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Local recycler charged with illegal purchases of catalytic converters


The operator of a local secondary metal recycling business was arrested by the Nash County Sheriff’s Office for purchasing catalytic converters in violation of state law.

Jeffery Dale Hewlin, owner of Carolina Auto Parts and Salvage, was charged with one count of misdemeanor required records and receipts for regulated metals transactions, eight counts of felony required records and receipts for regulated metals transactions, six counts of felony prohibited activities and transactions and one count of felony permissible payment methods for nonferrous metals purchasers.

The arrest came as part of a recent investigation by the sheriff’s office into numerous reports of catalytic converter thefts from motor vehicles. The investigation revealed that some of the catalytic converters were being sold to secondary metal recyclers in Nash County, according to a statement released this week by the sheriff’s office.

According to state statutes, it is illegal for a secondary metal recycler to purchase a catalytic converter from an individual.

The sheriff’s office followed up on the information gathered and developed a plan to perform surveillance on all secondary metal recyclers in the county, the statement from the law enforcement agency said.

During the surveillance, detectives were able to identify Carolina Auto Parts and Salvage, which is located at 2190 S. Wesleyan Blvd. in Rocky Mount, as a secondary metal recycler purchasing catalytic converters in violation of state law.

An inspection of the facility was performed by detectives with the sheriff’s office. Based on the findings of the inspection, Hewlin, 33, of Elm City was arrested and faces multiple charges in connection with the alleged illegal activities.

Hewlin received a written promise to appear with a first appearance court date set for Friday at the District Court in Nashville.

Sheriff’s office officials pledged in the statement their ongoing intention to watch for similar crimes in the wake of a recent uptick in the number of catalytic converter thefts.

“The Nash County Sheriff’s Office will continue to diligently follow up on reports of stolen catalytic converter thefts and conduct random inspections of all our secondary metal recyclers to ensure no further violations on North Carolina General Statutes,” the statement said.

Catalytic converter thefts are on the increase because the parts contain valuable precious metals and are fairly easy to access on vehicles. However, the catalytic converters usually cost victims more than $1,000 to replace.

In September, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 99 into law after it was approved by the General Assembly. The new law, which goes into effect on Dec. 1, elevates catalytic converter theft to a felony and increases the oversight on people and businesses that buy or possess used catalytic converters not attached to vehicles.

Council presses for launch of cemetery restoration project


The subject of Unity Cemetery was recently back on the City Council’s agenda for discussion and the council, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney and a consultant spent nearly half an hour on the item.

Councilman Andre Knight made clear that he believes the municipality, having budgeted a substantial amount of funds to upgrade the cemetery, should take priority over consultant and former Councilwoman Lois Watkins having a preservation committee in place to help provide guidance.

During the council work session on Oct. 11, Knight said of the historically African American burial ground off East Grand Avenue that, “My blood is boiling, boiling because I’m very passionate about Unity.”

“The money is there,” Knight said. “We’ve got to get busy doing what we say we’re going to do. I understand you want to get a committee, but we want it cleaned up. Clean the cemetery up.

“While you’re working on organizing the file and the oral history, that should not prohibit the cleanup of Unity Cemetery,” Knight said. “The money is in the budget.”

Assistant to the City Manager for Budget and Evaluation Kenneth Hunter told the council on May 26 that at least $700,000 would be linked to a beginning phase of restoring Unity Cemetery for the fiscal year 2021-22 municipal budget.

Small-Toney told the council on March 8 she and her team estimated a restoration project at the cemetery would cost at least $1.46 million over the next five years.

During the council work session on Oct. 11, Small-Toney said Watkins and the municipal staff established a Unity Cemetery workroom at the Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences.

Small-Toney said that a great deal of burial information — some 16 to 17 file cabinets, as well as numerous boxes — has been transferred from a storage house that belonged to the former Stokes Mortuary.

Small-Toney also said that two consultants are working with the municipality: one with experience in North Carolina and Virginia with the preservation of records and the other who is local and knowledgeable about the burial sites at Unity Cemetery.

Small-Toney said that the municipal staff is looking to have a computer software program to capture the burial information.

Small-Toney called for direction from the City Council in establishing the committee and said there are three options.

Option one would be to accept a recommended list provided to the council on Aug. 9, while option two would be to accept a recommended amended list provided to the council.

Option three would be to instead ask Mayor Sandy Roberson and each of the seven council members to make two or three appointments each.

Option two, the amended list, came after Councilman Lige Daughtridge on Aug. 9 pointed out that the first list did not include people who helped with a volunteer cleanup effort of large parts of the cemetery on Feb. 6, as well as on subsequent days.

During the Oct. 11 work session, Councilwoman Chris Miller asked about whether there is a time specifying the end of the terms of committee members provided to the council for appointments.

Watkins said that the process went as far as a proposed list of committee members and did not include term lengths.

Watkins said of term lengths, “All of that would begin once you decide who do you want.”

When Miller sought clarity about whether the terms have not yet been determined at this point, Watkins said the only thing that has been done is to make recommendations for people to lead the committee.

“But at this point, we haven’t gone any further in doing anything until we hear from you for complete approval to move forward,” Watkins said.

Knight recommended option three of having appointments made by Roberson and the council members.

Knight also said that, with this being autumn, many trees can be cut and removed.

Knight also expressed concern that the city will get bogged down in bureaucracy about who will be on the committee and for how long and who will be chairing what, when the goal is to allocate money for a cleanup.

Watkins in response said that the committee would be a working panel, that there already is a lot of work to be done and that the committee structure can provide help.

Watkins also said that Robert’s Rules of Order will be followed during the committee meetings, which would be held every two months.

“But we can’t do anything in getting started with any of the work until you approve a committee,” she said.

Watkins said that an office is almost ready, that the municipal staff has done their part and that with the exception of three bags of information, everything else is organized.

Knight wanted to know whether Watkins was saying the municipality cannot do any work at the cemetery until a committee is formed.

Small-Toney said that, “I don’t think that that’s what we’re saying. I think with any efforts like this and since there was such an outpouring of community interest and support, we want to make sure that we capture that.”

Rather, Small-Toney said that the time is now to have a governance structure in place and that there would be a set of more specialized panels, including one focusing on the history of the cemetery.

“And there’s a great deal of history that is associated with that cemetery that we don’t want to lose,” Small-Toney said. “And a lot of it is still out in the communities, still out into the families who will be able to share information with us.”

Roberson told Knight that he agrees with what Knight said and suggested that he believes the city should move forward to the extent possible.

At the same time, Roberson expressed appreciation to Watkins and told her, “It’s been a massive undertaking you’ve taken on — and I think what you’re hearing is an eagerness to get the job done.”

Councilman Reuben Blackwell made clear to Watkins he believes that there is no need for her to have to wait for the appointments of committee members to have residents start working with and helping her on a voluntary basis.

Turning to Small-Toney, Blackwell asked, “When will trees come down and what area can we begin working on now?”

Back and forth between Small-Toney and Blackwell ensued, with Small-Toney emphasizing that the city does not own Unity Cemetery, that it is an historic burial ground and that one needs to be careful about just going in and removing trees and stumps.

Blackwell said that he is clear about those points and added that, “I don’t have to be re-educated about that.”

Blackwell asked about a timeline for site control at Unity Cemetery.

Small-Toney said that a surveying of the cemetery’s boundaries is in progress, with the completion to be in a few months or so.

Small-Toney also emphasized that there are subsequent steps needing to be taken, including whether the municipality would purchase the cemetery or whether the cemetery would be donated to the city.

She also said that municipal staff in the meantime is trying to keep the appearance of the cemetery reasonable.

Blackwell asked Small-Toney about a timeline for getting the information from the burial records into a computer.

Small-Toney reiterated the ongoing talks with the vendors and said that it would be better to enter the information manually instead of using a document scanner because something could inadvertently be omitted when using the latter method.

Under questioning from Blackwell, Small-Toney said that acquiring a computer software program to process the records probably is another three months away but that talks are in progress with vendors to make that happen.

Blackwell also asked about the last, biggest piece being the hiring of staff to enter the information into a computer.

Small-Toney said, “Our plan really is to use the volunteers and not really hire people — but again, it just depends on how quick the volunteers can work with us. If we have to hire staff to do that on a part-time basis, then I think we have the budget to do that, but I think our first approach is to really see what we can do with the use of the volunteers.”

Nashville to demolish dilapidated houses

In an effort to clean up the town and improve safety, Nashville Town Council members voted this week to demolish two houses in the town and start the clock on the process of tearing down three others.

At the Aug. 17 meeting of the town council, council members directed Code Enforcement Officer Shawn Lucas to follow Section 6-41 of the Town Code and pursue demolition and removal of the abandoned and derelict structures at 328 Sixth St. and 125 Circle Drive.

Violations were noted for failure to abate several serious nuisances and numerous housing standard violations, according to town records.

As of Monday’s meeting, these homes had still not been brought up to code, and Lucas recommended demolition of the structures.

“As you know, two months ago, we found two houses that are in bad shape. We brought them before the council and you guys looked at them. We followed the procedure that Ryan King from Fields and Cooper told us. We gave the owners 60 days to bring them up to code. These houses are still in the same condition as they were when I brought them before you that night,” Lucas said.

The town attorneys stated in an earlier opinion that the properties were eligible for demolition by the town because the owners could not be located and the conditions of the homes are unsafe.

The town council unanimously voted Monday to move ahead with the demolition of these houses.

“We have a resolution to have them demolished and we have bids,” Lucas said. “After a final safety check, the town is ready to move ahead with the demolition.”

The total cost of the demolition of both houses, including cleaning and grading, will be $11,700, Lucas told the council. That figure is based on the lowest of three bids.

After the demolition of the structure, the town will put a lien on the property. The owners will be given time to pay that lien and any back taxes on the property. If it is not paid, the town will gain ownership of the property, Councilman Larry Taylor said at the meeting.

Lucas said that process usually takes about three to five years to give the owners ample time to respond.

With that business taken care of, the Nashville Town Council looked at setting in motion the process to demolish three other structures in the town.

In information presented to the council, Town Manager Randy Lansing said that the other properties are also creating nuisances and hazards.

“The Town’s Code Enforcement Officer, Shawn Lucas, has received numerous complaints from neighboring residents and property owners about three abandoned and derelict structures located at 206 N. Boddie St., 102 Arrowood Drive and 208 Vale St. Complaints vary from unmowed grass, weeds, missing doors and windows, collapsed roofing, to children and adults loitering within the structures. Mr. Lucas has made numerous attempts to contact each last known respective owner or other persons who may have responsibility for each home, but no successful contact has been made,” Lansing said in a statement.

Lucas provided more information about these structures at Monday’s meeting.

“The house at 102 Arrowood Drive is the house in the Indian Trail subdivision that caught on fire back in 2020,” Lucas said.

Another structure is an abandoned church building, Lucas said.

“The property at 208 Vale St. is the old New Testament Church. They started building the church and then pretty much stopped and left it,” Lucas said.

He also said that the house at 206 N. Boddie St. is located across from the abandoned church and has a collapsed ceiling.

“These buildings are pretty much in the same condition that the other ones were,” Lucas said. “We have posted notices on the door every time we sent a letter out. The New Testament Church and the house on Boddie Street have had no one who responded back. Someone connected with the house on Arrowood did respond back and say she was trying to sell the house. But I don’t think that is going through because the house is still not in her name. It is my impression that we may need to go through the process like we did on the other two.”

Lucas said he feels the town should give notice that the homes need to be brought up to code within 60 days or be destroyed.

“We at least need to see them get permits to get started on the work,” he said.

Council members said they hoped the process would encourage voluntary compliance, but they are prepared to move forward if that compliance did not occur.

“It’s not fair to the neighbors,” Mayor Brenda Brown said.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Lansing said that the town has $45,000 set aside in this year’s budget for such needed demolition projects.

Fundraiser to pay tribute to area woman's legacy

The annual Bounty and Barrel fundraising event will be held to benefit Debbie’s Fund from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Business and Industry Center at Nash Community College.

Debbie’s Fund was established as a memorial tribute to Debbie Kornegay. Her legacy, passion for cooking, ministry of service and commitment to education has affected many lives throughout North Carolina.

“We are once again honored to host this event to pay tribute to the memory of one of our community’s most beloved people, Debbie Kornegay,” NCC Vice President of Advancement Pam Ballew said. “Debbie’s love of others, her hospitality and enjoyment of good food are always top of mind when we are planning this event. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

This year’s event will celebrate Debbie’s love for the coast with shrimp and oysters provided by Sunny Side Oyster Bar in Williamston.

Sponsored by Rocky Mount Mills, Bounty and Barrel will feature live music by Boyd & Morgan, dessert from The Cheesecake Factory Bakery and craft beer sample pours. Breweries providing beers for the event will include Hopfly Brewing Company, Mythic Brewing, Koi Pond Brewing Company, TBC West, SpaceWay Brewing Company, The Glass Jug Beer Lab, Barrel Culture Brewing Blending and Crystal Coast Brewing Company.

Attendees also will have the opportunity to browse Debbie’s original hand-crafted pottery and bid during the silent auction.

Proceeds will benefit Debbie’s Fund and the Nash Community College Foundation.

Individual admission is $65. Table sponsorship is available for $1,000. Admission for eight is included in sponsorship.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 252-428-7327 or email dmbeamer917@nashcc.edu.