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Women’s competitors prepare to dive in the Minges Natatorium pool during a meet at East Carolina.

Nashville tables county request to close streets for jail renovations

NASHVILLE — After a public hearing Tuesday during the Nashville Town Council meeting, the council members voted to table a decision to close a portion of two streets in Nashville to accommodate the expansion of the Nash County Detention Center.

Nash County is requesting the closure of Elm Street between Drake and Boddie streets and the closure of North Court Street from Elm Street to a point roughly 110 feet north of Elm Street in order to accommodate the proposed expansion of the jail and to enhance security measures along the perimeter of the facility.

Maj. Allen Wilson of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office told the council that the closure would provide more safety and security as the jail expansion occurs.

“This expansion will be at the back of the current facility. Currently, that area has a parking area and it also has an exercise area that is used as a place to remove prisoners to in case of emergencies. The new jail addition will be built very close to Elm Street. That takes away the safety buffer on that street that we currently have and takes away the ability to have a space to take the inmates to in time of need,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that closing Elm Street would provide an extra buffer that would help prevent contraband from being passed to prisoners and provide more space and security as materials and supplies are loaded and unloaded.

Jonathan Boone, director of public utilities and facilities for Nash County, gave a presentation of what the closure would entail.

Based on the existing curb line at the intersection of Elm and Drake streets, the proposed building is expected to extend within five feet of the existing curb on Elm Street, Boone said.

The proposed 94-bed addition will displace 15 parking spaces at the rear of the jail, the existing emergency inmate evacuation area and the on-site dumpster for the facility, he added.

“In order to access the loading dock, a portion of the existing county-owned parking lot on Elm Street will need to be vacated,” Boone said. “Tractor-trailers will be required to pull into a specially designed turnout in order to back across Elm Street. The facility currently receives five to six deliveries per week.”

Nash County presented its original request to close just one block of Elm Street to the Nashville Town Council in September.

However, concerns were raised about the traffic patterns that would result under that plan, especially regarding access to the residential area north of Elm Street. At that time, the Town of Nashville requested that Nash County officials also evaluate construction of a new road or relocation of an existing road to address traffic concerns.

In order to minimize the potential for increased traffic through the neighborhood, Nash County submitted an amended expanded request to close Elm Street from Drake to Boddie streets at the Dec. 1 Nashville town meeting, Boone said.

“The expansion of the closure on Elm Street requires the partial closure of North Court Street between Elm Street and Vale Street,” Boone said Tuesday. “If approved, a hammerhead turnaround is proposed to be constructed at the proposed terminus of Court Street.”

The county is hoping that the town will approve the closure to keep the detention center project on track. The architect for the new jail expansion was hoping to submit the plans to state and local agencies for review and approval in January, bid the project in April and award the project in May with an eye to completing the jail expansion in November 2022.

But some Nashville residents are concerned that the closure will affect access to their homes located behind the detention center. Janice Sims, who lives in the neighborhood behind that area, said the closure would be inconvenient.

“I use Elm Street all the time. Closing the road would make it really complicated for me to get to my house. That’s why I don’t understand why they don’t just build it somewhere else. You can go through the parking lot, but the deputy cars sometimes block the parking lot,” she said.

Former Nashville Mayor Donald Street, who said he used to serve as head jailer under Sheriff Frank Brown, also spoke out against the closure, saying the project is short-sighted. He said the county should look for another location to build a new jail from scratch.

“I made an observation at that time that, sooner or later, that jail would be in the wrong place. Many jails that are attached to courthouses have now moved to rural areas. Some counties have come together to build regional jails,” Street said. “The county needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink this thing.”

Nash County board Chairman Robbie Davis said that option is not feasible and would be too expensive, especially as he sees laws changing in ways that will require less jail space in the future.

“Our board did consider a regional jail in collaboration with Halifax County. That jail would have been located in Nash County but right at the Halifax County line. That option was not desired by the sheriff’s office at all because of the transports that they would have to do,” Davis said.

Davis said county commissioners also explored the idea of moving the jail.

“The citizens are not real keen on spending the money to build a new jail. A new jail is not a popular thing. People would much rather have a new school or a new park or a new civic center than to put 50 or 60 million (dollars) in a new jail. I do think that the plan that the commissioners settled on is what we need,” Davis said.

The current plan is expected to cost the county roughly $10.5 million.

The Nashville Town Council voted unanimously to table the issue until February in order to advertise the town’s intent in accordance with town statutes and to discuss some minor changes to the wording of the agreement.

Chick-fil-A reopens after virus cases

One of Rocky Mount’s most high-profile restaurants was not doing business late last month and early this month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a Nash County Environmental Health official told the Telegram.

The Chick-fil-A at Cobb Corners was closed from Dec. 24 through Jan. 4 due to employees having COVID-19 and now is back open as a drive-through service, Environmental Health Food and Lodging Program Specialist Lori Boone told the newspaper via email.

Specifically, Boone said Environmental Health was told by the restaurant that three employees were confirmed as having COVID-19. The Cobb Corners Chick-fil-A was closed while the restaurant was cleaned and disinfected and employees were in quarantine.

The Telegram emailed restaurant operator Bill Lehnes, who replied by referring the newspaper to Chick-fil-A’s corporate media relations team.

The newspaper also had emailed Chick-fil-A’s corporate media relations team and had received a brief reply prior to Lehnes’ reply from a representative of a marketing relations firm on Chick-fil-A’s behalf.

The marketing representative, in that brief reply, did not communicate on the record, but the text of the reply did not contain any specific comment about the closure and reopening of the Cobb Corners Chick-fil-A.

No word of the shutdown appeared on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

A sign posted on the restaurant’s door on Dec. 30 read, “We are temporarily closed. We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to serving you again soon!”

This is not the first time the Cobb Corners Chick-fil-A, which is in the northwestern part of the city, was closed as a result of the pandemic.

The Telegram published a story on Oct. 6 after word of a shutdown first surfaced on Oct. 1 via a posting on Facebook.

For that Oct. 6 story, the newspaper quoted a Chick-fil-A corporate marketing representative as saying that the Cobb Corners Chick-fil-A, after learning team members were diagnosed with COVID-19, proactively temporarily closed and took precautionary measures. The marketing representative said those measures included disinfecting and deep cleaning the restaurant.

The newspaper on Nov. 10 published a story about the restaurant reopening.

For that Nov. 10 story, the newspaper reported the restaurant’s website showed dine-in and carry out services were temporarily closed, but that people could make purchases via mobile ordering and the drive-through service.

Boone, in response to the emailed questions by the Telegram, said Environmental Health does not have a list of restaurants in Nash County that closed due to COVID-19.

Boone said that if Environmental Health receives a complaint or a concern about a restaurant, the procedure is to follow up with that restaurant in person or via telephone. He said if Environmental Health receives a complaint due to COVID-19, then a complaint investigation report is completed.

Boone also said that Environmental Health provides information from the federal Centers for Disease Control about COVID-19 guidance for cleaning and disinfecting, along with guidance from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Boone said Environmental Health regularly conducts unannounced visits and inspections of restaurants as required by the state.

Event set to distribute free medications

NC MedAssist is teaming up with Nash County Recreation and Senior Services to host a Mobile Free Pharmacy event.

People in need will be provided with free over-the-counter medications, which include cough and cold medicine, vitamins, allergy medication, first-aid supplies and other medicinal products.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Claude Mayo Administration Building parking lot at 120 W. Washington St. in Nashville. People in need must be at least 18 years old to receive medication. Everyone will receive up to eight over-the-counter medicinal items, free of charge.

While no identification is required, all participants are required to wear face masks at all times.

Due to the pandemic, the event will be held as a drive-thru service only. Residents are highly encouraged to preorder their medicine online at https://bit.ly/NASHOTC. To comply with current safety guidelines, participants must remain in their vehicles while volunteers retrieve their medicine.

To ensure that everyone who needs medication receives it, additional options are available for people unable to preregister online.

“Due to the pandemic, we had to create a new and innovative way to continue serving the community. We will be bringing close to $100,000 worth of OTC medicine to the event to be distributed to those most in need in our community,” said Sheila Kidwell, director of foundations and communication at NC MedAssist. “We understand there is a pressing need, especially in the midst of the cold and flu season. Our goal in this partnership with the Nash County Recreation and Senior Services is to improve the health of the community, one family at a time.”

NC MedAssist is the only statewide nonprofit pharmacy in North Carolina.

City faced challenges gathering census information


The City Council and the viewing public recently got the chance to find out the results of local efforts to gather data for Census 2020.

City Human Relations Director Archie Jones and his staff were tasked with making sure Rocky Mount’s households were properly counted. Jones gave an update during the Dec. 14 council work session.

Much was at stake in 2020 because the census is key in providing the basis for reapportioning congressional seats, redistricting and distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to support states, counties and communities’ vital programs.

During the work session, Jones provided information about the self-response rates — that is, the percentages of households responding to fill out census forms on their own.

Jones showed that, as of Oct. 16, the day after the end of gathering data in the field, Rocky Mount’s self-response rate was 62.6 percent compared to 63.4 percent statewide and 67 percent nationally.

Tarboro’s self-response rate was 66.2 percent, while Nash County’s was 65.6 percent, Wilson’s was 62.8 percent and Edgecombe County’s was 58.7 percent.

Jones noted that since Oct. 16 and with data continuing to be processed, Rocky Mount’s self-response rate has increased to 62.7 percent.

Jones showed what he called the hard-to-count census tracts on the Edgecombe County and Nash County sides of Rocky Mount.

A tract is a statistical subdivision of a county or an equivalent entity.

Of the hard-to-count tracts locally, as of Oct. 16, the one with the lowest self-response rate was on the Nash County side and included the Villa Place, Happy Hill and Falls Road areas. That tract had a self-response rate of 47.3 percent.

Also on the Nash County side, a tract including the South Rocky Mount, Kingston Avenue, Powell Drive and Kinchen Drive areas had a self-response rate of 52.9 percent and a tract including the Gold Rock Road North, Cross Creek and Peele Road areas had a self-response rate of 53.5 percent.

On the Edgecombe County side, a tract including the Holly Street, Hillsdale and Springfield-Leggett Road areas had a self-response rate of 56.1 percent and a tract including the Southeast Rocky Mount, Around the “Y,” Berkshire and Brown Acres areas had a self-response rate of 56.1 percent, as did a tract including the Mobile City mobile home Park, Old Battleboro Road and Battleboro areas.

Also on the Edgecombe County side, a tract including the Down East, Edgemont and Meadowbrook areas had a self-response rate of 59.7 percent.

Jones made clear that going in, the tracts he showed as having low response rates during Census 2020 had posed challenges based on Census 2010.

“And so, as this thing kicked off, it proved to be the same,” Jones said.

Jones said the tract including the Villa Place, Happy Hill and Falls Road area has been “a mystery.”

Jones made clear that tract had something in common with the other tracts with lower self-response rates: They have more older neighborhoods lacking advantages in technology, namely access to the internet, when compared to other neighborhoods.

During his presentation, Jones extended a list of appreciations for the local efforts.

The list included the community outreach team, led by former Councilwoman Lois Watkins as the community outreach coordinator, and Theresa Stokes and Michele Cruz as community outreach specialists who also helped connect with the Hispanic community.

The list also included the city’s Communications, Marketing and Public Relations Department for remaining consistent in getting the word out about Census 2020 in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jones also showed a long list of community partners to whom he also expressed appreciation.

Councilman Richard Joyner wanted to know what the city will do on an ongoing basis to try to activate some of the communities whose self-response rate came out quite low so that the city will not have to keep going back and doing the same things every time to get responses.

Jones said he saw first-hand an assumption that everyone has the same ability or access to technology, but he said that just because everybody has a cell phone does not mean they have the same capability as someone else.

“So as we continue to work in these neighborhoods, with our neighborhood organizations, we’ve got to continue to continuously educate them and inform them of the importance of this,” Jones said.

Jones said a lot of people who had not responded thought that because they did not respond by April 1, there was no need to fill out the census forms.

Jones was referring to April 1 having been “Census Day,” when in fact, a person could complete his or her phone, mail or online census response after that day.

“So we’re just re-educating now,” Jones said. “And then a lot of them had challenges because they have a phone, but they didn’t have the necessary data on their phone to actually go through that process.”

Jones later emphasized that part-time census workers, relying on past data, were able to identify non-responsive households, go to those households and make sure those households’ forms were filled out.

Jones and his team received praise from Councilmen Andre Knight and Reuben Blackwell.

“You all really did a great job considering the uphill battle you had to fight,” Blackwell told Jones. “For all of us, hopefully, we will all have broadband on our agenda to advocate for.”

Blackwell also made clear he believes North Carolinians having more fair access to high-speed internet will be a major issue at the General Assembly and for Gov. Roy Cooper in 2021.

Blackwell said the city missed having a legislative agenda in 2020 and noted the spread of the coronavirus pandemic occupied everybody’s time.

Still, Blackwell made clear that of the lack of high-speed internet in places, “You’d be amazed at how difficult it is to connect and stay connected and have affordable data plans that people have access to.”

Edgecombe deputies charge suspect in Pinetops shootings

A pair of New Year’s Day assaults left two men with serious injuries and sent a 29-year-old Rocky Mount man to the Edgecombe County Detention Center.

Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched on New Year’s night to a call about a shooting on Warwick Drive, about five miles outside of Pinetops.

Upon arrival, deputies found a male victim with gunshot wounds to the face and body. That victim was rushed from the scene to receive emergency medical care.

As the investigation progressed, detectives learned that another serious assault had taken place earlier in the night, leaving another man with serious injuries. The suspect was the same in both instances.

Detectives charged James Dean Millard of 98 Oakton Lane in Rocky Mount with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and assault inflicting serious bodily injury. He was jailed under a $250,000 bond in the Edgecombe County Detention Center.

Millard has a history with law enforcement, beginning with a May 25, 2019, charge of driving while impaired in Craven County while living in Tarboro.

The sheriff’s office’s narcotics unit arrested Millard on Oct. 16 following a month-long investigation that led to a vehicle stop on a vehicle he was operating.

After a search of the vehicle, roughly four grams of methamphetamine was located.

After that discovery, Millard cooperated with deputies and admitted to having about 19 grams of methamphetamine at his Rocky Mount residence. Deputies were able to seize that methamphetamine.

Additionally, deputies had made previous controlled buys of methamphetamine from Millard prior to the traffic stop.

At that time, he was charged with two counts of sell or deliver methamphetamine, two counts of possession with intent to sell or distribute methamphetamine, three counts of maintaining a vehicle, dwelling or place for the sale of a controlled substance and one count of possession of methamphetamine.

Millard faces four court dates — two on Jan. 20 for the two assault-related charges, one on Feb. 15 in Beaufort County for driving while license revoked (impaired revocation) and one on March 24 for driving while license revoked (impaired revocation).