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Fan cutouts are seen behind home plate at Miller Park after it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers home opener was postponed after two St. Louis Cardinals employees tested positive for the coronavirus Friday in Milwaukee.

Mayor stresses rules for public comments at meetings

Mayor Sandy Roberson said he believes there has been a lot of confusion about the rules one must follow when addressing the City Council during the public comment phase of council regular meetings.

Roberson, in a posting on Friday via Facebook and YouTube, sought to make clear the procedure for providing remarks when at the speaker’s podium. At the same time, Roberson made clear the City of Rocky Mount values information and thoughts from local residents.

“These rules are not meant to stifle your opinions nor to intimidate you, but to allow you to have an uninterrupted three minutes to tell us what’s on your mind,” Roberson said in the posting.

“We need your input and encourage you to let us know what you think — and that’s the good, the bad and the ugly,” Roberson said. “You know, we represent you and we want to hear from you often.

“It is necessary to keep negative comments to constructive criticism,” Roberson said.

During the public comment period, people are allowed up to three minutes to address the council. This part of the council regular meeting is lively and at times contentious.

Roberson, in the posting on Friday, re-emphasized that any comments should be directed to the council as a whole and not to any council members individually or to the municipal staff members.

Roberson said in most cases the council members will not comment but may refer the matter to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney or to the municipal staff for a follow-up.

Roberson also said speakers are asked to give their remarks in a civil, non-argumentative and respectful manner.

Roberson also said that personal attacks with the potential to disrupt the meeting will not be tolerated and that a speaker who does so will be asked to sit down or face removal from the meeting.

Roberson also said that if an organized group wants to speak about a common issue, then the group is asked to designate one person to provide the group’s comments.

“I hope this clears up any misunderstanding,” Roberson said. “My enforcement of these rules should not be taken personally nor are they intended to offend. These are just rules. I appreciate your understanding and your cooperation.”

Moments before the public comment period during the July 27 council regular meeting, Roberson said, “I don’t believe that I’ve done as an effective a job of managing this process or portion of the meeting the last couple of meetings.”

Roberson then, as a reminder, read aloud the rules.

During that public comment period, one of the speakers, Perry LaGrange, stated his opposition to the municipality proposing to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on the rooftop of an old track-side loading dock downtown.

Councilman T.J. Walker has been participating in council meetings via teleconferencing.

LaGrange, at one point in his remarks, pointed out that Walker’s grandfather the Rev. Thomas L. Walker is a preacher at one of the largest churches in Rocky Mount.

Roberson asked LaGrange to refrain from speaking to council members directly, but moments later, LaGrange said he wanted to tell Councilman Walker he should tell his grandfather “that BLM is anti-God and anti-Christ.”

“And I’m sure Mr. Blackwell is a proud father of his son,” LaGrange said, a reference to Councilman Reuben Blackwell and his son, activist Cooper Blackwell.

Roberson told LaGrange, “Excuse me, sir. I mean, please, don’t direct this to individual council members.”

When LaGrange reached his three-minute limit, Roberson thanked him.

LaGrange asked, “Can I finish?”

Roberson told him, “No sir, your time is up” and again thanked him.

Another speaker, Dr. Lisa Nelson, blasted real estate investor Jesse Gerstl, who had told the Telegram he believes the issue with revitalizing downtown is the lack of a plan by the City of Rocky Mount.

Nelson said her understanding is that Gerstl has several properties he has sat on for more than two years “and really has done zero development.”

Councilwoman Chris Miller has been participating in council meetings via teleconferencing.

Gerstl serves on the Central City Revitalization Panel. Miller serves on the CCRP as a member of the pro-downtown rehabilitation group called Downtown Renaissance.

Nelson, in commenting about Gerstl, pointed out that she lives in Miller’s neighborhood.

Nelson said her question to Miller was, “Would you allow someone to have a house in our neighborhood, sit on it for two years, that had been charged to get the house developed and rehabbed and it’s still in disrepair, still falling apart?

“Would you allow that to happen in our neighborhood, because if you wouldn’t, then you should treat the downtown neighborhood the same way you would treat your own neighborhood,” Nelson said.

Roberson did not ask Nelson to cease directing remarks at Miller.

Nelson, as part of her remarks about Gerstl, also asked, “Is Downtown Renaissance going to allow this to stand or are they going to ask Jesse to put those properties back on the market for what he paid for them, since he has done no improvement, and allow someone with some vision to do the development?”

Gerstl later issued an extensive response to the Telegram that included outlining the work he has done downtown and extending an invitation to see what he and his team have accomplished.

During the July 13 council regular meeting, one of the speakers included activist Susan Perry Cole.

When Cole reached her three-minute limit, Roberson thanked her, but she continued speaking for about another 45 seconds.

Roberson again thanked her and also reminded viewers of the three-minute limit.

The next speaker, Samuel Battle, before beginning to give his comments, said, “Rules are rules. Remember that.”

Local girls learn about drone technology

Despite soaring temperatures and pandemic setbacks, a group of Edgecombe County girls spent the week rocking science and learning more about drone technology.

Eleven young girls, ages 9-17, participated in the IBX Stem Center’s Drone Camp in Tarboro this week. The event, titled “Girls Rocking Science,” was hosted by Michael’s Angels Girls Club on 214 N. Main St. in Tarboro.

All the participants were students of Edgecombe County Public Schools, Crystal DeLoatch, director of operations for Michael’s Angels Girls Club, said in a statement. Deloatch also emphasized that all state and federal COVID-19 safety guidelines were practiced at the camp.

“I enjoyed the camp because it taught us how to fly drones and planes. We also talked about what we wanted to be when we grow up,” said Assyria Western, 11.

This experience is just what Shanell Knight, founder and CEO of Michael’s Angels, hoped to provide. Her stated goal in founding Michael’s Angels is to “provide young girls every opportunity to become highly educated and equipped for the future.”

This week’s Drone Camp exposed young girls to a wide range of subjects including robotics, coding, aerodynamics and meteorology, DeLoatch said.

The Inner Banks Stem Center, based in Washington, N.C., presented the week-long camp, which was co-sponsored by The Center for Science Technology and Leadership Development. The camp was led by Al Powell, IBX Stem Center’s president. He and his staff conducted classes and lab experiments during the week.

Most of the camp took place at the Michael’s Angels location in Tarboro with some forays on the Tarboro Town Common to fly drones.

On Friday, the girls traveled to the IBX Stem Center in Washington. While there, they completed a drone obstacle course, learned how to use airplane controls and learned how to read the various gauges in the airplane. The high school girls in the group also were able to get inside an airplane simulator, which allowed them to take off, fly and land an airplane virtually.

“The camp was wonderful and enlightening. It was different and great for girls to experience. I enjoyed the airplane simulator and I want to thank Michael’s Angels for the opportunity,” Nya Guilford, 17, said.

A grant from Blueprint NC made this experience possible, DeLoatch said.

Police investigate shooting that wounded man

Police are trying to find out who fired shots that resulted in a man being found with injuries to both of his legs on Clyde Street in the Little Raleigh area.

J’Von Coley, 25, was found leaning up against a vehicle after officers at 4:02 a.m. on July 26 responded to a shooting with injuries on Clyde in the area of the intersection with Luper Street, police Cpl. Clay Wilder said.

Coley was found bleeding from the groin area. A bullet appeared to have passed through one thigh and into the other thigh, Wilder said.

Coley told officers he was in a vehicle when the shooting occurred and subsequently said he would not provide further information about the shooting, Wilder said.

Emergency medical services personnel transported Coley to Nash UNC Health Care, Wilder said.

In the meantime, officers searched an open area behind a residence along Clyde and found several .223-caliber shell casings, Wilder said.

Coley at the hospital told officers he was about to leave a residence when he exited his vehicle to tell other people he was leaving, Wilder said.

Coley told officers that is when he started hearing the shots, Wilder said.

Coley told officers he began running away and then realized he had been shot, Wilder said.

Coley indicated the shots were quite close to him and told officers he did not have any problems with anyone and did not know why someone would want to shoot him, Wilder said.

Coley was transported to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville for further treatment, but Wilder said the injuries are not life-threatening.

Anyone with any information about the shooting is asked to contact police at 252-972-1411 or Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111 or

Tips also can be texted to police at 274637 by beginning messages with RMPOL to direct the tip to the police department and typing up to 155 characters about the information.

State Public Safety records show Coley is known to the judicial system in the Twin Counties.

The records show that in February 2019 Coley was convicted in Edgecombe County for possession with intent to sell illegal drugs.

The records also show that in January 2019 Coley was convicted in Nash County for attempted possession of a firearm by a felon and for speeding to elude or attempted speeding to elude arrest.

Additionally the records show that in 2015 Coley was convicted in Edgecombe County for committing larceny and in 2010 he was convicted in Nash County for committing assault inflicting serious injury.

Pandemic alters storm preparations

Nash County passed the 1,000 mark for confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday even as state and county officials were making preparations for Hurricane Isaias.

“This is something of a milestone and one I hoped we would never see,” Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said at Friday’s meeting of the Nash County COVID-19 Emergency Response Team. “This means that more than 1 percent of the population of Nash County has tested positive for COVID-19.”

As of 3 p.m. Friday, Nash County had 1,008 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19. About 50 of those cases were added on Thursday and Friday, Hill said.

Of that number, 581 people are considered recovered, 391 are isolated at home, 24 are hospitalized and 12 have died.

The Edgecombe County Health Department last released case numbers on Thursday. However, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services, Edgecombe County had 564 cumulative confirmed cases as of Friday, roughly 1 percent of the population of that county. So far, 11 Edgecombe County residents have died of COVID-19.

The current pandemic will affect the way that state and county officials deal with hurricanes this season. With Hurricane Isaias poised to impact North Carolina on Monday and Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper already has declared a state of emergency to speed preparations along.

“Although the track and arrival of the hurricane could still change, now is the time for North Carolinians to prepare,” Cooper said. “Hurricane preparations will be different given the COVID-19 pandemic, and families need to keep that in mind as they get ready.”

Scott Rogers of Nash County Emergency Services said he is hoping Nash County likely will see gusty winds and heavy rainfall on Monday, but he hopes the effects will be light.

“The storm appears to be moving quickly, so that will help,” Rogers said. “Monday will be an interesting day, but we will be prepared.”

While Nash County may not suffer a direct impact from the storm, it often serves as a refuge for people evacuated from the coast. Normally, shelters are set up in these circumstances, but emergency officials now are looking at these as a last resort because of pandemic conditions.

State officials are urging North Carolinians to make their own preparations ahead of the storm, if possible.

“While the state is still combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the state is urging people to make every effort to stay with family and friends, or even a hotel, as the first option. The state will coordinate shelters for those who need to evacuate, and this will be an option for those who need it,” a statement from the Governor’s Office said.

Residents and visitors seeking shelter will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. If an individual has COVID symptoms, they will be redirected to a non-congregate sheltering option where they can more easily isolate, the press release from the Governor’s Office said.

Conditions at these shelters may be different than in the past.

“Social distancing means fewer residents in shelters, and if needed, more facilities and volunteers to shelter the same amount of people as in previous seasons,” the release said. “Maximizing space requirements may mean not all shelters will offer cots. Be prepared to provide your own bedding and care items. Meals will be served in sealed containers and shelters will move away from serving lines or buffets to minimize the potential exposure of everyone in the shelter.”

For more information on storm preparation visit

Man wounded by shots fired at his car

Rocky Mount police are investigating a shooting that sent a 26-year-old man to the hospital late Thursday night.

Officers responded to a ShotSpotter activation call about 11:17 p.m. Thursday on the 200 block of Union Street. The ShotSpotter system indicated that 13 rounds had been fired followed by another six rounds a few seconds later.

As police were responding to the location, they were notified that a vehicle had been struck by gunfire on the 200 block of Cedar Street near Union Street. When they arrived at the scene, they discovered that the vehicle had been driven from the scene.

Officers soon located the vehicle and discovered that the driver had been shot in the leg. The victim, identified only as a 26-year-old Black man, was treated at the scene and transported to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. His current condition was unknown as of press time, Cpl. Clay Wilder of the Rocky Mount Police Department said.

Wilder said the victim was in the vehicle with a 31-year-old woman at the time of the incident. She was not injured and left the car to check on other relatives before police reached the driver, Wilder said.

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111 or Tips also can be texted to police at 274637 by beginning messages with RMPOL to direct the tip to the police department and typing up to 155 characters about the information.