” Goodwin said of Basnight, who’s filled numerous positions during his 22 years with the Chowan Sheriff’s Office.

Under state law, the Chowan Board of Commissioners will appoint someone to complete Goodwin’s unexpired term which ends in December 2022.

During his 18 years as sheriff, Goodwin helped see a number of projects come to fruition. He organized the popular Kids and Cops Program and helped with the design of the new sheriff’s office.

“When I took over the sheriff’s office, my whole goal and purpose in life was to make it a little better than it was,” he said. “I feel like I’ve kind of done that.”

Goodwin started his law enforcement career with the Chowan Sheriff’s Office as a part-time deputy in 1991 before being hired full-time as a deputy in 1992.

Goodwin, 50, said he plans to spend more time with his family and raise cattle after stepping away from the Sheriff’s Office. He’s not ready to retire just yet, though, noting that “all the doors are open.

Goodwin, who is a certified pyrotechnician, has played a big role in Chowan fireworks shows. He said he hopes to continue doing that.

“I enjoy doing that — I’d like to grow that some more,” he said.