Saturday, January 2, 2010

A local look back at the year 2009,Review year 2009

TOPSAIL AREA - Compiling a list of the top stories of 2009 is a difficult task as it has been a remarkable year ranging high unemployment rate to our local state senator being investigated by the SBI.

Both national stories and local stories were covered in the pages of Topsail Voice this past year, but in listing our year in review we decided to mainly focus on the local issues we felt were noteworthy in 2009.

Some will agree and some will disagree. For those that disagree they can go to our web page ( and voice their opinions.

These collections of stories do not appear in order of importance but rather by date from January to December.

The staff at Topsail Voice hopes you enjoy this look back at the year that was and hopes you make us a part of your 2010.

January 7, 2009 - Topsail High School opens doors to new building

HAMPSTEAD After a ribbon-cutting and open house on Friday, students and staff at Topsail High School were eager for the first official day of school in their new building Monday.

Before cutting the ribbon at the Jan. 2 open house, officials and volunteers at all levels spoke about the process of making the new building a reality.

“This is a really big day in my life to have come this far and succeeded,” said NC Representative Carolyn Justice (R - Pender, New Hanover). “It only succeeded because the people of Pender County put education first.”

January 14, 2009 - Pender County unemployment surpasses state and national rate

PENDER COUNTY – Statistical information released by the Employment Security Commission (ESC) reveals as of Jan. 9, Pender County’s unemployment rate is higher than the state and the national average.

The statistics for Pender County notes, out of a labor force of just over 24,000, 1,997 residents are unemployed and looking for work.

As of November 2008, Pender County had an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, up from 4.3 percent 12 months earlier.

January 21, 2009 - A pending increase in home insurance rates concerns officials

TOPSAIL AREA – A pending increase in homeowners insurance rates has had many coastal areas crying foul and sparked a lawsuit, which local officials said they plan to discuss at upcoming meetings.

The North Carolina Department of Insurance agreed in December to an increase in homeowners insurance rates, though a lower increase than what was originally asked for. Statewide, the increase averages 4.05 percent.

However, the actual increases in different areas across the state vary widely. Some coastal areas are seeing increases of more than 20 percent while many areas further inland will receive a less than 5 percent increase or a decrease.

February 11, 2009 - Condemned homes to come down

N. TOPSAIL BEACH – The condemned homes at the northernmost end of Topsail Island will be coming down soon.

The North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen voted last Thursday to accept a bid from Four Seasons Earthworks, Inc, of Wilmington, for $43,600 to tear down and remove the homes.

Mayor Donald Martin said on Tuesday that he had signed the paperwork and spoken to the contractor.

March 11, 2009 - Pender wins; U.S. Supreme Court affirms Pender should be whole district

PENDER COUNTY – A five-year fight for the right to elect one of its own to the NC House of Representatives is over and Pender County has won.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling decided legislators in the State General Assembly violated the state constitution’s whole county mandate when it unnecessarily split Pender into two House districts.

The court further affirmed the NC Supreme Court mandate that the General Assembly redraw district lines, keeping Pender whole in time for the 2010 election.

March 25, 2009 - NC chapter of the NAACP to look into diversity issues

PENDER COUNTY – Allegations of a lack of diversity in Pender County government have spurred the interest of the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP.

On Tuesday, NAACP state President Rev. William Barber, speaking on a conference call with Pender Chapter President Dr. Rachel Stephens, said the state organization supports Dr. Stephens’ effort to appoint a minority to the county planning board.

“Pender County needs to realize we have a right to equal representation within the system and government that makes decisions on our lives and livelihood,” he said.

May 13, 2009 - North Topsail Beach disbands beach committee – again

N. TOPSAIL BEACH – Another beach committee was disbanded by the board of aldermen at last Thursday night’s town meeting after they voted to eliminate the Beach Erosion Study Team.

This is the second time a beach committee has been done away with by the board in a little over a year.

The move came after Alderman Richard Farley read a resolution to dissolve the beach team and made a motion to adopt the resolution.

The measure passed by a 3-2 vote with Farley, along with aldermen Robert Swantek and Larry Hardison voting for it, and aldermen Richard Peters and Daniel Tuman voting against.

May 20, 2009 - 420 jobs to be eliminated as a result of plant closing

ROCKY POINT – The announcement that Coty Inc. was closing its Pender County plant and eliminating 420 jobs over the next 12 months sent shock waves through county government last week.

Commissioner David Williams said he was shocked and saddened over the news.

“I had no idea this was coming,” he said. “This is very bad news and I am deeply disappointed because they were a very environmentally friendly operation.”

Commissioner Chairman Jimmy Tate echoed the words of Williams.

June 3, 2009 - Commissioners asked to investigate animal control

BURGAW – A Columbus County animal cruelty investigator and the President of the Humane Society of Eastern North Carolina have asked the Pender County Commissioners to investigate the county’s department of Animal Control

The request came Monday night when Lisa Hartman, an animal cruelty investigator in Columbus County, and Peter MacQueen III spoke to the commissioners regarding the May 7 seizing of horses and dogs in the Hampstead area.

Hartman told the commissioners she was the first to report the neglect of the Hampstead horses on April 21. After her attempts to reach animal control were unsuccessful, she said she contacted the sheriff’s office.

July 15, 2009 - Topsail Beach commissioner censured

TOPSAIL BEACH – The Topsail Beach board of commissioners censured one of its own in a 3-2 vote at the July 8 town meeting.

Commissioner R.E. “Buck” Taylor was censured after Commissioner Hal Hanig read a resolution calling for the measure.

Hanig said that at the June 10 town meeting, Taylor acted improperly in questioning a town volunteer and staff, left the dais and had made accusations in the past regarding employees.

August 5, 2009 - Sneads Ferry moves closer to referendum on incorporation

SNEADS FERRY – Residents are closer now than they have ever been in having their voices heard on whether they should incorporate their village.

On Aug. 3, NC House members voted unanimously to approve a bill that would allow Sneads Ferry to hold a referendum on incorporation.

The referendum has been a long time in coming. For years the people of the fishing village have debated whether or not to incorporate.

August 19, 2009 - SBI asked to investigate Senator R.C. Soles; Accuser reportedly recants

TABOR CITY – North Carolina’s longest serving lawmaker in the General Assembly is under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation for allegations he attempted to fondle a 15-year old boy.

The allegations against Senator R.C. Soles (D-Pender, Brunswick, Columbus) surfaced last week when WWAY news in Wilmington aired a year old interview it conducted with Stacey Scott.

Scott, now 27, said in the interview when he was 15 Sen. Soles, 74, tried to molest him and grab his genitalia.

August 26, 2009 - SBI asked to investigate shooting by NC Senator R.C. Soles

TABOR CITY – The SBI has been asked to conduct an investigation into a shooting that took place this past weekend involving state Senator R.C. Soles and a former client.

The incident took place at approximately 5:20 p.m. at Sen. Soles’, 74, residence outside Tabor City in Columbus County.

Sen. Soles (D) represents Pender, Columbus and Brunswick counties.

According to reports, Sen. Soles alleged two young men were attempting to break-in or kick-in several doors to his home when the he first fired a warning shot from a pistol, but when confronted again one of the men was shot directly or indirectly in the leg by the senator.

September 23, 2009 - Mayor Zander Guy appointed to North Carolina ABC board

SURF CITY – Surf City Mayor A.D. “Zander” Guy has been appointed to a seat on the state alcoholic regulatory board by North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue.

“It’s an honor and a big task,” said Mayor Guy of the appointment.

The board has three seats but has been unable to meet because two of the seats have been vacant for the past four months. This has left the commission with a accumulation of work to tend to.

September 30, 2009 - Sloop Point woman found murdered in her home

SLOOP POINT – An autopsy of a Sloop Point resident found dead in her home Sunday evening has led the Pender County Sheriff’s Office to declare her death a homicide.

Captain Jamie Ezzell of the Pender Sheriff’s Office said on Tuesday that an autopsy of Beverly Ennis Moore, 52, revealed she had been murdered.

“It was verified today after the autopsy that it was a homicide,” said Ezzell. “We were pretty sure but there were some questions due to the evidence at the crime scene.”

November 4, 2009 - School board chairman reacts to NAACP investigation of racial bias

BURGAW – Pender County School Board Chairman Tom Roper said he was “shocked” last week when he received an email form the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People claiming they were investigating him on charges of racial bias and other charges.

Roper said he received the email from Pender NAACP Chapter President Dr. Rachel Stephens early last week. In the email Roper said Dr. Stephens stated there had been complaints against him involving allegations and rumors he made comments that could be construed as racially biased, not representing the board in the community in the proper way and failing to attend board meetings.

“I wish I knew where this was coming from,” said Roper on Monday. “I was totally shocked when I got the email, it was so random.”

November 18, 2009 - Topsail student dies from complications of H1N1 virus

HAMPSTEAD – The Pender County Health Department has confirmed that a Topsail High School student has died from complications brought on by contracting H1N1, also known as swine flu.

“The state has confirmed that a child at Topsail High School died from complications from H1N1,” said Pender County Clinical Nursing Supervisor Shirley Steele.

When asked if it was the Topsail student that died this month, Steele said she was prohibited by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) from revealing the student’s name.

December 9, 2009 - Scotts Hill residents sign petition for fire substation

SCOTTS HILL – The residents of Scotts Hill turned out in force last week to discuss options for future fire protection in their small community in the southeast portion of Pender County.

More than 120 people attended the community meeting last Tuesday and opted to throw their support behind asking the county commissioners to allow the Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) to build a substation in their area.

“About 126 people signed the petition,” said Pender Emergency Management Director Charles Newman, who attended the meeting.

December 16, 2009 - Topsail Shoreline Protection Committee fired by board

TOPSAIL BEACH – Newly elected board members made some major changes after being sworn in at the Dec. 9 town meeting, including dissolving the Shoreline Protection Committee.

New Commissioner Grier Fleischhauer made the motion to abolish the Shoreline Protection Committee and have the board of commissioners assume its responsibilities.

He said that the committee had done a good job but it was time for the board to take over.

December 16, 2009 - David Williams announces deal for Hampstead boat ramp

BURGAW – It’s not a done deal, yet but Commissioner David Williams announced on Monday that an agreement has been reached for the purchase of land to build a free public boat ramp in eastern Pender County.

Williams made the announcement Monday afternoon during the board’s only meeting in December.

“We have got a deal for the boat ramp,” he said. “Mr. (David) Greer and John Barber from the state property office have reached an agreement and it will be presented to the Council of State in the first week of January.”

Williams said he did not want to “jinx” the deal but if all goes as planned he was told they could close on the land, located at the end of Lewis Road in Hampstead, in January.

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