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Archive for August, 2009

Thalian Hall prepares for a makeover

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

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One Wilmington landmark is about to take center stage. Overdue for repair, Thalian Hall is getting a buff and a wax.

“Any theatre, or historic performing arts center, has to be reinvested in. They are heavily utilized, and Thalian Hall is certainly and example of that,” said Thalian Hall Executive Director Tony Rivenbark.

The theatre has not been fixed up in 17 years. Theatre directors say with the low cost of construction materials right now, they are getting a great deal. “This is the best time to spend this kind of money,” said Rivenbark. “We’ll be getting a whole lot more for the dollar.”

The City of Wilmington is offering a contract to the lowest construction bidder for $2.1 million. The total costs of repairs are around three million, so Thalian Hall will have to make up for the difference.

The theatre will feature new improvements like a stage extension, and more comfortable seating. Not only will this encourage a larger variety of performers to take part in the theatre, but Rivenbark said it is an investment in the community.

“All of these aspects come together, to make a much better theatre, for the future, for audiences, and for performers,” he said.

The construction is estimated to take anywhere from eight to nine months, so from the end of the month, until curtain call in the spring, the theatre will be closed.

City Council will meet Tuesday night and likely approve a contractor for the job.

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videoA historic venue in downtown Wilmington will be closed for about nine months, but all for a good reason. Thalian Hall is being renovated to preserve it’s antique style, and getting some new bells and whistles at the same time.

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Associated poll

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Columbus County teachers return to work thanks to stimulus funds

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

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The halls are empty at the schools in Columbus County, but teachers are busy planning for their students return. Many of those teachers are back in the classroom thanks to federal stimulus money.

“Without the stimulus money this year we could have been facing at least 66 jobs and that’s teacher jobs, to clerical, custodial jobs, teacher assistants, any kind of job,” said Superintendent Dan Strickland.

Associate Superintendent Alan Faulk added, “The stimulus money is well need and we will probably use all of it.”

Columbus County schools employ close to a thousand people, and nearly half are teachers.

As one of the major employers in the county, keeping teachers in the classroom was crucial to the district. The county lost state funding, but around four million dollars of stimulus money will help keep the system running.

Administrators hoped federal dollars were supposed be used to update technology across the county. Computer, Smart Boards you name it, but now the economy has changed that. Budget cuts mean cutting down on even the smallest expenses like paper.

“Instead of printing things, lets put it on the internet and make it available on the computer,” said South Columbus Assistant Principal Jeffery Russell.

The county is moving to integrate more internet based learning in the classroom through North Carolina Virtual Public High School.

Columbus is one of eight districts in the state to use the pilot program, giving students the opportunity to earn credit via the internet.

One teacher was laid off but it had nothing to do with funding, rather enrollment numbers in the county have been steadily declining.

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videoThe halls are empty at the schools in Columbus County, but teachers are busy planning for their students return. Many of those teachers are back in the classroom thanks to federal stimulus money.

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Associated poll

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Getting through to customer service by using Twitter

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

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Getting customer service can be frustrating. Try hanging up the phone and “tweeting” your service needs. Many customers are venting their frustration through Twitter, and companies are starting to listen.

“Every time you think you’re fixing to get an individual, you get another number to punch and I don’t like that, I prefer to speak to someone in person,” said Cathy Wilson.

If you’re fed up with calling customer service for help, you now have another option…Twitter.

Companies like Home Depot and Best Buy are helping customers almost instantaneously through tweets.

“It’s kind of a shame that people are forced to go out into the public forum like that to get any attention that kind of tells us how bad customer service is degraded but at least what we’ve learned is many companies now that are interested in good customer service and keeping a good brand reputation are online and they are responding,” said social media consultant Tim Moore.

Other companies may be jumping on the twitter bandwagon to save their reputation.

If you try this route, Tim Moore says watch out for scams since the response you receive may not be coming from the company. Some companies have hired customer service representatives to respond to the tweets. Here’s a partial list of people who have Twitter accounts (Twitter account name in parenthesis).

# Will Pate: Community Evangelist – ConceptShare (http://twitter.com/willpate)
# Mario Sundar: Community Evangelist – Linkedin (mariosundar)
# Eric Skiff: Community Evangelist – Clipmarks (ericskiff)
# Marilyn Pratt: Community Evangelist – SAP Labs (marilynpratt)
# Brett Meyers: Community Evangelist – Zloop (brettmeyers)
# Ryan Knight: Community Manager – Yahoo (yank)
# Jennifer Puckett : Community Manager – Disney (?)
# Jim Lynch: Community Manager – Ziff Davis (jwlynch)
# Jake McKee: Community Guy – Formerly Lego (jakemckee)
# William Azaroff: Community Engagement – VanCity (wazaroff)
# Carole McManus: Community Specialist, formerly Yahoo 360 (puttopal)
# Asa Dotzler: Catastrophist, Mozilla (asadotzler)
# Anand Iyer: Developer Evangelist – Microsoft (anandiyer)

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videoGetting customer service can be frustrating. Try hanging up the phone and “tweeting” your service needs. Many customers are venting their frustration through Twitter, and companies are starting to listen.

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Associated poll

More: continued here

Wilmington in Black and White starts race relations classes in September

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

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A group of community leaders is gearing up for part two of a race relations class that kicked off last year.

Wilmington in Black and White was held over the course of several weeks. It is open to the public and proved to be very popular, so part two will soon start up.

The class explored the history and future of race relations in Wilmington, to give people a greater perspective of the issue. A committee called the Big Picture Talkers sponsored the course.

“This course is an opportunity for older people to lead the way and lead the charge in creating better race relations in the Wilmington and surrounding areas,” said Kimberly McLaughlin-Smith of Big Picture Talker. “It’s very necessary and it behooves all of us to invest.”

The course starts September 17th. You can find more information at www.WilmingtonInBlackAndWhite.org.

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A group of community leaders is gearing up for part two of a race relations class that kicked off last year.

Wilmington in Black and White was held over the course of several weeks.

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Associated poll

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16-year-old buried in sand nearly drowns when tide comes in at Bald Head Island

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

By Shannan BowenShannan.Bowen@StarNewsOnline.com

Bald Head Island | Burying friends or family members in the sand is a favorite pastime among beach-goers. But the seemingly harmless amusement almost cost the life of a Bald Head Island vacationer who came close to drowning Sunday afternoon when the tide came in over his head.

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